- Plenty of power
- No keyboard dock
We review Samsung’s beefy 12-inch Galaxy Note 12.2, a beastly powerhouse tablet packing the S-Pen stylus
We’ve seen some massive tablets in our time, but this one’s big enough to choke Godzilla. Samsung’s meaty Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is a real beast, eclipsing earlier Galaxy Note tablets such as the freshly-released Note 10.1, and packing the usual S-Pen stylus for creative input.
But the question is, who is this 12-inch tablet aimed at? And can it justify the eye-watering £649 price tag, which pushes it up near the Surface Pro 2 and the top-end iPad Air?
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 design: Behemoth
The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 sports the same look and feel as the freshly-baked Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet, with a glossy front and leathery back. Considering the other dimensions, the 8mm thickness is pretty impressive, even if the Note Pro can’t match the same incredible slimness of the Sony Xperia Tablet Z.
Of course, it’s those other dimensions that really count here. At 296 x 204mm, this is a rucksack-filling beast that’s almost as boxy as a laptop, and it weighs nearly as much as an ultrabook. The 750g frame is even more cumbersome than the old iPad 4, making it tricky to hold one-handed while you clutch the S-Pen or simply flick your fingers across the screen. We had to hold it the same way a waiter holds a tray, laid out across our forearm, which was still less than comfortable after a short while.
There’s a touch of creaking and flex when you apply pressure to the tablet, but Samsung has made the Note Pro pretty damn solid. Fingerprints and grime aren’t picked up as easily, despite that glossy bezel surrounding the screen. We quite like the new soft-touch rear too, which is a welcome departure from the cheapy-feeling plastic backing of yester-year.
Ports-wise, the right edge is the busiest, with the charging port (a funky stretched USB 3.0 for fast data transfer that thankfully still takes old USB cables), S-Pen hole and microSD slot all neatly spaced out. Power and volume buttons are up top, along with an IR sensor for fiddling with your TV.
It’s a shame that the Note Pro 12.2 isn’t dockable, so if you find yourself bashing out reams of text on a regular basis, you’ll have to connect to a Bluetooth number. And somehow prop the tablet up. In which case, a laptop is definitely going to suit you better.
Compared to the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, the 12.2 is an absolute beast
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 screen: Sharp as a tack
So, does that 12.2-inch LCD screen make the extra bulk and weight worthwhile? Well, it’s certainly a brilliantly sharp display, packing a 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution. That sharpness is essential if you’re getting creative with the S-Pen and need some serious accuracy – artists and designers will really appreciate it. And if you’re always on the move, the panel’s bright enough to cut out any pesky glare.
Contrast levels are strong and colours are reproduced with a bit of extra pop, similar to Microsoft’s Surface tablets, to really bring your images to life. Viewing angles are truly fantastic, with no loss in quality as you tilt the screen, so it’s easy to share your designs, or simply a movie, with others around you.
The Note Pro 12.2’s dual speakers are wisely positioned at each side, near the top edge. We found they delivered a surprisingly strong stereo sound, and there’s no chance of you accidentally muffling the noise with your fingers.
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 performance: Octa-power
The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 doesn’t skimp on performance either. As well as a beefy 3GB of RAM, it’s one of the first tablets to rock two quad-core processors, working in tandem to produce ‘octa-core’ results – but what does that mean for your apps, games and media?
Well, flipping through Android’s menus is silky smooth, apps load up almost instantly, and we saw no stumbles when playing HD video or blasting through some of the biggest processor-caning games. That power really comes in handy when you’re multi-tasking, which we’ll touch on in the next section.
We didn’t expect all-day battery life with that huge screen and dual processors, but the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 does last a solid five hours when streaming video, and a bit longer if you’re keeping things light.
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 features: Portable productivity
Android 4.4 KitKat has once again been rendered unrecognisable with Samsung’s TouchWiz overlay, but the Korean company has been a little more restrained when it comes to clogging up everything with unnecessary features. You still get the Smart tools such as Smart stay and Smart pause, but these were turned off by default on our review model, which was fine by us. The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2’s desktops are colourful and customisable, as is the notifications tab, which allows you to set up your favourite tools and shortcuts.
Swipe right from your desktops and you’ll find the newsy-feedy-widgety page (official name ‘Magazine UX’), which combines your news and notifications into a Flipboard-style layout. You can select up to six customisable news widgets to stream the latest headlines, or, if you find all that news stuff depressing, you can select feeds from the likes of Twitter, Flickr and YouTube instead.
You can also add in widgets for your email and calendar, and if you run out of space, it’s possible to create extra pages. The news feeds are a little limited in that they’re static, only showing one headline at a time – an area where HTC’s BlinkFeed desktop is superior, with its scrollable list of news. Still, the flexibility of Samsung’s newsy-feedy-widgety page makes it a worthy inclusion, even if there’s no visible RSS support.
Multi-tasking is one of the Galaxy Note Pro’s strengths, thanks in part to that spacious screen and also the powerful processors. A swipe from the right edge of the screen brings up a selection of apps which can be opened in windows, and then dragged around and resized however you see fit. You can minimise or maximise them individually, or a tap of the home button minimises them all, leaving little circular icons behind for when you want to restore them. It’s a neat set-up that works really well on this touch-screen.
If you’re still pondering who the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is aimed at, the software that comes with it might give you a clue. The likes of Remote PC and e-Meeting make it easy for suits to keep in touch with colleagues and stay productive on the move, and you get a handful of apps such as Businessweek+ to chill with on down time.
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 camera: sharp and unwieldy
An 8-megapixel camera points out the back of the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, while a 2-megapixel lens is aimed at your mug. The front-facer captures a nice, sharp view of your face, ideal for online meetings, providing you haven’t just crawled out of bed – even Beauty Mode turned up to max only goes so far.
The 8-megapixel camera does a decent job in good lighting conditions, capturing sharp, detailed photos with realistically reproduced colours, although the auto mode does struggle with high contrast environments and dim conditions (the flash helps to clean things up when things get properly dark).
You get a fair few of the usual Samsung camera features thrown in, including Best photo, Panormama, Drama shot (stitches together several quick-fire photos into a montage) and Eraser (allows removal of photo bombers). You can also shoot Full HD 1080p video.
Of course, the question is, do you really want to wield a 12-inch tablet to take photos? Tablet photography in general isn’t particularly comfortable, and shooting scenes with the Note Pro 12.2 is bound to attract a few raised eyebrows in public.
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 verdict
Get past the cumbersome build, and the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is a powerful creative device that can handle several apps at once. If only the tablet came with a keyboard dock, perhaps offering extended battery life like Asus’ Transformer range, it’d be a truly formidable office tablet.
Bear in mind also that just a little extra cash bags you a 64GB cellular iPad Air (£659), or Microsoft Surface Pro 2 (£719). Hell, you aren’t even that far off a Macbook Air.