It feels like an eternity since Apple and Samsung were battling it out in court
, with the former suggesting that the latter had copied its design patents. The two giants have seemingly put all of that angst behind them, and though likely unrelated, in the more recent months, Samsung's design philosophy has changed slightly. The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition looks absolutely nothing like an iPad, and in fact, it looks almost nothing like any other Samsung produce save for the Note 3 smartphone. The Note 3 and Note 10.1 2014 Edition were launched in lockstep, and indeed, these were the first two to work in conjunction with the Galaxy Gear smartwatch
. (Samsung has since offered a software update that enables prior Galaxy devices to play nice with its new watch as well.)
The Note 10.1 2014 Edition weighs 600 grams, which is just 7 grams shy of the iPad 2. In other words, it's not light. The iPad Air weighs 469 grams, just for the sake of comparison. On the upside, this slate is most definitely sturdy.
Going around the edges, you'll find a micro-USB 2.0 port along the bottom; a perforated speaker grille and a 3.5mm headphone jack along the left side; a power button and a volume rocker on the top; and an S Pen stylus, speaker grille, and microSD expansion slot along the right side. The edge is also home to a chrome accent ring, which is ribbed to provide a bit of texture. It certainly adds some contrast to the mix, but it does feel a bit chintzy to be honest.
On the front face, there's an astoundingly gorgeous 2560x1600 Super Clear LCD. Compared to the lowly WXGA display in the original Galaxy Note 10.1, there's simply no question that Samsung has upped the game in the display department. The panel is remarkable in every way. Viewing angles are shockingly wide; colors pop; responsiveness is best-in-class; and it's simply a delight to look at regardless of whether you're reading or soaking in a film.
The typical Home button is also along the bottom, flanked by a Menu soft key and Back soft key on the left and right, respectively. The rear of the device is home to an all-new design aesthetic. It's a leather-looking back, which is actually produced from plastic. That said, it genuinely feels soft to the touch, and while it's obviously not genuine leather, the texture is quite nice. The stitching progresses all the way around the edges, and it honestly adds a lot of class to the product. This is a design choice that could have easily been mocked as gimmicky, but the execution is perfect. Up top, there's an 8MP camera with flash, and at the extreme top-left corner is the S Pen's slot.
We'd also like to point out that the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition's speakers are truly impressive. They're loud, clear, and they project really well for a tablet. Being a 10-inch slate, this guy is too large for one-handed operation, but if you're willing to learn, it is possible to position the tablet in one hand while using the S Pen to write or doodle with your other hand. Once you get the hang of it, it's actually quite enjoyable.
Of course, hardware only tells half of the story, so let's explore the software angle on the next page.