Samsung Galaxy Note, half a year later


Updated: November 20, 2013

It's been approximately six months since I bought a tablet, in order to conduct a thorough anthropological study into what makes morons so excited. Plus, you can't blame me for being conservative, because I'm gently expanding my knowledge and experience and whatnot, as I've recently shown you with my Nokia and S4 experiments. Right on, Dedoimedo for the win.

Anyhow, back then, I was rather pleased with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, and it turned out to be a useful beast. Fast, elegant, stylish, with a bunch of cool features that I hoped to use, including voice-to-text recognition, S Pen for handwriting and more. Now, let me share my findings, what happened in the last half a year.

The usage model

I have to admit that my initial expectations changed a bit over time. I believed that I could use the tablet as a creativity device rather than just a monitor for viewing content, which is what it's been designed to do, it seems. So the populistic sentence that smart devices are all about consuming is correct, in a sense. Although they are not smart devices, nor are their users.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

But there's a definite pattern, and it's one of searching for excitement, and paying now and then to get the best of it. I'll bet my left walnut, and it's a huge one, that an average tablet user spends more money browsing than a desktop person, although the latter probably invests far more in their hardware and software in the long run.

Typing for long periods of time

This was one of my goals, to be able to write stories and books on the go, so to speak. Well, I wasn't able to successfully accomplish this task, I'm afraid. First, outside, the screen just reflects too much sunlight, and you can't really see anything. Second, you need some way of supporting the device, which means a flat, horizontal surface, and this isn't much fun when you're on a beach, trying to voyeur your next album.

S Pen isn't much help either, in this sense. When you're home, comfortably seated behind a desk, with a good Neon lighting, everything is peachy. But on the road, it's quite a bit clunky, and less efficient than using a keyboard.

Keyboard

Voice recognition

Another strong point, but it comes with a big, obese disclaimer. The software will only work well while you're connected to Google, because then, it will forward your words to a large compute grid or cloud, however you want to call it, and try to figure your speech in near-real time. If you do not have Internet connectivity, say a local cafe or such, then you will be sort of stuck. Mobile connectivity is not an option, either, and even if it were, roaming can be costly, especially abroad. As far as being stuck, the software will fail to detect most of your words, or it will do its guessing so slowly as to kill any creativity mojo, and you will not have the ability to Hemingway your lyrics and stories into a text file. This is quite a disappointment, I must say. The force is weak in this one.

No Google, no recognition

Next, I tried some other voice-to-text programs. Same thing. With no Google engine to power them, they are quite useless. Even more so than the built-in Samsung thing. At least Samsung refuses to make silly mistakes when it's offline. Most others stab wildly, using all kinds of unrelated words. You end up with a completely intelligible garble with no no relation whatsoever to the original. The force is weak in this one, too. See One Kanobi further below. Yup.

Inaccurate recognition

Same thing when trying to boss the tablet around. No Google, no fun.

Tablet needs Internet

Media & xenophobia

Galaxy Note 10.1 plays most of the stuff well, but it did struggle with some of the files I manually transcoded using Microsoft ADPCM codecs. You would get the video but no audio. On other occasions, it might sometimes fail to play video, especially for older MPG files. Then, MP4 and FLV can also occasionally cause trouble, but nothing major. More sort of captain. Sometimes, I also struggled with HD playback using WebM files, which are, ironically, supposed to be extra Google friendly. For instance, my car acceleration video, using XviD + MP3 inside WebM at 1920x1080px didn't play that well. Lots of stutter, and as you can see below, the action is clearly at 17-sec mark, including the actual content of the screenshot, but the playback blob is at the beginning of the video. Something is quite halibutty here.

Now, there are many media players available, and the playback support will also depend on your choice, so you should fiddle for a while and select the best one for you. Do note that some apps will let you skip time, others will force you to watch everything. Pick the best one for you.

Media playback

Now, in this regard, the tablet is quite useful. If you want to watch something quick, right then, right there, it's a good, handy device with a high-quality display, and you will like the mobility option. The playback flexibility is probably the most useful or powerful feature, and it aligns well with the overall so-called post-desktop strategy.

Oh, and if you want to buy things, please make sure you live where it counts - USA. That message, that gentle condescending phrasing unsupported country, that sounds like Racism 101 to me. Unsupported your sister. You didn't have problem charging my unsupported country credit card, did you?

Unsupported country

Sharing

I have no complains how Samsung and Google figured out the sharing part. You may need to download one or two apps from the Store, but in general, you're all set, including Samba shares, Windows machines, etc. Not bad at all. And you can always go over the Internet, but that can be quite slow. You can also use Airdroid, which is quite handy.

Login

Battery life

No bad surprises, either. The tablet will last through a long day of active usage, including the Web, and if you turn off the Wireless before you sleep it and leave it on a shelf, then it will not complain about recharging for more than a week.

Battery life

Conclusion

My overall impression of Galaxy Note 10.1, half a year down the road, is a mixed one. My expectations were high when it came to content creation, and the seemingly powerful features, like the hand writing recognition, voice-to-text, and a large virtual keyboard are simply not designed for extended, comfortable use, especially when you do not have an Internet connection and a good, well-lit working environment.

The rest of the stuff is quite decent, especially the sharing and media parts, which I guess is how this kind of device should be treated. An expensive toy for animated media mostly, but little else. You can lie down, have a read or such, but it cannot replace any real productivity setup with a full keyboard. So yes, my article is mostly pointless, because I have just confirmed what everyone's been saying all along. However, now that I have also done this test, you know it's true and not just market hype. Therefore, if you have some extra money, and you're considering a tablet, remember what it is: in a nutshell, MPT - Mobile Pr0n Terminal! Long live the Internet.

Cheers.

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