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Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Carrier: WiFi only
Manufacturer: Samsung
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What's Hot: Huge and lovely high res display with S Pen, very thin and quite light given screen size, excellent Office suite included, pleasing new Magazine UX, fast, good multi-tasking.

What's Not: It's a handful (too large for some folks), expensive.

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Reviewed February 19, 2014 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

When I first saw the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 at the CES trade show last month, two things hit me hard: I wanted one badly and the price was frightening. Now that we have the release version in hand, I still feel that way. This 12.2" tablet manages to be as light as many 10" tablets, and it's one of the thinnest at 0.32". It comes with Samsung's S Pen that uses Wacom technology for fluid, precise and pressure sensitive pen input. The high resolution Super Clear LCD running at 2560 x 1600 is superb, with rich colors, good contrast and brightness. Samsung's new Magazine UX is a welcome update to TouchWiz, and the icons and window treatment are more mature. With a fast quad core CPU, 3 gigs of DDR3 RAM and expandable storage via microSD card and USB, it's powerful. But the price, $750 for the 32 gig model and $850 for the 64 gig model, makes it almost as expensive as current Windows Ultrabooks. Those are the WiFi model prices; we don't yet know how much LTE 4G equipped models will sell for.

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

The tablet runs Android 4.4 KitKat and it has dual band WiFi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0, a GPS with GLONASS, a 2MP front camera, 8MP rear camera with LED flash, HDR and 1080p video recording and a 9500 mAh battery that's sealed inside.

Design and Ergonomics

The 1.65 pound, 0.32" thick tablet is clearly superbly thin and not terribly heavy for a big tablet. The footprint is certainly larger than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 edition or the 9.7" iPad Air, and it's less maneuverable. It's best held in the crook of an arm rather than trying to one-hand it. It will fit on an airplane tray tablet but until you get used to it, the tablet will feel like a white board rather than a note pad. That said, it offers more screen real estate, which makes web browsing, watching videos or using the included PC Remote Access app much more compelling. Once you get used to the size, it makes 10" tablets seem a tad trivial; the experience is that nice. Size and weight vs. screen real estate: the choice is yours.

The pleather or plastic faux leather back is here again, in your choice of black or white. It's grippy and it looks good--it's an excellent compromise to bring a quality look and feel to something made of plastic. Sure, we'd like metal, but that would add weight and would be more slippery. The tablet is rigid with no flex and it looks and feels like a quality piece. Though we liked the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 model quite well, its looks weren't a high point. Yes, the faux leather back and smaller bezels were a great improvement over its predecessor, but it just didn't look classy enough to match the price tag. Samsung has refined their design and materials, and the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 looks like a tablet I think most folks would feel at least a little lust for, if not lots. It's sharp looking, the sides look convincingly like metal, and the back is more grippy and organic feeling.

The tablet has few ports: a 3.5mm combo audio jack, micro SDXC card slot under a door and a micro USB 3.0 port (same as the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone). That USB port is backward compatible with micro USB 2.0 cables, so you can use your existing USB host OTG adapters and even your smartphone's charger if you wish (make sure it's a 2 amp charger or it won't charge effectively). The USB 3.0 port is for speeding up transfers to and from your PC, you'll get USB 2.0 speeds in host mode when using a USB peripheral with the tablet. To use USB peripherals like keyboards, mice, game controllers, USB Ethernet adapters and flash drives (FAT32 only), you'll need to buy a USB OTG host adapter cable for around $10. Android lacks drivers for 3G/4G USB wireless modems and other advanced USB peripherals (consider a Windows tablet if you need extensive USB driver support).

The tablet has stereo speakers, one on each side when held in landscape mode, and they have adequate volume and sound quality that's as good as Ultrabook speakers. The Note Pro has a mechanical (moving, clicking button) Home button on the front, flanked by capacitive, backlit multitasking and back buttons. Samsung's excellent on-screen keyboard can be augmented with auditory and haptic feedback.

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Display

The 12.2", 2560 x 1600 "Super Clear LCD" is the star of the show: to look at it is to want it. Yes, there are even higher pixel density displays, for example Samsung's own Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition with the same resolution squeezed into a 10.1" panel, but at 247 ppi, this is still very sharp. In fact, when comparing digital magazines like those from Zinio, the Note Pro 12.2 looks sharper than the full HD IPS display on the Dell XPS 12 (12.5" and 1920 x 1080) and the 10.6", 207 ppi Microsoft Surface Pro 2, and those are tablets/convertibles with very good displays. We use digital magazines to compare sharpness and clarity because they have lots of tiny text and high quality images where a better display makes all the difference (and they're also available across many platforms). The Note Pro 12.2 is closer to the high end Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus and Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro (both 3200 x 1800 @ 13.3" and 276 ppi) and Asus Zenbook UX301 (2560 x 1440 @ 13.3 and 220 ppi)--it puts full HD 11" to 13" displays to shame.

