A Powerful Enough HD Tablet for Professional Photographers?
Is it “out of this world” or Note-thing to write home about?
December 2013 – Before I begin (and I feel I must address this issue), let me say for the record that I am not in any way affiliated with Samsung, Apple, Google, Microsoft or Sony. I am also not a “fan boy” of any particular company, make or model but I am a fan boy of decent, exciting, usable and productive technology.
- WQXGA TFT 10.1″ Capacitive Touch screen
- 2560 x 1600 Native Resolution, 299 ppi
- Integrated 32GB Flash Storage & 3GB RAM
- Up to 64GB Micro SDHC Card Slot Expansion
- Android 4.3 Jelly Bean OS
- Full HD 1080p Playback & Recording
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi & Bluetooth 4.0
- Front 2.0MP Camera, Rear 8.0MP Camera
- Integrated S Pen for Sketching & Notes
Before buying the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), I must have read and watched 50+ reviews on all tablets currently available including:
- Apple iPad Air
- Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (2014 Edition)
- Sony Experia Tablet Z
- Google Nexus 7 (both my kids have these)
- Google Nexus 10
- Microsoft Surface Pro
There are so many excellent products out there, each with their own merits and downfalls, it is a nightmare trying to decide which suits me and my business the best…and that is the point of this review.
There is not one tablet out there that will do everything you need or that will not frustrate you in some minor way at some point in the future. What you need to do is research each one and decide which will be best for YOU and try to avoid all the “noise” from haters, fanboys and competitors on the web.
I am writing this review as a person that is heavily involved in multimedia…photography, videography and website building and maintenance. I was looking for something that would compliment my business, impress my clients as well as being fun to learn, use and play with.
For the record, I own 2 desktop PC’s, 2 Windows laptops, an iPod Touch 4G, an iPhone 4s (recently sold on eBay) and a Samsung Galaxy S4 so I am used to many different makes and have experience with those operating systems such as IOS 7, iTunes, Android 4.2.2, Android Jelly Bean 4.3 and so on…
Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) – First Impressions
Ok, so as you may have gathered by now, after many weeks of researching and watching reviews, I finally bought the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) online and immediately felt a sigh of relief wash over me. After all that research, it felt good to finally make a decision because let’s be honest, there is so much choice and these things aren’t cheap!
I ordered the black 32gb version for £499 and it arrived the very next day in the new style of box from Samsung which has a wooden look and feel to it . Admittedly the box isn’t as nice, shiny and smooth as those from Apple but hey, it’s just a box right?
Once you open the box, you have the tablet laying right on top and my very first impressions when picking it up was that it felt reassuringly heavy (although not too heavy). After swapping my heavy iPhone 4s for the lighter Samsung Galaxy S4, I missed that reassuring bulk of the iPhone at first.
I was thinking that I would feel the same about the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 too but as I said, the weight felt spot on with a feeling of great quality. I had read reviews on previous models having a shiny plastic, cheap feel to them but not so with the Note 10.1 (2014 Edition).
The rear of this tablet now has a faux leather, rippled and stitched look and feel which just works.
It feels good in the hands but I would still recommend getting a case for it.
The screen…oh, the screen! I will come to that later but I will say for now that it is stunning!
Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) – First Use
When you first switch on the device, you are met by the typical Samsung welcome screen and then there are a few digital hoops you need to jump through to set the tablet up such as Wi-Fi. Therefore, it is best to start the tablet for the first time in the comfort of your home so you can set up Wi-Fi from the beginning.
Once all that is done, you have the tablet up and running with all the fun of the fair. This thing comes fully loaded with a host of Samsung apps and widgets which some people refer to as “bloatware”.
This doesn’t bother me and I can only imagine that those complainers who moan about there being too much on the Galaxy Note 10.1 would complain if it had less. I can hear them now…
“You mean I paid £500 for something that has barely any included software…come on Samsung, get a grip!”
By putting all of this additional software onto a tablet, I feel that Samsung are at least trying to please as many consumers as possible and with a little bit of work, you can always disable or remove most of the things you don’t need.
