Is 12 inches too big for a tablet screen? We're about to find out.
Samsung has decided that the world needs bigger tablets, and so we have
not one but two 12.2-inch models from the Korean giant. As if their
lineup wasn't expansive enough, these new models are the largest of a
range of new Android tablets.
Samsung's lineup of tablets now
extends from 7 inches to 12.2 inches. Factoring in the Galaxy Mega and
Galaxy Note phones which have screens of up to 6.3 inches, Samsung
really does seem to be trying every possible size.
The two biggest
models, the Galaxy Tab Pro and Galaxy Note Pro, look identical and have
nearly identical features, so it's easy to mix them up. The chief
difference is the S-Pen, which has led to this confusing naming scheme.
The S-Pen has been reserved for the Galaxy Note series of smartphones,
so it probably seemed appropriate to name this tablet Note Pro.
Look and feel
no doubt about it; this thing is huge! It's also rather heavy and
unwieldy. At 753g, it is lighter than an 11-inch MacBook Air, but you
will definitely notice its weight in a shoulder bag. If you're carrying a
laptop anyway, you definitely don't want to deal with this much extra
weight. The Note Pro thus only makes sense if it can replace your
laptop, which is a tall order. Otherwise, it's destined to stay put in
an office or home; capable of being carried around from room to room,
but not really used as anyone's primary computing device.
Galaxy Note Pro largely sticks to Samsung's current design formula: the
front is sunken white plastic, the edges are chrome, and the rear is
textured faux-leather plastic with stitching. We still aren't fans of
this aesthetic, but we've resigned ourselves to it. Also true to form,
there's a single chrome-ringed physical button for Home, flanked by
capacitive Back and Recents buttons.
The Recents button replaces
the Menu button, which is no longer necessary in Android 4.4. This means
there's a slight difference to how functions are called up, as compared
to previous Samsung devices. It only takes a quick tap on the Recents button to
switch between apps, and long-pressing it does nothing. A long-press on
the Home button now launches Google Now. A long-press on the Back button
still pulls up the Multi Window tray, which lets you run more than one
app at a time on certain Samsung Android devices.
screen, you'll see a Samsung logo along with the 2-meagpixel front
camera and ambient light sensor. On the top edge right above these,
you'll see the Infrared emitter, with a power/standby button and volume
rocker off to one side. Most of the ports and slots are located on the
right edge: from top to bottom you'll see the S-Pen in its silo, a
speaker grille, a Micro-USB 3.0 socket for charging and data syncing, a
covered microSD slot and a covered SIM card slot. There's nothing on the
right edge apart from a 3.5mm headset jack and a matching speaker. The
bottom is completely blank.
The S-Pen is a decent size but is a
bit too thin to offer a good enough grip, thanks to the shape of the
Galaxy Note's body. It comes with replaceable tips and a little tweezer
tool to help pull them out.
Largely due to its size and weight, we
found ourselves using the Note Pro flat on a table. Even when reading
books, it wasn't comfortable to hold in our hands or rest in our laps.
With this in mind, we would have loved to have had a kickstand or some
other means of propping it up a bit.
Features and specifications
main attraction of the Galaxy Note Pro is obviously its 2560x1600-pixel
12.2-inch screen. Just for perspective, this is the kind of resolution
we used to see on 24-inch and larger desktop monitors. With most PCs and
laptops (no matter how large their screens) still inexplicably stuck at
1366x768, it's no wonder that mobile devices are displacing them so
Android scales to the high resolution very nicely, and
text is readable throughout. Even the stock Web browser uses all
available space rather than displaying content 1:1 and crunching it all
in the centre. However, Samsung hasn't really taken advantage of this in
its UI design. Icons and widgets are almost comically oversized,
especially in the notification shade. We often found ourselves leaning
in towards it and then jerking backwards, which took away from the
Amazingly, despite its high resolution, the
screen is quite grainy. This might be due to the digitizer required for
the S-Pen, or the fact that Samsung has used a PenTile panel. It's not
always a problem, but it becomes especially distracting when reading
text. It feels like the enormous potential of a huge screen has been
The Processor is an Exynos 5420; one of Samsung's own
designs. It consists of four ARM Coretex A15 cores running at 1.9GHz
and four Cortex A7 cores running at 1.3GHz. In previous implementations,
this sort of arrangement meant that only one quad-core cluster could be
active at any time, in order to deliver performance or battery
longevity when needed. The new Exynos 5420 uses a more advanced model
(known as Heterogeneous Multiprocessing, or HMP) which can schedule
tasks to any of the eight cores in any combination. Tasks can migrate
from higher to lower power cores and vice versa, making for a far more
powerful and flexible system.