The display uses a RGBW pixel arrangement (red, green and blue with a white sub-pixel added to increase brightness). It's a very colorful and bright display with whites that are white and decent black levels. Contrast ratio is very good at 900:1 and though blacks aren't as inky as Samsung's Super AMOLED smartphone displays, we'll take the more natural colors on the Note Pro any day. Samsung offers three color profiles, and we left it on the adaptive setting that changes dynamically to best suit the content displayed. At 12.2", it's simply wonderful to watch Netflix and other high quality content when compared to smaller screens. Of course, you've got to carry a bigger tablet around with you to enjoy the "big screen" experience.

Unlike Windows 8 where applications handle scaling erratically, Android and iOS keep everything readable. Some UI elements like the swipe-down notifications actually seem a bit too large, but we'll take that over tiny text or targets that are too small to tap. Just in case you need precision, there's the S Pen. But you won't need it to navigate Android; the pen is here for note taking, diagramming and drawing. It's a precise digital pen that puts capacitive pens to shame.

 

Deals and Shopping:

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Video Review

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition Comparison Smackdown Video

 

S Pen and Related Apps

Samsung includes their usual S Note app and Autodesk's excellent Sketchbook Pro, branded as Sketchbook for Galaxy. S Note integrates with Evernote (awesome!); just remember to set S Note to sync with Evernote rather than Samsung's service. Many Android drawing and painting applications as well as note-taking applications support the Wacom-based S Pen, offering pressure sensitivity with variable line width for a natural experience when writing and drawing. Some art apps worth looking at are Infinite Painter, LayerPaint HD and Draw Manga. Even Photoshop Touch has pen support, though you won't find as many brushes and features as on desktop Photoshop for full Windows 8 tablets. With 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity, the Note Pro is a viable art tool, and art apps are maturing quickly. Still there's nothing as fancy as Corel Painter X3 or PaintTool SAI.

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

A drawing I did in Infinite Painter.

For note taking, Samsung's own S Note and third party programs like Papyrus and Lecture Notes are solid, and Evernote even offers real time handwriting to text conversion (hold the pen to the screen until the little pen symbol pops up in Evernote at the upper left, then you can write with the pen and have it automatically turned into text).

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Performance and Horsepower

The tablet runs on the 1.9GHz Exynos 5 Octa 5420 CPU, which has 4 high power 1.9GHz cores and 4 companion 1.3GHz low power cores when serious processing power isn't needed. It's a strong CPU with MALI-T628 graphics, though it falls slightly shy of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 that will be in LTE models. That's the same processor used in the 2014 Note 10.1 and some (non-US) Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphones. It's fast enough to handle Samsung's customized UI, art programs, the very complex Hancom Office and today's top 3D games like Real Racing 3, Asphalt 8 and Modern Combat 4 perfectly. As Android tablets go, this is one of the fastest models currently on the market.

The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 has 3 gigs of RAM where 1 gig is common and 2 gigs is flagship. The added RAM is good for performance and a bit of future proofing. You can get it with either 32 or 64 gigs of flash storage and our 32 gig model had 24 gigs available (Android and the built in applications use some space). You can use a microSD card up to 64 gigs capacity, to extend storage and Samsung's tweak to allow app installation to SD cards is here. Though with 32 gigs, you probably won't need to move apps to a card, even if you're a fan of today's huge 3D games.

Benchmarks

  Quadrant AnTuTu 3D Mark Ice Storm Sunspider JavaScript Test (lower is better)
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 (Exynos) 15,337 34,890 13,785 (unlimited) 528
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 17,914 33,838 9322 (unlimited) 605
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 14,515 33,947 13,458 (unlimited) 472
Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 10.1 9181 17,239 4615 (unlimited) 920
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 23,355 34,928 15,530 395
Sony Xperia Tablet Z 7450 20,517 10,101 (extreme) 1501
Google Nexus 10 4959 13,658 7966 (extreme) 1308
Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 7054 16,214 3299 (extreme) 1024
Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 19,021 n/a 10,406 (extreme) 572

Geekbench 3: 936 (single core)/ 2627 (multi-core)

GFXBench 3: T-Rex: 14 fps onscreen, 23 fps off-screen

Battery Life

The tablet has a very high capacity battery: 9500 mAh, and like most tablets, it's a Lithium Ion polymer battery that's sealed inside. The Galaxy ships with a 5.3v, 2 amp white smartphone style charger. Note that most tablet and phone chargers are 5v rather than 5.3v, but as long as you have 2 amps output, you can use other chargers. We did find that the Note Pro charged a bit faster with the included charger, but it's still a slow process given the size of the battery and the low charger output. We routinely charge it overnight since it can take 4 hours to charge a depleted battery. When the LTE 4G model with the Snapdragon 800 ships, it should have faster charging times since that Qualcomm chipset supports rapid charging.

