Tablet

Samsung Galaxy Note PRO (12.2″ LTE): Review

Samsung has did it again with yet another tablet of an even larger screen size. Retailing at S$1198 (with LTE) in Singapore, the new 12.2-inch Samsung Galaxy Note PRO (SM-P905) is targeting at productivity users who want a respectable large screen for their demanding work. With 10-inch tablets being the standard all these years, is there really any benefit to increase the size? Will 12-inch be the new standard for tablets?

The Note PRO 12.2-inch next to the Lenovo X230.

Specs:

  • 12.2-inch 2560×1600 pixels TFT LCD
  • 2.3GHz quad-core
  • 3GB RAM, 32/64GB user memory
  • 8MP rear camera, 2MP front camera
  • 9500mAh non-removable battery
  • 295.5 x 204 x 7.95 mm
  • 753g (3G/LTE)
  • Android KitKat 4.4
  • Wi-Fi (a/b/g/n/ac), Wi-Fi Direct, DLNA, Bluetooth 4.0 with aptX, GPS, GLONASS, MHL, USB-OTG
  • No NFC
  • IR LED for Universal Remote Control Function
  • S-Pen for precise screen controls
  • Uses MicroSIM Card
  • With MicroSD Card Slot (up to 64GB)
  • Uses USB 3.0 data connector

The Note PRO may appear large and feels hefty. But the benefits become clear when you start to use the heavily-customised UI.

Design

The Galaxy Note PRO DNA takes after the Note 10.1, which takes after the Note 3. To me, the design makes the device more rugged and less prone to visible cosmetic damages. There are just minor alterations, like the use of USB 3.0 port similar to Note 3, and repositioning the USB port to the right side rather than the bottom. Being accustomed to carrying a 12-inch laptop around the office, the Note PRO feels like a better size to work with than 10.1-incher.

Compare Note PRO 12.2 with Note 10.1 2014 Edition

Android Re-imagined

In an attempt to re-imagine the Android experience, Samsung came out with the Magazine UX with the Flipboard-look, allowing the user to add live widgets and customise as many pages as he likes. On the new UX, user can select recently-used apps, view upcoming events, navigate music tracks, read emails, all without opening any separate apps. Each widget is edge-to-edge, allowing content to be maximised without thick gaps compared to the standard Android widgets. If you prefer the traditional homescreen, just add them as usual on a separate non-Magazine page.

Improved multi-window tasking

Samsung has made the Note PRO more compelling than just an upsized Note 10.1. The UI has been enhanced to utilise the larger screen estate, now allowing up to 4 concurrent multi-windows to operate. Even with a 4-window configuration, each window size is still larger than a smartphone.

A quarter of the multi-window equals to the Samsung Galaxy S3!

With the Note PRO, it is actually possible for multiple persons to consume content on 4 separate windows. I can browse my Facebook while my daughter watches YouTube videos. With a 12.2-inch screen, the on-screen keyboard is actually of respectable size which I can type with ease.

Opening multi-window apps is easier with Note PRO. Just slide the multi-window app list tray from the right to reveal 2 columns of apps (older Samsung tablets that support multi-window only display one column). Tap on the app to open as a floating window. Drag the app to the main window for multi-window. As you drag more apps, the windows will resize, from 2 to 3 to 4. You can also adjust the proportion among the multi-windows. And here’s the best part: you can save the layout, which means I don’t have to set up the multi-windows again and again. I could have a Facebook/Twitter view, or Evernote/YouTube/Chrome view instantly. And on top of all the multi-windows, you can still open up to 3 floating window apps.

I have previously reviewed the Note 8.0, the Note 10.1, and while I love the multi-window on them, it still appears somewhat small when consuming content at an arms length, not to mention the small on-screen keyboard for any productive typing. The Note PRO is a better size for multi-window use, and to me, the ability to run multiple windows is the deal breaker for me to get an Android tablet. Anything smaller, my Android smartphone will serve me fine.

Almost A4 paper size

As part of the Galaxy Note product line, the Note PRO comes with S Pen allowing you to doodle with the appropriate apps. Like earlier Note models, the Note PRO supports many smart gestures like Air Command, Smart Stay. The Note PRO is closer to the size of a standard A4 paper, offering more room to scribble and does not feel restrained. The high-resolution 2560×1600 means you can enjoy screen details without looking pixelated.

Electronic scoresheet!

And a phone too

Yes, like the other Galaxy Note variants, the Note PRO supports voice over mobile network. You either converse over the speaker or use a headset for privacy.

Remote PC

I recall the time when I was looking forward to remotely access my PC desktop over an Android tablet. With the Note PRO, this is possible using the pre-installed Remote PC, which works similarly to most other remote desktop access apps. In other words, you are not going to get lag-free performance. The advantage of this app is that it works immediately after installation, which is great for new users. Plus, there is no need to search for third party apps to let you enjoy remote desktop access. The cool thing about using Remote PC on Note PRO, especially for users with higher-than-full HD desktop display (me, for instance), is that you get to see the entire desktop screen without re-adjusting the resolution.

Camera and Video

I am not going to be one of those consumers who uses a large tablet for photo taking or video shooting. It just looks too silly, and not to mention the amount of attention you get where everyone behind you gets to see what you are shooting at. Having said that, yes you can capture 8MP quality still images or full HD video footages on the Note PRO.

Major Drawbacks

The Note PRO is not for consumers who do not find the extra-large screen useful, or prefer a lighter tablet. Also, the ultra high-definition of 2560×1600 is not compatible with some apps and games, causing display issues. Similarly, not all apps can be run on multi-window, including Instagram. Fortunately, Facebook, Twitter, Evernote, among many others, can work on multi-window.

The Note PRO also exhibits lag for certain actions, like pressing the home button to return to home screen, or dragging floating windows around the screen, or resizing floating windows. But actions like browsing content within multi-windows work fine, and I have not experienced any app crashes.

Conclusion

I have always felt that the Android’s tablet form is not as useful, because many of the apps are not optimised for large screen, resulting in many white spaces. Try using Facebook in a landscape format, or browse Instagram images. But now with the Note PRO, I can run up to 4 multiple apps side by side and still enjoy the content without visual compromise. My favourite feature is the ability to save presets which lets me open up to 4 apps with a single tap (this feature is also available on the Note 10.1 2014 Edition).

Also, having a large screen tablet certainly prevents eye sight deterioration. I would rather let my child consume content or play games on a large tablet than on a small smartphone.

Exactly the same width as my Bluetooth keyboard.

If you find the Note PRO 12.2 too expensive, there is the Tab PRO 12.2, which has no S Pen. There are also Tab PRO 10.1, Tab PRO 8.4, and they all have ultra-HD WQXGA 2560×1600 display and the same 2.3GHz quad-core processor. But only the 12.2-inch tablets allow you to run 4 windows at the same time, which to me is a great difference compared to the smaller sized siblings. And the on-screen keyboard has the right size for efficient typing.

The Note PRO caters to the market segment who demands a more productive Android device, and I am already observing the interest from local tech forums, where people discuss the possibility of replacing their bulky and battery-draining laptops. Thanks to the new 12.2-inch Note PRO, Android-based tablets are a lot more usable for me than before.

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