With the smartphone market driven towards symmetry, tablets will be the new battleground. The Apple iPad Air and the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 emerge as the archrivals in the 10 inch category, protesting towards their foreseeable clash. Casual browsing and gaming have long been the strong suit of tablets, but in the post-PC era they have a big issue to deal with content creation. The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 addresses this with the S Pen stylus and a number of productivity apps linked to it, while Apple keeps pushing ease of use and unmatched user experience as the biggest advantage.
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 and Apple iPad Air side by side
The S Pen on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 fills the void left by the lack of a mouse yes, tablets are all about touch but computer mice have long provided us with accuracy and additional control options that fingers just do not have. Apple killed the stylus in the first place and is not about to bring it back. Instead, Cupertino offers a first-rate experience within its own ecosystem. Office suite, maps, cloud, even music creation, all Apple made. Samsung on the other hand outsources much of that to Google, Polaris Office, Dropbox and so on.Hardware comparison.
Tablet design by its very nature is defined first and foremost by the screen and here the two tablets seem fundamentally different. Apple sticks to the original 9.7" screen of 4:3 aspect ratio, while Samsung uses the common 16:10 10.1" screen format.
Astonishingly, the two tablets are are not that different in size the Apple iPad Air measures 240 x 169.5 x 7.5, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 is a bit bigger on the sides, 243.1 x 171.4 x 7.9 mm. Thin, iPad mini-like bezels is what allowed Apple to make the square-ish screen fit into the body of a widescreen tablet.
Screens aside, the two tablets differ in something as simple as orientation the button and front-facing camera placement of the iPad Air favor portrait usage, while those of the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 lean towards landscape. Obviously you can use both tablets either way, but you will find yourself sticking to the manufacturer suggested orientation most of the time. To be honest, on-screen buttons on tablets are preferred as they offer more flexibility and rotate with the rest of the screen.
Anyway, the wide screen Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 shows its multimedia nature with two loudspeakers positioned on the left and right side of the tablet. This creates a a more immersive audio experience than the stereo speakers on the iPad Air, which are both located at the bottom. The Samsung tablet also pulls ahead with audio enhancements from SoundAlive and Adapt Sound technologies.
The multimedia aspect is also seen in the addition of a microSD card slot. Sure, you can get a 128GB iPad Air, while the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 tops out at 64GB of built-in storage, but let's be honest a 128GB Air costs an insane amount of money. 64GB microSD cards are around $50 a pop, so a 16GB Note 10.1 2014 is still an option for heavy multimedia consumers. A cheap option at that, Apple charges a $100 premium every time the built-in storage doubles.
The front-facing camera on the iPad Air is in the middle of one of its short sides, similar to the placement on the iPhone. This is good for one-on-one video chatting and selfies. The camera on the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 is positioned near the middle of one of its long sides, which fits the widescreen better with multiple people involved.
And while you are holding the Note 10.1 2014 horizontally, you will notice the IR blaster at the top. It can control home equipment like TVs, disc players and set top boxes, placing it in charge of your home theater setup. At the very least, you have the option to change the channel if you are on the tablet while the TV runs in the background, a scenario that is probably well familiar to most users.
On the connectivity side, Apple uses the proprietary Lightning adapter, which can be plugged in regardless of the orientation. However, microUSB cables are far more common than Lightning cables, which you will feel instantly if you need to borrow a cable. They are also much cheaper if you need to get a second one for the office. Apple's iPads have always had aluminum unibodies, but the one on the iPad Air is the best yet, by far. It is the slimmest too and noticeably lighter. The thinner side bezels help a great deal in handling the tablet, but it is still a two-hand device. Then again, so is the Note 10.1 2014. Anyway, the aluminum design of the iPad Air is attractive and is not out of place anywhere.
The Apple iPad Air has a 9.7" IPS LCD with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels, which works out to 264ppi. It is covered by scratch-resistant glass with oleophobic coating.
Two beautiful LCD screens
The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 has 10.1" Super Clear LCD of 2,560 x 1,600 resolution for a higher 299ppi. There is no mention of scratch-resistance though. It does have an additional digitizer, which is used with the S Pen it can detect it from several inches away and will detect presses of the S Pen's button, even though the stylus does not have a battery. A 4:3 screen is better suited for text and documents an A4 page is pretty close to a 4:3 aspect ratio. Even web pages mostly have relatively narrow columns, which fit portrait screens quite well in this orientation, the iPad Air screen is wider than the Note 10.1 2014's giving you the opportunity to zoom in closer and get bigger text.
While the high pixel density makes it impossible to see individual pixels, the pixels on the iPad Air screen and the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 screen are quite different when viewed under a microscope. The iPad has a standard RGB matrix, while the Galaxy tablet has an RGBW matrix, which should in theory improve brightness.
The results show the reality is quite the opposite, however, the iPad Air is brighter than the Note 10.1 2014 and has better contrast across the brightness range. Black levels go from equal at full blast, to noticeably better for the iPad as the brightness goes down. Viewing angles are excellent for both tablets and color reproduction is very pleasing. The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 has a slight edge here with the proprietary Screen mode option. It gives you three options to adjust the color profile of the screen, plus an automatic mode, which adjusts the screen based on the current image or video.
The two tablets are powered by sealed Li-Po batteries of similar capacity. The Apple iPad Air has a slight advantage with its 8,820mAh battery, while the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 has a 8,220mAh juice pack. The Galaxy tablet screen is a bit brighter than the iPad Air when both are set at 50% brightness. Even so, the advantage of the iPad is more than can be explained with simple brightness alone. There's that extra 600mAh, but that is insignificant compared to the total. Web browsing over Wi-Fi drains the battery quite slowly, the iPad Air lasted over 10 hours of that. The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 failed to crack 8 hours. That is a good 30% advantage for the Apple tablet in such a key area.