By Alexandra Burlacu | Aug 20, 2012 12:40 PM EDT
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 are two of the newest, hottest 10-inch Android tablets currently on the market. Both sport large 10.1-inch displays, quad-core processors, and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as a microSD card slot for additional memory. Both tablets start at $499 and are Wi-Fi-only, both have Bluetooth and GPS, and both feature front and rear cameras. What sets them apart?
Pen or Keyboard?
They say that the pen is mightier than the sword, but is it mightier than the keyboard? The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1's most touted feature is its S Pen and Wacom active digitizer, offering far greater precision than a capacitive stylus. Samsung packed 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity in its S Pen, making it a powerful tool for artists and allowing for a more natural, ink-like writing experience. The S Pen is, without a doubt, a big step forward from Windows 7 tablets with Wacom and N-Trig digitizers.
Meanwhile, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity may be more appealing to those who are used to typing rather than scribing. The $149 optional keyboard dock allows users to turn the Transformer into a laptop form factor with a keyboard, trackpad, and USB port, as well as full-size SD card slot. Moreover, it also comes with a secondary battery that can add up to four hours.
In this category, it all comes down to preference. If you are more graphically-inclined, Samsung's S Pen will make a great difference. If you want your mobile OS device to sport a keyboard and notebook form, Asus' offering might be better for you. You can also use Bluetooth keyboards and USB keyboards with the Galaxy Note 10.1 if you purchase an optional $20 adapter, but it does not include the extended battery and USB support of the Asus keyboard dock.
Both tablets feature durable Gorilla Glass protection, though Asus' tablet packs the thinner Gorilla Glass 2. According to some reviewers, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700's HD display is the best on the market, even better than that of the latest iPad. The new iPad's "resolutionary" Retina may have the heightened awareness of high resolution displays, but Asus' display is even sharper. Since Android scales the resolution, both Asus' and Samsung's tablets show the same amount on screen, but the TF700's screen is arguably sharper. Though subtle, it is a real improvement.
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 offers the standard 1280 x 800 PLS display which is very colorful, sharp and vibrant. While Samsung's tablet has wide viewing angles, it lacks extra-bright feature that favors outdoor use, and the Asus Transformer Pad TF700 has a Super IPS+ display with incredibly high brightness, great clarity and wide viewing angles. Both tablets have excellent black levels and vivid colors, but in terms of display the Asus tablet wins.
Under the Hood
The Asus Transformer Pad TF700 packs a powerful 1.6GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core CPU spiked with GeForce graphics. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note 10.1 sports a quad-core 1.4GHz Exynos CPU with Mali 400 graphics. Both tablets can easily handle even the most demanding apps and 3D games. The Exynos processor, however, scores slightly higher on synthetic benchmarks than the Tegra 3, although the Tegra 3 has a higher clock speed. The Galaxy Note 10.1 2GB of RAM and 16GB of flash storage, while Asus' tablet packs 1GB of RAM but 32GB of storage.
When it comes to user experience, the Galaxy Note 10.1 feels slightly faster when multi-tasking. It also feels more stable than Asus' TF700. Asus, however, is more focused on getting OS updates out, even if they have a few bugs to work out with a future firmware update. The Galaxy Note 10.1 scores better for multi-tasking speed and stability, but throw in Asus' fast updates and it becomes a tie.
Design and Quality
In terms of materials, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is the clear winner with its aluminum back and slim design. Both tablets weigh just 1.3 pounds and measure 0.35 inches in thickness, but the TF700 looks and feels thinner due to its tapered dsign. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note 10.1 is attractive, but it is standard Samsung: plastic.
On the other hand, Asus' tapered design also results in more vulnerable dock and headphone ports. Moreover, while it looks stylish, wafer thin tapered edges make it slightly harder to hold. Overall it feel lesss sturdy than the Samsung tablet, but few tablets do. The Galaxy Note 10.1 is also more comfortable to hold, and all its ports are well-supported.
Some users have reported display light bleed issues with Asus' tablet, as well as problems with the display edges creaking or separating from the frame. Consequently, the Transformer TF700 has an edge on build materials, but Samsung wins at quality control and assembly. Both tablets have excellent wireless reception.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 has a huge 7,000 mAh Lithium Ion battery, but it still cannot outlast the TF700's. The Asus tablet reportedly lasts 45 minutes longer on a charge, due to the fifth low power core in the Tegra 3. In terms of battery life, the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 is the winner.
For a clear Android experience, the Asus tablet might be the best choice. Samsung uses its TouchWiz user interface on top of Android, adding custom icons and font options. Again, this ultimately comes down to preference.
Aside from UI customizations, Asus offers a great software bundle with really useful apps rather than bloatware. The TF700 comes with Splashtop Remote, allowing users to remotely access Windows 7 and Mac OS X machines, and a great backup program that can backup individual APK files and Asus' cloud storage service. Both the Asus TF700 and the Galaxy Note 10.1 have Polaris Office for working with MS Office-compatible files, but the Samsung tablet also allows for pen annotation in Polaris Office. Meanwhile, the Asus slate has Super Note, which is an excellent note-taking application.
Samsung, however, offers a strong selection of in-house apps such as S Planner, which delivers a richer view of your calendar, a more powerful video player, as well as a great Samsung music player. The video player can play video in a window anywhere, and Samsung also has a side-by-side feature allowing you to use apps simultaneously and see them on a split screen. An app dock at the bottom runs apps as floating windows, allowing users to multi-task more efficiently. Moreover, Samsung also offers the powerful S Note app, which works with the S Pen for ink notes, handwriting, and even formula recognition. The app can also embed screen shots with markups, audio notes, and images. In this category, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 emerges as the clear winner.
Both the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Asus Transformer Pad Infinity TF700 are great, powerful tablets that can handle any app or task. Ultimately, when making a choice, consumers have to consider what they really want a tablet to do. The S Pen and its suite of apps bring something new to the game and deliver a great experience, but for consumers feel they have no great use for it, the Asus tablet may be a better choice. Either way, both are among the most powerful tablets currently available.
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