Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition: Hands-on preview

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The Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 has always been one of my favourite Android tablets, and the new 2014 edition looks like it might help the slate keep that status. I spent some time with the device in New York and came away cautiously impressed.

The new Note 10.1 has very little in common with the previous Galaxy Note 10.1, hardware-wise. They're both 10.1in Android tablets, of course, and they both focus on their S Pen pressure-sensitive pen technology, which really blossoms in the 10in form factor.

But everything's been upgraded here. The new Note is slim and light at 535 grams, with a chromed plastic edge and a textured white back. It has a relatively big 8,220mAh battery to support the sharp 2560 x 1600 screen. Yes, it feels plasticky; it feels like a Samsung product, a relative of the Note and the Galaxy S, not like a Nexus or an iPad. You'll just have to deal with that.

The Note 10.1 runs a very heavily skinned version of Android 4.3. All of Samsung's widgets and apps are here, along with deeper hooks and new features to take advantage of the S Pen. New features appear when you hover the pen over the screen and click its little side button: You can pop up mini-apps, write on the screen, search the device or take notes.

Multitasking has really bloomed as well, boosted by a fast processor (a 1.9GHz octa-core on the Wi-Fi version, a 2.3GHz quad-core on the LTE models). Not only can you split the screen to run two apps, you can draw a little box on the screen and "throw" a minimised browser, calculator, YouTube video, or a few other apps into it. I had four apps running simultaneously at one point without a problem.

All of that preloaded software takes its toll, though – 14.56GB of the built-in 32GB is used for preloads. So it's a very, very good thing that the Note 10.1 has a microSD card slot that supports up to 64GB of additional memory. It’s also worth noting that the international Galaxy Note 10.1 also works as a phone (with a headset) – although the US version won’t have phone capabilities.

Yeah, sure, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a bit of that Samsung excess – there are multiple drawing apps, multiple note-taking apps, multiple content hubs, and so on. But the Note 10.1 also pulls off the same productivity tricks that the original Note did, which the iPad can't touch, including pressure-sensitive note-taking without an expensive external stylus accessory, multi-window multitasking, and suchlike.

The new Note 10.1 will come in black and white, in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB models, and it should be out soon. We’ll have a full review for you, naturally, so stay tuned.