General Interface (Speed, handling etc)
For me, this thing runs buttery smooth 95% of the time but there are times when you notice a bit of lag. For example, I loaded a heavy, space themed screen saver which has planets and stars constantly moving across the home screens (and which also move when you scroll through your screens).
With this running, and despite the 3gb of RAM and quad core processors, I noticed a tiny bit of lag as I scrolled using the amazing Nova Launcher so I removed the space app. I still have it running on my S4 phone and it runs flawlessly but for the tab, it was possibly a bit too much. Without the space app running the Galaxy Note is back to running super smooth again.
By the way, when I talk about lag, I don’t mean it takes an age to scroll…there is perhaps a very slight, barely noticeable judder or two as you scroll. Or when you load apps, I am talking 1 to 2 seconds or less for an app to load as opposed to around just under 1 second…hardly worth writing home about. (You can see in the video review below how quick the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) is). Maybe read the rest of this review as you wait for it to fully load).
However, once an app has been loaded once, it is always running in the background buffer (unless you decide to close it), so the next time you hit that app to open, it is almost instantaneous…much like a PC.
To be brutally honest, if a half to one second wait for an app to open ruins your day or makes you mad enough to make “hate” posts on forums or product reviews, then you need to make yourself some Chamomile tea, take a seat somewhere quiet and contemplate your life and stress levels.
Being a photographer and videographer, when I was researching tablets for my work, excellent screen quality was high on my list of priorities to display my images, slideshows and videos at their best.
I went to a local store to compare the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) to the iPad Air but unfortunately they didn’t have the 2014 Galaxy in stock at that time. They did however, have another Samsung Tab (the previous 10.1 I think) so I decided to compare those instead knowing (hoping) that the Note 10.1 2014 would be even better).
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) has an impressive 10.1″ Super Clear LCD with 2,560 x 1,600 resolution giving it 299ppi against the iPad Air’s 9.7″ IPS LCD screen with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels at 264ppi.
Even though I was looking at an older version of the Galaxy, I loved how it felt, I loved how fluid it was and I prefer the 16:10 layout as opposed to the 4:3 layout of the iPad. But that is just personal preference.
A 16:10 ratio is perfect for watching videos or HD slideshows etc and matches the format of most DSLR’s. The iPad’s 4:3 layout is supposedly better for web browsing and reading but again, I think that is down to personal preference.
I have noticed that when using the Samsung’s multitasking features, the slightly longer screen allows a better experience when viewing two open apps side by side. Below I have the Play Store and File Manager open side by side in landscape mode:
The iPad Air is hugely impressive with zero lag and feels super responsive under finger. However, having come from an aging iPod Touch 4G and iPhone 4s, I felt as though I was simply playing with a large iPhone 5s. There was nothing really to differentiate the iPad Air from a Smartphone in my opinion.
If I am really honest, I found the iPad Air a little boring which really disappointed me as I was 99% certain I was going to buy the iPad Air…I even had cases and various accessories ready to buy in my wish list at Amazon!
Anyway, the display on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) is incredibly sharp, responsive and impressive to clients. It was big enough for me to stand up in front of a group of 30 business people as I gave a one minute talk about my business whilst images and video clips (with music) played on the screen. It did the job flawlessly and I even received a round of applause at the end!
High resolution photos look stunning and HD videos play perfectly and look razor sharp. The colours are great and if they don’t suit, you are able to tweak them in the Note’s settings menu.
Music, Stereo or Surround Sound
I don’t think many people use their multimedia device’s speakers as their main speakers so this wasn’t really a deciding factor for me when choosing a tablet. My iPod Touch 4G’s speakers are pretty poor, the iPhone 4s was a huge improvement but still “tinny” and even my laptop with superb Bang and Olufsen speakers doesn’t do it for me.
I use either my headphones when out and about or my super cool, bassy Kitsound Boomdock when in the office. The Boomdock was designed for iPhone and iPods but I use a handy little Bluetooth gadget which allows me to stream music and radio from any Bluetooth device to the Kitsound Boomdock including the Samsung Tablet and Smartphone.
