iPad rival tries to be cure-all tablet
Samsung’s answer to the iPad – the Galaxy Note 10.1 – has a much longer list of features, better specs and more impressive hardware, but in many ways it proves that less really can be more, writes DAVID POGUE
THE HOT news in Silicon Valley legal circles these days is Apple’s titanic lawsuit against Samsung, which is finally approaching an end. Apple maintains that Samsung pilfered some of its iPhone and iPad designs when creating the Samsung Galaxy series of phones and tablets.
It’s a big, big deal; billions of dollars are at stake. And it’s already having an effect: these days Samsung is being careful to avoid unvarnished Apple mimicry.
Take the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, an iPad competitor, which goes on sale in Ireland this month. (It would be really nice if Samsung didn’t name every single product “Galaxy”, regardless of the category. If you say, “I’ve just bought the Samsung Galaxy,” nobody knows if you bought a phone, a tablet or a dishwasher.)
Its message to the tablet-buying world is this: “OK, the iPad is great for consuming stuff – reading books, watching videos, surfing the web, but our new Galaxy tablet is also good for creating stuff, for one simple reason: it comes with a pen. See how different we are from Apple?”
Now, introducing a stylus in this day and age may seem a little backward. The PalmPilot had a stylus. The Apple Newton had a stylus. All of those awful, failed Windows tablet computers had styluses. When the iPad came out, requiring only a fingertip for control, styluses looked as quaint as hand-cranked cars.
But Samsung’s original Galaxy Note, a weirdly sized, 5-inch combination tablet and phone, sold very well, at least in Europe – and it had a pen. Samsung hopes lightning will strike twice with the 10-inch Galaxy Note 10.
The wi-fi Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 retails at €479 from Meteor, DID, Powercity, while the 3G version from Vodafone, O2 Three will cost €100 more. The entry model comes with 16 gigabytes of storage (same as the base iPad model) and 2 gigabytes of memory (twice as much as the iPad). It’s absolutely loaded with features. Front and back cameras (1.9 megapixels front, 5 megapixels back, with LED flash). A card slot to expand the storage (the iPad doesn’t have that).
An infrared blaster that can control your TV system and front-facing stereo speakers that sound much better than the iPad’s mono speaker.
Yet despite all of this, the Note is a hair thinner (0.35 inch) and lighter (1.3 pounds) than the iPad. When you hold it, you realise why right away: it feels plasticky and insubstantial. The plastic of the back panel is so thin, it could be vinyl; you can feel it flex against the circuit board within. The plastic stylus, which slips into a socket on the lower-right corner, is even airier; it’s so cheap-feeling, it could have fallen out of a cereal box.