One of the most interesting and best-received of 2013’s Android tablets was Samsung’s $399-list Galaxy Note 8.0, which we gave our Editors’ Choice nod back in April 2013. Well-built, attractive, and fast, the Galaxy Note 8.0 (as well as the 2014 refresh of the Galaxy Note 10.1 that we looked at in October 2013, also an Editors’ Choice recipient) differs from most Android tablets. In addition to allowing for excellent fingertip and gesture input, with that Galaxy tablet you get Samsung’s highly innovative, useful stylus, which it dubs the “S Pen.”
Not only does the S Pen provide excellent pen-input support, but the Galaxy Note 8.0 itself also comes with a handy host of pen-enabled apps, as well as multitasking features unavailable on most other Android tablets. We found plenty of things to like about the Galaxy Note 8.0—more than enough, to our eyes, to justify the seemingly exorbitant $400 price for a compact slate.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note tablets are, of course, premium products at premium prices, and, if you need the pen input, they justify the cost. However, graphics-hardware and mobile-processor giant Nvidia, with its 2013 release of the Tegra 4 processor, soon after unveiled a reference design for a stylus-supporting, compact Tegra tablet, which was picked up by EVGA for sale in the United States, and by several other makers for overseas distribution. We’re looking at it here in the form of the EVGA Tegra Note 7. A full $200 cheaper than the Galaxy Note 8.0 was at its debut, the Tegra Note 7 takes direct aim at Samsung’s pen tablets with an aggressive price and pen support that leverages Nvidia’s powerful mobile processor.
Granted, the Tegra Note’s pen-enabled apps are, compared to the Galaxy Note’s, sparse. And, as you’ll see in the Design & Stylus section on the next page, the tablet itself is not nearly as thin, sleek-looking, or attractive. But let’s cite that price again: It lists for only $199.
The slate we looked at is marketed under the EVGA brand, but it’s very much a showcase of Nvidia tech. Beyond the Tegra 4 inside, the other real news here is Nvidia’s inclusion of its own DirectStylus pen technology, which allows the company to build in support for a passive pressure-sensitive stylus, for a fraction of the cost of the active-pen technology Samsung uses in its Note devices. DirectStylus technology harnesses the image-processing power of Tegra 4’s GeForce GPU to analyze data from a standard touch sensor and recognize the difference between the fine tip of your stylus, your fingertip, the stylus’ eraser, and your palm brushing the screen.
Indeed, this is an unusually flexible tablet for its size and price. The inclusion of the stylus helps make the Tegra Note 7 a decent productivity slate, while Nvidia’s quad-core Tegra 4 makes it a strong-performing gaming tablet. The 1,280×800-pixel screen (the same native resolution as on the Galaxy Note 8.0), may be nothing spectacular compared to, say, the super-high-resolution 1080p screen on Google’s 2013 refresh of the Nexus 7, but it looks pretty good.
Mostly, we liked this slate, barring its bulky, plasticky-feeling chassis. The build quality makes it look and feel like an inexpensive, entry-level tablet, but the Tegra Note 7 is better than that—it’s a high-performing, bargain-priced slate that’s good for games and note-taking. Despite its bulky, somewhat homely appearance, considering what you get, it’s well worth $199 if those two kinds of tablet tasks are in your wheelhouse.