August 15, 2012, 1:28 PM — For years we've been reading about the alleged iPad killer, a mythical device that never arrives. There have been impressive Android tablets in recent months, but on the whole, it's been clear to everyone but the most ardent Android fanboy that Apple's iPad is the superior tablet in almost every way.
But the new Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 to be released in the United States tomorrow changes the game. I've been using a loaner unit for a couple days now, and it's the first Android tablet that I could see replacing my iPad. It certainly bests Samsung's previous flagship, the Galaxy Tab 2. Samsung has succeeded in making the Note a great tablet, with very nice user interface enhancements that add up to a satisfying and, dare I say, intuitive experience. Samsung has amped up and improved on the good Android 4.0 "Ice Cream Sandwich," with close attention to detail and user experience -- Apple's hallmarks. Best of all, the hardware looks and feels great.
The innovations in a nutshellSamsung has done more than smooth out the Android experience. The Note takes the intriguing pen capabilities from the 5-inch Galaxy Note "phablet" and brings a more sophisticated version of them to the tablet. Many people like the phablet, but I found it too small to use as a tablet and too big to use as a smartphone. The screen was too large for thumb-typing, for example, yet too small for reading my calendar.
I have no such reservations about the Note 10.1. The 10-inch tablet is the perfect size for a pen interface -- there's enough screen real estate to doodle and annotate, and the onscreen keyboard is quite easily typed on -- like the iPad's keyboard, but with Android 4's better complement of onscreen keys (such as numerals being available on the main keyboard). It's the right combination of pen and keyboard.