There are some products whose sum ends up being lesser than that of their parts. And Samsung’s Galaxy Note 800 (also known as the Galaxy Note 10.1 in some circles) is one of them. On paper, it seems to have a lot going for it — a great 10.1-inch display (not SUPER AMOLED, but very good LCD), a quad core processor, Android 4.0, 2 GB RAM, 16 GB storage (expandable using a memory card), phone functionality, dual cameras, 3G connectivity with the ability to make calls, and a smart stylus (or S-Pen, as Samsung chooses to term it). Put that all together and you should be looking at something that will be terrifying the wits out of all those who swear by the iPad.
And yet, it doesn’t quite. One of the biggest reasons is the price — at Rs 39,000, this baby is perilously close to Intel’s blazingly fast and compact ultrabook category (there’s a Sony ultrabook at Rs 44,000), and is well above the prices of most other tablets in the country — even the new iPad starts at Rs 30,500, although with nothing like the same specifications.
For its price, the Galaxy Note 800 looks surprisingly modest. This is not a traffic stopper in the class of the iPad or even its own predecessor (the original Galaxy Note), although it feels solid and we like the minimalist “no buttons at all” front. Alas, the plasticky-ness extends to the stylus as well, which is very much on the lighter side — not the best thing when you want to write or sketch. And even that comes with its eccentricities — in the bundled PhotoShop app, we found that the app responded not just to the stylus but also to the base of the palm of our hand, which inevitably ended up touching the screen whenever we had to do something on the upper half of the app.
We never faced this issue with the original Galaxy Note, perhaps because the surface of the tablet was much smaller. Still, we cannot complain about the sensitivity of the stylus or the fact that it works a treat for those who love to sketch and scribble. The multi-screen functionality, where you can drag images and text from a browser using the stylus to the S Note app, makes it easy to multi-task. The display is a bit of a letdown. Yes, it is big and bright. But it has the same resolution as its almost one-year old 5.3-inch namesake, which puts it miles behind the new iPad — 1280 x 800 is no match for 2048 x 1536.
The fact that the first Note also had a brilliant SUPER AMOLED display does not really do its 10.1 inch successor any favours. And the same goes for the rear camera — the 5.0 megapixel camera is just about decent but no match for the 8.0-megapixel shooter seen on its predecessor, or the 5.0-megapixel one on the new iPad. Top that off with proprietary connections galore — for charging, for USB connectivity, for HDMI — and we confess there will be times when you will wonder what makes the Galaxy Note 800 better than the first Galaxy Note.
The answer on paper would be the quad core processor. But unfortunately, there are not too many apps that make the most of the beast within this machine. It flies around at the rate of knots, with nary a stutter, even while handling high definition videos or games like Shadowgun. But the catch is that we have seen similar performances from devices that are lower priced and have relatively lower specs (the Sony Xperia S and the new iPad being prime examples). Making calls from a 10.1-inch tablet is more of a luxury than a necessity — most people will be using that SIM card slot for data usage.
Even the version of Android running on the device — Ice Cream Sandwich — is not the latest. We already have devices running on the newer version of the OS (Jelly Bean) and while we are reasonably sure that the Galaxy Note 800 will get updated to it, we would have expected it to come with it preinstalled for that price. And that’s what really keeps tripping up the Galaxy Tab 800. Barring the odd eccentricity about the display reacting to our palms at times when we held the stylus, it behaved impeccably, whether in navigation, browsing, gaming or entertainment mode.
But with that price tag, we expected something much better. In its current form, the Galaxy Note 800 does not really deliver significantly more than its predecessor, which for us remains the best stylus-driven in the country. And is far more affordable at its existing price of approximately Rs 33,000.
Our verdict — unless you seek a large display with a stylus, wait for the Galaxy Note 2, which should be arriving shortly on Indian shores. If it is just a good tablet you seek and have no budgetary constraints, go right ahead and grab the new iPad.