Samsung has put a lot of effort into conquering the tablet game since Apple jumped into an early lead with the original iPad. Its Galaxy Tab slates have carved out quite a bit of market share despite iffy build quality and divisive user-interface modifications, but thus far they’ve been mostly playing “me too.”
This year, we got to spend some quality time with the new Samsung Galaxy NotePRO at CES 2014. In at least one key spec, it’s a tablet like no other. Even from across the room, the first thing we noticed about this tablet was its size. At 12.2 inches, the NotePro’s screen is the largest we’ve used on a mass market tablet, and even from a brief demo it’s clear that having so much screen real estate definitely opens up new uses for tablet owners.
Like televisions and smartphones, tablets are experimenting with ever-larger screens. At about 11.6 by 8 inches, the NotePRO 12.2 is a very large tablet, and it weighs 1.6 pounds, so it’s definitely on the heavy side. But all that screen real estate allows the NotePRO to function as a legitimate productivity device—an identity tablets have long struggled to attain.
The included S Pen stylus and incredibly high-res 2560×1600 display really give you plenty of room to work with, and the Pen Window and Multi Window functions provide unusually robust multitasking capability. The S Pen in particular is a real selling point, letting you more efficiently swipe words on the Android keyboard, type using natural handwriting, or write notes in your handwriting.
Thanks to its outsized form factor, we got the most out of this tablet when we put it down on our laps or a table rather than trying to awkwardly hand-hold it. The back is coated with faux leather, which helped with grip, but there’s not really any way to use this device effectively with one hand. Even two gets tiring fast. But the nearly foot-long display lends itself well to looking at spreadsheets and text documents, watching movies, or just reading articles.
It’s hard to pin down a defining feature that makes the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO more appropriate for professionals than other Android tablets. One strong contender would be Remote PC, which allows you to send and retrieve files from your Mac or PC. We were unable to see it in action, but the concept promises that you’ll never be caught out while on the job.
The new Magazine UX skin that overlays Android 4.4 KitKat looks like a hybrid of Windows 8’s Modern interface and the Flipboard news app. Hitting the home hardware button brought us to an interfaceI with three “pages”, one that was austere and work oriented, one all about leisure activities, and one devoted to social media. Of course, this being Android, it’s all user-configurable. You can also completely disable Magazine UX and go back to a standard Android homescreen that looks a lot like native KitKat.
For heavy multitaskers, this tablet can run multiple apps side-by-side with a feature called Multi Window. Up to four apps can be placed in a grid, so you can review the minutes of the meeting and watch a documentary about Mongolian throat singing at the same time. As your needs change, you can drag and resize windows. You can even run multiple instances of the same app—you know, to create your own YouTube mashups.
f you prefer a more Windows-like experience, the Pen Window function lets you launch apps in floating windows and minimize them to floating icons. You can have eight of these open at once, which makes switching between open apps a lot quicker and more intuitive.
Hardware wise, the NotePRO is more than powerful enough to hang with the competition. The Exynos octa-core processor is the same as the one powering the Samsung Galaxy 10.1. Running off Android 4.4 KitKat, models on hand carried 3GB of LPDDR3 memory, 32 or 64GB of storage, and an 8- (front) and 2-megapixel (rear) cameras. The 9,500 mAh battery is among the largest on the market, as you’d imagine from such a huge slate.
In short, Samsung has sought to cover all the high-end bases. There’s a camera for video conferencing, Remote PC for off-site work, a large high-res screen for presentations, and a stylus for doodling while on hold.
If your office is a bring-your-own-device environment, or if you occasionally telecommute, then this tablet was designed with you in mind. Having a 12.2-inch screen is not for everyone: Unless you’re a kangaroo, this device won’t fit on your person, and its size certainly makes it cumbersome for truly mobile use. But that said, all that real estate can be put to really good use.