The original Samsung Galaxy Note created a band of skeptics right out of the starting blocks, thanks to its duplo-sized 5.3-inch screen and the inclusion of an S Pen stylus. While geeks were muttering the word “phablet” and questioning why the Note was needed, Samsung laughed all the way to bank, selling over 5 million units. The Korean tech giant has now expanded the family with a full fledged 10.1-inch tablet that combines popular features from both the original Note and the Galaxy SIII to create a distinct offering in a market filled with doppelgängers: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 ($499+).

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The basic spec rundown for the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 includes a 1.4GHz Quadcore Exynos processor, dual (surprisingly powerful) front-facing speakers, 2GB of RAM, 5/1.9 megapixel rear/front cameras, HSPA+ 21-Mbps antenna, microSD slot, IR blaster (for controlling your TV), and a 1,280×800-pixel screen. If you’ve ever seen or used the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, you’ve got a decent handle on the aesthetics of the new Note 10.1. The solid-feeling plastic frame, available in white or dark grey, is barely lighter and thinner than the new iPad. Altogether, this isn’t the most equipped tablet on the market — but for better or worse, it’s the inclusion of the new S Pen, complete with an integrated rear storage slot in the Note 10.1 that sets the device apart.

The new accessory looks and feels like a typical pen and recognizes 1,024 levels of pressure, making it far more precise when working in compatible apps than a typical stylus. Speaking of apps, removing the stylus automatically reveals a mini app tray complete with S Pen ready utilities including Samsung’s proprietary S Note software, which allows for everything from scrawling notes to creating detailed multimedia documents. Basic handwriting and shape recognition thankfully can transform your kindergarten scrawls into clean looking manuscripts if need be. Adobe has also optimized its Photoshop Touch software for use on the tablet and included it for free, enabling a new level of robust photo editing and design work on a tablet.

During our initial hands-on experiences, understanding the full capabilities of the S Pen was daunting with a steep UI learning curve. It did seem deeply capable though for anyone in the design/art space willing to invest the time to master the Note 10.1’s full set of capabilities. Those living in PowerPoint presentations or Word Documents may also use the laptop even less if properly schooled, thanks to additional software enhancements included in the Note 10.2 such as “multiscreen”, which allows users to work in and view two different apps side-by-side and even drag over screen shots from one app to the other.

Overall, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 is the company’s strongest horse in the tablet race, but considering it costs just as much as an iPad, less creative consumers will pay a high premium for a pen input they may barely use. That said, it’s still a solid Android device even without its calligraphic charms and we’re glad to see a company like Samsung push the tablet computing world in new directions. Whether it’s worth the investment over other highly-capable Android devices like the Google Nexus 7 is a discussion between you and your wallet.

Buy Now: $499+