‘How big is big enough’? Excuse the puns, but that is exactly is the question that Samsung seems to be asking with the Note Pro 12.2. As we alluded to in our first impressions of the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro too, that we are not entirely sure if there is a market big enough that warranted the launch of the Note Pro 12.2. As it is, the 10 inch tablet market seems to have been monopolised by the iPad and Google not refreshing its Nexus 10 lineup kind of gives you the idea of the whole situation.
So, now that the tablet is here, where exactly does it fit, who should buy it and above all, does it justify the Rs 60,000+ price tag label it is carrying? Find out, in our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro.
Availability, Box Contents and Pricing
The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro is retailing for Rs 61,890 which is astronomical pricing for a personal gadget. Obviously, this makes the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro the most expensive tablet out there in the market currently. The device is readily available both offline and online. The lowest we could pick the tablet was for Rs 58,000 in the open market. The box content of the tablet is nothing great. You get the tablet in a recyclable box which contains the charging brick, USB 3.0 power cord, replacement tips and tool for the S-Pen, some warranty and start guides and the tablet itself. There were no earphones or any other fancy accessory available in the box. The device is available in both black and white units.
Hardware and overall feel of the device
One look at the Note Pro, and you can recognise that it is cut from the same cloth as the Note 3 and Note 3 Neo Family of devices. The device has the same faux leather but plastic stitched back which is not removable, metal like trims and a screen dominated front with a physical home button and front facing camera on either sides of the screen. We had expressed our gripe with the button placement on the Note Pro in our initial impressions and despite using the tablet for almost a week more, we still have not been able to get any more used to the odd button placement. Just to refresh, the home button and Samsung branding make the tablet usable in landscape mode. There are speaker grilles on top end of either sides of the tablet when put in landscape mode, yet the power button is located on the top left corner, meaning you really have to stretch your hands to reach that. It would have been better had the button been on either of the sides when using the tablet in landscape mode.
The capacitive buttons and home key also become extremely odd if you change the orientation of the tablet and use it in portrait mode rendering them pretty much useless as they are then located on the left flank when device is rotated. This is where we missed something like on screen buttons on our Xperia Z1 or the Nexus 5 which do away with such problems. Apart from this, the hardware stood the test of the time well and although we were concerned about the trims maybe picking up scratches, we are glad to write, that they were fantastic without any issue of indentation or such. The tablet gives you a very solid feel without ever making you feel like you are holding a Rs 60,000 product. Use it alongside an iPad Air and someone who does not know the price of the either, is more likely to guess that the iPad Air is the more expensive of the two. The S-Pen is located on the right of the device when in landscape mode and it can be easily pulled out or pushed in. There are no major creaks or loose ends on the device, though you can feel the hollow space between the back of the device and the internal components which is a bit of a turn off if you are being picky.
You can check out the details of the device in our very detailed photo gallery post. To recap though, the Note Pro sports a 12.2 inch display with 2560×1600 pixels resolution giving it a PPI of 247. The front of the device also has a 2 MP camera for Skype and other VOIP calls alongside ambient sensor on the top. There is a dedicated home button which is flanked by a back and multitasking capacitive buttons. The white body of the tablet from the front is plain and there are no square texture like we had on the Note III. The left side of the device in landscape mode has speaker grille and 3.5 mm headset jack. The right side of the device has speakers, 3.0 mini USB port, SIM slot and Micro SD slot alongside the S-Pen. Top of the device sees an IR blaster, volume rocker and Power button alongside the main microphone while the bottom is left black. The non removable back of the tablet has the 8 MP camera and Samsung branding.
The dimensions of the device is 295.5 x 204 x 8 mm and weighs 753 grams making it usable with two hands. Using the tablet with one hands gives you a panicky feel that you just might drop it off. In fact, we found the best way of using the tablet is when it is sitting on the desk or docked in with a cover. Note that this is not a device to take it to your bed with you for light reading or catching up with movie given its humongous size and weight. Just imagine, you falling asleep with it decked on your chest, you will actually hurt your face if it falls along, so you have been warned!
The Display is good but…
The 12.2 inch display on the Note Pro is bigger than our main computer that Macbook Air is. Although the color reproduction is really good, blacks are deep and whites are really white, viewing angles and outdoor visibility are good, we always seemed to want a bit more from the display. The text was generally sharp, but again, next to a retina display like the iPad Air, our pixel sensitive eyes had trouble adjusting.
