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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 makes a good effort, but iPad is still tops

Though the Samsung Galaxy Note does its best to innovate, unless you have a specific need for an advanced stylus on a tablet, you'll want to look at the iPad first.

Just like two cute little snuggle bunnies! James Martin/CNET

Anytime a major vendor releases a new tablet, I inevitably get asked the following question: can it take on the top dog? That "top dog" being the iPad, of course.

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is the latest such device to get the "How does it compare with the iPad?" treatment. Let me break it down for you.

Well, the technology behind the S Pen stylus is really cool, supporting things like pressure sensitivity and palm rejection. This will no doubt benefit figure artists and even those who want a bit more precision when putting one person's head on another's body in Photoshop Touch. Ahhh, wackiness.

Beyond that, however, this is a pretty par-for-the-course Samsung tablet, with the requisite IR blaster and expandable memory slot in tow. If you hated the TouchWiz UI before, you'll continue to hate it here.

I'm not speaking pejoratively here. Samsung makes good tablets. The Note 10.1 just isn't up there with the Asus Transformer Infinitys, Nexus 7s, and iPads of the world.

The iPad in particular still kills with its high-res screen, huge app support, and Apple's still-unmatched ecosystem. If you're looking to buy a new tablet, you'll want to look there first. If you're still looking, the Transformer Infinity should be next on your list. Then the Nexus 7 (or the Nexus 7 first, if you have a limited budget), and then the Note 10.1.

Here's a handy spec list comparing the Note 10.1's most important specs with the iPad's and Nexus 7's. Though specs don't ever tell the whole story, they can still be a fun and interesting way to compare similar products.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Apple iPad (third-generation) Google Nexus 7
Display 10.1-inch, 1,280x800-pixel display 9.7-inch, 2,048x1,536-pixel display 7-inch, 1,280x800-pixel display
Processor 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos 4412 1GHz dual-core A5X with quad-core graphics 1.3GHz quad-core Tegra 3
Capacity 16GB, 32GB, accepts microSD cards of up to 64GB 16GB, 32GB, 64GB 8GB, 16GB
Cameras 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, 720p HD video recording at 30fps; front-facing 1.9-megapixel camera 5-megapixel camera, 1080p HD video recording at 30fps, front-facing VGA camera 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera
Software Android 4.0.4 iOS 5 Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Stylus support Yes (included) Yes (Separate) Yes (Separate)
Pressure sensitivity (stylus) Yes (included) No No
Palm rejection (stylus) Yes No No
Pricing $499 for 16GB, $549.99 for 32GB $499 for 16GB, $599 for 32GB, $699 for 64GB $199 for 8GB, $249.99 for 16GB