Samsung Galaxy TabPro 10.1 review

Samsung is certainly no stranger to tablets. But you might be left scratching your head and wondering what's what given how many model numbers and sizes are available throughout its ranges.

Enter the Samsung Galaxy TabPro 10.1, the 10.1-inch Android tablet that's more powerful than the company's standard Tab range, but doesn't come with an included S Pen stylus as found in the Note and NotePro ranges.

That's a lot of "Tabs" and "Notes" to battle through, we know, but rest assured the TabPro 10.1 is in good company. We've seen the smaller 8.4-inch version of this product which we thought was fantastic, in addition to the larger 12.2-inch NotePro model which we also though was excellent, if not just a touch too large for most users. 

Does the Samsung Galaxy TabPro 10.1 strike up the perfect balance of size and power that will appeal to the majority of users? And is it worthy of its "Pro" namesake and not inconsiderable price tag?

Skip out on a Tab

Right across the 2014 range, Samsung has opted for a new faux leather finish (complete with fake stitching) to the rear of its devices. You might love it, you might loathe it, you might be indifferent. Our stance: we're not big fans, but as it's on the rear of the device it's not something that you notice so often that you want to punch holes in walls.

In the white finish model we have in for review, this subtly textured rear isn't too outlandish. The TabPro looks like an upscaled Samsung Galaxy Note 3 smartphone, really. But in a £449 device we would like something better; something more luxury. Particularly as the rest of the tablet is well made, from the single metallic edging through to the single sheet of glass covering the screen and white bezel to the front.

READ: Samsung Galaxy Note 3 review

From a user's perspective everything looks neat and tidy and falls naturally into place when in use. The inclusion of a physical home key isn't something many manufacturers opt for these days, but as it resides in the bezel perimeter it saves this and its neighbouring duo of Android soft keys from getting in the way of the display itself.

Having recently held the TabPro 8.4 and NotePro 12.2 we find the TabPro 10.1 to be the most fitting of them all. Holding with one hand while using the other to browse the web it feels the perfect companion; there's not too much or too little bezel, for example, and the scale makes it the perfect companion when slouched on the sofa.

At just 7.3mm thick it's a slender device, too, and the 469g weight sees it undercut the smaller-screen iPad Air by a few grams. Unlike the iPad, Samsung doesn't offer a 3G/4G model of the TabPro 10.1 in the UK. It's Wi-Fi all the way here.

Sensational screen

Where the TabPro 10.1 is a clear winner is its high-res screen. The 2560 x 1600 pixel resolution panel means loads of detail and, we think, makes more sense in a 10.1-inch device than anything smaller.

There are a lot of pixels at play here, so sometimes things can be small to easily target by touch, yet the 299 pixel-per-inch density isn't as dense as the 368ppi of the 8.4-inch model. We prefer that though. This greater-than-Full-HD display is spectacular and certainly gives the iPad Air something to chew on.

READ: Apple iPad Air review

We’ve enjoyed playing back HD movies - they don't even need to fill the screen if you want to get on with something else on the side - via the Android Beta of VLC player. Clarity is the word.

Fingerprint marks are an inevitability, but the TabPro is in the same boat as pretty much any tablet in this department. We found it bright enough to tackle such temporary impinges, although auto brightness was sometimes a touch slow in catching up with surrounding ambient lighting conditions.

Pro power

Under the skin the TabPro 10.1 has different hardware than its quad core Qualcomm-sporting 8.4-inch little brother. Instead it follows in the footsteps of the 12.2 NotePro: there's a 1.9GHz quad core and 1.3GHz quad core arrangement, the components of Samsung's Exynos octa core setup.

READ: Samsung Galaxy NotePro 12.2 review

There will be some performance difference between the models, but nothing that you'll really feel in use. Because, put simply, the TabPro 10.1 is beautifully swift with whatever you happen to throw at it. Not literally throw, of course, but it devours apps no problems.

Games start promptly and run smoothly as we've found when spinning through tracks in Angry Birds Go!, word processing - primarily viewing documents using Hancom Office - is a breeze, while browsing via Google Chrome is generally fast save for one or two micro-second lag times when jumping between tabs.

As we alluded to earlier, you can multi-task too. A simple swipe from the right-hand side of the screen brings up a menu of applications, including Chrome, Video, YouTube, Maps and many more, that can be opened as separate smaller windows. Click and drag to reposition or resize, tap the full screen icon if you want to throw everything else out the way for the moment, or hit the "x" to close the window down.

It's an effective system, although if you drag the window too small then you'll need nimble fingers to get the best control. Legibility isn't an issue, however, as that huge resolution lends itself to text at almost any given scale.

If you want power for gaming, work, movie playback, web browsing and more then the TabPro 10.1 has you covered from every angle. The addition of a microSD slot further ensures you can carry stacks more files than the 16GB internal space offers too.

Software additions

The TabPro is built around the Android 4.4 (KitKat) operating system. Samsung, like plenty of other manufacturers, likes to re-skin and re-work stock Android into something a little different. Here it's an advancement on the earlier "my Magazine", as available on the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, now in the form of Magazine UX.

This adds tile-based quick-look widgets into a magazine-esque layout. Swiping left away from the home screen and you'll have an arrangement of default options, such as calendar, inbox, office and more. These can be moved and rearranged as you please.

If you're new to Android then we can see the appeal of this setup. It makes glancing at, say, Samsung S Planner (that's Samsung's way of saying calendar) easy while still being able to see your email inbox.

But if you already know the Android way of working then it may just feel like an unnecessary "doubling up" of how you would normally access content. Email is still accessible via a down-swipe, for example, where the usual Android alerts are available.

Whatever path of access you choose for what you're doing, customisation is always an option. Arrange apps on the home screen as you please, or the usual Android "show all" app icons section is available if that's more your method of organisation, otherwise rejig and resize the Magazine UX pages with your preferred widgets.

We found ourselves using the Samsung way to dig into our personal Hotmail (Outlook) and the Android way to receive work email. So the "doubling up" of access wasn't always a bad thing, even if it's not the most elegant of solutions for all things. Overall Magazine UX is a less imposing setup than some earlier Samsung re-skins. Its presence generally doesn't interfere with operation, but rather enhances use for a wider range of users.

Cameras

Just like the Note 10.1, the TabPro 10.1 has the same rear-mounted 8-megapixel camera and a second front-face 2-megapixel one. Both are capable of shooting video at 1080/30p.

READ: Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review (2014 Edition)

We think the software is great, as there are lots of shooting options and the camera app is well laid out, but just like with the earlier model the results are acceptable rather than astounding. Plus anyone using a tablet as a camera just looks plain silly. 

In short: use the front camera for Skype calls and the rear one for the occasional snap you may need to share. And never, ever use the darn thing at a gig. Please.

Battery

That high-res screen, powerful processor and software doing all sorts of multi-tasking is a lot of pressure on the battery. But it doesn't spell bad performance thanks to the 8220mAh battery on board.

We've been using the TabPro 10.1 over the tail-end of a working week and then through a long weekend of travel. It saw us succeed in around 9-hours of use at a time with web browsing and movie watching, which is just as good going as a current Intel Haswell laptop solution.

As with anything, though, the more you ask of the battery the less it will last. When we've dug into games, for example, that processor has to do a lot more which cuts the amount of hours you'll get from it. It's all relative, but however you look at it the TabPro 10.1 is a decent performer when it comes to battery life. 

Verdict

Of all the "Pro" Samsung tablets, the Galaxy TabPro 10.1 is among our favourites. It's just the right scale, is slim and light, yet packs plenty of power in too.

Such a pro specification does mean a "pro" price tag though: £449 to be precise. Given that faux leather build we're not convinced the build quite matches the price. It's also worth noting that for just £1 more you can pick up the Note 10.1, complete with its integrated built-in S Pen stylus, from the official Samsung site. That's the company blanket bombing market strategy muddying things up right there.

Even so, the TabPro is a great product. That screen resolution is sublime, battery life is strong, while the fusion of stock Android and Samsung's own Magazine UX assist rather than intrudes. The inclusion of multi-tasking applications, for example, is genuinely usefu.

Few 10-inch tablets can compete with what the Galaxy TabPro 10.1 has to offer. If you don't want a stylus then it's an excellent Android tablet.



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