The number of pixels in display is in fact same as the Note 10.1 and next to the 10.1, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 looked a little off the performance when it came to display. The fact that display is extremely reflective was a minor annoyance. Since most of the Android apps are not tailor made for tablet experience, but bloated versions of mobile apps, the ecosystem did not really help our case either.
Web browsing was a nice experience and the tablet opened all the sites we tried in full desktop mode. Keeping the tablet at a good reading distance though about 20 cm from eyes meant that we could hardly identify the pixels and generally things looked good, it is only when you bring the device closer to the eye things got a bit awkward. The Super clear LCD panel no doubt though could have been better, especially given the pricing of the device.
The Android Ecosystem is not up for it. At least right now
We expressed our concerns about the Android ecosystem in our initial impressions, and they certainly did not evaporate over the time of using the tablet, in fact only grew stronger. Unlike iOS, Android does not have a collection of dedicated tablet apps.
Although there is a decent collection of applications that are dedicated to tablet, they are few and far between them. Most of the apps do not take advantage of the huge screen estate and there are plenty of white spaces or just bloated version of apps that looks odd. Take instagram for example, the entire application shows just one image in the feed and then you have to scroll down for the next one which just makes no sense.
There are apps like Hangouts are redesigned to take advantage of all that extra screen space showing that if Android did work in bringing the devs to develop true tablet apps, the experience could be so much better.
Certains apps though, like Google Maps look beautiful on the huge display of the Galaxy Note Pro and therefore the tablet can be really handy if you are using the tablet for planning plans which require you to explore maps.
This experience is few and far between though, take widgets for example, they are too small for the size of the display and a 4×1 widget for example looks very odd. Most of these can be resized though, but we would have definitely loved more 4×4 or even 6×4 widgets so that we could place them and quickly scan through the information on the device.
Do not use this to take pictures
Although the Note Pro 12.2 comes with an 8 MP rear Camera, we plead our users to never use it for taking pictures. Not only is the camera not up to the task, imagine how awkward you would look like holding a device this huge for taking pictures. The images have a distinct lack for details and color reproduction was terrible with plenty of digital noise. We still, for the sake of reviewing the camera took a couple of sample shots and were largely left disappointed. The front facing camera is decent for making Skype or Hangout calls, but nothing more. The tablet is also capable of shooting 1080P videos using its rear camera. Apart from this, you have some cool filters which help you enhance your images.
We are attaching the shots we took with the device in the form of a gallery here for you to make an assessment.
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Samsung has done some interesting stuff with the software
Samsung has been criticised a lot in the past for its software, but on a device this big, some of the stuff really came in handy. For example, we loved the way S-Pen worked on the device, and in fact used it very often to take down notes. The precision of the input left us impressed and although we have seen most of these features on the Note 3, they looked a lot more home on this giant of a tablet. Dare we say, for the first time, we really liked Touchwiz in certain places on the Note Pro.
The Notification panel has been redesigned and the big icons actually standout well on the huge display.
Some of the apps like the default note taking app, Action memo as well as the Sketchbook for Galaxy App by Autodesk came in really handy for quick scribbling. The default Note taking app has a widget that lives on the desktop, and although fairly simple and basic, it gets the job of taking notes down done. You can change the ink color, page template as well as the thickness of the notes. You could also record screen while you sketch which is pretty handy for tutorial generation purpose.
The one app that we really liked which was bundled by default was the Sketchbook app from Autodesk. The app provides you with a sketchbook with plenty of options of picking the perfect writing device. You also have the option of playing around with layers including importing images on it, a bit like Photoshop, obviously just not that detailed. You can play with the radius size of the pen as well as the opacity of the same while adjusting the noise levels too.
The IR Blaster too worked very well thanks to Smart Remote app and we were able to operate all our Indian TVs and couple of set top boxes.
The desktop of the Note Pro has an interesting magazine section when you scroll all the way to the left where you can build up your feeds from your favorite topics. The magazine section picks up stories from Flipboard so you have plenty of content providers here.
We did have some issue initially as the feeds threw up errors while subscribing, but eventually we were able to add in genres of stories that we wanted to read.
Samsung has persevered with the software tweaks that we have seen on the likes of Galaxy S4 and Note 3 on the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro. Things like hand motion gestures are present, but did not work as well for us. Even things like tilt head for video to pause were extremely hit and miss on the Note Pro. Air Command though worked effortlessly, where a contextual menu pops up the moment you detach your S-Pen. There is also a teeny dot that follows the S-Pen when it is in close proximity of the screen which then lets you access more info in certain parts of the tablets like giving you a video preview or photo preview in gallery.
