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Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Review

Highs

  • Good size for S Pen use and multitasking
  • Reasonably thin and light for size
  • Bright, high-res screen
  • Great speakers
  • MicroSD support
  • Good battery life

Rating

Our Score 7
User Score 8

Lows

  • Occasional performance stuttering
  • Screen isn’t IPS or OLED
  • $700-$750 price tag is high
  • Difficult to move around with due to size
The Galaxy Note 12.2 is big and expensive, but if you like to write or draw, it’s the best tablet out there.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way up front: Samsung’s Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is a big tablet. Like 6-inch phones and Costco-sized cases of toilet paper, it’s an easy target for jokes, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. And with a starting MSRP of $750 (available for $700 if you shop around), it’s not likely to make it to the average user’s tablet-shopping short list.

But its roomy 12.2-inch, high-res screen makes for a much different user experience than even the slightly smaller Note 10.1 214 edition — which is essentially the same device in a smaller package with a lower price.

There’s no getting around the fact that the Note Pro 12.2’s size makes it less suited to some typical tablet tasks, like reading or gaming on the go, than smaller devices. And while it’s reasonably thin (0.31 inches) and light (1.65 pounds) for its size, it’s heavy to use for long periods when standing or when reading in bed at night.

The Galaxy Note 12.2 is big and expensive, but if you like to write or draw, it’s the best tablet out there.

But the real high point for the Note Pro 12.2 is how well the extra screen real estate makes the company’s Note features shine (and feel useful). There’s finally enough room to comfortably write with the S Pen, and there’s enough screen space to use the multitasking Multi Window Mode (with four or more apps on the screen at once) without feeling like you need a microscope to interact with everything on the screen.

But even if you’re fine with the tablet’s large size and are excited to use the S Pen to take notes in the boardroom or classroom, the Note Pro 12.2 does have a few annoying flaws and shortcomings. The screen, while bright, is also very reflective, and it isn’t an IPS panel, so there is some contrast and detail lost at extreme angles — which is disappointing for a device this pricey.

And while the tablet has reasonably powerful internals and the latest version of Android (Kit-Kat), it’s not free from the occasional slowdown — particularly when multitasking. And again, since multitasking and productivity are what this tablet is built for (hence the “Pro” in the name), the fact that it can’t do so without stuttering is disappointing.

Just another Note

The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 has so much in common with the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, both in looks and features, that the devices are very nearly the same aside from the size difference. In terms of aesthetics and ports, the Note Pro 12.2 has the same plastic faux-leather back as it predecessor, which looks and feels better than it sounds, but is still plastic. There’s an IR blaster for controlling your TV on the top edge (in landscape orientation), as well as power and volume buttons.

Dual speakers are housed on the right and left edges, near the top, and produce a good amount of volume that’s generally free of distortion, even cranked to the max. The right edge houses a MicroSD card slot behind a door, and a USB 3.0 port for connectivity and charging. We also charged the tablet from a couple USB 2.0 wall chargers made for recent phones and tablets, so you likely won’t be stuck always using the included USB 3.0 charger and cable.

Overall, the Note Pro 12.2 feels good enough, but not great for a high-priced professional tablet. Samsung remains unwavering in their love affair with plastic, and it undoubtedly makes for lighter devices that stand up well to drops (and likely keeps profit margins higher). But after spending a few minutes with the mostly metal HTC One M8, it’s hard not to wish Samsung would change its plastic-loving ways, at least in its higher-end devices.

Pixel-packed, but still PenTile

The Note Pro 12.2’s screen initially looks great, with the same 2,560 x 1,600 pixel resolution as the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. The screen also out-pixels the iPad’s 2,048 x 1,536 Retina display — on paper, at least. Both tablets have a different kind of screen, though. The iPad uses an IPS screen, but the Note Pro 12.2 (like the Note 10.1) has a PenTile display. PenTile displays mix in clear subpixels in with the typical red, blue, and green, to allow for a brighter display and lower power consumption than traditional LCDs.

Samsung Galaxy 12.2 front buttonThose who follow screen technologies closely will know that PenTile displays can result in tiny text that’s a bit fuzzier than with other screen types. But, perhaps because of the high resolution, we don’t see that issue here. Text looked crisp and clear at point sizes as tiny as we were comfortable reading. But the screen is also very reflective, making it tough to use outdoors on a sunny day (even with the brightness cranked), and while viewing angles are good, we did notice some contrast, brightness, and detail drop off at extreme angles. The Note Pro 12.2’s screen looks very good, especially without a good IPS panel to compare it to side-by-side, but we wouldn’t say it’s great — especially for a high-end tablet in 2014.

