Tablets come in all sizes these days, and now Samsung has the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, which sells for $750 for 32 GB. It runs Android 4.4 (KitKat). Yes, that's a big 12.2-in. LCD display at 2560 x 1600 pixels, which can rival the size and functionality of many laptops.
I've had about 24 hours to use a review unit of the new device, which was delivered to me with a separate Samsung Bluetooth keyboard, sold for $60,and an S-Mouse, sold for $40. I'll be taking the tablet and accessories to use, at least part-time, to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona and will report back on my findings.
You immediately get the idea when you pick up the Note Pro that it could be a decent productivity device for workers who need mobility but also want to do more than read emails or browse the Web. I'm not sure I'd personally feel comfortable making it my total laptop or desktop/workstation replacement. On the other hand, I can definitely see how an IT shop might add the Note Pro and keyboard accessory to a list of recommended devices for workers in the field who have to write reports and construct charts and tables, instead of mainly using a tablet to surf the Web, watch a video, or check email.
I said you can tell it's for productivity right away because it actually looks and feels utilitarian. It weighs 1.7 pounds, up from the 1.5 pounds of the Microsoft Surface 2 or the 1 pound iPad Air. Overall, the machine is 11.6 x 8 x 0.32 inches, noticeably larger than those other models. In terms of design, it has the leather-like back used in the Galaxy Note 10.1.
I'm not taken, initially, with the look and feel of the new Note Pro, but I wonder if that's because I'm actually tasked to try to use it in the field for my work instead of keeping it at home to use to watch movies or to play Words With Friends. Still, it feels heavy and big to me and even dull in black. In other words, a reminder of work!
My aluminum-encased MacBook Pro laptop has a lot more pizazz and I use it everywhere for work, but not for watching movies or games. I also have a Galaxy Note 8.0 tablet in white plastic that is lightweight and has become the main device I use for playing a few games and evening-time Web browsing.
Of course, the Note Pro is also a touchscreen device that can be used with finger touches or with a digital stylus. Sadly, I had trouble making the touchscreen respond to my finger touches every time, but I'll see if that continues to be annoying. The stylus, called an S Pen, works great, but I haven't mastered the multiple S Pen shortcuts that work when you hold the S-Pen near the screen and press the S-Pen button on the side. One example is an Action Memo that lets you link short handwritten notes to applications. The S-Pen has popped up in many of Samsung's previous products and probably could be really valuable if someone took the time to master it.
As for the new Magazine UX, I like it at first blush. There have been reports that some Android purists wouldn't like Magazine as a Samsung add-on, but it works well and presents a clean, fresh home screen of dashboard utilities and widgets that update automatically. I'd credit the concept to Microsoft and the original Windows Phone tiles that showed up later in the Surface tablets. The Note Pro also works with many Google mobile services including Chrome browsing and Google Hangouts so it's got a lot to offer the Android purists.
The Magazine UX widgets might include news, sports, stocks or whatever you want and can be moved around or deleted easily.
Samsung has also expanded its Multi Window concept used in earlier products to allow four separate apps windows to run on the 12.2-in. display. They can be easily resized and the large display is about 30% larger than what you get on a 10-in. tablet. If you had to run a video conference in one window, you could easily have three apps open on the screen to consult at the same time. I'll try that out and report back on the performance I get, especially since I've noticed some other early reviewers noting laggy performance when running multiple apps at once.
Samsung also included an E-Meeting function for screen sharing that supports multiple file formats. A whiteboard area is available for participants over Wi-Fi to draw or make notes. Also, Samsung's Remote PC allows viewing and transfer of files from a Windows PC or Mac OS computer. I'm hoping to also give those functions a try later on.
My review unit came with a Note Pro 12.2 Book Cover in black that's made of synthetic leather. The back snaps on and the front wraps around on a simple plastic hinge to cover the display, also turning the unit on and off. When wrapped to the rear, the cover can be used to prop up the tablet in various positions for desktop or laptop use with a separate keyboard. In my first few tries, I was reluctant to prop the tablet up, since the Book Cover seems too flimsy to support the heft of the tablet. Priced at $70, the Book Cover should instead be included in the cost of the tablet or sold for no more than half as much.
My version of the Note Pro only provides Wi-Fi access, but Verizon Wireless will be the first to offer a 4G LTE version later this quarter. The rear camera is rated at 8 megapixels and takes great shots with a quick shutter speed (zero, in fact, is what Samsung says is the speed). That's useful if you want to catch your dog jumping to snag a frisbie as I tried with my pooch. There's also a 2 megapixel front camera. Full HD video at 60 frames per second is supported.
With Samsung's Exynos 5 Octa processor and 3GB memory, this tablet seems plenty powerful. There's even Samsung's customary microSD slot to add up to 64 GB to the internal storage. The Tab Pro's 9,500 mAh battery is well beyond what many other tablets offer, but I can't vouch for how efficient it is in extended use. I'm particularly concerned about battery efficiency because my Galaxy Note 8.0's battery (with 4,600 mAh) is its biggest weakness; I seem to be charging it constantly when I use it primarily over Wi-Fi to play Words With Friends, which doesn't exactly qualify as an action game.
The Samsung Note Pro 12.2's 32 GB version sells for $750, but there's also a 64 GB version for $850. If you did buy the larger one, plus the accessories and book cover, you would be out $1,010, putting your cost in the range of many laptops.
I'm willing to reserve judgment, but this tablet seems pricy for what you get. The early problems I had with touch response make me wonder how the overall performance will be and whether the price is really worth it. I'll dig deeper and report back.