Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 review: Excellent tablet, but no notebook replacement

Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 review: Excellent tablet, but no notebook replacement

Summary: Compelling though the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is, the asking price will buy you a well-appointed notebook that offers more capability for the average mobile professional.

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  • Editors' rating:
    8.0
  • User rating:
    6.1
  • RRP:
    £541.00

Pros

  • Excellent pen-based features
  • Large screen that's easy to work with
  • Good battery life
  • Robust build

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not a complete notebook replacement
  • Slow to charge battery
  • Relatively heavy

Tablets are increasingly popular in the workplace, and there's a huge prize waiting for the manufacturer that comes up with a device that can entirely replace your workaday notebook. That prize isn't won by Samsung with its Android-based Galaxy NotePRO 12.2, but with its business-focussed tweaks and pen input this tablet delivers a compelling glimpse of a future that could be built around tablet-based working.

samsung-gnp-12-main
Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2: a 12.2-inch tablet running Android 4.4 (KitKat). Image: Samsung

Design

The Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is one large tablet, sporting a 12.2-inch screen (the clue is in the name). When you add in the screen bezel, this device has a footprint not dissimilar to that of an average ultrabook. But this is no notebook: it's thin and, although heavy for a tablet, considerably lighter than any any 12-inch laptop, measuring 204mm by 295.6mm by 7.95mm and weighing 750g.

samsung-gnp-12-front

Two points stand out from these measurements. One is that the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is remarkably thin. Apple's 9.7-inch iPad Air, a key comparator for the NotePRO 12.2, has a smaller footprint and is much lighter at 478g, but is only a shade thinner at 7.5mm.

samsung-gnp-12-sides

The other notable point is that 750g is a lot of weight to hold — a tablet of this size would need to be cradled in the crook of an arm rather than held in one hand. The alternative use case, of course, is to use it on desk, in a dock of some sort — although none is supplied by Samsung.

Samsung has maintained its design convention of a physical home button and two softkeys. These are located beneath the screen, when held in landscape orientation. Unlike with smaller 7-inch or 8-inch tablets, you have absolutely no chance of getting to these with one-handed use.

The same goes for the power and volume buttons, which sit on the top edge: we can manage these on our Nexus 7 one-handed, but it's out of the question here. What all this boils down to is a tablet whose usage modes will be very different from the norm.

Like other Galaxy Notes, the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 has an S Pen stylus. Samsung does stylus-based input better than any competitor, and at this screen size the stylus is more usable than on any previous Note device. It's a good way to interact with a screen that is, after all, only slightly smaller than an A4 sheet of paper.

samsung-gnp-12-keyboard
An on-screen keyboard like no other. Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The on-screen keyboard is also streets ahead of anything we've previously used on a tablet. The extra width provided by the 12.2-inch screen in landscape mode allowed us to touch type with perfect accuracy and relatively high speed. The separate number row and traditional layout with Caps Lock, Shift, Tab and so on all in place is a real advantage. Things are a little more squeezed in portrait mode of course.

The 2,560-by-1,600-pixel display is superb. It doesn't quite match the iPad Air in either pixel density (247ppi versus 264ppi) or clarity, but is impressive nonetheless. Text rendering is stunningly bright, clear and sharp — it's much better for everyday document reading, editing and creation than many tablets we've used. The screen uses TFT LCD rather than AMOLED technology, and that's a wise choice: the flatter appearance of LCD suits this screen well. Viewing angles are excellent, too.

samsung-gnp-12-back
The NotePRO 12.2 has an easy-grip plastic back, with a faux-leather look complete with fake stitching. Image: Samsung

Samsung has been criticised for building even its high-end tablets with shiny plastic backs. The back of the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is still made of plastic, but, like the Galaxy Note 3, it has a faux leather look and a rubberised finish that's more grippy than glossy plastic. It picks up finger grease too readily for our liking and has risible fake stitching around the edges.

Overall, though, the build quality is very respectable. The Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 feels tough enough for life on the move.

Features

Samsung has given the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 some state-of-the-art specifications, notably a 1.9GHz Samsung Exynos 5 Octa processor supported by 3GB of RAM. That's eight cores working away to keep the device speeding along, and they deliver impressive performance. There's an LTE version of this tablet, which runs on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC instead.

