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Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 review

HardwareReviews
8/10
by Eugene Kim, 03 Apr 2014Reviews
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 review

The Galaxy Tab 7.7 was seen as a tweener device back in the day, but the 8in form factor has since picked up mainstream popularity thanks to devices like the iPad mini. And as phablets start to push the 6in barrier, I'm inclined to think that 8in devices will supplant 7in as the small-screen format of choice.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is just about the ideal size for me – thin, light, and narrow enough to hold with one hand, but still big enough to be justified as a second device to supplement a smartphone or laptop. It's brimming with features and as fast as they come, but the £335 price tag will be a sticking point for consumers used to paying more like £200 for a top-notch Android tablet. The Tab Pro 8.4 is among the best Android tablets you can get, but it just can't match the superb Nexus 7 on value.

Design

For better or worse, Samsung has settled on a uniform design language for its Galaxy devices. The Tab Pro 8.4 looks essentially like a stretched out Galaxy Note 3, complete with faux-leather plastic back and faux-chrome trim. I don't mind it so much on the black models, but it looks pretty tacky in white – does pure white leather ever look good?

Measuring approximately 130 x 7 x 220mm (WxDxH) and weighing 330 grams, the Tab Pro 8.4 is thinner, lighter, and narrower than the iPad mini. I can grasp it securely in one hand and it fits in bigger jacket pockets. Around its edges you'll find a 3.5mm headphone jack, microSD card slot, Volume and Power buttons, and a microUSB port. Samsung stuck with USB 2.0 here instead of the wider, faster USB 3.0 ports on the Note line.

The 8.4in, 2,560 x 1,600-pixel LCD is very sharp (359 pixels per inch) and the display can deliver plenty of brightness. Viewing angles are wide and colours aren't nearly as saturated as you'll find on the company's AMOLED panels. The screen isn't overly reflective, either, and the maximum brightness is good enough for outdoor use. Contrast is about average and the backlighting tends to make dark backgrounds appear a bit washed out. The side bezels are a hair slimmer than the iPad mini's, but edge palm rejection is almost non-existent – it'll register touches even if only a sliver of your thumb or palm extends beyond the bezel. Below the screen is a physical Home button flanked by capacitive Recent Apps and Back buttons.

This is a Wi-Fi-only tablet with dual-band 802.11b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0 LE, and GPS support. There's also a built-in infrared blaster for using the Tab Pro as a universal remote. Though the Tab Pro can easily connect to faster 5GHz networks, in side-by-side tests with a Galaxy S4, the Tab Pro routinely turned in slower download and upload speeds when connected to our corporate Wi-Fi network. The Tab Pro averaged closer to 10Mbps down and 15Mbps up, while the S4 reached up to 40Mbps down and 40Mbps up.

Inside is a 4,800mAh battery that was good for 6 hours and 25 minutes of video playback with Wi-Fi on and screen brightness set to max. That's a decent showing, but short of the 7 hours and 37 minutes the Nexus 7 turned in on the same test.

Performance

The Tab Pro 8.4 is powered by a quad-core 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor with 2GB RAM. It's the same setup being used in a lot of high-end Android devices right now, and performance doesn't deviate much. Apps open swiftly, graphically intensive games play smoothly, and web browsing doesn't disappoint. The Tab Pro 8.4 can handle just about anything you throw at it, but using the multi-window function to run apps side-by-side can cause some slowdowns. Having two browser windows open, for instance, makes both load at a slower clip, while the virtual keyboard can take a moment to load.

Samsung's split-personality Magazine UX makes an appearance on the Tab Pro 8.4, running atop Android 4.4 KitKat. We saw the first iteration of this idea in the Note 10.1 (2014), and got a closer look in the Note Pro 12.2. Basically, Samsung shoehorned a Flipboard-style UI that runs side-by-side with your standard TouchWiz’d Android. There are tiles that show news updates or widgets like calendar events or email inboxes. I personally think it looks pretty slick, but Android purists will cry foul and even TouchWiz fans might think it looks a bit too much like Windows 8.

Thankfully, Samsung isn't reserving its multitasking features for its Note line. The Tab Pro 8.4 features the same split-screen multitasking as the Note Pro 12.2, allowing you to run two apps side-by-side in resizable windows. It doesn't support every app, but core apps like Gmail, Chrome, and YouTube all work fine. One thing you still can't do is have simultaneous touch input for the two windows – you can have something loading in both, but you can only interact with touch elements in one window at a time.

Our 16GB model came with 11.23GB available to users out of the box, and our 64GB SanDisk microSD card worked fine for expanding storage further.

Samsung also bundles in some productivity software like Hancom Office and Remote PC. The former is one of the best mobile office suites I've used, faithfully recreating a near-desktop-like experience for editing Word, Excel, or PowerPoint files. After installing a software client on a laptop or desktop, Remote PC lets you access your computer using the Tab Pro 8.4. It worked well in my tests, but it's not an exclusive feature to Samsung – there are plenty of third-party options in Google Play for those interested.

Cameras

Around back is an 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, which is somewhat unusual in the tablet world. The Tab Pro 8.4 takes relatively good images, about on par with some higher-end smartphones, though not quite up to the level of the Galaxy S4 or iPhone 5S.

Outdoors and in good lighting, the Tab Pro 8.4 can take detail-rich shots with vivid colours and proper focus and exposure. Under low light grain and image noise becomes an issue, but the inclusion of the bright flash helps assuage some of these gremlins – the flash is a bit on the harsh side, though. Video tops out at 1080p resolution and frame rates hold steady at 30fps. As far as tablet photography goes, the Tab Pro 8.4 lies towards the top of the pack.

Verdict

With its all-screen, thin-and-light design, and fast performance levels, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is easily one of the finest small-screen Android tablets around. The big problem is that it's priced to compete with the iPad mini with Retina, commanding almost 70 per cent more than what Google asks for the Nexus 7.

Plastic construction notwithstanding, Samsung largely succeeds in producing a premium Android tablet, but I'm not sure I can justify that price gulf. Tablets like the Nexus 7 and Amazon Kindle Fire HDX come close enough to matching the Tab Pro for a lot less money, while the iPad mini still wins out thanks to its refined design and stellar tablet app ecosystem.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4

Screen Resolution

2560 x 1600 pixels

Operating System

Android 4.4

Dimensions

130 x 7 x 220mm (WxDxH)

Weight

330g

Screen

8.4in IPS LCD

Battery Size

4800 mAh

GPS

Yes

RAM

2GB

Camera Resolution

8 megapixel Rear

Storage Capacity

16GB

Battery Life

6 hours 25 mins

Screen Pixels Per Inch

359 ppi

Additional Storage

MicroSD

Video Camera Resolution

1080p

Processor Speed

2.3GHz

Bluetooth Version

4.0 LE

Wi-Fi (802.11x) Compatibility

2.4GHz/5GHz

CPU

Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Quad-Core

Ports

microUSB

Storage Type

SSD

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