12 Nov Nvidia Tegra Note 7: Differentiated, Stylus-Enabled Tablet Experience For The Masses

Nvidia announced today they are shipping their Nvidia Tegra  Note 7  platform, a 7” tablet with stylus capability, priced at a very impressive $199. I had the chance to use the Nvidia Tegra Note 7  for a week and I can say I was impressed with the level of innovation Nvidia was able to pack inside the small device. This was especially true when I compared the experience to Samsung’s $379 Galaxy Note. For this column, I’d like to focus on the stylus capability as this is one feature that distinguishes the Nvidia Tegra Note 7 from other tablets.

Pen, or stylus input has been around for a long time, and was a part of devices like the Palm Pilot, Pocket PCs, and even Windows for Pen devices in the 90′s. Stylus or pen input historically never really took off then because it was slow, inaccurate, expensive, drove thicker devices, had very few apps, and users were afraid of losing those pens. 

Today is a different situation in that stylus input is a second order input to touch, it’s fast, less expensive, and has nearly an unlimited amount of apps as stylus input is built right into the operating system. Nvidia’s Tegra Note 7 embodies all those characteristics.

The Nvidia Tegra Note 7 uses a technology called “DirectStylus” that uses a standard, less expensive, touch sensor combined with the Tegra 4 SoC. DirectStylus operates at 300 scans a second, five times the typical 60Hz touch scan rate. Based on my week’s experience, it was a very fast and fluid experience. The Nvidia Tegra Note 7 can also distinguish between the stylus, eraser on the back of the stylus, my finger and my palm. Stylus input on a standard tablet is nearly impossible without plam rejection as those tablets think your palm is the pen. This is huge in that it blends the stylus into the overall tablet experience, not a bolt-on feature.

So how does stylus input work on the Nvidia Note 7? The stylus is tucked away inside the tablet’s chassis so it doesn’t get lost. You just pull it out and you are presented with a Launcher with some special stylus apps, Tegra Draw and Write. You can add more apps to the launcher if you wish. I used the stylus mainly to share content from the tablet, so I just tapped the “Lasso” shortcut at the bottom of the tablet choose the entire display, then stylus, and start annotating. When I’m done, I save or share it. It was as easy as that.

“Lasso” Function

While I could annotate on any app, the Nvidia Tegra Note 7 comes with a few special apps. The Tegra Draw app does exactly as you would think, enable one to draw pictures, sketches, etc. The Write app is generally for taking notes on lined paper.

So how about alternative stylus-enabled products? I had the chance to use the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 priced at $379 at the same time I used the  Nvidia Tegra Note 7 priced at $199. Was the experience difference worth the 90% price premium? It wasn’t even close.  Hopefully you can gleam what you need to know from the delta-chart below. While the Galaxy Note had an 8″ display, nearly everything else favored the Nvidia Tegra Note 7.

Nvidia Tegra

Samsung Galaxy

Note 7

Note 8






8″ TFT





Rubberized backing

Plasticky feel


Tegra 4, circa 2013

Exynos 4412, circa 2012

ARM Class







Stereo, front facing, bass reflex port

Stereo, bottom facing


Integrated into chassis





While I am not a professional reviewer, I did run some graphics benchmarks, and the Nvidia Tegra Note 7 destroyed the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 between 3-4X on graphics intensive benchmarks like 3DMark, GFXBench, and Basemark. This is due to the Nvidia Tegra Note 7 using a modern, ARM A15-based Tegra 4 SoC versus the Samsung Note using an under-powered, A9-based Exynos 4412 Soc. You can download the full set of benchmarks here.

With Tegra 4, certified game controllers, and HDMI out, I’m looking forward to connecting the Note 7 to my 60″ HDTV. On the camera front, Nvidia says will be updating it to do “always-on” HDR, and I’ll check that out when that update is ready.

Net-net, the Nvidia Tegra Note’s stylus capabilities were surprisingly good, and the platform truly does bring it to the masses at a shockingly-affordable$199. You can buy the Nvidia Tegra Note 7 from EVGA, who have co-branded the tablet for the U.S. markets. While I have primarily discussed the Nvidia Tegra Note 7′s stylus capabilities, I’ll be following up with a look the its gaming and camera capabilities.