This is Air view and worked brilliantly. The palm motion, which lets you take screenshot when you move your palm across the display did not work at all for us and we were left frustrated. The only other way to take screenshot therefore was to rest the S-Pen tip on the display and press the click button on it which prompts the action.
Long pressing the home button on the tablet bought up Google Now and not S-Voice (you must double press the home button to bring S-Voice giving you best of both worlds), which was neat. The tablet had no problem listening to our commands.
The multitasking menu on the tablet is also well optimised and opens in a small section, allowing you still 2/3rd of the screen to look at the stuff you are already glued on. From within the multitasking window, you can open the Task Manager which gives you details like Storage, RAM utilization etc. You can close all the apps right from here.
The best feature without a doubt though that Touchwiz brings to the tablet is multiwindow. You can open several apps simultaneously and multitask efficiently. Some of the third party apps support this too, so apps like official Twitter account and MX Player were able to run side by side. You simply need to swipe from the right flank of the tablet to open the tray of apps that you can open in multiwindow.
You can open more than two apps too side by side (upto four), and then either minimize or simply close them. When you minimize these apps these stay on your desktop in form of small circles like chatheads and can be moved around. We feel, this is certainly one feature that takes advantage of the huge screen size and does it justice. The tablet also comes with apps like Hancom Viewer, E-Meeting, WebEx, Sidesync etc which help you keep up with your Office.
Performance, Battery Life and Sound output
Despite Touchwiz being a resource hogger, the Note Pro handled it pretty well. We got about 1.28 GB of RAM free out of 2.71 usable on fresh boot of the device. It is when you start loading the tablet with tasks, when you start to observe some performance quirks.
There was noticeable lag in app when we opened them in multiwindow setup. Chrome tended to freeze pretty often, while gaming was not the smoothest.
On our 32 GB unit, we got about 26 GB for usage. The tablet did drop plenty of frames in even comparatively light games like Temple Run, but then again this tablet is not made for gaming. In fact, due to the size of the tablet, maneuverability was a major issue and we accidently kept on swiping the right flank of the device which kept on opening the quick app launch bar within the game ruining the experience.
We did put the tablet through several benchmark tests, which you can find out more on here.
The 3 GB of RAM in conjunction with the Exynos 5420 SoC with Quad Core 1.9 GHz Cortex A15 and Quad Core 1.3 GHz Cortex A7 CPU and Mali T628 MP6 GPU did a good job otherwise generally of keeping things ticking along well. Thanks to KitKat 4.4 on board, the general RAM usage was very much under control and we did not have any issue with the device overheating as such unless we tried playing games with device connected to wall charger. The sound output was loud and clear with very decent bass. We enjoyed listening to music and thanks to the dual speakers on the sides, there was a neat surround sound like feel. There was no crackling or sound tearing at the maximum level either.
The battery on the Note Pro was brilliant. The 9500 mAh battery which is non removable lasted us a couple of days on medium to heavy usage easily and about four days on light usage. Samsung promises 12 hours of multimedia and we cannot disagree with that number.
The typing experience on the device too was pretty good, and thanks to a full sized keyboard, sort of what you would use with your PC with dedicated directional keys, composing documents on apps like Office was great.
The device also has a built in power saver mode which helps you save some extra juice too. It works like we have seen on other devices by lowering the clockspeed.
Like we titled the post, the Note Pro is a tablet that is different from everything we have seen, and that necessarily is not a good thing. We struggled to find the market for such a device and could barely think beyond people like artists, movie directors or people in enterprise world, who would find substantial use of the Note Pro. The device is absolutely massive and is not the most handy or comfortable to take and move around with.
The price is definitely a big put off, and the plastic build is not the most assuring. Having said that, the tablet does bring plenty of good business apps, and we fell in love with the multitasking on it and kind of miss it as we go back to our much smaller iPad Air. As a tablet for leisure reading and playing, the Note Pro is definitely not the most friendly, nor is it comfortable enough for a portable media consumption device. Unless you do a lot of business work on the move and have a thing against laptops and cannot do without something like an S-Pen you should give one a skip. Overall, you would be better off investing in an ultrabook with detachable keyboard or a pure compute like a Macbook Air than going in for a Note Pro.