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Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 review

Does the latest high-end tablet offering from Samsung work as an alternative to our laptops and PC's? We find out in our Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 review!
February 23, 2014

For quite a while now, tablets have been trying to break out as potential replacements for general computing, but unfortunately not quite succeeding.

Samsung hopes to continue the good fight with a slightly different outlook, and by, quite literally, blowing up an already well-received top tier tablet to massive proportions. Do they find success in their latest endeavor? Let’s find out. Here’s our review of the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2!

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Let’s get the obvious out of the way – this tablet is a behemoth of a device, with its 12.2-inch display making it bigger than practically any other Android tablet currently available. At 753 grams, the tablet is also quite hefty, which of course, isn’t unexpected. Basically what you have is the display of a small laptop, and definitely dwarfs anything available during the now-gone netbook craze.

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Design wise, Samsung went with its tried and true button layout with the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2, with a centered physical home button, and a capacitive multi-tasking menu button and dedicated back button. On the top of the device is where you’ll find the customary Samsung power button and volume rocker, and, housed on the right, is a sincerely-appreciated microSD slot and a micro-USB 3.0 port, which makes for speedy file transfers and faster charging of the substantial battery of the tablet.

Lovers of the front-facing speakers of the HTCOne and Nexus 10 will be mildly disappointed to discover that the speakers of the NotePRO 12.2 are to the left and right of the device. That being said, in my experience with it, it’s not easy to cover them given the immense girth of the device. If you’re holding the tablet in your lap while on the couch, you’re hands will likely slip towards the bottom of the device, leaving the speakers free.

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The faux leather back returns, with the design language borrowed from the appreciated aesthetic of the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

The bezel around the screen does make it possible to hold the tablet with one hand, but will of course, require a “death grip” to make sure that it doesn’t slip. If you’ve ever used a 10-inch tablet before, you’ll know that it’s not easy to handle, making the larger frame of the NotePRO 12.2 even harder to get used to. It’s so substantial that basic actions such as using the keyboard can prove to be quite difficult, which certainly brings up some questions about the legitimacy of this form factor. Using this tablet on a table top is the more obvious use-case scenario, and one where most will be using it in real world practice.

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Obviously the display is huge, and with a massive 2560×1600 resolution, it’s one hell of a performer, making this tablet one of the best media consumption tools available, while still being quite portable.

Just about everything you watch, read, or observe on this gigantic display will shine through with brilliance and clarity not often seen with other tablets in the market today. Considering that you’ll most likely be using this tablet on a table top, viewing angles are quite good if you’re moved over to the side a little bit. The software and the user interface helps put the content front and center, which we’ll talk about more later.

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It’s no surprise that the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 boasts the most powerful processing package currently available, in the form of a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, clocked at 2.3 GHz, coupled with a robust Adreno 330 GPU, along with a healthy 3 GB of RAM.

To address the issue that people are often complaining about with regards to lag, the stutter you might see is more of an esthetic issue, rather than a performance-based one, and doesn’t often rear its ugly head or impede your progress. This tablet truly flies in every way, regardless of what you throw at it. TouchWiz does demand a lot out of it though, and when you’re multi-tasking, and watching a Youtube video, and browsing a resource-intensive site, though it’s minor, you’ll find that lag can quickly become something of a nuisance.

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One place Samsung often excels is in hardware. Coming in 32 GB and 64 GB flavors, the microSD slot allows for this tablet to take it up another notch in the media consumption category, with a potential of 128 GB of local storage, if paired with a 64 GB microSDXC card.

A 9,500 mAh battery brings massive longevity to this tablet, especially on standby, as it can go for hours and hours while barely losing any capacity at all. Depending on your usage, you can expect to get even two days of battery life out of this device.

Functionality is in no shortage either, with Wi-Fi and mobile network capability, along with an IR blaster and the WatchOn app that lets you control your TV and other peripherals in your living room, which is where this tablet feels as it’s destined to spend most of its time.

One part that is a bit of a bummer is sound quality. Lows are unimpressive, and the two speakers don’t provide the richest sound, with it not being anywhere close to as good as expected. Personally, I would have hoped that a media consumption device like this would have boomed a bit, though you might not feel the same, depending on what media you like to consume on your tablet.

