Archive for November, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition) Review

I recently received a Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014 Edition), fresh from the US.  I had earlier used an ASUS Slider.


A good, light device with great potential for note taking and use as a portable sketch book.  Marred by poor hardware and suboptimal UI decisions.

[Update: despite the problems I encountered, it is still a great device.  Cloverpaint is my sketch app of choice. I have the US bundle, which included $25 of Google play credits.   The AU version looks like it doesn’t come with this.  Most of the rest of the bundles looked to me to be useless.

Update 2: For the past month or so (as at Feb 14) the SD card reader seems to be working with a low capacity SD I bought as a test, but I haven’t tried removing/replacing it.]


I have a complex relationship w my note. When I first received it its apparent heavy reliance or Wifi was a big turn off. I want the device primarily as a mobile sketchpad. I would also like to get work stuff (reviewing and drafting documents) done on it. Overall I am happy if the tablet despite its many failings. I do not propose to focus on its strengths, other than to say I am quite happy w| the tablet as a sketch book and am confident I will be able to use it for work on the go. Rather, let me list some of the issues I have faced with the tablet in my first week of use.

Issues with note 10.1

Many application features are difficult to discover.  Always press the menu button, just in case!

It is good to be able to take hand written notes w/out them being converted into text (conversion takes too long, particularly correcting mistakes).  The handwriting recognition is not good enough – at least fed my writing.   The virtual keyboard is bad for ‘ ” () because each time you want one of these characters it requires 3 key presses.  This is a very serious problem for me. These are commonly used glyphs. It makes me wonder whether this software is used by actual people before being released. Also of concern is the lack of arrow keys or the virtual keyboard. I assume the designers decided you could just tap the screen with your s pen.  This is an exercise in frustration.  Hunting the screen for the right tap spot is much harder than hitting the arrow keys a couple of times. Autocorrect generally works well – but sometimes quite poorly. No easy way to correct a bad autocorrect.  The hardware buttons are no good. I hit them too often, esp using the device flat on a table. Turning the device upside down doesn’t quite solve the issue because you obscure the light sensor and the screen goes dim.  Using handwriting is slow compared to typing on the virtual keyboard.  That, in turn, is slow compared to typing on a proper keyboard.

The s note application uses a weird page size – apparently you’re supposed to keep adding these tiny pages (note taking size is roughly equivalent to card file cards).   When you turn the tablet from landscape to portrait mode, you just get the small card across the width, rather than a full portrait screen to do your note taking on.  [Update: you can choose portrait mode templates when creating a new note, but not via the default widget.  Open the S Note app instead – and press that menu key! – to set the template ]   Export to text is not available(!)  You can get the text by selecting it and copying it to the clipboard though.  Turning a page takes a tediously long time (although still only a second or two).  Annoying because it is presumably deliberately included for effect.
Polaris office was woeful the last time I tried it. It looks like the new version has improved dramatically.  I haven’t used it extensively though.

It is hard to get a soft touch with s pen.  I would like to be able to configure the pressure curve for the s pen but this seems to be impossible.  Light pressure seems better in Clover paint than in  Galaxy sketch.

The device doesn’t come with an epub reader installed (?!)
Sd card issues – apparently a known issue w/ Samsung tablets – google “SD card unexpectedly removed”. I have tried it with 2 SD cards now. lt corrupted the first one. The second one is new and it will not read the card or even recognise that a card has been inserted. Yes, I have tried reformatting it – to within an inch of its life. lt makes no difference.  BTW these cards work in my ASUS Slider and on my computer.  In fact, they even work in the note if connected as a mass storage device through a usb-otg cable to a card reader.

The device mounts as an MTP device when plugged into a Linux computer.   Developer options are hidden in recent versions of Android tap the build number repeatedly to become a developer.

The note doesn’t work with my ethernet dongle connected to a usb-otg connector.  Instead it insists on using wireless <sigh>.  I don’t like wireless as I’m not comfortable that it’s secure.  The wireless supports WPA2 among others.
The Knox system looks interesting. I may use it but it is more designed to allow you corporate IT staff to quarantine data. Eg. I’d actually like to be able to move files from the Knox container to the public one, but I can’t. Rather I have to email the file to myself, using up my data allowance.  What I really want is a per-file or per-directory encryption system.  If the SD card reader worked I could apparently use that as an encrypted container <sigh>.  There are only a handful of apps available for use in the Knox container – and, strangely, S Note is not one of them which is annoying.  Taking meeting notes is an obvious use for the Note, but the lack of S Note means you have to do this in the personal container of the device.  Dumb.


Despite the very annoying failure of the sd card reader my general impression of the device is very favourable.  I am concerned that it will either tie me to online services or lock my data in weird formats.  That said I am reasonably confident that I will be able to keep my data free.

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