Feature overload, but room to breathe

Again, the Note Pro 12.2 shares pretty much all of the extensive features of the Note Pro 10.1. So if you’d like to read about them in detail, don’t hesitate to check that review. Here, we’re going to breeze through the basics, and focus on what the Note Pro 12.2 adds.

The primary distinguishing feature of all Note devices is the S Pen. It’s housed in a slot in the upper-right corner (in landscape orientation). Pull it out, and the tablet’s screen switches on automatically and the Air Command menu pops up in the screen’s lower-right corner. Air Command offers icons for several S Pen tasks.

Air Command Menu features:

  • Action Memo lets you jot down quick notes.
  • Scrap Booker lets you cut out content and place it in a Pinterest-like app.
  • Screen Write lets you annotate screenshots.
  • Pen Window lets you open some apps in a movable window that hovers on the screen.

There’s also Samsung’s S Note note-taking app, and Evernote comes pre-installed as well.

If you like handwriting, the Note Pro 12.2 is worth the extra expense and bulk.

The S Pen features aren’t really new here, but the tablet’s larger screen makes a big difference when it comes to actually using them. The screen is almost as large as (though narrower than) a standard 8.5×11 piece of paper. Taking notes with the S Pen feels more comfortable, less cramped, and much more natural than trying to write on the 10-inch screen of the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. If you’re determined to buy a tablet for taking lots of handwritten notes, the Note Pro 12.2 is definitely worth the extra expense and bulk.

One of the Note line’s other differentiating features also benefits greatly from more screen area. Multi Window Mode lets you launch multiple apps and drag them around until there are up to four on the screen. You can even open more apps in floating windows above everything else. On smaller screens, this usually results in a cramped experience with either tiny text or poorly-rendered interfaces (or both). Here though, there’s enough room for at least a few apps to live comfortably on the screen at once — and they’re large enough that you can use them without breaking out a jeweler’s loupe.

That being said, when we had three or more apps open in Multi Window Mode, performance started to feel sluggish; scrolling and moving apps around became choppy. Apps becoming unresponsive or unusable isn’t a new phenomenon, but given that this is a premium-priced tablet with fairly high-end specs, it’s frustrating.

Also, you can’t open all apps in Multi Window Mode. You only have that option with mostly Google and Samsung’s apps, as well as the included (and fairly feature-rich) Hancom Office suite (a Microsoft Office clone). So don’t expect to be able to, say, play a game while you participate in a work chat at the same time.

If you swipe to the left of the home screen, you’ll also be greeted by Samsung’s Magazine UX — essentially a mix of Flipboard and tiled, Windows 8-like widgets that lets you, among other things, read news in an attractive magazine format. It’s nice enough, but if you don’t like it, you’ll still have to live with it on one of your home screens, because there’s currently no way to turn it off, at least without rooting the device.

All kinds of extras

The Note Pro 12.2 also comes with some interesting apps and extras. Aside from the previously mentioned Hancom Office suite and the requisite Google and Samsung apps, the tablet also ships with a Remote PC app, which gives you remote access to your PC or Mac. After creating an account and installing some software on your PC or Mac, you can see and control your desktop and perform basic tasks (provided you have a solid and speedy Wi-Fi connection). Frustratingly, though, the service doesn’t support Google’s Chrome browser, so you’ll have to stick to Safari, IE, or Firefox. And this ability isn’t unique to the tablet or Samsung; there are several remote desktop apps (both free and paid) available in the Google Play Store that will let you do the same thing with any tablet or smartphone.

Also, depending on where you live and when you buy the tablet, Samsung is offering a bunch of software and service perks with a purchase of the Note 12.2. In the United States, as of this writing, Samsung promises a $25 Google Play credit, three months of Hulu Plus and Sirius XM, three free Audible books, 50GB of Dropbox storage, a year of Gogo in-flight Internet access, and six months of WebEx. They’ll also throw in a year of Evernote Premium and BusinessWeek digital, plus 12 weeks of New York Times Web access and tablet app service. Note, though, that most of these freebies require you to be a new customer. You can find a full list and details here, and remember that offers vary by region and often end without much notice.

That’s a lot of stuff, all of which certainly won’t appeal to everyone.  But if a few of those services strike your fancy (the year of Gogo sounds great to us), or you were going to pay for them anyway, the offers could make the Note Pro 12.2 at least feel more affordable than its $700 starting price. At the very least, it’s something you can spout to your spouse or partner when they ask how much you just spent on that huge tablet.

Reasonably Powerful on paper

The Wi-Fi model of the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 we tested has a robust 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, and runs on a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa-core (that’s 8 cores) chip. Note, though, that if you opt for model with LTE, which is currently available from Verizon (for a stonking $850 off contract), that version instead has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip.

