Samsung isn’t exactly demure with its tablet range. There are devices in every size you can think of – 7in, 8in, 10.1in. There are straight Galaxy Tab tablets and the stylus supporting Galaxy Notes. Heck, there’s even a Galaxy Tab 3 Kids edition. Typically Samsung likes to produce versions of its tablets with and without mobile data support, and its latest generations are 4G. I’ve just been to Samsung’s website and counted 14 tablets in its current range.
As if that isn’t enough Samsung has added TabPRO and NotePRO ranges, with features specifically designed to appeal to business users. Right at the top of the range is the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2, a massive tablet with a 12.2in screen that’s brimming with features. Hold onto your hat, dear reader, because this is one exciting tablet.
There’s only one word to describe first impressions when the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 comes out of its box, and that word is “Wow!” In fact, that’s the word several people have uttered upon being shown this tablet.
That response didn’t come because of the slate’s general look and feel. The Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is every inch Samsung in the looks department, with that tell-tale physical home button and the fake leather backing made from plastic that Samsung has decided is a good look.
Nope, the wow-factor comes from the fact that this 204 x 296mm tablet dwarfs every other tablet in sight. Despite being large, the Galaxy NotePRO is thin at 7.95mm. That’s not quite iPad Air thin (7.5mm) but it is close.
The size has real advantages, which I will discuss shortly, but it also has very important disadvantages. The Galaxy NotePRO weighs 750 grams. I simply couldn’t hold it in one hand for prolonged periods the way I hold my Nexus 7 or iPad Air. It also needs to be carried in a relatively large bag. Those two aforementioned tablets will sit in a fairly small bag or rucksack even when in a pouch.
The size, though, means Samsung has been able to add some neat touches. The on-screen keyboard is large and looks like a real keyboard with tab, shift, caps lock and other keys. It even delivers typewriter like clicks when you tap the keys. As a result, I typed faster on this than on any other tablet’s screen I have used before.
And whereas in earlier devices Samsung’s split screen viewing was limited to just two apps side by side, you can now have up to four, selecting apps from a sidebar that you pull out from the right of the screen (see below). Add in the ability to pop up some apps on top of others and there’s plenty of opportunity to multitask here.
The other great joy of the relatively large screen size is using the S Pen. You can use S Note or Action Memo to jot things down, with the latter popping up when you double tap the screen with the stylus while pressing its side button, giving you the opportunity to draw quick notes. S Note allows for keyboard-based input and superbly accurate and fast handwriting recognition.
The S Pen is good for a lot more than this, of course. Samsung has the best stylus implementation of any tablet maker. The pressure sensitive response means it is a good drawing tool, and you can use gestures and flicks to get around the device, too. The S Pen sits secure in a housing on the chassis, and when you pop it out the familiar Air Command menu opens up offering access to some key features.
The Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 runs Android 4.4 overlaid with a lot of Samsung tweaking. It’s been done carefully, though, and seems a lot less heavy-handed than I’ve seen in the past. A redesigned Android home screen which puts the app tray link and Google search box bottom right and left respectively seems sensible rather than blingy, as do the huge buttons on the pull-down notifications area which give access to key features.
Gesture and other controls are abundant, but they’re neatly organised in the settings area so they don’t seem too overpowering. Air view and Air Command are among the pen-based extras – there’s tilt and pan for image zooming and movement, palming the screen to mute or pause, and swiping the screen right to left to capture a screenshot. And of course there’s Smart Stay to keep the screen on when you’re looking at (overriding screen timeout settings), Smart Rotation to align screen orientation with your face (great for using a tablet while lying in bed!), and Smart Pause which stops video playback when you look away from the screen. Phew!
While Samsung can’t stop itself adding lots of apps to the Android staples it has done so with some care, dropping things like Evernote, Dropbox, Flipboard and SketchBook into a folder it has called Galaxy Plus. It has also created a folder called Samsung which contains an admittedly rather motley crew of apps including S Voice and Action Memo as well as Knox, Samsung’s security offering for business users. Business users (and others of course) might also like the free e-Meeting app that lets you communicate and whiteboard remotely, and the neat PC screen-mirroring app called Remote PC.
My one grumble about Samsung’s fiddling with Android is its Magazine UX. This is a Flipboard, HTC BlinkFeed-style news aggregator which also brings together info from on-device apps such as the calendar. It occupies two home screens out of the box and you can add more. It’s well designed and easy to tweak for your personal tastes, but if you aren’t a fan you can’t disable it and that’s really, really irritating. The best you can do is remove as many feeds as possible (which means all bar one) and promise yourself never to sweep to the left from the home screen.
As well as throwing software tweaks at the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 with gay abandon, Samsung has gone for broke with the technical specs. The screen sports a 2,560 x 1,600 resolution which, while not unique and not quite matching the pixel density of the iPad Air – 247ppi plays 264ppi – is still amazingly sharp and clear. Viewing angles are fine, and the use of a TFT LCD rather than AMOLED makes for a less eye-burning viewing experience.
There’s 3GB of RAM supporting the 1.9GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Octa-core processor and everything sizzles along. (When it arrives, the 4G version will have a Snapdragon 800 processor). 32GB of internal storage is reduced to 25.6GB by all the pre-installed stuff, but you’ve got a microSD card slot to boost storage. USB 3.0 has been used for faster data transfer, though you can also charge and exchange data using standard microUSB too. MHL is supported and there’s an infrared zapper. There are two speaker grilles on the short edges, and sound quality is good.
Importantly, battery life is pretty solid. Using the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 the same as I would any tablet during a normal working day did not require power boosts, and I easily had juice left for some TV catch-up in the evening.
The Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is in a class of its own in terms of both features and size. It’s extremely capable and I found it a pleasure to use. Then again, I couldn’t pop it into a small bag to whip it out for a bit of idle web browsing on the bus. I selected smaller, lighter tablets for this task – which were easier to carry and hold, and less likely to draw the attention of people sitting nearby. This is not a tablet for all occasions. Also, it is very, very expensive both as a tablet and when you consider that it doesn’t have enough capability to truly replace your laptop.
Manufacturer and Model
Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 Wi-Fi
1.9GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Octa-core (1.9GHz quad plus 1.3Ghz quad)
12.2in, 2,560 x 1,600 pixels
MicroUSB 3.0, MicroSD, headphones
802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Wi-Fi Direct
204 x 7.95 x 295.6mm (WxDxH)