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Of course, the S-Pen brings all the new functionality Samsung introduced with the Galaxy Note 3 such as the Air Command menu, and it remains one of the best stylus experiences on any device. Having this nifty little tool at your disposal can really boost your productivity, and, if you’re inclined to draw, the NotePRO 12.2 could even make an acceptable digital pad for your sketches and doodles. As a business oriented device, the NotePRO’s stylus (coupled with some of the pre-loaded freebies) should really help you cut your way through office work on the train, in the park, or in the bed.

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Don’t take pictures with a tablet. There, I said it. Don’t. You will look ridiculous.

But if you absolutely have to, and are willing to lift up such a large body to take a picture, the 8MP sensor comes with a host of software functions that you wouldn’t expect to see on a tablet. But, as it’s often the case with tablet imaging, you probably already have a better and far more portable image capturing device.

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TouchWiz finally got a much-needed update, and the main chance is the presence of the new Magazine UX interface on the forefront. Basically, it’s tile-based widget, news, and social feed dashboard that you can fully configure, by adding new tiles, rearranging, and resizing them. You won’t be able to turn this interface off (at least without a custom launcher, or more advanced trickeries), but you still get to have classic Android homescreens to the left of Magazine UX.

Interface elements you may already be very used to, like the notification dropdown, have somehow been altered, with the new leitmotifs being the circle and tile. In a lot of ways, the user interface seems familiar, borrowing elements from iOS 7, Microsoft’s Metro UI, and stock Android, blended together to form a design that’s not super original, but is quite usable and not sour on the eye.

The change from a Menu button to a Recent Apps button makes multitasking a lot easier, and also provides access to the task manager and RAM clearing function in an easier fashion.

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Speaking of multi-tasking, full advantage of the screen real estate is taken, with the capability to have four different windows running simultaneously, which is really cool. And of course, plenty of productivity apps come included to help you make the most out of this tablet, though you might have to sign up for a Samsung account to access some of them.

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Getting back to Magazine UX, I put some time to really wrap my head around this new aspect of TouchWiz, and it’s actually really quite neat. Again, full screen real estate is utilized to the max, with tiles that quite literally take up every inch of the display.

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You can’t add regular Android widgets to Magazine UX, but a set of pre-made widgets are available, that include social, news, and applications widgets. Every tile can be re-sized, allowing you to cater the look towards your preferences. At a glance, you can easily get your social media highlights and control some applications, nice for a device that could easily serve as a second screen on someone’s office, or like a casual magazine replacement sitting on your coffee table.

The one gripe I had with Magazine UX is that I would prefer to be taken straight to the content rather than having to sift through various layers to get to it. By that I mean Magazine UX is just a layer on top other apps, and sometimes you have to tap several times on the same item in multiple applications to finally, say watch a video or read a social update.

Magazine UX is a nice step forward for Samsung’s long in the tooth Android implementation, but ultimately, TouchWiz is still just that – TouchWiz. The new homescreen experience doens’t really change the core experience of using a Samsung Android tablet, so whatever defects or qualities you found in other Samsung devices, you will find them here as well.

Display12.2-inch Super Clear LCD , 2560 x 1600 resolution
2.3 Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor (LTE version)
1.9 Ghz Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor (3G version)
3 GB
32/64 GB, expandable via microSD
9,500 mAh
8 MP rear camera with LED flash, Full HD video recording and zero shutter lag.
2 MP front camera
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO technology, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, GLONASS, Infrared
Android 4.4 Kitkat
295.6 x 204 x 7.95 mm
Galaxy NotePRO 12.2

The Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is priced at a rather stingy $750, which is the price point of a lot of decent laptops that are available on the market right now.

Which brings us back to the original question of whether this tablet could work as a viable alternative to traditional personal computers. The answer depends largely on your expectations and willingness to make it work. I am sure that with a little to research and experiment, coupled with a set of good accessories, the Note Pro 12.2 could be the ideal – and only – work and play device for many users. With that said, I can see why some might scoff at the thought of paying $750 for a tablet, with its inherent limitations, as opposed to a laptop in the same price range.

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The truth is, the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 has come closer to being a general laptop replacement than any other tablet so far. With a screen resolution plenty of laptop users dream off, heavy multi-tasking capabilities, a great stylus, and numerous productivity applications, the NotePRO 12.2 attempts to cover every requirement you might have.

At the very least, this huge tablet is a great media consumption device (as long as you don’t have to hold it in your hand for long), and while it may put a strain on your wallet, you do have the option of carrying everything you need in a slim and robust package.