Wi-Fi support includes the latest dual-band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11ac, which is still something of a rarity on tablets. There's a Micro-USB connector that supports MHL, so you can send the screen's contents to any HDMI-compliant monitor. Samsung has opted for Micro-USB 3.0, which caters for fast data transfer but has a longer connector than usual. You can charge the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 via a standard Micro-USB cable too — charge times are slow through the Micro-USB 3.0 cable and very slow via standard Micro-USB.

A MicroSD card slot, protected by a covered flap, can be used to augment the 32GB of internal storage, of which 25.6GB is free. There are two cameras — 8 megapixels on the back, 2 megapixels on the front — plus an infrared port on the top edge.

The Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 lends itself well to delivering presentations to groups thanks to its large screen. However, sound quality through the stereo speakers is disappointing, with way too much treble and not enough bass. There's nothing wrong with volume, which goes loud enough to satisfy a group in a typical-size meeting room.

The Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is among a relatively small group of devices to run Android 4.4 (KitKat). As is Samsung's way, Android has been seriously tweaked using the TouchWiz interface. There's something of a Windows 8 look to some parts of the UI. Samsung's stock motion- and gesture-based features such as covering the screen with your palm to mute sound are here. There are also Smartscreen features such as Smart Stay — keeping the screen on while you're looking at it regardless of the timeout settings.

Visual and user interface tweaks include a pair of home screens that can contain news feeds, diary information, app shortcuts and more. The concept is not unlike HTC's BlinkFeed and, irritatingly, just like BlinkFeed, you can't disable it. The closest you can get is to remove all components bar one.

samsung-gnp-12-modes
Samsung's pull-down notification panel can be customised by tapping the pencil icon. Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

The Home Screen has been redesigned slightly to make it more ergonomic to use. You can find the apps tray and Google Search via tappable icons at the bottom of the home screen. The pull-down notification panel has been tweaked. Our screenshot shows the toggle buttons that can be easily customised by tapping the pencil icon. Beneath these are displayed your standard messaging notifications.

Multitasking capability has been augmented: previous devices allow you to run two apps at once, but the NotePRO 12.2's bigger screen area allows Samsung to double that to four. You can vary the relative sizes of each screen quadrant, and a mini-menu can be called up that allows you to perform various actions on the views. Not all apps can be viewed in Multi Window mode, but the ability to view a website and make notes on it, or compose an email while looking at the document to which it relates, for example, can be very useful.

The S Pen stylus that's characteristic of the Note range lives in a slot on the chassis, and it remains the best implementation of stylus-based input on any tablet.

samsung-gnp-12-map
The NotePRO 12.2 is a particularly stylus-friendly tablet. Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

When you take the stylus out of its housing, the Air Command menu pops up providing access to key features. You can take screen grabs, write notes, draw an area on-screen and open one of several quick-access apps into it (the calculator is very useful), and fire up Action Memo for taking quick notes. If you're using the keyboard to type text, a text entry button lets you switch to the stylus for handwriting recognition or drawing. There are also some stylus-friendly apps on-board, and plenty more you can download. We found the handwriting recognition to be very accurate.

Of direct benefit to business users will be the KNOX security application and Samsung's eMeeting app, which allows you to connect with other people and whiteboard.

The large screen and powerful processor take their toll on the NotePRO's 9,500mAH battery, which Samsung rates as good for 13 hours of internet usage. We generally got a working day's-worth of mainstream usage, but if you add some video viewing on the commute or heavy gaming sessions, you'll clearly drain the battery quicker than when simply web browsing, doing email and working with documents. Beware of the slow charge times we mentioned earlier.

Conclusion

At the start of this review we said the Samsung Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 offers a glimpse of a future where tablet-based working is the norm. It's certainly the closest we've seen to a tablet that could see us through a working day without recourse to a notebook. But there's still a way to go.

For a start, there's clearly a lot less storage capacity here than you would find on a notebook. For some people this, and the absence of on-board Ethernet and a dedicated docking station, will be a deal-breaker. A full-sized USB port would be appreciated, making it easy to use sticks and even external hard drives if necessary. Samsung could also have provided a secondary Home button on one of the edges to allow for more flexible use. And the speakers definitely need attention.

The bottom line is that, compelling though the Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 is, £649 (inc. VAT; £541 ex. VAT) will buy you a well-appointed notebook that offers more capability for the average mobile professional.

Specifications

General
Dimensions (W x H x D) 295.6x7.95x204 mm
Weight 750 g
OS & software
Software included Android 4.4 (KitKat), plus TouchWiz
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.9 GHz
Processor model Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5420
RAM 3072 MB
Storage
Internal 32000 MB
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 12.2 in
Native resolution 1600x2560 pixels
Connections
Docking cradle No
Ports Micro-USB 3.0
Slots MicroSD
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac
Short range Bluetooth 4.0
GPS technology
GPS receiver yes, with GLONASS support
Input devices
Navigation button/wheel Yes
Stylus Yes
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 8 megapixels
Power
Battery type Li-ion
Removable battery No
Battery capacity 9500 mAh
Claimed battery life 13 h
Number of batteries 1
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 541

Topics: Tablets, Android, Mobility, Reviews, Samsung

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Talkback

26 comments
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  • If it cant replace a Notebook

    9.0

    If it cant replace a Notebook, price is too much though the specs/price matches.
    Mac_Win
  • That's a lot of money for a device that will get only 2 years of support

    It makes the Microsoft Surface Pro look like a bargain, by comparison.
    Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Windows need more years of support because it suck

      Many people still using an Android phone with 2.X, most of them don't feel the need to upgrade to 4.X (even when upgrade is available on their Samsung phone).

      Only Geek really care about update. Most people rarely feel the different.
      Rockchan
      • Still on 2.x?????

        1.0

        If they are still on 2.x and do not feel the need to upgrade, then they are....

        a) dead
        b) stupid
        c) have never seen 4.x
        d) pathetically lame

        I am on 4.2.1 and I want an upgrade.
        AudeKhatru
      • A tablet that can do everything

        You think that a tablet that can do anything that a computing device can do "sucks"? I mean what tablet OS do you think doesn't suck, that would be interesting to hear. iOS? Android? WebOS? What? If its apps, the Metro app store is growing every day. Full touch enable browser with full Java and flash? Does that make it suck?

        Then there is Microsoft's, dare I say legendary, support for their OSs. Somehow you try to turn this into a negative?
        Rann Xeroxx
    • Samsung

      2.0

      Don't believe that they will guarantee it I just bought. Samsung galaxy s2 totally refurbished battery screws up boost won't replace it under 30days old and Samsung refuses they will sell. Me a new battery and I'd have to pay high shipping both ways too guarantee is worthless
      Carl Pinson
      • ???

        1.0

        Please rewrite, properly punctuated, so that we can understand wtf you're saying. Thanks.
        hackerish
  • Bahahaha

    1.0

    Only fools will buy this. Cheap android tablets is understandable, because they are mere toys... but for this cost, buying a Surface or Win 8.1 tablet is a no-brainer
    Owl:Net
    • It's not just the upfront cost for the device

      Microsoft Surface Pro tablets get over four (4) years of support from Microsoft:

      http://support.microsoft.com/lifecycle/search/default.aspx?sort=PN&alpha=surface+pro&gadate=0&msdate=0&esdate=0&medate=0&spdate=0&Filter=FilterNO

      Better than Samsung Galaxy tablets, but still too short for the money.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
    • Buy a tablet that has very few app is idiot

      Unless we need to use Windows software, only idiot buy a surface pro and hope it can be used as an Android tablet or iPad. Bluestack may help buy why we need to go through the trouble of converting surface pro into an Android tablet?

      I may understand why people buy a MacBook Pro and install Windows inside, but what is the reason for this time? (If we only use Android app anyway).
      Rockchan
    • Samsung tablet

      4.0

      I recently bought Samsung galaxy s2 refurbished was told it is the best thing ever for once I'd like something to do what they say 18hour battery Bull it last 6if you don't use it so claiming means nothing actual doing would be something unheard of in this day of deceiving others for a dollar
      Carl Pinson
  • It's the perfect tablet for some

    10.0

    Perfect size for professional musicians to display sheet music and using either hand wave gesture to turn page (already implemented) or bluetooth footswitch or maybe even sideways head tilt gesturing similar to the gesture scrolling.
    Editing sheet music and annotating with s-pen is awesome compared to capacitive only tablets.
    Surely, the size would be preferable for many other application over a 10" tablet as well.
    The windowing features are genius and like other Galaxy Note devices, mods to enable multiwindowing with any app will certainly be available.
    As for notebook replacement, I would say it is more notebook than a notebook laptop which is a misnomer to begin with - not being notebook in size or weight or having any pen input. This is the closest thing to replacing an actual fullsize paper notebook in dimension and functionality. The mistake is assuming you are replacing a laptop rather than a paper notebook which is the purpose of the Galaxy Note range.
    The only other thing I would have liked to see in a professional tablet is removable batteries. The option of externally charging a spare would overcome the slow charging problem of a massive capacity battery and make 100% portable duty cycle possible.
    warboat
    • Try a Surface Pro.

