Samsung Galaxy NotePRO Tablet: Australian Review

With smartphones getting larger and larger by the day — hello, 6.4-inch Sony Xperia Z Ultra — there's not really much point in getting a 7-inch tablet. 8-inch is better, 10-inch is getting there, but do you know what's best? 12.2 inches. The Samsung Galaxy NotePRO is a massive tablet, made for business productivity.

What Is It?

The Galaxy NotePRO is a 12.2-inch Android 4.4 tablet from Samsung, announced at CES 2014 and priced at $1099 and $1249 for the 32gb Wi-Fi and 4G models respectively. It distinguishes itself with its massive, bright, high resolution screen and the integrated pressure-sensitive stylus built into its body.

The NotePRO is expensive — $1099 can buy you an entry-level Ultrabook, arguably more suitable for typing and emailing and basic business tasks. But its specifications show that it's one of the most powerful tablets available, and Samsung's bespoke apps and OS skin make it even more work-appropriate than your garden variety Android device.

When it comes to design, Samsung has hit the right compromise between fashionable and professional with this particular Galaxy. The high-gloss screen does pick up reflections like nobody's business, but that, the slate grey bezel and chrome strip running around the physical Home button and the edge of the NotePRO work together to make the tablet look genuinely attractive. Flip it over and you'll find a charcoal black faux-leather non-removable cover; it's unremarkable except for its propensity to pick up the occasional greasy fingerprint.

Being a Note tablet, the Galaxy NotePRO has an integrated stylus built into its top right corner, if you're holding it in landscape with the Samsung logo and front camera facing the correct way. Stereo speaker fire out from the edges of the NotePRO, and below the right one you'll find a mini-USB 3.0 connector and microSD card slot for expandable storage. There's no port cover on the USB connector, which makes it actually work really well in concert with a dual USB flash drive.

What Is It Good At?

The screen of the NotePRO is a LCD, not AMOLED — it makes sense, since a 12.2-inch OLED display would be so expensive — and it's honestly one of the best LCD panels I've seen in this size class. It's a 2560x1600 pixel display, with an extremely wide colour gamut, and it's just about as sharp as you'd expect; Samsung's PenTile sub-pixel design robs it of some outright sharpness, but it's a significant step up from a 1920x1080 Full HD screen.

Colour accuracy is, by and large, good, and the massively wide range of brightness you can tweak out of the NotePRO makes it usable for both bright outdoors use and bedtime reading. The automatic brightness is versatile enough for most uses, but in extreme cases, you'll need to switch to the manual maximum or minimum.

Being Android, the Galaxy NotePRO is entirely easy to drive if you've used a Google smartphone or Samsung device within the last few years. All the usual Android features that you'd expect are here — swipe down from the top for notifications, install apps from the Play Store, and so on — but Samsung has heavily customised some aspects of the interface. You can use the NotePRO straight out of the box as a normal media consumption tablet, but with a little more effort in setup, it becomes a powerful business tool.

Multi-Window in action.

Samsung's customisable home screens let you bring together your mail, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, alongside your calendar and Flipboard's constantly-updated stream of news (which, of course, you can tailor to your liking). I'm usually not a fan of these all-in-one screens, but on the NotePRO it actually works really well as a live desktop. Multi-Window — a Galaxy Note hallmark on tablet and phone — lets the NotePRO effectively function like a proper PC, since you can open apps in individual, movable, resizable windows and switch between them with a few taps. These are business necessities, and the Galaxy NotePRO is right to include them.

What Is It Not Good At?

Like just about any other tablet on the market, the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO's cameras are terrible. Rated against other Android tablets and the iPad, it's towards the better end of the spectrum, but almost any smartphone going could beat its 8-megapixel rear and 2-megapixel front cameras for detail, colour rendition and high ISO noise reduction. They're adequate for videoconferencing, but little more.

I really like the design of the NotePRO, since it's basically a scaled-up Galaxy S5. It's not perfect, though. Samsung's faux-leather back is less plasticky than the Galaxy Note 3, but doesn't hit the same grippy modern feel as the S5, and the bezel around the edge of the 12.2-inch NotePRO's screen makes it equal in length and width to a small 13-inch laptop like the LG UltraPC. If I was designing it, I would've tried to reduce the bezel size by half, cutting down on outright size and weight while still maintaining the impressive screen size.

It's also so expensive. A tablet that costs over a thousand dollars has to be a tough sell for any electronics store, especially when it's competing with more powerful, more versatile and more fully-featured notebooks. If you want the 4G 32GB version, you'll be out of pocket $1249, and that's before buying a data SIM and monthly plan. It's also slightly disappointing that there's no larger-capacity version available, even though that would drive the price higher.

Should You Buy It?

The NotePRO makes excellent sense as a secondary business tool — for quick note-taking, emailing, or document reading — alongside a more traditional laptop or desktop PC. If you're looking for a single device that does everything, you'll need to change the way you work or make some minor sacrifices. It's expensive, though; $1099 is a lot for a 32GB tablet, and a $150 premium for 4G moreso.

Considered in abstract, the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO is an excellent computing device. For the casual home user it could conceivably completely replace a notebook — it's great for consuming media, browsing the Web and the occasional longer typing task. It's also a very attractive tablet, and that doesn't hurt either.

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