Hands-on: Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro review

Samsung announced a new range of Android tablets at CES 2014 in Las Vegas dubbed the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro. The new tablets are geared toward Android users wanting something more like a laptop, allowing them to be a little more productive but sticking firmly to the tablet format.

The Tab Pro comes in three sizes: the largest is a 12.2-inch version, then there is a more traditional 10.1-inch version that is slightly larger than the Apple iPad Air, and a iPad mini challenger which looks like the LG G Pad and comes with a 8.4-inch display.

Additionally, Samsung announced the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2-inch which offers the same sort of spec loadout, but comes with the S Pen, just like other Galaxy Note models.

Design

The design of the Galaxy Tab Pro range is smart. It looks well built and feels it in the hand, with a faux leather back like the Galaxy Note 3 giving it a business-like feel. Coming in black or white, the Tab Pro is as sensible as its name: there's no garish colour options here.

Whether you like faux leather with stitching or not will determine what you think - you can't change it. The leather allows you to grip it better and makes it feel more serious but it's not going to be to everyone's liking. We've also found with extensive use of the Note 3 that the faux leather does get tatty after a while. It's something to bear in mind if your Galaxy Tab Pro is going to see daily use.

The finish sets the new models apart from the Galaxy Tab family, which we imagine will form a natural split in Samsung's normal and premium tablet lines.

On the back the faux leather is broken only by the rear facing camera, while the front sees a thicker than we were expecting black or white bezel around the screen, a physical home button at the bottom of the device and a front facing camera. The orientation changes for the smaller model, which is designed for portait use, while the larger devices are setup for landscape.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 measures 295.6 x 204 x 7.95mm and weighs 732g (Wi-Fi) or 740g (LTE). The Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 measures 243.1 x 171.4 x 7.3mm and weighs 469g (Wi-Fi) or 477g (4G LTE). The 8.4-inch model measures 128.5 x 219 x 7.2mm and weighs 331g (Wi-Fi) or 336g (4G LTE).

Strangely the 12.2-inch model doesn't feel as big as we were expecting, although we wouldn't recommend holding it one handed for too long. It feels more like a laptop screen than your average tablet.

The Galaxy Tab Pro models all offer a 16:10 aspect LCD display with a sharp 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution.

While all three have the same resolution, the smaller screen size has an effect on the pixel density and that means that the 8.4-inch version has the crisper display. That's not to say the 12.2-inch looks shabby: 247ppi versus 359ppi. To give you something to measure against, the iPad Air has a 264ppi and the iPad mini with Retina display 326 ppi.

It looks fantastic, with great colour and plenty of detail.

A new user interface

The big focus here is the screen and trying to get the most out of it. Understanding that, Samsung has created a new UI that we believe sits on top of TouchWiz and looks very much like the magazine app Flipboard.

Now, instead of a series of widgets and icons on the home screens (although you can have that still if you want), you get a tiled mosaic approach giving you far more information than ever before. These pages are much more tightly displayed and look to be inspired by Windows and its Tiles approach.

But the new interface also allows you to run up to four apps at any one time on the screen. That's perfect for multitasking and really starts to show why, if you are trying to look at a spreadsheet, as well as write an email, the Galaxy Tab Pro range might appeal, especially when it comes to the 12.2-inch model.

Selecting the four screens is as easy as clicking on a list of apps and then off you go.

Beyond the new top magazine style layer, the interface of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro is very similar to the Samsung Galaxy experience you've come to know and love, or hate, and SGS4 users will find themselves at home immediately.

Specs

Sitting at the heart is a 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset, offering 4G LTE connectivity, or a 3G version with a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa chipset. There's 3GB of RAM for the 12.2-inch model and 2GB for the 10.1 nad 8.4-inch version to keep things racing along.

Playing on the show stand at CES, all three models performed very well. Apps loaded quickly and switching through menus and apps was quick.

You get the choice of 32/64GB (12.2) or 16/32GB (10.1) of internal storage in addition to the microSD card slot supporting up to 64GB cards. You'll find an 8-megapixel camera around the back, partnered with a 2-megapixel on the front.

There's a 9500mAh battery in the 12.2, 8220mAh in the 10.1, and 4800mAh in the 8.4-inch model, all of which should provide plenty of life on the go.

All of the models ran Android 4.4 KitKat.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 vs Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

The only real difference between the two devices is that one comes with the S Pen and the other doesn't. The Note Pro doesn't come in 10.1 or 8.4-inch variants, but it features the same specs and same new user interface as the Tab Pro.

The S Pen, as elsewhere in the Note family, is responsive and easy to use and slips into the side of the casing when you aren't using it. If you take a lot of notes and find that it will be easier to do with a pen, then this is probably the one to go for. You'll also have the added advantage of those S Pen features, like S Note and AirCommand, should you opt for the Note Pro.

First impressions

Imagine taking your laptop screen away from the keyboard, fitting all the mechanics in behind the screen, and then having it powered by Android. That's really the premise here with the 12.2-inch Galaxy Tab Pro. It is the closest we've come from Samsung and Android to being a laptop replacement without some sort of hybrid arrangement.

Business users wanting to ditch Windows altogether may now have a viable alternative and that will certainly be appealing to many, especially with the great approach to multitasking that Samsung has employed here.

Our time on the stand was brief and crowded, but the Tab Pro and the Note Pro look good, especially if you need that larger screen to work up spreadsheets or get creative.

The only caveat to all this is going to be the price, and that's something Samsung has yet to disclose. We look forward to having a more conclusive play when we get the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro and Note Pro in for review.



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