      .
      Owl:Net
      • Surface Pro is a crap without apps

        There are too few touch optimised apps for Windows 8 at the moment. Bluestack? If we buy a surface pro then use it as an Android tablet all the time, why don't we buy an Android tablet directly?
        Rockchan
      • 10" Surface Pro is not big enough screen

        10.0

        I went from a Surface Pro to a Samsung Ativ 700t and even with the 11.6" screen is not quite enough for music scores.
        It also has the same problem as the Surface Pro, a fan that makes a whirring noise which is no good during quiet passages of playing music.
        Tha Note 12.2 is silent all the time. It also weighs a lot less and has a massive screen compared to the Surface Pro which is the main advantage of the Samsung Note 12.2
        If running windows was important, Asus offers larger 13" screen transformer tablets that is better suited for applications like music scores.
        10" tablets gets a bit restrictive for certain uses and thats where this note 12.2 becomes perfect.
        warboat
        • tablet

          4.0

          If comparing tablets I rreceived Acer Ad for a super nice iconia for $199.00 how are these companies charging up to thousands of bucks for tablets you can get for $200?
          Carl Pinson
        • Is it the answer for musicians?

          10.0

          I got very excited about your posts!! They are spot on!! And probably the only person addressing the musicians point of view on the Internet that I could find!!
          I am a musician and I was wondering whether I should get the Note Pro Pro 12, so I went and looked at dozens of reviews of the Note Pro 12 and nobody bothered nor came up with the idea of addressing this. Almost everything on it out there is about pointing out that it is recommended to be used in landscape mode and it's weight and wether you can do office documents and bla, bla, bla,....
          I just sold my iPad 3 because I found that the screen was to small to comfortably read pdf music scores from it. As a musician I also needed to turn the pages more efficiently and if the Note Pro 12 has that feature just like the Galaxy s4 had, that is awesome. Also, on the iPad the pages took sometime to load and when you perform you just don't have that kind of time. Then, the other thing, just like you suggested in one of your posts, the stylus concept on the Note Pro line up might come in handy. Is it the answer to the musician's need to work with the music score, edit it with remarks or fingerings. Nothing proper has been implemented yet, that I know of (certainly not on the iPad, maybe on the Asus you mentioned?). That is why we still need pencil and the actual printed music. I was wondering if you have first hand experience with it and if so, if it works well with the stylus, i.e. can annotate, put fingerings on the music just as if you were using a pencil and a printed copy of the music? In regards to that I saw a review on the Surface Pro 2 and how good it can be for sketching and cartoonists, etc. but the only problem with it for me, again, is the screen size.
          So again, congrats for such insightful remarks! and I would definitely love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this!
          pochombo
          • A musician's dream

            10.0

            I've noticed several musicians writing about this Samsung 12.2" tablet. As soon as I get the cash I intend buying one of these tablets.

            I'm a semi-professional musician. This tablet with two pieces of software would be essential. These pieces of software are Mobilesheets and EZ PDF Reader. Both of these have extensive display and editing functions (Including capacitative pen input) that work fine when you have a bluetooth page turner installed. I use my tablet vertically, and enlarge the music to fill the page. With this setup sitting on my keyboard I never carry sheet music, never need to turn the page by hand, can edit music at will (Playing with a band this is essential). You never have pages blowing around.

            As I said, I will be getting the Samsung 12.2 as son as I can.
            Robert Christopulos
    • External batteries are the solution

      7.0

      If the internal battery capacity or charging rate is a problem, external batteries which have a USB connector are readily available - probably as a result of Apple's non-removable battery policy. One of these batteries can be used and maybe more than one if needed. I'd love one of these tablets but the price is too high. I'm going to have to settle for the 10 inch one instead.
      JohnOfStony
    • portable art studio

      8.0

      This size and pen capability make it very attractive for graphic artists. I have a Note 10.1 that is used mainly for keeping a hand-written journal (Papyrus app) and for drawing and painting with various apps, but Sketchbook Pro is my favorite. Wacom makes a more sensitive and stylish pen for it that works great.

      I'll wait a generation or two, however, to get a 12.2. It will only get better, and I'm still finding the 10.1 very useable.
      bradson