The rest of the Note Pro's
specifications also live up to that high standard. There's 3GB of RAM,
32GB of internal storage, GPS with GLONASS, Wi-Fi b/g/n/ac, 3G data, an
enormous 9,500mAh battery, and Android 4.4.2. The rear camera takes
8-megapixel stills, but anyone who would up a 12-inch tablet to take
photos shouldn't expect great quality.
The exact model available
in India is the SM-P901. Other variants, the P900 and P905, offer 4G LTE
and Wi-Fi only connectivity in other regions.
moves to downplay Android have been well documented, and the Note Pro's
software is evidence of that too. Taking full advantage of the
opportunity to tweak the OS for such a large screen, Samsung has made
its Magazine UX a bit more prominent, and the Android app launcher a bit
On first boot, you'll see a home screen with two
large widget panels and a row of app icons beneath it. Google's search
bar is tucked away rather inconspicuously in the lower left corner, and a
grid icon in the lower right corner will take you to the usual app
launcher icon grid. If you swipe to the right there's another home
screen (and you can of course add more), but when you swipe to the left,
you're taken into the Magazine UX.
This consists of large square
panels, somewhat similar to the Windows 8 Modern UI, but occupying
the entire screen. You also see that you can now swipe between multiple
Magazine screens, not just one, and the traditional Android UI is
reduced to a single dot on the scroll bar, no matter how many screens
Samsung has also done a neat job with its keyboard. The
keys all have an old-style 3D look, and you have a full layout including
Tab, Shift, Caps Lock, Delete, and arrow keys, along with a number row
with alternate symbol characters on each key. You can even use shortcuts
such as Ctrl+A to select all text, and Ctrl+ X, C and V to cut, copy
and paste. There's a second Shift button as well, but it's beyond the
arrow keys. Like most soft keyboards, it takes up half the screen. At
least with a 16:10 aspect ratio, there's more screen space to work with.
You can have up to six panels on each Magazine screen, which can be news feeds, social feeds, or apps. It looks and behaves a
lot like Flipboard, and indeed, most of the news feeds are Flipboard's
own. The app panels are basically Samsung's own built-in apps: Email,
Gallery, Hancom Office, Messages, Music, S Planner, NYTimes, Samsung's
App Store, and Video.
The S-Pen works much as it does on the
smaller Galaxy Note devices. Upon pulling it out of its silo, Samsung's
floating Air Command menu appears on screen. You can hover over the
screen to make a selection, and tap to "click".
The five major
options are Action Memo, which lets you write out an email address or
phone number and have it turned into an actionable command; Scrapbooker,
whichlets you draw a selection on screen which will then be captured in
its original format; Screen Write, if you want to take a screenshot,
annotate it and save or share it; S-Finder, a local and Web search app;
and Pen Window, which lets you launch apps in floating windows over any
app you might have running, without exiting to the app menu.
S-Pen is handy, but not indispensable. It all comes down to whether you
prefer scribbling. You can write out usernames, but not passwords, and
Samsung doesn't automatically turn the keyboard into a handwriting
recognition area when it knows the S-Pen is out of its silo.
has also heavily customised the notification shade and quick settings
buttons. The Settings app receives an overhaul with items divided into
four categories, as with previous Samsung devices. Multi Window
functionality has been expanded to allow four apps to work in tiled
windows, but we also managed to open five or more apps in floating
windows that overlapped each other. Performance definitely took a hit
with so many apps open simultaneously, but it goes to show that there's
major potential for big, versatile Android devices in the future.
a few apps are preloaded, and the choices seem to lean towards business
scenarios, such as Cisco's WebEx, Remote PC, e-Meeting, NYTimes, and
Businessweek. Many of these require subscriptions to their vendors'
respective services. There's also a version of Autodesk's Sketchbook
app, optimised for the S-Pen, which is pretty fun to use, and shows off
the Note Pro's pressure sensitive digitiser.