Battery life is hard to quantify for a tablet that might be used like a typical mobile OS tablet, or a laptop replacement, or a GPS or an HD movie streaming station. In a mix of use that included writing this review in Hancom Office, drawing in Sketchbook Pro and Infinite Painter, taking notes using Evernote and S Note, streaming an hour of House of Cards via Netflix, taking 3 races in Real Racing 3, browsing the web, playing a few YouTube videos and doing email, the tablet made it through the day with 55% charge remaining. Samsung claims 11 to 13 hours of screen on (actual use time), and we managed 10.2 hours with auto-brightness disabled and brightness set to 50%. Using the tablet as a GPS will drain the battery more quickly, as will the Remote PC app and playing 3D games.

Hancom Office, Remote PC, Magazine UX and Multi-Windows Multitasking

We've seen Samsung's multitasking before, and it really shines on larger screens (does anyone really run two windows side-by-side on their Galaxy S4's 5" screen?). On the Note 10.1, it's darned handy but a tad cramped, but on the 12.2" Note Pro, it's a very workable way of doing things. You can run up to 4 apps in split screen view, and resize each app window. As always with this Samsung feature, not every installed app gets the multi-tasking green light, but there are enough important apps that you won't be lacking for ways to fill up your screen: both Internet (webkit) and Chrome web browsers, YouTube, Video, Maps, Hancom Office, Calculator, Calendar, Play Music, Play Store, Twitter, Play Books, Play Movies & TV, Evernote, Quill, Papyrus, BSPlayer, Adobe Reader, Contacts, e-Meeting, S Note, Samsung's music player, My Files (file manager), Gallery, Email and more are supported. You can save window pairings if you often use two apps together--say the web browser and S Note. And then there's Samsung's floating app feature where you can run the video player in a floating window.

Hancom Office has been around since the Sony Clie PDA, and they also make Hancom Office 2010 for Windows PCs and ThinkFree Office. Their product for the Samsung Pro line is simply amazing, once you get it installed. Our retail unit purchased on day 1 had the viewer installed but not the full Office suite. The next day a link appeared in the viewer's menu to download the full version, component by component with translationese as our guide (Hancom is a Korean company). Once we got it installed, it was a marvel to see full desktop office features rather than the usual stripped down mobile Office stuff. Hword (Hancom Word) has advanced formatting, image and clip art insertion, footnotes and endnotes (footnotes and endnotes, oh my!). The spreadsheet has pivot tables and formulas aplenty. The PowerPoint compatible app is ripe with features. It's crack for those of us who live in MS Office. Watch our video to see it in action, complete with finger-friendly windows rather than drop down menus.

Since Samsung targets business users, they've included a bundle of apps like WebEx, Remote PC (RemoteView by rview), KNOX (tablet security, ROM hackers take note), Bloomberg BusinessWeek+ (with a year's subscription) and Dropbox (with 50 gigs storage for a year). Remote PC actually works well and can control Windows, Mac and Linux PCs remotely. Watch our video to see it in action. It can handle everything except full screen games (we tested it with Steam games like Skyrim).

Lastly, there's the new Magazine UX, which is indeed faster than previous TouchWiz versions and more attractive. Like Apple, Samsung is moving toward a flat UI with simpler icons, less window dressing and no skeuomorphism. The magazine is a cross between Flipboard, which is in fact pre-loaded, and Windows 8's Live Tiles. Unfortunately, not all the tiles we saw at CES 2014 are here at release (perhaps Samsung will add more), and I found the Magazine UX tiles to be very pretty, but just a few were useful to me. The Email tile is handy for example, but I wish there was a Gmail tile. The Hancom Office tile shows the last few documents I've worked with and the WatchOn tile shows the latest recommended movie on TV and is a shortcut to that AV remote control app (of course, this Galaxy has an IR blaster and AV remote too). In other words, they're a prettier presentation of Android's usual widgets, but they aren't more functional (hey, looks do count). You do get standard Android home screens with widgets too, and you can add more screens as needed.

Accessories

So this thing obviously wants to be your laptop replacement. To that end, both Logitech and Zagg will make keyboard covers for the Note Pro 12.2, priced from $99 to $129. The Zagg has a hard shell cover to protect the tablet while the Logitech has a wrap-around design. Both keyboards use Bluetooth to connect to the tablet. Samsung sells their Book Cover Case for a pricey $70, and this is a thin and light magnetic screen cover that works similarly to Apple's Smart Covers. Samsung previously mentioned that they'd make a micro USB Ethernet adapter as well.