Saying that, the speakers on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) aren’t bad, in fact they give quite a rich stereo (or surround sound depending on choice in settings) sound when listening to music or watching movies. I can definitely live with them…
The S-Pen is probably what separates this tablet from many others. I didn’t own the previous Note model but from what I have heard and read, the S-Pen on the 2014 edition is a significant improvement. Personally, I have never used a stylus pen before but within days of using it, I realised how useful it could be.
- Editing photos
- Taking notes
- Illustrating designs, changes or items of interest on web pages, images or any other screen capture
As you pull the stylus from the side of the tablet, a menu appears with 5 Air Command choices:
- Action Memo
- Scrap Booker
- Screen Write
- S Finder
- Pen Window
By selecting this option a notepad appears on screen with various options open to you once you have made a note. For example, if you scribble down a phone number, the Note will recognise it as a number allowing you to;
- Add it to your contacts
- Email it to someone
- Search the web
- Locate it on a map
- Add it to your tasks
I just tested this with my home phone number and located myself on Google maps precisely. It uses data from your Google account to place a location pin on the map.
Quite a handy tool and one which will hopefully reduce the amount of post it notes I have stuck everywhere in my office!
This is very handy.
Scrap Booker will allow you to draw around anything you are looking at, a website for example, and then add a memo underneath the image before saving it to any number of scrap book topics you care to set up. Not only will it save a section of a website (images for example), it will also store the website url for you.
When you go to your scrap booker library, you can then either open the link you saved or share the capture (as a text and image file or as a Scrap Book file (SCC)) via a multitude of ways including Dropbox, Amazon Kindle, Bluetooth, ChatOn, Email, Evernote, Facebook, Flipboard, Gmail, Google +, Group Play, S Note, Hangouts, Twitter and so on…
I find this particularly useful as a photographer and web designer. When you select the screen write option, it will take a snapshot of whatever is on your screen at that time and then place it on your screen. Using the S Pen, you can then draw, highlight or write notes on parts of the screenshot and again, send it via all the aforementioned methods.
I can take a screen capture of a website for example and send it to a client along with my notes on how to improve or modify a site. I can capture an image and write critique notes on it for a trainee photographer…very quick and simple as the alternative way of doing this can take a hell of a lot longer.
I.e. opening an image in Photoshop, writing on it using a mouse, saving the image and then emailing it to the client.
Once you have populated your device with names, addresses, notes, memos, screen captures, diary events and so on, finding them can be a pain.
With S Finder, you can search for content on your device or the web. Using the handwriting search feature, you can also search for symbols and solutions to formulas. You can enable tags in the camera, S Note, Scrapbook and voice recorder to refine searches using tags.
Content filters to assist you include:
- Past 30 days
- Next 7 days
…all time filters. Or:
- Personal information
…all content filters. Or:
…both tag filters
One of the reasons I chose the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) is the multi-tasking functionality. Being able to open two apps side by side is a huge winner for me.
However, using the Pen Window feature, I am also able to open a further 7, yes seven, windows:
To do this, you select the Pen Window using the S Pen and then draw any sized box on the screen. This will then open up a window with the seven choices and you simply click on one and that function will appear in the box that you drew.
When not using the window just opened…YouTube for example, you can either close it altogether or minimise it. When you minimise it, a new, moveable and circular icon appears on screen which will “stay on top” of anything else you do so that you always know it is there…ready to be used.
Try doing all that on an iPad Air. This is the ultimate multi-tasking tablet which is great for business and power users and which could replace the laptop in many cases.
Bear in mind that you can drag and drop many items from one open app to another as well as plugging in an external USB drive and use it like an external hard drive. You can also use the USB port to add a mouse or keyboard (although I would recommend using the Bluetooth feature for that).
So, as you can see, the S Pen can be quite useful for those that need it, and for those that don’t, once you use it you may wonder how you ever used a tablet without it!
As we have touched on above, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) is quite something when it comes to multi-tasking. To test some of the points above, I opened, on one screen, the following all at once:
- Two apps side by side
- All seven S Pen Window apps
…meaning I have 9 apps not only running at once but all showing on the same screen. Obviously this caused a little lag but not enough to prevent you from working.
