Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 - Old tablet, new times

Updated: November 30, 2017

The age is strong in this one. I bought my Samsung Galaxy tablet back in 2013, and at first, I found it quite adorable. But over time, I realized there were diminishing returns in the touch factor, making it useful only for casual Internet stuff. Phones make sense, because you have no expectations. So do laptops. But tablets are a false hope.

And yet, it's my duty to please that ... to conduct reviews. Indeed, I've recently converted my Ubuntu-powered Aquaris M10 machine to Android, and spent some time playing and testing. The change has given it a fresh new - and fast - beginning. So I figured, let's see if the Samsung tablet can also benefit from some airing and dusting. Shall we?


Power button, ON

In the last four years, I've occasionally, well rarely, used the Note tablet - on a few trips, nothing special. My initial intention was to exploit its voice-to-text capabilities and the Stylus pen for on-the-road writing, but this didn't quite come true. You need constant Internet connectivity and the cloud-powered algorithms, without which the software is useless. Even then, there's a lot left to be desired.

I concluded that the tablet is best used for silly things, mostly to watch videos, which makes it largely redundant, if you think about it, and this kind of aligns with the global tablet market share. Then, there's the planned obsolescence concept - four years is a fairly long time in the world of gadgets. This Note device is now an old thing, but that does not necessarily mean useless. Hence, this test.

Note 10.1 started just fine. It had even retained a decent percentage of juice after months of silent brooding on a shelf, which is rather impressive. Immediately, the system began a series of updates. I got frightened at first, when applications complained that they would not run without a critical Google service update. But there was one was available in the Store, too, and after a few iterations of updates, it was all good.

App updates

Google Services

There is no new official firmware from Samsung anymore. For whatever reason, you will not be getting the latest Androids, and maybe the device can't run them, although I don't think that's the case. However, application updates are still there, and that's nice.

App updates completed

After a few days, there were still more updates. Very cool. The device does get warm and all stuttery while updating, but then it settles down. You can feel the age and the fact software is getting more bloated by the day, for justified or whatever reasons.

Additional software updates


Performance, comparison to Aquaris

I distinctly remember the Note being a decent performer, and it still remains ok, but it does feel ever so slightly laggier compared to the modern crop of hardware and operating systems, with a notable comparison to the BQ machine. With stock Marshmallow, it runs really quickly, whereas here, you get the sense of hesitance.

The battery is still fully functional, there's no deterioration, and you get an impressive charge for continuous use. Software works largely as it had before. But then, the look and feel is a bit behind, the speed and responsiveness are a bit behind, and the clarity of the display is also less sharp than the full-HD Aquaris. It has survived nicely for four years, and that's something that the other device still needs to prove.

Home screen

On its own, it's quite all right. You have full-device encryption, the range of modern software, good network connectivity, and a decent battery life. Performance may be the product of heavy Samsung branding, but it's nothing sinister. Perfectly usable, if not quite as glamorous as the latest hardware.

Various apps 1

Various apps 2

Security options

Media playback

Let's discuss the tablet in a bit more detail, shall we. Not just vague terms. I tried a bunch of Youtube videos, including my own content in high definition. Samsung only allowed me to play up to 720p rather than full HD, which kind of makes sense. The playback wasn't too smooth, though. Audio quality is very decent.

HD video playback

Stylus, voice and text recognition

I had no problem with voice-to-text using Google services. The stylus still works well, and it actually makes for a very handy navigation device. While the haptic feedback is reasonable, the pen offers a superior experience.

I was also able to write with it free-style as well as create handwriting-to-text notes, with a relatively reasonable level of fidelity. A lot better than it was in 2013, so this is quite encouraging. Well, you'd expect that from the improved so-called deep learning and AI algorithms and all the fancy buzzwords that you can think of. You still heavily depend on Internet connectivity, so this does not make for an ideal travel companion.

Handwriting to text

Office applications

I was surprised that LibreOffice still only offers a viewer. Microsoft Office is there, but the latest version requires KitKat 4.4 and above, which makes this device unsupported. You can download APK on your own, but that's really pushing it.

MS Office, unsupported

Other stuff

The camera was never anything special, but it looks really awful in the modern era of bazillions of pixels everywhere. In this regard, the tablet definitely shows its age, and coupled with some heavy CPU utilization by more recent versions of common apps, sometimes you do wonder if there's a place for a relic. Well, there is. You just need to be aware of the limitations, and the fact this tablet has less power and style than most phones nowadays.



Samsung Note 10.1 is an old tablet that copes relatively well in 2017. Browsers take a mighty toll on its performance, and it's not as slick and elegant as modern hardware. But it's still a capable player. Perhaps a newer kernel would help, but at least you have the latest range of apps. Most of them anyway.

The battery drain isn't any worse than it was four years ago, the tablet still feels sturdy, the quality is quite all right, and you have good security, pretty good text manipulation software, and passable media playback. Not bad. All in all, it can still be used and enjoyed, albeit with some speed and lag penalty. The main purpose remains dubious, as with any tablet, but if you're okay with that, then there's no reason to commit the Note to history just yet. Perhaps it has outlived its expected shelf life, but it still works. Samsung seems to have built a very decent little device. Anyway, there's no higher agenda here. The Note still runs and works, and I'll keep it for a while longer. Thumbs up.