Galaxy Note 10.1 review - A tablet for creative people

Galaxy Note 10.1

I have been an iPhone user for many years. I have embraced the iPad wholeheartedly, since it was the best tablet the market offered. Both products have introduced me to the quality of Apple’s products, which have displaced most of my laptops and PC’s at home. I am typing this review on a Macbook Air.

I have been a Wacom Tablet user as well. I got my Wacom before the iPad and I would not miss editing a picture without it. Holding a pen is more natural and gives me much better precision than working with a mouse.

Ever since I held my first iPad in my hands, I have fantasized that a stylus would be the ideal accessory. It would allow for a level of creativity that a finger cannot achieve, especially if the stylus is pressure sensitive, like my Wacom tablet’s pen.

Right around the time I got my first iPad, I spoke to a couple of Apple engineers involved with the touch interface and we discussed touch technologies. At this time, there was a certain understandable pride among the engineers. The prevalent thought was that Apple had been the company who figured out how to do tablets right. A big part of doing it right, meant to eliminate the need for a stylus.

Understandably, when I brought up the idea of wanting a stylus, the engineers ignored my pleas. Nobody would want this and touch was the way of the future. I was beginning to wonder if any of them ever had used a Wacom tablet before. A touch sensitive display that would also respond to a pressure sensitive stylus would certainly not be a step back. After all, it wouldn’t NEED a stylus, but rather benefit from it.

Every year Apple introduced a new iPad, I was secretly hoping to find support for a pressure sensitive stylus, but no such luck. Eventually, Samsung was the company that built the iPad I always longed for, the Galaxy Note 10.1.

I bought one of these babies the day they hit the shelves at Best Buy and have spent quite a bit of time with it.

 

A tablet for creative people

Watercolor Pencil Drawing app
Watercolor Pencil app (free in Samsung's appstore) supports a large variety of styles

The Galaxy Note 10.1 does not have a display technology that rivals the iPad’s retina display. In most day-to-day use, this does not matter, but in direct comparison the differences are visible. If you only use your tablet to watch HD (1080) movies, browse the web and read email, the iPad is perfect for you.

Unfortunately for Samsung, this describes the majority of all tablet users today. Furthermore, not many people are even aware of the capabilities of the Galaxy Note 10.1. It withers at its showcase at my local Best Buy store, with no special mention of the stylus hidden inside the tablet. Most shoppers pass by and do not even notice what kind of revolution they just passed. Everyone knows about the iPad. Everyone has an opinion about he iPad. Tech savvy people know other products as well.

Once people at my workplace noticed what I did with the tablet, they were fascinated and wanted to learn more. Clearly, Samsung’s marketing is inferior. 

The stylus has a tiny tip, unlike the fat finger styli required for capacitive touch screens. This means you actually see what you draw; you can follow a thin line and have precise control. The stylus has a button on the side, that allows you to perform additional functions without having to go through menus and it has 1024 levels (10-bit) of pressure sensitivity. The benefits of pressure sensitivity are difficult to describe, you simply need to try it. Just imagine any kind of calligraphy, without being able to vary the thickness of your lines. Imagine how a painter varies his/her strokes by gently or forcefully using the brush. 

The tablet offers palm rejection, which means you can rest your hand comfortably on the surface, with the stylus in your hand. No other tablet offers that at this point, but the software needs to support this feature. 

Samsung includes a free office package and Photoshop touch with their tablet, making it even more appealing. Between the fantastic S-Note application, Polaris Office, the Browser and Photoshop, most creative needs are indeed covered.

I bought a pdf reader/editor with palm rejection. This allows me to make annotations on technical documents, highlight books, and add side-notes to whatever I read.

 

Blazingly fast, well thought out hardware

Galaxy Note 10.1 Multitasking
Multitasking on the Galaxy Note 10.1 supports some applications in side-by-side mode and several mini apps (calculator shown) on top

The tablet features a quad core processor and 2GB of RAM, far outpacing any other tablet on the market. In the world of Tablet OS, 2GB is enormous. It means you can multitask and work with big files.