Of course, there will be little time, if ever, when you would need to have 9 apps all running at once in the same window but you never know. You can use some cool apps that allow you to use a laptop’s screen, your Smartphone or other screen as a second screen onto which you can place those running apps whilst you work on the ones you need right now.
I currently have and use two screens on my PC and sometimes wish I had three because I tend to multi-task quite a bit and need that screen “real estate”.
Being able to have two file manager screens open is one of the most handy of the multi-tasking functions. It means I can drag and drop files from my SD card or USB drive onto the Galaxy Note or vice versa…great!
Samsung Software (Hub, Link, S Note, S Planner, S Translator, Scrapbook (perfect for bloggers), Sketchbook, Story Album…)
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) comes with a whole host of software installed, many referred to as bloatware by people on various forums and review comments.
I however, can live with this software and that which I don’t use, I simply take off my home screens until such a time when I may need them. They don’t make a huge difference to the battery life or smoothness of the device and I have a 64gb Micro SD card installed so they don’t affect the memory either.
I won’t go into too much detail about the software here but I will say that my favourites are S Planner (diary and organiser) which I use all the time on the Note and my Galaxy S4, S Note (great for meetings) and Flipboard which populates news and events from all over the place (Facebook, Twitter etc) including hubs that you create yourself based on your interests.
It makes reading Facebook more like flipping through the pages of a magazine rather than the standard Facebook interface…
Voice and Motion Control plus Smart Screen
If you know and like Siri on the IOS Apple systems, you will feel at home with S Voice. There are a lot of tasks you can perform using your voice such as “Look up James”, “Memo…send mum a birthday card”, “Play playlist Christmas songs”, “Set alarm for 6.30am tomorrow”…and so on.
I don’t tend to use it but I can see how it may be very helpful to some people.
You can also stop or snooze alarms with your voice, take photos using commands such as “capture”, “shoot”, “smile” and “cheese”…too cheesy for me : )
With music, you can control the player with voice commands like “next, previous, play, pause, volume up and volume down”…
Motion control is good but doesn’t work in the same way that it does on the Samsung Galaxy S4 in that you need to use the S Pen on the Galaxy Note for some tasks.
With Motions, you can however:
- Tilt the tablet to zoom in and out of photos
- Pan the tablet to move to another page
- Pan the tablet to move around an image when zoomed in
I find I can do this easily enough with my fingers…
With Palm Motion you can:
- Make screen captures by swiping your hand across the screen (I prefer to use the on/off button and home button simultaneously to make a capture
- Mute or pause sounds by covering the screen
- Smart Screen features are, to me, more of a gimmick than anything but again, some people may find them useful. After playing with them for a while, I switched them off.
- Smart Stay allows the screen to stay on all the time you are looking at it.
- Smart Rotation rotates the screen according to the orientation of your face.
- Smart Pause will pause videos when the devices detects that you are facing away from the screen…spooky.
- Smart Scroll will scroll pages etc up or down by tilting your head or device while looking at the screen.
This is a huge reason why I chose the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) over the iPad Air…connectivity.
I got really annoyed with Apple when they changed the connection on the latest models which would have meant me changing all my peripherals or buying adaptors to enable me to use either the iPhone 5s or iPad Air with things such as my Boomdock speaker, chargers, car chargers and so on.
The Galaxy Note simply has a micro USB port.
This means that I can do a lot of things that the iPad Air won’t allow too easily such as using a special double headed (USB and Micro USB) USB memory stick for transferring files or watching films. Works great as an additional and external hard drive.
I can easily use a cabled mouse or keyboard with my tablet, I can (with a cheap adaptor from Amazon) hook the Galaxy Note up to my HD TV easily and charge using standard cables that we use for other devices.
Bluetooth 4.0 also works like a charm with the Galaxy Note and I use it regularly to hook up to my Bluetooth headphones and Boomdock speaker using a handy little Kitsound Bluetooth Adaptor. I use it to connect to the Wi-Fi signal from my Galaxy S4 too…
Wi-Fi, works perfectly and I often tether my Samsung Galaxy S4 to the Note 10.1 as a Wi-Fi hotspot…love it. Not much more to say as long as you have a good signal.
