Head-to-Head: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 vs. Apple iPad 312:00 PM EST Wed. Aug. 15, 2012
At its official unveiling at New York's Lincoln Center today, Samsung revealed more details about the Galaxy Note 10.1, its latest stylus-equipped tablet device that we believe has the technical specs to make it the strongest contender yet to be an iPad killer.
The Korean giant also revealed that it will immediately begin a nationwide multimedia marketing blitz to include national television spots, and will position the 10-inch tablet in B2B and B2C categories. It will be sold through all channels, including national big-box retailers, regional distributors and VARs. Galaxy Note 10.1 will begin shipping on Aug. 16 starting at $499. Here's a feature-by-feature comparison of Samsung's second Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet vs. Apple's iPad 3.
The 10.1-inch Galaxy Note will be built around Samsung's Exynos 4412 quad-core system-on-chip running at 1.4GHz with 2 GB of system RAM. Along with its four ARM Cortex A9 application processor cores, the 4412 SoC incorporates four ARM Mali 400 graphics processors. The Wi-Fi version of the new tablet will be available with 16 GB ($499), 32 GB ($599) and 64 GB of storage (pricing not disclosed).
Apple's iPad 3 specs include the A5X custom SoC that powers the tablet. Also built by Samsung to Apple's performance and power specifications, the part combines two ARM Cortex A9 cores with four PowerVR graphics cores. The iPad is sold in 16 GB ($499), 32 GB ($599) and 64 GB ($699) models with Wi-Fi; add $130 for cellular.
Samsung's tablet delivers twice the number of processor cores as Apple's. While both deliver four graphics cores, we believe that Apple's PowerVR engines provide more overall graphics horsepower. Both are available with as much as 64 GB of memory; both offer a cellular option.
There's nothing quite like Apple's Retina display (left) with its dazzling 264 pixels per inch. And like iPad's processor, its 9.7-inch LCD panel also is manufactured by Samsung. Too bad Samsung didn't put a few aside for its own tablet. Instead, the Galaxy Note is built around a 10.1-inch, 1,280-x-800 pixel panel with a comparatively meager 149 ppi. Even the 7-inch display of Google's Nexus 7 beats that at 216 ppi.
Still, Galaxy Note's screen is bright, crisp and responsive, and incorporates the same touch-sensitive grid technology found in Wacom graphics tablets. This is no minor detail, and helps to drive Samsung's S-pen stylus and its 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity. For note-taking and graphical content creation and editing, Samsung also includes a proprietary handwriting recognition engine along with palm-rejection technology for natural hand positioning. Such breakthroughs give Samsung's device an edge in terms of content creation.
Despite a display that's nearly a half-inch larger diagonally, the Galaxy Note 10.1's physical dimensions (left) are quite similar to those of the iPad 3. Samsung's device measures 7.1 inches by 10.3 inches compared with Apple's 7.3 by 9.5. The Galaxy Note is a razor's edge thinner at 0.35 inches compared with iPad's 0.37 inches. The lightest iPad 3 model (Wi-Fi only) weighs 1.44 pounds. A similarly equipped Galaxy Note tips the scale at 1.3 pounds. We'd call this about even.
As with physical dimensions, we'd call the communications capabilities between Apple and Samsung close to a draw, with a slight edge going to Apple because its carriers are known; Samsung has not yet announced carriers for Galaxy Note 10.1. Both devices offer HSPA+ and GSM/EDGE/GPRS network-capable radio options, both offer Wi-Fi a/b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0. As for sensors, both offer a gyro, accelerometer, ambient light sensor, GPS and digital compass. The version of iOS released with the iPad 3 allows it to be configured as a Wi-Fi hotspot for as many as five devices. Samsung offers device-to-device connections with Wi-Fi Direct, and channel bonding to increase Wi-Fi throughput.
From its early Galaxy Tab models, Samsung quickly learned that users like the convenience of an SD card slot for moving files on and off tablet devices. While Apple seems to prefer the iCloud approach, Samsung goes the physical route with support for as much as 64 GB of additional storage via microSD. There's also a USB 2.0 host port, headphone jack and a 30-pin multipurpose interface connector. The only connectors on the iPad are Apple's proprietary 30-pin dock connector and a headphone jack. Apple and Samsung both include front (5MP) and rear (1.9MP) cameras with LED flash and HD video capture.
Samsung's new tablet will run an all-new version of TouchWiz, the company's custom interface overlay for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. "This is the most significant device we've ever done," said Travis Merrill, director of Galaxy Tab in Samsung's Consumer Business Division, during a confidential briefing a week prior to the launch.
Samsung's custom interface bestows Android with the ability to operate multiple applications simultaneously, for example, to cut and paste between them, a feature unique among non-Windows tablets. "This gives an all-new dimension to tablets. It's revolutionary," Merrill said. TouchWiz also permits video playback in a resizable window positioned anywhere on the screen. Also included in the Samsung bundle is Polaris Office, which can open, edit and create documents compatible with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
We were impressed with the Galaxy Tab 10.1, both as a device for content consumption and, perhaps more importantly, for content creation. We're particularly enthusiastic about the return of the stylus, which for us is preferable to a soft keyboard for note-taking; it will be adored by graphic artists. And while Samsung's handwriting recognition is quite capable, it's limited to realtime conversion; it cannot be set upon to decipher a previously handwritten page.
Still, as impressive as Samsung's software might be, Apple's software library continues to grow along with the devotion of its fan base and the elegance and mystique of its operating system. So all that remains to be seen is whether Samsung can carve a niche for a device that's unique in some aspects and commonplace in others.