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 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.



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.


Support this website, buy here:

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


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.

How much color is too much color

Color Comparison

Which of these do you like best?

Confronted with an unprecedented range of software programs and sliders, digital photographers sometimes struggle finding the right balance. Browsing through the websites of my esteemed photography colleagues, I get the feeling that the opinions on color treatment seem to diverge, rather than converge. New software companies, like Topaz Labs, satisfy the need of the extreme end of the spectrum, while purists contest the unnatural appearance of these pictures. Composition and lighting alone used to make good photographs, but today it seems that color treatment becomes just as important. Since all our senses are overloaded every day, it becomes harder and harder to make a visual impact. Attracting a viewers attention may require a bold statement, but how bold is too bold and how much is too much? 

Are you a purist or a color fetishist? Which of the above pictures do you prefer? To make your decision easier, I have put larger versions below. Let's hear your thoughts!

SilkyPix Pro - Professional RAW Converter

It is all about options, or why I really like SilkyPix Pro.

Silkypix Dialogs 

I have been using SilkyPix, and recently SilkyPix Pro, for a while now and always loved the sophisticated control and ingenious options that the converter offered. Resisting Change is natural and lies within the nature of all things. We have to invest some energy to dissipate on the learning process. Maybe that is the explanation for the monoculture of Aperture and Lightroom, but I am glad I made the effort.

Adobe Camera RAW 3, my previous RAW converter of choice does not support my new Canon EOS 7D camera. I decided not to upgrade Photoshop CS3 and skip a few versions, mostly due to Adobe's funky licensing policy. I ate up my licenses when I had trouble with my raid and re-installed a few times (with and without raid). Photoshop saw a new computer upon each installation and eventually claimed I had too many licenses in use, offering no recourse or help.

SilkyPix Pro does not seem to have this problem. I re-installed numerous times due to computer crashes until I finally got a new machine last fall. The people at SilkyPix (Roberto) are exceptionally easy to deal with in contrast to the call center reps I get at Adobe. I also downloaded the Lightroom 3 beta, but the support for the 7D isn't very good. The white balance looks off and the noise reduction for high ISO noise is insufficient. I assume that Lightroom 2.5 works well with the 7D, but I am not going to buy it and rather evaluate version 3.0 when it comes out.

Amazingly, the support for my 7D was there in SilkyPix Pro, even though I got my 7D when it had just come out. I had the same experience when my 450D had just come out. There was no update for ACR yet, but Silkypix 3 already supported it. Silkypix seems to be Japanese and they appear to have close ties to Canon.

How to find great places to photograph

Learn about the tools that I use to navigate to great locations!

I spent the past months hunting for places to photograph in California and then writing about it. California is famous for its photographic icons such as the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Yosemite or Death Valley but it has so much more to offer to photographers. Not many of you may know about the alien Tifoni formations of Salt Point State Park, the Sea Otters of Moss Landing or the gushing Whiskeytown Falls.

Read about the free or inexpensive tools I use to plot my way to these photo spots.

Predict the moon for better photos

You do not have to be a magician to put the moon where you want it in your pictures.

Moonrise over the two Pillars of the Golden Gate

In this article, I am going to reveal how you can use software to predict the exact moonrise time, direction, angles and phases. You can use this information, in combination with a simple Google Earth trick, to enhance your composition with a celestial display de extraordinaire.

Unified Color HDR PhotoStudio Review

Aztec Butte HDR Photograph processed with HDR PhotoStudio

The successor to HDR Photostudio has arrived. Read my reviews of HDR Expose to find out what has changed and learn more about the new software.

In the fascinating world of technology, nothing is ever static. Once more, a company from the San Francisco Bay area set out to change the world forever.

Unified Color have just released new software, HDR PhotoStudio, which promises to satisfy color fanatics and bring HDR to the masses. Unified Color invited me to review the software and write an honest review.

As always, I will update this page as new updates become available and I will try to answer your questions if I can.

Netbooks for Photographers Asus Eee PC and others

I found a better way to back up my photographs in the field.

Asus Eee PC 1000HESince laptops are too heavy to carry around all day, I used to rely on image tanks for backup outdoors. That strategy works very well for me, but it did lack the capability of viewing images. That is where expensive image tanks with RAW viewer such as the Epson P6000 come in. Since the P6000 costs about $600 at the time of this writing and this photographer is always looking for better deals, I never bought one.

I ended up carrying my laptop on many trips so that I could connect to the internet and manage my websites. Outside, I simply swapped flash memory cards and back in the hotel room, I ran backups to my laptop and my image tank. I carry the image tank into the field, in case I run out of memory.