The Competition

This is going to be all over the place. The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, by virtue of its screen size, pen and business apps (particularly Hancom Office) isn't your everyday Android tablet. It's a new class of device that crosses over into laptop territory in a way that 10" tablets did less convincingly. So the Note Pro 12.2 competes not just with Samsung's own smaller Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition and the iPad Air, but with Windows 8 tablets like the Nokia Lumia 2520, Microsoft Surface 2, Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and the Dell Venue 11 Pro. It's interesting that the Samsung has a bigger and higher resolution display than any Windows pure slate design tablet on the market. In the old days of tablet PCs, 12.1" was a common size, but in their efforts to chase the iPad, sizes have come down.

It really comes down to what you need and want to do with a tablet. If you need to run Windows programs, then a Windows tablet is obviously a better choice. Yes, if you only need to run Windows programs once in a while, you can use the included Remote PC app, but I wouldn't want to spend all day, every day working that way. If you want a no-maintenance mobile OS tablet that's great for media consumption and don't need to do much content creation, the iPad Air is compelling given the number of available tablet apps and the variety of content services for that platform. If you want a little of both with a strong MS Office compatible suite, remote PC access and a huge high resolution display, then the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 makes sense. It's about the same weight as the Venue 11 Pro and lighter than Surface Pro 2, so you're not paying a big weight penalty for that big screen. Of course, it is heavier than both the aptly named iPad Air and the Note 10.1 2014 model. The point is, it's a big screen tablet whose weight falls in the middle of the current line of 10 to 11 inch tablets, which is pretty impressive.

Conclusion

It's easy to accuse Samsung of gadget spam: any company that makes tablets in 1 inch increments and two different quality level lines (the Galaxy Tab and now the Pro line) risks that label. And we haven't even mentioned the Tabs vs. the Notes. But the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is anything but another can of spam; it opens up a new paradigm in mobile computing and it stretched my thinking just to try fitting it into known cubbyholes for this review. Forget the cubbyholes, the big Note Pro is it's own thing: a tablet that's meant for livin' large media consumption as well as getting work done. It's for artists who need a bigger canvas and note takers who find it hard to write small enough to fit enough words on the virtual page with 8 or 10 inch tablets. It's for the long battery life set and those who find PC tablets either too complex or too in need of constant feed and caring. The interesting thing about the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is that it can be many things to many people, assuming you can afford the price of entry. Who knows, 12" tablets might be the next big thing. In fact, I have a feeling they will be, especially if they get lighter and cheaper. Until then, those craving a tablet-style mobile office on a budget might be more inclined to purchase the less expensive pen-toting Sony Vaio Tap 11 or the Dell Venue 11 Pro. And of course the Note 10.1 2014 Edition is both a more affordable and less awkwardly large alternative for those who don't crave the big screen or the superior MS Office compatible suite on the Note Pro 12.2.

Price: $749 for 32 gigs and $849 for 64 gigs (WiFi only)

Website: www.samsungmobile.com

Related:

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition Review

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 Review

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Comparison Smackdown

Sony Vaio Tap 11 Review

Microsoft Surface Pro 2 Review

Microsoft Surface 2 Review

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Review

Samsung Galaxy S5 Review

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Review

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Directly above: the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 on top of the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

 

Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Directly above: multitasking with 3 apps on-screen.

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Specs:

Display: 12.2" capacitive touch screen with Wacom digitizer and S Pen. Resolution: 2560 x 1600. Has ambient light sensor, accelerometer and proximity sensor. HDMI ouput requires optional MHL micro USB to HDMI adapter. Wireless display supported via Miracast.

Battery: 9500 mAh Lithium Ion Polymer rechargeable. Battery is not user replaceable.

Performance: 1.9GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5420 quad core with addition 4 1.3GHz low power cores, MALI-T628 graphics. 3 gigs RAM and 32 or 64 gigs internal storage.

Size: 11.64 x 8.03 x 0.32 inches. Weight: 1.65 pounds.

GPS: GPS with GLONASS.

Camera: 2MP front camera and 8 megapixel camera with LED flash, HDR and 1080p video recording.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 4.0 LE.

Software: Android OS 4.4 KitKat with Samsung Magazine UX. Standard suite of Google Android applications including web browser, email, gmail, YouTube, Maps, Navigation, Search and the Google Play Store. Samsung's app store, video player, music player, Media Hub, S Note, Action Memo and Multi-Window multitasking included. 3rd party software: Hancom Office, WebEx, Bloomberg BusinessWeek+, NY Times, Remote PC and more.

Expansion: 1 SDHC microSD card slot.

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