Samsung's $499 iPad competitor reaches store shelves across the U.S. Thursday. Look for two main differences.
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U.S buyers looking for a 10-inch tablet that's not made by Apple can now pick up the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1. It goes on sale Thursday at select online and brick-and-mortar stores, including Amazon, Best Buy, BrandSmart, CDW, Conn's, Fry's, HH Gregg, and Tiger Direct. The 16-GB version costs $499 and the 32-GB version costs $549.
The new tablet features some minor spec improvements compared to last year's model, but the big draw (pun intended) is the S Pen and associated software. The S Pen is what Samsung calls the stylus that ships with the Note and acts as a digital input device. Paired with the S Note application, it can be a powerful tool for people who aren't ready to give up on handwritten notes and other scribblings.
Much of Samsung's Wednesday launch of the device centered on its usefulness as a creative platform. To that end, the Galaxy Note 10.1 ships with Adobe Photoshop Touch, a tablet-optimized version of Adobe's photo-editing software. The app carries over Photoshop features such as layers, selection tools, adjustments, and filters. Using the pressure sensitive S Pen, Galaxy Note owners can flex their creative muscles and save everything on the tablet or via the cloud, thanks to DropBox.
Power users might be more interested in the Note's multitasking capabilities. The Note includes a novel multiscreen feature, which lets you run two applications positioned side-by-side at the same time. Running two visible apps at once negates the need to hop between them using the clunky app switcher.
At launch, the multiscreen function is somewhat limited in that only a few apps support it. They are S Note, the browser, video player, email, gallery, and Polaris Office. This way, you can browse the web while keeping an eye on your inbox, or take notes when you watch a movie.
The S Pen and Multiscreen features are the two that set the Galaxy Note apart from its competitors, most notably the Apple iPad. Samsung took pains to differentiate this device from the iPad, and it is obvious.
Third-party companies make apps and styli for the iPad, but they are crummy implementations at best. The multitasking trick is definitely one that gets my attention, and is something I'm surprised Apple hasn't already brought to iOS. One of the chief hassles of using any tablet is the method for jumping from app to app to app. While the iPad can do it via the use of several different four-finger touch gestures, Android tablets make use of an on-screen button. The ability to run two apps side-by-side is an entirely different story.
For now, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is only available with Wi-Fi. Versions of the tablet with 3G/4G won't be available until later this year.
Take a look at a Samsung demo of the tablet:
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