Looking past all the drama surrounding the Galaxy Tablets and the Apple iPad, what we’re essentially here to tell you is whether you should or shouldn’t spend your hard earned money on a tablet that could be an iPad threat. Samsung’s Galaxy Note 800 aka Note 10.1 (GT-N8000) is the latest in the high end segment and has all the makings of a fully functional, versatile, easy to manage device—but does it prove to be all that the advertisements claim? Read on to find out.

Video Review

 

Video Review of Samsung Galaxy Note 800

Design and Build
To set the record straight, the Galaxy Note 800 looks nothing like the iPad. While each has its own fundamental USPs and design forms, we’re not here to compare just yet. The Note 800 is a sleek, polished, professional looking device that, in spite of its large size, is quite lightweight at 600g and easy to manage. It’s one of the thinnest devices yet, at just 8.9mm in depth. The 10.1-inch capacitive touchscreen features a 1280 x 800 pixel resolution that doesn’t even begin to compare to the New iPad’s Retina Display. It still is, nevertheless, quite a vibrant display with 16 million colours squeezing out their best.

Excellent look and feel

Excellent look and feel

The stereo speakers placed on either side of the display focus the audio directly at you, making for a better experience if you’re watching a video without headphones. At the bottom of the device is Samsung’s proprietary USB/Charging port, which we have to admit, still looks similar to Apple’s 30-pin connector. A microphone is also located here at the bottom in case you need to make those absolutely urgent calls and can’t quite reach your headset. Speaking of calls, the Note 800  has a microSIM card slot along with a microSD card slot on the top to supplement the onboard storage of either 8GB, 16GB or 32GD with up to 32GB more. The flaps for the card slots have a really good feel to them, which shows just how much attention to detail the company has taken. The Power/screen lock, volume rocker 3.5 mm handsfree socket are also placed here.

What sets the Galaxy Note 800  apart from its peers is the little IR sensor at the top. This coupled with a preloaded app called Smart Remote will let you connect to most HDTVs for remote access, making your tablet a fully functional remote control. A 5 megapixel camera with an LED flash is placed at the rear with a secondary 1.9 megapixel front facing camera placed just above the display.

5MP shooter along with a LED flash

5MP shooter along with a LED flash

Samsung’s pudgy little S Pen is neatly tucked away in to the bottom right hand corner of the tablet. The company has also graciously provided plenty of extra stylus pins should you be a little too rough with the one that comes out of the box. It’s lightweight and easy to maneuver even if it is a little on the thicker side.

If you’ve seen the ads, yes, the Galaxy Note 800 looks and feels just as slick as it does on TV.

Features and Perfromnce
Interface
Samsung has gone with itsTouchWiz Nature UI for the Note 800, so if you’ve used the Galaxy S III, then you’ll be very familiar with the interface. With Android 4.0.4 under the hood, the interface is quick and painless. There’s very little visible lag when switching between home screens or apps; everything is extremely responsive. We also really liked the sensitivity of the touchscreen, which responds to even the slightest touch, so you’ll barely have to press your finger on the screen. The smooth UI is possible thanks to the generous 2GB RAM and quad-core Exynos 4412 running at 1.4GHz.

Interface is quick and fluid

Interface is quick and fluid

The two main highlights of the Note 800 are, of course, the new S Pen technology and the ability to view two apps simultaneously side-by-side. Starting with the S Pen, Samsung has incorporated Wacom’s pen input technology and the Note 800 now has 1024 points of sensitivity, so the stylus feels a lot more like a real pen. For instance, the width of lines drawn in the S Memo app will actually expand depending on how much pressure you apply on the tip. This does make drawing and sketching a lot more accurate. Pulling the S pen out of its dock brings up a list of apps designed for it on the right. You can either have this shortcuts toolbar open up or choose to launch an app automatically. The choice of optimised apps include S Note, S Planner, Crayon Physics, Photoshop Touch and Polaris Office.

Multiscren works well but only for a limitd number of apps

Multiscren works well but only for a limitd number of apps

The split-screen function works well, but sadly, only let’s you split a handful of apps side by side. Your choice of apps for split screen mode include Polaris Office, S Note, Video Player, Gallery and Email. Sadly, you can’t watch a YouTube video through the app and browse the web at the same time. This feature should have been applicable to all apps or at least all of Google’s apps.

