Review: Samsung tablet takes aim at iPad with pen

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The Galaxy Note does chip at the iPad’s defenses with other features the Apple tablet lacks. One is a slot for microSD memory cards, which means you can expand the memory of the Galaxy Note inexpensively. That’s very welcome.

The other feature is an infra-red light, which can be used in place of a remote at the home entertainment center. This is a feature Sony pioneered in its Android tablets. It’s welcome, too _ some people spend hundreds of dollars on universal remotes, which the Galaxy Note effectively replaces with this feature. However, the included software didn’t work well with my TV and stereo, so this will take some tinkering to get right.

Compared with other tablets that run Google’s Android software, you’re not giving much up by getting a Galaxy Note. Samsung’s quoted battery life of nine hours is somewhat shorter than equivalent models, possibly because of the pen-sensing layer or the new processor.

The Note runs Ice Cream Sandwich, the next-to-latest version of Android, and can be upgraded to Jelly Bean, the latest. It has a fast processor and a big screen. At $499, it costs $100 more than the pen-less Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, which has the same size screen but a slower processor.

The Asus Transformer series of tablets takes another tack: They’re built to work with an accessory keyboard, which also contains an extra battery and more connection ports. That’s another way a competitor tries to take advantage of a blind spot for Apple and the iPad, for which physical keyboards seem like an afterthought.

Together, Asus and Samsung’s strategies could add up to a very attractive tablet indeed. For now, and for most people, the iPad is still the better buy. The main reason is that there’s much more, and better, third-party software available for it.

But the Galaxy Note shows that the pressure is building on the iPad, and Apple will have to work if it wants to maintain its lead.

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Peter Svensson can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/petersvensson

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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