The maximalist: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
EMOTIONAL WEATHER REPORT - Jessica Zafra (The Philippine Star) - November 18, 2012 - 12:00am

All of life is like high school, and that includes the latest technology releases. Certain gadgets are the cool kids — they have their own way of doing things, and everyone wants to be them. Slightly standoffish and intimidating, they act as if they don’t care what other people think. (They do, but they would never admit it.) Other gadgets are nerds: complicated and crackling with references no one else gets. Then there are the outcasts — the ones who will never be cool, whose strained attempts at coolness only underscore their lack of it. (These are the ones more likely to succeed in the real world.)

The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is the new kid in school who really, really wants you to like her. She follows you around, brings you sandwiches, offers to do your homework. Whatever you ask for, she will go get it. Her need for your approval is so touching, it would be ungracious not to be her friend.

What does your new friend look like? The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is a 10.31 x 7.09 x 0.35 inch tablet that weighs 600 grams and has10.1-inch screen. Why is it called “Note” when it is clearly a tablet? I have not yet grasped the mysteries of Samsung nomenclature. The design is slick but the body is plastic, which feels insubstantial compared to metal. The bezel is not flush with the edges so you may find yourself picking at it.

You can use the Galaxy Note 10.1 in landscape or portrait orientations, but the design seems to favor landscape. The buttons and slots are lined up on the top edge: on/off, volume, microSD card, an IR blaster that can be used as a TV remote control, audio, and SIM card because hey, this is a phone. It operates on Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich, upgradable to v4.1, and has 16 GB internal memory and 2 GB storage. You can add a microSD card for up to 64 GB of storage — very practical.

Touchscreen is highly responsive, but the 800 x 1280 pixel display is a bit behind these Retina-standard times. Sound quality is great — not one but two speakers flank the screen. Why do you need two speakers when you have headphones? For watching adorable cat videos with your friends, which as you know is the true purpose of the Internet.

This gadget has not one but two cameras, in front and at the back of the tablet. The primary camera at the back is 5MP with autofocus and LED flash; the secondary one is 1.9MP and allows you to take pictures of yourself without having to do awkward contortions. The Galaxy Note 10.1 takes excellent video, but you’ll need to buy the HDMI cable separately if you want to use it with your TV.

It comes with the Samsung apps Music Hub, Media Hub, and Game Hub. To save energy the screen automatically dims when you’re not looking — that should teach you to focus.

On the lower left-hand corner are the icons for backspace, home, task manager, and…screenshot? The first time I tried this tablet I was constantly taking screenshots without meaning to. It comes in handy, though, when you start using the multiscreen function.

Tap on the Multiscreen icon and the screen splits in half so you can see two applications at the same time instead of switching back and forth between them. Check your email while watching videos, browse the Internet while looking at your photos, or draw cartoons while reading office reports. Use drag and drop to copy and paste text or images between applications.

In other words, this tablet lets you multitask as much as your faculties can handle. Knowledge acquired from bitter experience: If you want to meet a deadline or finish writing a report early so you can go out with your friends, turn off the Internet. Work offline. When you’re online, the tendency is to wander off — you click on a link which leads you to another link, and before you know it three hours have passed and you’ve written a grand total of two sentences. So when you’re in a hurry, shut down the browser. When you’ve finished the assignment you can open as many screens as you like.

What does the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 have that its competitors don’t? A stylus. The S Pen fits snugly into a slot on the lower right side of the tablet, so snugly that it took me days to find it was there. “A pen?” you ask. “Isn’t that rather retro? Isn’t a tablet supposed to move beyond primitive scrawling with a pen and paper?” The S Pen appeals to people like me who enjoy scribbling on paper; more importantly it’s convenient to use with the S Note application.

With the S Note you can write memos, make drawings and use a variety of productivity tools. It can convert your handwriting into text — the conversion isn’t perfect yet but you can make corrections using the navigation keys. The Shape match function automatically fixes and completes lines and shapes — suddenly you’re drawing straight lines and perfect circles. Formula match recognizes handwritten scientific formulas and finds the solutions to equations by launching the Wolfram Alpha search engine.

The S Pen isn’t completely accurate — it misses a stroke here and there, but it’s fun to use, even if it makes my handwriting look like a 9-year-old’s scrawl. And you can record your notes and sketches for playback, which is not essential but cool.

What we have here is a gadget that tries to give you everything you could possibly want in a tablet phone. You might not use all the features, but it’s comforting to know they’re there.


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