The core of Samsung’s Galaxy Note series has always been that bigger can be better. When Samsung debuted its original Galaxy Note smartphone in 2012, it introduced the American consumer tech market to the “phablet” concept. Now, the Korean gadget maker is hoping the Note Pro will do the same for tablets.
With its Note Pro, Samsung is attempting to penetrate the laptop-tablet hybrid category — i.e. tablets with large screens that work well with a keyboard for productivity. This space is largely dominated by Windows-based tablets from Microsoft and its partners, like the Surface.
The problem with these devices is that they often prove to be mediocre tablets and subpar laptops. Samsung’s tablet faces a similar dilemma. It’s a decent tablet, but isn’t nearly compelling enough to justify spending the $US700.
Measuring 11.6 x 8 x 9.9 inches and weighing 1.6 pounds, the Galaxy Note Pro is among the largest tablets Samsung has launched to date. That being said, it still feels surprisingly light for a tablet of its size. In fact, the tablet is nearly the same weight as Microsoft’s Surface 2 (1.5 lbs), despite the fact that the Note Pro has a larger screen.
Samsung outfits the 12.2-inch Note Pro with the same faux-leather stitched back you’ll find on its smartphone sibling, the Galaxy Note 3. It’s a welcome change from the bland plastic rear shell Samsung has used for previous Galaxy devices, but the Surface 2’s polycarbonate build looks a bit more elegant and professional. After holding the Galaxy Note Pro for about 20 minutes, I also noticed that the back easily gathers fingerprint smudges.
Tailored for productivity, the Note Pro comes with a quad-core 1.9-GHz processor. In other words, you shouldn’t have to worry about sluggish performance while running multiple apps or playing casual games.
The Note Pro’s battery lasted for quite a while on a single charge. After mixed usage, which involved browsing the Web, typing short documents in Google Drive and taking notes with the stylus, the tablet lasted for several days without needing an additional charge. During this time period I had the screen brightness set to 40 per cent and occasionally used Bluetooth accessories with the tablet.
The most distinguishing physical feature, however, is the Note Pro’s 12.2-inch dazzling 2560×1600 display. Colours popped when looking at high-resolution photos on Flickr, and details appeared sharp as we viewed trailers on YouTube. While watching a trailer for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” I was impressed with the tablet’s wide viewing angles. If you typically use your tablet for streaming video through Netflix or Hulu, this tablet won’t disappoint.
Like most Samsung devices, the Note Pro runs on a modified version of Android running Samsung’s software skin known as TouchWiz. The tablet also comes with Android 4.4.2 KitKat out of the box, which is one of the newest versions of Google’s mobile software.
Using The Note Pro As A Laptop
Samsung also sells a few Galaxy Note Pro accessories that are meant to make productivity easier, including a Bluetooth mouse ($39.99), keyboard ($59.99), and book cover ($69.99).
The keyboard, however, wasn’t very accurate during my testing. When typing a few paragraphs in Google Drive, the keyboard lagged significantly, falling behind most of my keystrokes. The keyboard was also inaccurate, and often registered the same letter several times when I only hit the key once. This didn’t happen every time I used the keyboard, but it happened on several occasions. It’s important to note that this could be an issue specific to our review unit and may not happen with other Samsung Bluetooth keyboards.
At the same time, Samsung’s keyboard does come with a handy row of shortcuts which include brightness controls, volume buttons, and keys for home, recent apps and refresh actions. There are also buttons for capturing a screenshot and launching Google Now in the same top row.
Samsung’s Bluetooth mouse was generally precise and responsive, but it felt a bit awkward to use when navigating Android. Since computer mice are typically used with desktop software rather than mobile, I often found myself moving the mouse cursor to the top of the screen in search of a minimize or exit button. The mouse felt most natural when using Google Chrome (or any Web browser) or managing various windows when using Samsung’s Multi-Window feature.
Using the mouse to breeze through Android becomes much easier once you discover its shortcuts. For example, right clicking brings you directly back to the home screen and you can use the scroll wheel to navigate through different home screens. This is the mouse’s way of mimicking the swiping gestures you would typically perform with your fingers.
It’s nearly impossible to use these accessories without the book cover, or any similar folio-style case/kickstand for that matter. The rear casing on Samsung’s cover features the same leather feel as the tablet itself, and its folio cover folds back to prop up the tablet like a kickstand.
You can also use the Note Pro to remotely control your desktop or laptop using the RemotePC app. The setup process requires you to first create a Samsung account if you don’t already have one. After that, you’ll have to install the RemotePC client on the PC you wish to control with your tablet, which is compatible with Mac and Windows.
Installing the client was fairly easy since the setup wizard provides step-by-step instructions, but you’ll want to make sure you have Java plugins enabled in your Web browser. The specific plugins don’t work with Google Chrome, so you’ll have to use Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari.
Once I had the RemotePC software up and running, I was pleasantly surprised with how well it worked. I’ve used remote PC software in the past, and it usually ends up squishing my laptop’s desktop and lagging significantly. This time, however, the desktop on my MacBook Pro fit the Note Pro’s 12.2-inch screen perfectly, and there was virtually no delay as I opened Word documents and rearranged items on my desktop.
The Note Pro’s unusually large display make it an ideal choice for Android fans looking to get some work done, but there are better Bluetooth Android keyboards to choose from.
Samsung’s S Pen does more than your typical stylus. Rather than just acting as a replacement for your finger, the S Pen comes with its own menu of features designed to work with the stylus. As soon as you remove the S Pen from its holster, the Air Command menu fans out in the lower corner of the display. You can also summon this menu by long-pressing the button on the S Pen’s side.
Many of these features aren’t very useful, but there are a few handy tricks including S Finder and Samsung’s note-taking app Action Memo. Like its name implies, S Finder allows you to search for different types of content on your tablet, including emails, contacts, songs, apps and more. You can also take a screenshot and write notes over the image with Samsung’s Screen Write feature, which could be useful for giving presentations but isn’t as practical for daily use.
Most importantly, Samsung’s S Pen succeeds in offering a fluid and natural pen-like experience. The Note Pro’s screen immediately detected my words when jotting notes in Action Memo without any delay. The S Pen is pressure sensitive, which means it will produce darker handwriting the harder you press down — just like a real pen.
Business Insider, Lisa Eadicicco
Samsung heavily modifies Android by adding its own apps, features and extras. For starters, swiping to the right from the main home screen takes you to Flipboard, while swiping to the left reveals Samsung’s own Magazine UX. This arranges widgets in a tiled format for easy viewing, and by default it includes your calendar and email, business news headlines and a shortcut Hancom Office apps.
You can also pull down from the top of the screen to access notifications and quick settings shortcuts, which include options for Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth, Aeroplane Mode and some of Samsung’s own features such as Smart Stay and Smart Pause. If you’re using the Note Pro for productivity, the Multi Window feature may be particularly useful. You can run up to three apps on the home screen at the same time in separate windows, creating a PC-style vibe.
Samsung’s version of Android offers a few useful additions, but the OS is a bit busy overall. You’ll probably end of turning most of Samsung’s extras and sticking with the basic services from Google.
If you don’t need the extra screen space, you can probably pass on the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro. You’ll need to spend more than $US750 to use it with a keyboard and get any real work done, and there are much cheaper productivity-focused tablets. The Galaxy Note 10.1 offers a similar experience for $US200 less than the Note Pro, and Microsoft’s Surface 2 starts at $US449, which includes Microsoft Office. That’s not to discredit the things I appreciate about this tablet. It’s got a brilliant high resolution screen and useful stylus that feels natural, but that’s not enough to convince me to cough up $US700.