I have used the “nearby devices” feature to send images and music between devices with no problems but have yet to use screen mirroring. This allows me to replicate my Note screen with my TV or PC etc so I have the same screen on both devices.
Last night, I received the £8 cable adaptor that allows me to connect the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) to my HDTV. Playing games, surfing the web, looking at photos and watching HD films is amazing through the tablet. We don’t need a PS4 now ; )
TV Remote (Smart Remote)
Does what it says…nuff said and can be useful if you are either too lazy to either get up and change channels or lift that really heavy TV remote that you already have sitting next to you.
I must admit I had some fun with my wife when I first used this on my Samsung S4…she thought the TV was on playing up. I soon got bored with it and haven’t used it since unless the kids hide the standard TV remote.
Even though you get a whole load of apps included with the Galaxy Note, there are still some that I would recommend getting hold of.
The stylus and large screen with multi-tasking work a treat with Evernote. Evernote is a scheduler, note-taker and reminder that you can sync to all your devices…PC, Smartphone and Tablet.
This makes it easy for people like me who can be forgetful at times.
Most tablets don’t have the staying power of the Kindle with regards to battery life, but the screen of the Galaxy Note is big and beautiful and will make reading a pleasure. With the screen brightness turned down and all other apps closed, I reckon two days of reading without needing to charge is doable.
Accessories (mouse, cases, keyword, micro USB to USB, memory stick with 2 USB…big and small, micro USB to HDMI, memory card)
I am a sucker for accessories for Smartphones and Tablets. In particular, I always buy cases and screensavers as I like to keep my gadgets in great condition. I recently sold my iPhone 4s after more than two years and when I took the front and rear screen protectors off, it was simply immaculate and the buyer was over the moon.
Also, even though the Galaxy Note I bought has internal memory of 32gb, it will also take a Micro SD card up internally up to 64gb so I bought one of those too. It is great to be able to put all your apps (that will allow it), music and video files to the SD card rather than the tablet.
This not only frees up space on your tablet but also makes it easier to transfer files (my Go Pro HD Hero 3’s take the same card so I can switch them in for easy transfer to my tablet if I wish).
For the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014), I immediately bought:
- USB to Micro USB Cable – This allows me to hook up my cabled mouse or keyboard (can also use Bluetooth “mice”), an external hard drive, USB drives and so on…great!
- Sandisk Ultra 64GB Class 10 Micro SD Card with SD Adapter
- Screen Saver (Pack of Three)
- Standard Case with Handy Pen)
- Case with Bluetooth Keyboard
- MHL HDMI Connector (for linking to my HDTV) –
All of that gives me a ton of extra connectivity, space and ease of use with the Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014).
The battery life for me is very good indeed. If you are a power user, of course you will see a large dip in the hours you get out of it and I must admit, when you first get the Note (2014), you will be a power user for some time by default..this thing is fun!
After a few weeks, you settle into using the tablet “normally” and then you notice how good the battery life can be. I get through 2-3 days of light to standard use quite easily.
If you want to increase the battery life, I might heartily recommend one of these wonderful external battery packs. I love Anker and use their products for charging phones, Nexus tablets, Go Pro HD Hero 3 cameras and now my Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014)…cool!
You can also read this very handy article on how to save power on your Samsung Tablet by powering down a lot of the features that you won’t necessarily need or use. I did this and noticed a difference immediately.
Accessories on my Wish list at Amazon
(Not sure how much I would use it but they look pretty cool and could be very functional for the right person…although talking to my watch reminds me of Michael Knight in Knight Rider).
Allows you to stream content wirelessly from your Galaxy Note Tablet or Smartphone directly to your TV. Pretty cool for playing games, watching films etc.
Anyway, I could go on all day about this great device (and I have) so I will leave it there. As I said at the beginning, each person out there will have different needs and wants from a tablet so do your own due diligence and check them all out like I did.
For me, as a photographer, videographer, web designer and business person, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) is perfect and I have noticed people eagerly looking over my shoulder at business breakfasts as I use it…