There’s a lot of talk about how we’re living in a post-PC era, where mobile devices like tablets and smartphones are taking over for traditional machines like desktop PCs and notebooks. Even so, many people still turn to their laptops for work-related tasks and content creation. Which raises the question: Can a tablet ever be a full-time replacement for a laptop?
That’s the goal of Samsung’s latest Android tablet, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. Designed with the business user in mind, the company built the device to address some of the shortcomings of today’s tablets as true productivity tools.
It offers a spacious 12.2-inch screen for a better viewing experience, and the extra screen real estate also helps when working in multiple applications at once, or when taking notes using the included S-Pen stylus. In addition, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 comes preloaded with numerous productivity apps and services, such as the Hancom Office suite and a remote PC client.
Overall, the Galaxy Note 12.2 is a very capable and full-featured Android tablet, but not one that I’d feel comfortable ditching my laptop for. Its multitasking abilities and selection of apps simply don’t compare to a full notebook experience, and it’s clumsy to handle.
There’s also the issue of price. At $750 for the 32 gigabyte Wi-Fi model, and $850 for the 64GB version, it’s one of the most expensive tablets on the market, and that doesn’t even include accessories like a cover, a stand, or a Bluetooth keyboard. (Verizon will also offer a 4G LTE version later this quarter, but pricing has yet to be announced.) Nowadays, you can get a Windows 8 laptop or convertible for less, so it’s hard to justify spending that much for the Galaxy Note Pro.
The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 has a design very similar to Samsung’s most recent mobile devices like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 2014 Edition. It has the textured faux-leather cover on back, which adds a nice touch and feels better than the slick, plastic cover found on older Samsung devices. Along the right edge of the tablet, you’ll find the S-Pen stylus and a microSD card expansion slot.
At 11.64 inches wide by 8.03 inches tall, .13 inches thick and 1.65 pounds, the Galaxy Note Pro is certainly a handful, and is best used only in landscape mode. I took the tablet with me on a work trip to Barcelona, and while it didn’t take up too much space in my backpack, it got tiresome to hold when I didn’t have it resting on my lap or on the airplane tray table. There is a book-cover accessory that allows you to prop the tablet at various angles, but you’ll have to shell out $70 for it.
The 12.2-inch, 2,560 by 1,600-pixel touchscreen is certainly one of the highlights of the Galaxy Note Pro. It shows sharp details and bright colors, and the extra-large size makes it great for watching videos and reading text. But if you happen to venture outside with the tablet, you’ll have a hard time reading the screen, as outdoor visibility is pretty poor.
The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of Google’s Android operating system. Like the smaller Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, which my colleague Walt Mossberg reviewed a couple of weeks ago, the tablet features Samsung’s new Magazine UX, which looks like a blend of Flipboard and Microsoft’s Metro user interface with its dynamic dashboard of news feeds and app shortcuts.
I found the screen layout attractive, and it was nice to see more information at a glance. But I preferred the standard Android interface because it offered more personalization and quicker access to more of my favorite apps.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to get rid of the Magazine UX entirely if you’re not a fan, although it’s no longer set as the primary home screen, which was the case when I first saw the tablet at CES. Samsung won’t officially comment on the issue, but this decision is most likely due to pressure from Google to scale back some of its proprietary apps and experiences.
As I mentioned earlier, Samsung has preloaded the tablet with a number of productivity apps and services to help make the Galaxy Note Pro more of a business-ready device. This includes a Korean-made mobile office suite called Hancom that offers similar capabilities to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
I used it to write numerous stories while I was covering the Mobile World Congress show last week, and didn’t find anything lacking in terms of functionality. But editing photos and video on the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 was a bit challenging without the apps and tools that I’m used to with my laptop. Also, while Samsung made improvements to its onscreen keyboard, it doesn’t compare to a physical keyboard. A Bluetooth keyboard is a worthy companion, but again, you’ll have to pay extra for it.
There’s a remote PC client that allows you to mirror and remotely control your PC or Mac. I tried it with my MacBook Air, and it worked fine. I was able to edit a Word document on my desktop from the tablet, and view all my incoming email. Occasionally, I ran into a bit of lag between what I was seeing on the tablet and what was on my laptop, but it wasn’t crippling.
Like Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Galaxy Note Pro supports a multi-window feature where you can work in multiple apps at once. The tablet increases the limit from two windows to four. This feature came in handy as I was trying to prep for a panel. I had my email open in one window, the Web browser open in another for research, and then used the third window to take notes in Samsung’s note-taking app.
I found that launching a fourth app was a bit too much, since it limits what you can see in each window pane. Typically, I have at least half a dozen apps open on my laptop, and I missed being able to move freely between them. Also, only certain apps work with the multi-window feature on the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.
The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 uses Samsung’s latest processor and, generally, performance was smooth. The tablet did become slightly sluggish when working in multiple apps. Battery life was solid. Though I didn’t do a formal battery test, the tablet lasted more than a day with moderate to heavy usage before needing to recharge.
Despite the productivity features and extra-large screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 can’t match the power of a laptop, and with its sky-high price tag, it’s hard to recommend even as a standalone tablet. You’re better off investing your money in one of the many affordable Windows 8 devices, or going for a less-clumsy tablet like the iPad Air or even the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition.