Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (Verizon Wireless) review: Innovative features, if you're willing to pay

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Photoshop Touch still includes its very useful tutorial, and the app now thankfully turns on the pen's pressure sensitivity feature by default.

With palm rejection, as long as the S Pen is in your hand (and is close enough to the screen to be detected), the screen will not recognize any other capacitive parts of your body, in particular your palm. So unlike some other stylus pens, where your palm disables the pen, with the S Pen's technology, you can place your palm flat down on the screen and still write ad infinitum. With the original Note 10.1 release, this feature didn't work as consistently as it should have, but it feels much more reliable now.

Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Given its Jelly Bean implementation, Samsung appears to have listened to critics of the Note 10.1's initial interface, and as a result has delivered thoughtful improvements, resulting in a UI that feels completely at home with the S Pen.

Hardware features
The most obvious and significant hardware feature on the Note 10.1 is easily the S Pen. The S Pen looks like a traditional stylus and pretty much feels like one too, but it differentiates itself from lesser digital pens. The pen's tip has a pressure-sensitive point that recognizes 1,024 levels of pressure. So, depending on the app you're using (not all apps support this), the harder you press the pen to the screen, the thicker the resulting lines.

This may be appealing to those (unlike myself) with actual artistic talent who know how to use shading to approximate three-dimensional figures in a two-dimensional space. Again, if you're like me and you have no idea what I just wrote, the Stylus' appeal is more limited, but the new features, especially improvements in navigation, make it a lot more alluring to us inartistic types.

Josh Miller/CNET

The Note 10.1 houses a 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos 4410 CPU and 2GB of RAM, and includes support for 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4GHz and 5GHz) Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS, as well as gyroscope, accelerometer, a digital compass, and of course 4G LTE through Verizon.

Performance
Whether I'm using the pen or my fingers, tapping through menus is still as swift a process as I've seen on any Android tablet, with no noticeable hangs or stops. Switching between apps also matches the fastest Android tablets available. Pages now scroll much much more smoothly since the update.

Josh Miller/CNET

The screen's 1,280x800-pixel resolution is fine for most purposes, but looks noticeably rougher when sitting next to the Nexus 10's 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution, especially when displaying text. Hopefully, the next 10-inch version of the Note will see a pixel-count upgrade.

I used Real Racing 3 as my real-world games benchmark. The game runs smoothly on the Note 10.1, and thanks to the Note 10.1's lower resolution, it at times pushes higher frame rates than the Nexus 10 does.

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Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 (Verizon) Google Nexus 10 Apple iPad (4th gen)
Maximum brightness 446 cd/m2 368 cd/m2 398 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.79 cd/m2 0.44 cd/m2 0.49 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 564:1 836:1 812:1

The tablet's front camera won't wow you with its quality, but at 1.9 megapixels, it won't be distractingly poor either, as long as you're not planning to do more than some videoconferencing on it. The 5-megapixel back camera isn't capable of the same level of clarity or color saturation I've seen from higher-quality cameras such as the Nexus 10's, and its flash is too oppressive at close range.

As for battery life, the original Note 10.1 lasted 9.6 hours in our video battery test, and the Verizon version's results seem to be on a par with that.

Here are our official CNET Labs-tested battery life results. More tablet testing results can be found here.

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Video battery life (in hours)
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (Verizon Wireless) 9.7

Conclusion
This isn't the device to get if you're only looking for a simple tablet to meet simple needs, as its features are much more closely aligned to the needs of artists and content creators.

The Verizon Wireless version is just as much a quality product as the Wi-Fi version, but unless you have specific need of a 4G tablet, the cheaper, more flexible Wi-Fi version is the way to go. However, there's an 8-inch version of the Note tablet coming soon. Keep that in mind when deciding where to spend your money.

What you'll pay

Pricing is currently unavailable.

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Where to Buy

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (16GB, Verizon Wireless)

Part Number: GalaxyNote101

MSRP: $599.99

See manufacturer website for availability.

About The Author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.