This powerful hardware allowed Samsung to take multimedia to a new level for a tablet. The Note 10.1 can run some applications side by side, offering superior multitasking. This is great for research projects, as you can copy web content into a document without having to toggle back and fourth between two applications. 

Additionally, you can bring up some mini-apps, such as the calculator, on top of any other application. It will simply appear as a floating window, without affecting the main application. You can also quickly check your email without having to leave your main application. The video player also knows a detach mode, which lets you float a video on top of any other application.

The tablet’s front facing stereo speakers are perfect for video. The Note 10.1 furthermore features the usual headphone jack, power button and volume control buttons. It also has an infrared port, although I do not care much about the included universal remote control software.

The Galaxy Note 10.1 features a micro-SD card slot that can accept up to 64GB of additional storage. With an optional adapter, you can even turn the tablet into a USB host and plug in a hard drive (FAT32), USB stick, memory card reader, mouse or game controller, making it the most versatile tablet currently on the market.

S-Note

S-Note Formula recognition
S-Note formula recognition

I use this application every day. The S-Note application is easily the most useful app on this tablet.

What looks like a simple scribbling app at first blush, turned out to be the most versatile and appealing application of the entire package.

This application can turn written text into characters, via a sophisticated character recognition engine. It can straighten shapes and even recognize formulas.

It brings up wolfram alpha (in a browser) on command to find additional information to your input. You can insert pictures and draw annotations on them.

The drawing tools are fantastic, with different types of pens, brushes and pencils and you can even record what you draw, as you draw it.

The recording also records your voice and crates a video of it all. Think about remote time-shifted teaching, where you explain changes to a document, or make changes to a white board.

Synchronize several devices, and you can suddenly all draw on the same sketch. Now your white-board has become digital.

My Daughter's first Drawing on the Note
My 1 year old daughter loves this app too

Things to improve

  • I wish I could simply connect this tablet to my PC via USB and use it as a Wacom tablet. There is some interest in the hacker community, and I hope they make some progress tricking a computer into thinking this is simply a Wacom digitizer. Using a full-blown version of Photoshop with this kind of input is certainly attractive.
  • This brings me to my biggest complaint with Photoshop Touch that comes with the tablet. It limits the picture size to 2048 pixels in the largest dimension, rendering it unusable for professional photo work.DONE! - The latest version of PS Touch (free in the Samsung Appstore for Galaxy Note 10.1 users) supports up to 12MP (4000x3000) files.!!!!
    It supports layers, an amazing amount of effects and tools and even can save files in PSD format, yet all of these features are useless if you need to work with high-resolution pictures. The tablet’s hardware would easily support more, and I would be willing to pay for such an upgrade. (got it free),. It is sufficient for pictures you ONLY want to email, or publish online, but if I would even remotely consider a professional use of those pictures, I would have to use Photoshop on my computer to avoid duplicate work.
  • By default, the pressure sensitivity in Photoshop is turned off. Here is how to turn it on:
    Photoshop Pressure sensitivity setting
    Photoshop setting pressure sensitivity
  • Only S-Note can read S-Note files. You can export PDF and JPG files, but the application downsamples the images too much, losing some information in the progress. It won’t be a big deal, if you are aware of this and plan your documents accordingly. Secondly, the S-Note app has one standard size document that you cannot change.
    S-Note Sample
    Snote Sample and PDF exported from S-Note. Click the image file for a larger view and compare the quality to the pdf
  • The tablet has a plastic feel. I normally use all my tablets in a case, so it does not matter to me, but some people don’t like the cheaper plastic feel of thois tablet.

 

Conclusion

The Galaxy Note 10.1 is a very appealing package. Its features are unique and it is currently the most powerful tablet on the market.