The other app of
note is Peel Smart Remote, which uses the built in Infrared port to let
you control TVs. It works fine with set-top boxes such as the DTH ones
prevalent in India, and includes schedules for lots of local channels.
The interface is a little unclear though, and it's a bit of a process to just change channels, since the app insists you browse
through a list of shows organised into somewhat unintuitive categories.Performance
scores for the Galaxy Note Pro were pretty impressive. SunSpider took
only 542.3ms, and Browsermark returned a score of 1913. AnTuTu scored
34,136 points, while Quadrant reached 16,415. Graphics scores appeared
poor, but we should remember that the screen resolution is far greater
than most other laptops, which means there's a lot more work to be done.
When compared to smaller tablets, all graphics benchmark results
suffered other than 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited runthrough, which
renders at a fixed off-screen resolution. When we considered this score,
balance was restored.
That still means that gaming won't be much
fun on the Note Pro. In any case, it's far too large for mobile games
that use tilt controls or virtual thumbsticks.
Movies look great
on the big screen. Once again we were left wishing there was a
kickstand, because this thing could work just fine as a TV or even a
secondary monitor at close quarters. It choked on our highest quality
H.264 video clip, but everything else in common formats played back
well. The two stereo speakers are quite loud and you can fill a small
room, but the sound is tinny and compressed.
As expected, there
was no problem with performance in general usage. The Note Pro is snappy
and responsive, although animations tend to feel laggy because they
really are amplified on the big screen.
The battery lasted for 10
hours, 9 minutes in our video loop test, which isn't surprising
considering the sheer size of the 9,500mAh battery.
not hard to imagine that Samsung, having heard rumours of Apple
introducing a larger sized iPad, decided to beat them to it. That is to
say, they didn't have any purpose in mind when developing this product
other than to be the first to do it. It seems a bit far-fetched to us
that this product was conceived as a business tool or an office
productivity machine. It's an indulgence, pure and simple, and that's
not the sort of thing you see in work environments.
You just can't
hold it in one hand, and so typing or even using the S-Pen requires
that you put it down on a table. That's awkward and uncomfortable, and
it's just not the kind of thing you can deal with when you're trying to
be productive. Once again, we're left wanting for a stand of some kind.
In its current form, the Galaxy Note Pro is much better suited to
lounging on a couch with, since at least then you can put your knees up
and rest it against your thighs.
There still could be applications
for this product though. Education springs to mind; surely there are
apps for children that would work wonderfully on a bigger screen,
especially in classroom environments with groups of students around one
device. Maybe it could be a tool for creative professionals in
production environments: music and video editing also seem like prime candidates, along
with creative illustration, of course. Beyond that, maybe elderly folk
or those with mobility impairments would really appreciate the spacious
keyboard and simple interface, as compared to laptops or PCs that are
generally difficult to use.
We shouldn't have to struggle so hard
to justify owning such a product, and so the whole thing just falls
flat for us. Sure, it works well and represents some genuine innovation
in the market, but how practical is it, really, for most people? That's
not even factoring in the amount of money it costs, which could just as
easily be spent on a very capable laptop.
In fact some
convertible Ultrabooks, which offer a balance of tablet and laptop
features, cost even less than the Note Pro, such as Lenovo's Ideapad
Yoga 13, which comes with an Intel Core i5 CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD
and 13.3-inch 1600x900 screen.
So as much as we want to like the
Galaxy Note Pro, we really can't see any reason to be excited by it.
Perhaps its near twin, the Galaxy Tab Pro, will offer better value for
money, but we can't help but feel that as far as Android tablet sizes
go, 12.2 inches is well past the point of diminishing returns.
Price: Rs. 65,575
- Good battery life
- Potential for multiple uses
- Grainy screen
- Bulky and heavy
Ratings (Out of 5)
- Design: 4
- Display: 3.5
- Camera: 2.5
- Performance: 3.5
- Software: 3.5
- Battery Life: 4
- Value for Money: 3
- Overall: 3.5
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro in pictures