Benchmarks first - the Samsung completely trashes the competition with its quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM, dominating the chart on Quadrant Professional Edition.
Since the Galaxy Note 10.1 sports a quad-core processor and 2GB of memory, you'd expect this thing to just absolutely fly, but it doesn't. Out of the box performance is s*** house. If you don't know what that is, it's an Australian saying for crap, or similar.
Given the specs of the Note 10.1, I expected this slate to completely stomp all over my also quad-core-sporting Nexus 7, which is priced at nearly half of the Note 10.1, but it doesn't. This is mainly a result of Samsung throwing the widgets all over the home screen. The four main widgets are Clock, Music Hub, Game Hub and Media Hub - all of these widgets destroy the Note 10.1's default performance.
Removing them improves things somewhat, but it doesn't bring the feel of the device up to the Project Butter-powered goodness of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. Not only do the widgets kill performance, but another factor of this is Samsung's inclusion of some serious multi-tasking power on the Note 10.1.
I found the multi-tasking on the Note 10.1 not too bad actually, as you can have two screens webpages open at once, a webpage and a document, or one of those options and an S Note or Calculator app on top. This is very cool, and something Samsung should push out to every tablet in the future - as long as they work on those performance-related issues.
Jumping in and out of apps is a breeze, and loading the Note 10.1 up with apps and multi-tasking between them is nothing for the Note 10.1. It handles it with total ease.
The camera is quite nice, but being only 5-megapixel is quite the shock considering the rest of the slate's specifications. Not that the 5-megapixel rear-facing camera is not great quality, because it is. The camera UI is identical to that found in Samsung's other tablets and smartphones, but it does have two new abilities - Share shot and Buddy photo share. These new functions will let you share photos with other devices through Wi-Fi Direct.
The Note 10.1 includes some panoramic capabilities, which come out great on the 5-megapixel rear-facing camera.
The video capture results are impressive, not perfect, but they'll do for a tablet. The iPad feels like it trumps the Galaxy Note 10.1 in the camera department, but if you've read my other smart device reviews you'll know that I'm not too fond of using a camera on a tablet, so that's not a big deal breaker for me.
I did love one thing about the slate over many others I've used, and that's the Note 10.1's front speakers. My family was staying with us during this review, and my 6-year-old niece wanted to watch some videos on YouTube. I got her into the app and let her select what she wanted to watch, and she ran over to the corner of the room, laid down the tablet against my 18-month-old daughter's toys and watched videos.
I had the speaker volume at around 85-90% and it was loud enough to hear from 12 feet away without a problem. This speaks volumes (yeah I went there) for the Note 10.1's great stereo speakers. It's these little things that I love discovering, that I probably wouldn't have discovered myself normally.
The speakers being front-facing, instead of rear-facing make the biggest difference on the Note 10.1. This is a huge selling point for me, and something you should consider if you're consuming a lot of content on the Note 10.1. For the back of the car road trips, to sitting in the corner of the room watching Dora the Explorer, the front-facing speakers really are a great choice by Samsung.
Now, I want to see this happen more from tablet makers - even if they went as far as swiveling them on the sides. Like Samsung's Smart TVs, which rock a camera for Skype, it has a rolling button on the bottom, which adjusts its angle. I'd love to see something like this for front- and rear-facing speakers.
The display looks great, but as I said before I'm not impressed with its relatively low resolution of 1280x800 when compared to the 1920x1200 of the ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity, or the third-generation iPad's "Retina" display with 2048x1536 pixels blasted onto the screen. Considering that a tablet is pretty much just a screen, this is a big problem. A 1080p screen would've been nice on the Note 10.1, but I feel Samsung really cheapened out on the Note 10.1's screen.
Cramming a quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM leaps you into the high-end tablet segment, but opting for a 1280x800 display? What was Samsung thinking? There have been many times I've had to ask myself that question.