Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 Tablet: First Impressions

REVIEW: Samsung's Galaxy Note 10.1 is a new 10.1-inch tablet that features the S Pen and allows apps to run side-by-side. It ships Aug. 16 and starts at $499. Here's our quick, early review.

Samsung officially introduced the Galaxy Note 10.1 at a New York event Aug. 14. A for-now WiFi-only tablet with a 10.1-inch display, it's meant to build on the success of Samsung's original 5.3-inch Note, which found a strong following within the enterprise, as well as with users with creative aspirations.

While a press release out of Seoul Aug. 6 spilled the beans on the device's specifications--Android Ice Cream Sandwich, with the promise of Jelly Bean later this year; a quad-core processor; and front and back cameras--it failed to get across the importance of the device to Samsung, which is now the world's leading phone maker, as well as smartphone maker, and Apple's only real competitor in the tablet market.

"This is one of the most innovative devices we've ever made and it will be fairly revolutionary," Shoneel Kolhatkar, Samsung Mobile's director of product planning, told journalists and analysts at a small meeting before the official launch, offering early hands-on time with the tablet.

"It is the most differentiated product we will have on the market," said Kolhatkar.

So, expect a tremendous marketing campaign to accompany it.

Kolhatkar and his colleagues explained that Samsung's original Note introduced the world to the S Pen-a grown-up, more feature-rich version of the stylus-and that tablets have so far been more about "passive consumption, the 'lean back.'"

With the Galaxy Note 10.1, which features a "number of firsts and onlys," they expect all that to change.

First, there's that S Pen. While the stylus accompanying the new Lenovo Tablet 2 is tubular, the S Pen is a more of a long rectangle, so that it doesn't roll off tables. It has a button on its side that a user can press to do things like cut or paste text. And in exclusive Samsung apps loaded to the Galaxy 10.1, the S Pen can help to do things like cut and paste images, edit images, control games and take notes.

The S Pen also allows a user to write, color, draw or add a personal touch to content-a handwritten "Wish you were here" can be added to a vacation photo being sent to friends. Has the world been craving such capabilities? Who knows. Kolhatkar made the case that handwriting is more personal, more humanizing and that there's "a power in it."

The S Pen is also pressure-sensitive, unlike many high-end styluses on the market. Press harder, and, like an ordinary pen or marker, it makes a darker, thicker mark. While a user can choose on the screen the type of tip they'd like the Pen to make in certain apps-controlling the colors or whether it appears as a pencil, pen or marker-the Galaxy Note 10.1 ships with five additional pen tips for the S Pen, three of them rubber and two plastic, for different writing experiences.

The tablet's display complements the S Pen by enabling a user to write with the side of her palm resting on the display, instead of awkwardly hovering in the air; the Note understands that you're writing and considers only the touch-points of the pen. However, the device happily responds to finger touches.