Its most striking features are the pressure sensitive pen (s-pen) and the improved multitasking capabilities, allowing the side-by-side use of some applications.

Some applications that make use of the pen already exist in Samsung’s store and in the Google play store. I am looking forward to more.

The Note 10.1 is easily the most appealing tablet for creative people. People who see what I can do with this little tablet are stunned, giving me hope styli will become vogue again.

 

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Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1

More screenshots

Click on any image above or below to open a larger version.

 

Photoshop some adjustments
Some Photoshop adjustments. I was positively surprised to find curves here, among a large variety of tools. On the right you can see that I am working with layers.

 

Photoshop some adjustments
Filters galore (showing just one tab)

 

Crayon Physics
Crayon physics: A fun little game included with the device. Draw objects to move the ball to its destination.

 

ezPDF annotations
ezPDF: Bought this app to draw annotations and highlights on pdf. Even supports the palm rejection

 

California Photo Scout for iPhone

California Photo Scout for iPhone

Recently I released an iPhone application for fellow photographers who visit the Golden State of California.

I have spent 10 years photographing California and I am making this knowledge available to you in an inexpensive iPhone application. The convenient on-the-go travel guides contain everything you need to know to succeed on your travel photography adventure. You can carry the large database of locations in your pocket and you do not even need internet access to read any of the articles.

The offline capability makes this companion especially useful when you travel the back roads, have a limited data volume or travel California from abroad. It even works well on your iPod. You just do not depend on data coverage, yet you have the full interactive database readily available.

Tap your way through each location and get photography tips and insider information that can make your photographs stand out. Each article comes with GPS coordinates that make it easy to find your way. Discover nearby locations to maximize your time and get the most out of your trips.

I am continuously extending the location database. Each application update adds new locations to the already extensive database and is completely free. The application is much cheaper than any travel book of California, despite the great depth of information contained within. I will increase this price with the next major release. Get your copy now, before the price goes up.

California Photo Scout Premium - Andre Gunther

California Photo Scout Application Website

Now is the Best Time for Photography

Travel photography defies common travel wisdom.

Venice Beach

When most travelers settle down for their dinner, I often try to capture the best light of the day. When other travelers dread the colder weather and declare that it is best to stay home or shop for the holidays, I feel a strong draw to go out and take photographs. Suddenly, my summer slumber is over and I can hardly sit still for a weekend.

The onset of winter brings an excitement to pictures that is impossible to capture during the "boring" summer months. Photography between fall and spring is pure excitement. The clouds are back in Southern California, creating the most spectacular sunsets (see above). During the last couple of weeks, I have seen dolphins underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, spotted migrating whales from the shores of Montana de Oro, and seen playful flocks of seals circling the Avila Pier. It is almost as if the animals know my secret and just waited for the crowds to disappear back into their comfortable and warm homes and overcrowded malls.

Egret

Unfortunately, there are still some strange blokes out there. Shortly after I took the photograph of this egret snatching himself a lunch-lizard, a man walked up to me, pulled out his point and shoot camera, took a photograph of the egret, and then shooed it away. However, the reduced amount of travelers during the off-season makes such occurrences rare and tolerable. I assume the lizard would not have minded an earlier rescue and would disagree with me.

Seals

During the course of a single day, we also saw several whales blowing in the distance, the seals that you can see above, and a few fishing pelicans (see below). Here you can see one taking a dive from a high altitude to catch fish below the water's surface. The pelicans are amazing fishers with a grace that you would not expect from the sometimes clumsy-looking birds.

Pelican

We did get several storm systems coming through this area during the last view days. As a friend told me how this would spoil his plans, my thoughts drifted to the incredible opportunities and the fantastic light you can catch with a coming and going storm. Low cloud coverage with a sliver of open sky in the distance to let the sun come through is the perfect condition for dramatic sunsets and I got lucky twice within a few weeks. The first photograph at the start of this article is from Venice Beach. You can see the lifeguard towers in the foreground and the most amazing sunset. Somehow, the sunsets in Southern California are more vivid than anywhere else in the world.

