The Story Behind an Exchange
I bought the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 a couple of weeks ago intending to use it for business and mobile gaming when business is slow. I didn't regret the purchase at all until yesterday. The device performed flawlessly until yesterday afternoon when a Google Play purchase was sidelined due to no available storage. I had bought a 16 gig model because that was all Best Buy offered in store. I knew that wasn't going to be enough storage but I assumed a micro sd card would remedy the situation. I was wrong. It wasn't until I ran out of internal storage that I found out Samsung doesn't allow apps to be stored externally. Then I remembered Eric's great blog (currently still on top of the home page) describing an sd card hack that fools the device into thinking external storage is internal - PROBLEM SOLVED! (not really..... else the Asus would never enter the story). Eric's blog mentioned a few devices but not the Note 10.1 in particular so I went searching and found Zedomax.
Max is a very cool guy who probably needs no introduction in Android circles and he recently released a ROM he calls "High on Android Flyin' High". That ROM includes the external/internal memory hack so Max had my full attention as I followed the instructions in his video. This is where I should mention that this was my first time rooting or flashing a ROM on a device, iPhone jailbreaks not withstanding. I found out after flashing the ROM that I could have protected myself and my Note but.... alas.... too late.
The process went beautifully (Max is a good instructor) until it was all said and done, and then the reboot. S-Note started hiccuping immediately and, as I cleared the S-Note notifications it was giving me every five seconds, the Note crashed. Reboot. "S-Note has stopped blah blah blah". Reboot. Hey! S-Note is working! but the stylus isn't. Crash. Reboot. After many power cycles and a few resets I got the Note working again. By now I didn't trust it though. If I don't know what caused the problem or what fixed it, how do I know it'll still work tomorrow? After spending another hour trying to flash a stock ROM without success I decided it was time to go back to my favorite store in the world and exchange the Note (I really can't believe Best Buy doesn't look at the kernel version before accepting an Android return.... I can't believe it but I'm thankful).
So now I've been using the Asus TF700 since yesterday and, even though that's not much time with a device, it's long enough for me to see some striking differences. So, without further delay, the comparison.
Yeah, I get bored watching unboxing videos too, but there was actually a difference between the Note and the Transformer right out of the box. The Asus shipped with a dead battery and had to be charged for about 45 minutes before it could be turned on. Samsung is ready for people like me who tear the packaging apart and punch the power button as soon as we're out of the store. Score 1 for Apple's favorite target.
TouchWiz vs Infinity UI
After getting annoyed with a few of the features in TW I was surprised at how quickly I missed Samsung's UI when it was gone. From the hidden app dock to the email app to the notification center, TouchWiz excels at making the Note's interface as convenient as possible. That's not to say that Asus hasn't put some effort into their UI. They have. Asus' Myzine widget and folder system are to be envied. Being able to drag and drop an icon on another to create a folder is nice and would have given Asus an edge over Samsung for this comparison but, all in all, TouchWiz shines with features that add to ICS instead of hindering it. You don't know how nice it is to delete all of your notifications at once, or get rid of extra pages in the launcher with a few touches, or pull up a hidden task manager on a moments notice, until you can't do it anymore. Another one for Samsung.
This is where the Transformer shines with it's 1920 x 1200 resolution. Images are incredibly sharp and gorgeous on the TF700's screen. The Note's 1280 x 800 resolution looks very, very good but simply can't compare with the Transformer. Asus gets on the board.
On paper these two devices seem very close but be sure to see the next section (which is the one that counts when comparing specs). The TF700 is Asus' top-o-the-line Android tablet and comes with a Tegra 3 quad core processor clocked at 1.6 GHz and 1 gig of RAM clocked at 1600 MHz. The Note ships with a Exynos quad core processor zipping along at 1.4 GHz and 2 gigs of RAM clocked at unknown speeds (at least I haven't been able to find out). This one looks like a tie depending on whether you want the fastest processor possible or you'd rather have that extra gig of RAM for multitasking power. Read on for the tie-breaker.
Both of these tablets shipped with ICS but since Asus released a Jelly Bean update at the beginning of the month, I got to see the Transformer work with 4.0.3 and 4.1.1 (yeah, I know they skipped one). Let me go ahead and say this section is a huge, monstrous score for Samsung. There's really no comparison at all. The Samsung flies at all times. The Transformer gets bogged down and slowed to a crawl with multitasking. The slower the Asus gets, the more unstable it gets. While backing up files or transferring music from iTunes on my PC to the sd card the TF700 takes a huge performance hit and it's only a matter of time before I get notifications as the launcher crashes. To be fair, out of the box the Asus showed slight lag when moving icons around the screen or typing on the keyboard but that lag mostly disappeared once I installed the Jelly Bean update. The performance is pretty solid under light use. It's when you weigh it down with real multitasking that the Transformer fails. Earlier I said "The Samsung flies at all times". It does. Really. It's going to be amazing with JB. I experienced more responsiveness with the Note than I've gotten from all the iDevices I've had. That's a first. Seriously. It is.
Ok, there's obviously more that can be compared on these two top shelf Androids but, for me at least, a device's worthiness or worthlessness begins and ends with performance and responsiveness. That being said, it's incredibly easy to get used to using the Note's S-Pen (I even bought a stylus for the Transformer) but I'm loving the extra 16 gigs of storage I got with the Asus for the same price as a Note that comes with half as much. It's also nice to finally be able to play Horn. That's probably worth a half point at least.
Both of the tablets deserve the price they're asking. If watching videos and other light uses are your thing, you can't go wrong with the gorgeous screen the Asus is packing. If you just want to see how fast and buttery an Android tablet can be, the Note 10.1 is really your only choice.