When it comes to performance, the Galaxy Note is the apparent winner of the contest with a 1.5 GHz processor compared to the Apple iPad’s 1.0 GHz processor. But in real life use, I found both devices to be very similar when it comes to launching apps and switching between them. Depending on the app, sometimes the Galaxy Note is faster, and sometimes the iPad is faster, but there weren’t any glaring differences between the two.
While it is possible to use Skype on an Android tablet or FaceTime on an iPad, the Galaxy Note wins when it comes to communication due to the simple ease of making a phone call. When it comes to other types of communication, the winner isn’t so clear cut, however. All of the entrants in this battle have WiFi and Bluetooth, they all have email and web browsing capabilities, and they all have access to the top social networking apps such as Facebook and Twitter.
This is the one category where the tablet blows the Galaxy Note out of the water. While it can be a real productivity tool with the right software, there’s no arguing the fact that it’s just easier to edit documents and analyze spreadsheets on a larger screen than on a smaller one. Polaris Office, which is included with the Galaxy Note, has some special features that work with the S Pen, but they just don’t measure up to what you can do with a Microsoft Office document on a tablet in either Documents to Go or the various iWork apps on an Apple iPad.
This category is more of a tossup, depending on your personal preferences. For movies and TV shows, it’s obvious that a tablet is the better choice, because bigger is always better. If you can tear yourself away from the 60-inch behemoth in the living room, then a ten inch screen is better than a five inch screen, and will create a more immersive experience.
For music, the opposite is true — it’s much more convenient to be tethered to a small device that fits in your pocket than to a large tablet. If you’re willing to give up the better sound quality that headphones provide, it’s more of a dead heat. While some tablets have better speakers than others, none of them are really great — hence the proliferation of speaker docks and external speakers of all kinds.
When it comes to gaming, it depends on the type of game that you like to play. Most folks who play casual games like Angry Birds and Draw Something and Sudoku would be just as happy with the smaller screen on the Galaxy Note as they would be with a larger tablet, because a phone is more convenient to use than a tablet while standing in line, waiting in a doctor’s office, etc. Obviously a “true gamer” would disagree with that statement, but a true gamer is more likely to have a dedicated handheld like the Nintendo 3DS or a Sony Playstation Vita anyway.
You can read books on either device, and as with the gaming category, the Galaxy Note is easier to carry and easier to use for long periods of time, though the smaller screen will require more scrolling and/or page turns to read the same amount of material as on a tablet.
If you’re a shutterbug, the 8 megapixel Galaxy Note is the hands down winner of the camera contest. While most tablets these days do come with a camera, they’re lower resolution than the Galaxy Note (3 megapixel on the Galaxy Tab and 5 megapixel on the iPad 3) and frankly much harder to use — it’s extremely awkward to hold up a giant tablet in order to m\take a photo. On the videoconferencing side of things, it’s a dead heat since the Galaxy Note and most tablets have a front-facing camera for videoconferencing.
Photo editing is a different story, with tablets in general and the iPad in particular taking the prize. Photo editing on the Galaxy Note is basic at best, and if you want to use the S Pen to add your own drawings to a photo, for example, the process is clunky at best. First you have to take a screenshot and then annotate it, which is easy enough but the results aren’t all that impressive. If you have a need for heavy photo editing capabilities, you’ll want an iPad with iPhoto installed.
When it comes to battery life, the Galaxy Note is supposed to be the winner when judging solely by the specifications, but I found that I can go only a day or two at the most before I have to recharge the phone, whereas the iPad can easily go a week or more before needing to be charged depending on exact usage patterns. This is obviously due to the phone portion of the equation, with the Galaxy Note in constant communication as a cell phone.
Since in some respects we are comparing apples to oranges here, with the Samsung Galaxy Note in one corner and today’s hottest tablets such as the iPad or the Galaxy Tab in the other corner, it’s almost impossible to pick a winner. So it comes down the question of which device is best for your needs. Is portability the most important aspect of your decision, regardless of everything the device can accomplish? Or are you more concerned about having a larger display with a tablet, and more versatility than a smartphone can offer?
For me personally, the choice is clear — I tend to use a smaller device everyday, be it my own iPod touch or a smartphone I’m reviewing for Brighthand, such as the Galaxy Note. I don’t like to carry a lot of stuff with me on my daily commute, so a phone-sized device is ideal for my needs. The exact opposite is true when I’m on the road, however, as my iPad is the perfect companion–a large screen for movies and entertainment, plus excellent document and photo editing, and (grandfathered) unlimited 3G data.
Whether you choose the Galaxy Note or a larger tablet like the Galaxy Tab or the iPad for your everyday use will depend on how you plan to use your device. There’s a lot to be said for a smartphone that can replace your tablet and potentially even your laptop for everyday situations, but it may not quite be able to handle everything that you throw at it, at least not without a few compromises.
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