With the inclusion of a stylus, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 attempts something different for full-size tablets. In certain apps the S Pen (as the stylus is called) does improve precision and can make note taking a much faster affair. Also, if you’re willing to put in the time learning the apps and gestures, the S Pen can deliver a useful and rewarding interface experience. But if you’ve no artistic aspirations and typing out your notes is your preferred method, does the S Pen offer any real benefit?
Not really. For general tablet usage your finger is still the best tool for the job, and unless you have a specific need for an electronic pen (say, you’re an artist) or are willing to a take long hike over a slow, steep learning curve, there’s really no benefit to using it.
Thankfully, even if you don’t use the pen, the Note 10.1’s fast overall performance, sensible design, great-looking screen, and useful features make it the best Samsung tablet yet.
Editors’ note: Due to the increasingly changing tablet landscape, we’ve lowered the score of the Note 10.1 from 7.5 to 7.3.
The S Pen has gotten a redesign since its appearance on the original Galaxy Note. The new stylus is longer and thicker, and has its sides squared off to keep it from unexpectedly rolling away. Also, the pen button is now grooved to make it a bit easier to find with your fingertips; however, I found myself consistently pressing the button by mistake.
The point of the S Pen is to give you an alternative to using your fingers, and while this feels fine for navigating menus and swiping through pages, when it comes time to type, I prefer using both hands, as it’s faster and more comfortable than the search-and-peck routine the S Pen forces you into. Also, the stock S Pen is a little too light and thin for my tastes. I much preferred using the original S Pen encased in the S Pen Holder Kit with its extra weight and mass making it feel much more like a actual, quality, ink pen.