Cracking Open the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
After cracking open Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 last year, I criticized Samsung for making the tablet feel flimsy and using tamper-resistant screws on the unit's back cover. Samsung addressed both my concerns in the 10-inch Note, but there's still one component that's tough to fix.
Our Note test unit had a 1.4GHz 4 Quad Exynos processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 5-megapixel rear camera, a 2-megapixel front camera, and 10.1-inch WXGA LCD (1,280x800). It was a Wi-Fi-only model, but an HSPA+ global version is also available.
The tablet measured 10.11 inches wide by 6.9 inches high by less than half an inch deep and weighed 1.29 pounds. For more information on the Galaxy Note 10.1, including real-world use and performance tests, check out Eric Franklin's full CNET review.
Full TechRepublic teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1
Case is easy to open
Opening the Note 10.1 isn't difficult, but there is a trick. First, remove the trim piece that runs along the device's upper edge and the three Phillips screws underneath. Then, starting at the top and working your way down each side, pop loose the cover's plastic tabs. With each side free, you can then lift the cover off from the top.
Hardware is accessible
The Note's internal design is very similar to last year's 10-inch Galaxy Tab. The battery sits in the center of the case with the motherboard at the top and speakers on either side. The ribbon cables for the digitizer, display, and docking connector run from the bottom edge, across the battery, to the motherboard. And like the Tab, most of the Note's hardware is easy to access and can be removed with a triple-zero Phillips screwdriver.
Single-unit display/front panel assembly
Unfortunately, also like the Tab, the display and front panel assembly are a single unit. The Note's internal frame, which holds the LCD in place, is attached to the front panel assembly using a process called thermoplastic staking. To remove the frame and get to the display, you must break these stakes. If you're careful, you can do this without damaging the display or the internal frame. So technically, you can replace one without replacing the other. But, it's clear that Samsung designed the screen, front panel, and frame to be replaced as a single unit.
S Pen stylus
Despite the two tablets' similarities, there are important differences. First are the storage slot for the Note's S Pen and the embedded contact, which tells the tablet when the stylus is in use and enables palm rejection.
Feels more rigid than Galaxy Tab 10.1
Another difference is the piece of molding that runs around the tablet's outer edge. It's mounted between the front panel's bezel and internal frame. The plastic stakes I mentioned earlier are actually part of this molding. The older Galaxy Tab doesn't have this molding. Its front panel was attached directly to the internal frame. Given that the Note's back cover feels just as flexible as the Tab's and their internal frames are so similar, I suspect this molding helps give the new tablet a more rigid feel, which is an improvement over the Tab.
A more detailed version of this story was first published on TechRepublic's Cracking Open.