Special Reports

Samsung Galaxy Note: A great alternative

Brett Haggard

The new Samsung Galaxy Note could unseat Apple from the top of the most-desired list.

The 10.1-inch Galaxy Note from Samsung is thinner and lighter than the iPad. (Supplied)

Despite numerous attempts from some heavyweight technology vendors to break into the tablet market, Apple seems to remain top on the most- desired list with its retina-display iPads.

The 10.1-inch Galaxy Note from Samsung could change that, though.

It is thinner and lighter than the iPad (measuring 9mm thick and tipping- the scales at 600g), has impressive stereo speakers set into either end of its chassis and has a build-quality that screams quality.

There is also the Note 10.1 party piece to consider - a digitiser pen that is the direct result of Samsung's collaboration with stylus and digitiser guru Wacom.

Apart from the obvious ability to transform the tablet into a great note-taking device, the S-Pen (Samsung's name for the digitiser) is great for sketching and doing other artsy-fartsy things with your tablet.

It might not seem like an important differentiator, but after a few hours of using S-Pen you realise what has been missing from other tablets.

Yes, there are third-party stylus-type pens available for the iPad, but they are about as useful as lopping a digit off some unsuspecting human's hand and using it as a writing stick.

Experience
The S-Pen is pressure sensitive, has a much finer nib than other styluses and has a control button located on the side of it, features that really transform the experience.

Pressure sensitivity means that, just a like a pen or pencil would in the real world, the S-Pen has the smarts to sense how hard the user is pressing and adapt results by either making lines and handwritten text darker or thicker.

The side button is programmable and great for either switching between virtual nibs (like a pencil and eraser) in some applications, or for quick-launching other applications or features.

And because the Note 10.1 can tell the difference between a fingertip and the S-Pen, you can use it without worrying about resting part of your hand on the touch-sensitive surface and confusing matters.

The extent to which the S-Pen's pressure sensitivity and extra button is implemented depends to a great degree on how much support for the Note 10.1 third-party developers choose to build into their apps.

To encourage this process, Samsung has released a software development kit and offers some preference in its online store to applications built with its Note devices in mind.

The company hasn't left all of the imaginative work up to the market's coding jockeys, though, and ships the device with a handful of free applications that demonstrate the full usefulness of having a digitiser handy.

League of its own
So is it an iPad killer?

It depends on what you want to use it for. The iPad is all about media consumption, so if you want to look at pictures and other visual media in stunning life-like detail, right now it's in a league of its own. Also, the Note 10.1 simply doesn't deliver the goods in the resolution department to compete with Apple's offering. For most folks, however, the Note 10.1's 1280x800 pixel display will be more than enough. Pictures look more than good enough, web pages are crisp and legible, and 720p videos are just stunning on the Note's screen.

Throw in a quad core processor for decompressing high-resolution videos- and a micro-SD card slot for expanding memory, and the Note 10.1 gains even more credit with movie and music buffs.

If you're after pure visuals, get an iPad. But if you're looking for a more versatile device that can be used for real note-taking and other forms of content creation, the Note 10.1, at roughly R8500 (32GB WiFi and 3G), is a great choice.

Brett Haggard is a technology journalist- and publisher based in Jozi who spends more time online than offline. He uses an iPhone and an Android tablet, with a BlackBerry for backup. He used a Windows -computer once upon a time.

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