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Samsung’s Huge Galaxy Note Pro Tablet Aims at Desktops, Comes Up Short

Samsung’s Huge Galaxy Note Pro Tablet Aims at Desktops, Comes Up Short

“Bigger is better.” That’s the mantra smartphone makers have taken to heart over the past few years. The tablet industry, meanwhile, has mostly focused on making pint-size, portable slates like the iPad mini and the Nexus 7. Not anymore.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED
Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

(Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED)

Designed for professionals and an enterprise audience, Samsung’s Galaxy Note Pro is clearly going after Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Surface tablet market. That is, PC owners who want PC features on a tablet. The Note Pro comes with a 12.2-inch display—the better for multitasking and actually getting things done, the Korean company hopes. It also comes preloaded with a variety of enterprise-friendly software, including Hancom Office (a Microsoft Office-like publishing suite), remote PC capabilities, e-Meeting, and WebEx. With a display the size of many notebook screens, it’s not surprising that the Galaxy Note Pro tries to emulate a variety of traditional PC functions. But unfortunately, it doesn’t quite measure up.

The Galaxy Note Pro may be an undeniably big tablet, but while it looks unwieldy, its slenderness and weight make it more than manageable. It’s surprisingly light, weighing a mere 753 grams—just over 1.5 pounds—and is just over 0.3 inches thick. You can easily operate the tablet with one hand, and the faux stitched-leather texture on the back of the device (the same facade that graces the rear of the Galaxy Note 3 smartphone) provides a comfortable grip whether it’s held with one hand or two.

As part of the Note series, the tablet comes with Samsung’s signature S Pen tucked in a slot on the right side, where its charging port and a microSD slot are also located. Using this stylus on the Note phablets always felt a little bit awkward to me, but on a larger display, it’s really convenient for writing out notes, illustrating ideas, or just using as a navigational tool.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED
Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

(Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED)

Samsung redesigned its own TouchWiz homescreen into what it calls Magazine UX. With four screens to swipe between, two are your usual app icon and widget filled fare, one is an array of top stories from Flipboard, and the fourth is a Windows 8-style grid of rectangular app spaces populated with up-to-the-minute information from your inbox, calendar, and recently used documents (among other things). This is useful for a quick glance of what’s on your plate for the day, but not any more so than the usual homescreen loaded with a handy widget or two.

With such a large display, Samsung was also able to fit in a full, traditional layout keyboard onscreen. It’s easy to type on—I experienced minimal typos—and key-specific haptic feedback vibrates beneath your fingertips as you tap the virtual keys, letting you know that you’ve made a successful key press. I’ve grown accustomed to mobile keyboards where you need to swap between the QWERTY keyboard and the number and symbol keyboard, and being able to access both at one time, using a Shift key like you would on a notebook, was really convenient.

One of the device’s “PC-like” capabilities is that you can open one of a handful of built-in apps like email, Internet, or a word processor as a resizable window onscreen, which sits atop whatever app you’re currently running. These can be minimized to a small onscreen icon when not in use, too. The idea behind this, letting you take notes while reading a passage or watching a video, is useful. But the implementation—three Minimize, Full Screen, and Close buttons in the upper-right corner of the window—begs for a mouse rather than touchscreen input. And when you resize the window, there’s a distinct lag between your press and drag and the window size following suit—followed by an even longer lag for the window’s onscreen content to catch up. Loading up a couple of these windows also bogs down performance slightly.

The spreadsheet and word processor apps also seem like direct copies of PC software, with interfaces that are almost identical to those found in Microsoft Office. For a pro, the app should offer the same functions you’d get on a full PC, but the interface needs to be appropriate for the input method. Tiny, multilevel drop down menus have no place on a tablet. Using the stylus instead of a finger does help, particularly in the spreadsheet app, since you can switch the keyboard from touch input to handwriting recognition. And the handwriting recognition from the S Pen is surprisingly accurate.

One thing the Galaxy Note Pro definitely has going for it? Battery life. With app-packed, multiple-hour per day use, this guy lasted three to four days before needing a recharge. If you were using it only one or two hours a day, I’d imagine it could last well over a week.

Like most every tablet, the Galaxy Note Pro has a rear-facing camera (an 8-megapixel shooter) with an LED flash. It also has a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chatting. If you plan on doing much shooting, I recommend switching on the Tap to take pics setting, because with the Note Pro’s size, sometimes it’s difficult to tap the shutter button without shaking the tablet.

The Galaxy Note Pro is a solid tablet, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its PC workhorse aspirations. It manages to retain a high level of portability despite its large 12.2-inch screen, and its performance, while not particularly remarkable, is still good by today’s standards. Plus, it has the might of the Android ecosystem behind it—something you can’t quite say for Windows 8 tablets and their app offerings. For someone looking to get things done on a slate, the Note Pro is a great option.

Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED
Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED

(Photo: Ariel Zambelich/WIRED)

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