Media
Samsung has always been quite generous in the past when it comes to a device's media capabilities. The Note 800  is no exception to this rule.  It offers an audio player that comes with plenty of customisation to keep even your average audiophile quite entertained. Along with a standard set of EQ presets, you’ll also be able to personalise the toes with a Custom setting. A 7 band graphic EQ option and an Advanced mode that lets you tweak features like virtual 3D surround, Bass Boost, Reverb et al. Peaking the volume, while never a good idea period, will be unnecessary as the Note 800 push out audio at a high decibel level. The bundled handsfree kit handles it very well. Overall, the tone quality is balanced. The highs are not too sharp and mid and lower frequencies provide well rounded tones with a very impressive bass level.

Very good media playback, as always

Very good media playback, as always

Sadly, there’s no FM radio, but online radio apps are all over the Play Store, so you’re never without the option if you don't mind a little commentary in between your tunes.

The tablet shows real prowess when it comes to video playback. Like most Samsung mobile devices, the Note 800 comes preloaded with plenty of codecs to support most of today’s popular formats, full HD (1080p) files notwithstanding. A few audio presets are also provided specifically for the video player, including a virtual 7.1 surround sound option. Watching videos on the Note 10.1 was certainly an enjoyable experience whether it was using the earphones or the built in speakers.

Connectivity
The Note 800 supports quad-band GSM and 3G networks as well. There’s full HSPA+ support, which means theoretical speeds of up to 21Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up. There’s also dual-band Wi-Fi support (2.4GHz and 5GHz) using the faster 802.11n standard and Samsung hasn’t left out Bluetooth 4.0 either. Wi-Fi Direct capability gives you the option to connect directly with other compatible devices without the need for a Wi-Fi router or a switch in between. The only thing missing that we can think of is NFC. The included GPS capability means you can use the Galaxy Note 10.1 as a GPS device with the right apps installed, offering you directions and location information as you drive. You also have the option to use GLONASS navigation as well instead of GPS.

Still no NFC

Still no NFC

The Note 800 is the second tablet we’ve come across to feature an IR port, the first being Sony’s Tablet S. You get a Smart Remote app that ‘s designed to “learn” the IR frequencies of your TV and then allows you to use your tablet as a remote. It’s a handy feature to have around the house and this also means, fewer fights for the remote. There’s MHL support for AV Out and USB host support so with the right adapter, it would be possible to directly copy files from pen drives.

Misc. Features
Miscellaneous apps include the AllShare Play DLNA app, ChatOn, Crayon Physics, My Files (file manager), My Education, PS Touch, Samsung apps, Video Maker and Smart Remote.

Camera
The rear camera is an auto-focus 5MP unit with a single LED flash. Indoor photographs are bright and clear even with low ambient light; however, there’s a lot of noise that creeps in and the camera isn’t able to capture a lot of detail. Some of the features first seen in the S III makes an appearance in the Note 800, like Share shot and Buddy photo share. The rest of the scene modes and effects are similar to what we’ve seen before on TouchWiz. Outdoor shots do fare a bit better; however, the level of detail is still lacking after you zoom into the picture.

Plenty of options to tweak but the quality is still strictly average

Plenty of options to tweak but the quality is still strictly average

Flash is quite powerful

Flash is quite powerful

The front facing 2MP camera does a good job even in low light conditions. Video recording maxes out at 720p at 30fps. We expected 1080p recording given the quad-core CPU onboard, but we guess Samsung has capped it on purpose, for whatever reason. The captured video has a very steady frame rate, but again, the quality is just about average.  

Battery Life
The 7000mAh battery in the Note 800 delivers really good battery life for a quad-core tablet. In our video drain test, we managed to squeeze nearly 10 hours of video playback. This is with no SIM card, however, and the brightness level set to 50 percent. Even after this, the Note 800 allowed us to play music for another 20min or so before it shut down. 

Verdict and Price in India
Samsung has priced the Galaxy Note 800 at Rs.40,000 for the 3G, 16GB version. While it’s no doubt a beautifully crafted tablet as compared to its previous Tab 750, it’s still really expensive. The new and improved S Pen works really well but the trouble is there are still just a handful apps that actually make true use of it and even fewer people who’re actually looking for an Android tablet with a professional grade stylus. Professionals are better off with a tablet from Wacom rather than something that’s trying to be one. Leaving that aside, the Note 800 is one of the better looking and better built Android tablets in the market. There’s good attention to detail, excellent multimedia capabilities, 3G calling, memory expansion and very good battery life. But the average camera performance and high price might be a deterrent for for many.

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