The second chance was this sunset at McWay Falls. The falls are located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and plunge onto a secluded beach in a tranquil cove. Fortunately, we stuck around long enough to see the sunset that lit the last remaining clouds of this day's storm.

Waterfall

Do not let a few raindrops or a drop in temperature "drop" your excitement for the outdoors. There is no better time than the coming months for photography in the Golden State of California. Go out and see this magical place. Still not sure where to go? Then try my new iPhone application. It will guide you to the most photogenic locations in California. It is now available on iTunes:

California Photo Scout for iPhone

California Photo Scout Premium - Andre Gunther

Framing your masterpieces

Framed Pictures

Selling pictures without frames keeps my costs low and lets me sell my work at very competitive prices. It also gives my customers the choice to shop around for good deals on frames or build their own custom frames. That is the official story. In reality, I dislike the framing work.

I used to go to my local art store for custom jobs or to get ready-made frames. Their selection of existing frames is often not satisfying and custom jobs can become very pricy. Building your own frame is a viable alternative, but I prefer to spend as little time as possible on the framing job and more of my precious little time outdoors, taking photos.

As much as I hate framing pictures, I love anyone who makes it easy for me to get the job done quickly. Therefore, I was very excited when I found this picture frame store. They offer an astounding variety of frames in all shapes, colors and sizes and somehow still keep their products very affordable.

On Location: Chaco Culture National Historic Park

Chaco CultureNational Historic Park

Chaco Canyon is the best-preserved site of early settlement in the United States. Located in New Mexico, miles from paved roads and service stations, the most exiting historic park does not receive the same amount of visitors as other parks. Unlike other spectacular locations like Canyon de Chelly or Mesa Verde, you can freely explore Chaco and even enter most of the sites. This makes Chaco Canyon much more desirable for photography. 

Eventually the park service will develop the road to Chaco and limit access to the ruins as more and more tourists will start visiting the park. Currently you can still have many places of the park to yourself. You do not have to wait a long time for a clear undisturbed view of the ruins, thanks to the relatively small amount of visitors compared to other places. 

HDR Expose - Evolution of Perfection

HDR Exposre Result 1

When Unified Color released HDR PhotoStudio in 2009, I was stunned with the color accuracy and the natural look of the processed images. With their new release of HDR Expose, the successor to HDR PhotoStudio, Unified Color released further refined software that has more advanced processing options, is easier to use, and produces better results than the already stunning HDR PhotoStudio.

The interface of HDR Expose has evolved, too. All the controls are on the right side with a brightness histogram in the top right corner and the image controls below it. I love how the software keeps a stack of your previous processing steps, allowing you to go back and make changes to previously applied steps, without losing the changes you made later.

Instead of a review that is counting down features, I chose to demonstrate the processing steps. This should give you a good idea on the ease of use and some of the capabilities of HDR expose. Click the images for a larger view.

Painting with Light - Understanding Light

Mobius Arch, Light Studyc

I photographed this series of Mobius Arch during my recent trips to the Alabama Hills. All six images show the same subject, with four images taken from nearly identical points of view. Yet all images look profoundly different from one another, simply by the different properties of the light.

The first row shows two images that I took during sunset. The last row shows two images I took during sunrise. The quality of light changes very quickly during this time. A few hours before sunset and a few hours after sunrise, the landscape looks flat, washed out, and the high contrast between shadows and sunlit regions gives your images an entirely different quality.

I painted the two images in the center row with a powerful flashlight.

Blurry Pictures - Part 2: Motion Blur

Learn about Motion Blur and how you can use this knowledge for better shots.

Sharp Motion 

In my previous article, we investigated Camera Shake. Camera shake is always unintentional. It can destroy a good image, but it is easy to avoid.

In this second installment on causes of blurry images, we will investigate motion blur, its causes, and its potential usefulness.