In the Quadrant benchmark, the Note Pro 12.2 scored 15,477, landing just behind the Note 10.1 2014 Edition’s score of 15,923. We don’t put much stock in Android benchmarks, but that pegs the tablet at “pretty good,” though not the best performance. By comparison, HTC’s brand-new One M8 smartphone, which has 2GB of RAM, but a newer Snapdragon 801 chip, scored 22,703 in Quadrant.

When we had three or more apps open, things got sluggish and scrolling became choppy.

In real-world use, the Note Pro 12.2 usually felt reasonably snappy, but not lightning-quick. As we noted earlier, we did notice some occasional lag and performance stuttering when using the device — especially when multitasking.

The games and apps we threw at the tablet ran well on their own, but the Note 12.2 isn’t a great gaming option for another reason. Games certainly look good on the large screen, but the screen is so wide that our thumbs couldn’t easily reach every part of the screen while holding the device, which forced us to drop the tablet on a table or our lap to properly play some games. That will be an issue for some apps, as well as typing — at least in landscape orientation. We found it much easier to do our thumb typing while holding the device in portrait orientation.

Because of the large screen and all the multitasking features, we keep wishing the larger Note tablets had some sort of kickstand (like Microsoft’s Surface devices) to prop itself up. You can buy a case or stand of course, but that’s an extra expense and fuss. And doing lots of tapping and swiping with the tablet flat on a desk gets uncomfortable after a while.

An okay camera that’s awkward to use

Samsung didn’t bother throwing a class-leading set of cameras in the Note Pro 12.2. There’s a 2-megapixel shooter up front and an 8-megapixel camera around back with an LED flash. That’s a far cry from the 20-megapixel sensor in Sony’s Z1S or the Galaxy S5’s 16-megapixel shooter.

The bigger the device, the harder it is to hold steady and take great pictures — and the stranger you look when taking them. The shots we did take with the Note Pro 12.2 look pretty good for an 8-megapixel sensor. Colors were muted, but not overly grainy, even in slightly low light. The Note Pro 12.2’s camera should suffice for getting a shot of the whiteboard or smartboard, or other productivity related tasks. But if you’re snapping outdoor shots, you should probably stick to using for phone or a dedicated camera.

Battery Life

Big screens with lots of pixels are always battery sappers, and the Note Pro 12.2 has the most pixels and the biggest mobile screen (at least since Toshiba’s 13-inch Excite from 2012. Samsung knows this, which is why it dropped a massive 9500mAh battery in the tablet, up from the 8,220mAh battery in the Note 10.1 2014 Edition.

With that bigger battery, the Note Pro 12.2’s battery life is pretty good. After 13 hours of medium-to heavy use, downloading and installing apps, running benchmarks, checking Facebook, doing some gaming and watching some YouTube clips (with plenty of time in-between when the screen was off), our review unit still showed 30 percent battery life. Samsung claims up to 13 hours of Internet use, which doesn’t seem too far off — especially with the screen at moderate brightness settings.

If you use the tablet a lot for gaming or video, you’ll probably have to charge it every day. Moderate to light users can probably go two or more days between charges.

Conclusion

Yes, the Note Pro 12.2 is big and expensive. It currently costs about $200 more than the smaller, though otherwise very similar Note 10.1 2014 edition. Are the couple of inches worth paying that much for? You certainly don’t have to if you don’t want to. Samsung offers the Note line in 5.7, 8.0, 10.1, and 12.2-inch screen sizes. And there’s the Galaxy Tab line, also in several sizes, if you don’t need the S Pen. So there’s little reason knock the Note Pro 12.2 too much for its large size or expansive feature set.

But for those who want to take handwritten notes comfortably, open multiple apps on the screen at the same time, and are willing to pay extra for those abilities, the Note Pro 12.2 is a good choice, though it won’t always run smoothly.

This is far the best showcase we’ve seen yet for Samsung’s S Pen features, making some that seemed silly on the Note 3’s screen, like Multi Window Mode, seem like features use fairly regularly.

We do not recommend this tablet for those who travel a lot and like to use their tablet on the go. It’s too big and unwieldy, and its screen size makes it not the best for games, either. For those tasks, and for reading in bed, we’d say just get a smaller tablet like the Nexus 7 or Dell’s Venue 8. After all, if you can afford to spend $700 on a professional tablet, you can probably spare a couple hundred extra for a device that’s better suited to entertainment.

Highs

  • Good size for S Pen use and multitasking
  • Reasonably thin and light for size
  • Bright, high-res screen
  • Great speakers
  • MicroSD support
  • Good battery life

Lows

  • Occasional performance stuttering
  • Screen isn’t IPS or OLED
  • $700-$750 price tag is high
  • Difficult to move around with due to size

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