07
Jan
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While mobile announcements aren't generally a major thing we expect to see at CES, Samsung decided it would be generous and throw out a handful of new tablets in between its 4K TVs and new smart appliances. I'm talking of course about the new Tab Pro and Note Pro series – a premium lineup of new Samsung kit in a variety of sizes with a fresh new UI.

This quartet of tablets should look pretty familiar for anyone who's seen Samsung's 2014 Note 10.1 or Note 3 – they're stylistically identical, including the faux leather backing, stitching, and aluminum banding. They feel nice and well made for the most part, and the two smaller models are surprisingly light.

The Tab Pro lineup has three different sizes to choose from: 12.2 inches, 10.1 inches, and 8.4 inches, while the Note Pro is only available in the largest sizes (12.2 inches). Otherwise, all four units share the same specs, which includes a 2560x1600 display (yes, even on the 8.4 inch model), Snapdragon 800 (US models; the international models will feature a Exynos Octa), 3GB RAM, and Android 4.4.2. The most drastic change Samsung made to those tablets, however, is the user interface.

Throwing out the old-school Crayola color explosion formerly known as TouchWiz, the new "Magazine UX" takes a fresh – albeit slightly overbearing – approach to how Samsung thinks its users should be using tablets. The entire launcher is aligned to a grid where content can be snapped in – very much like Chameleon launcher, though without the time-and location-based awareness. Think of it like a basic version of Chameleon blended with Flipboard, because that's basically what it is.

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While that may sound pretty terrible to some, it's actually not awful. It's clear that Samsung is working towards making a cleaner, more usable user interface, and Magazine is the start of that. There is one traditional-style homescreen thrown into the mix for those who want it, but widgets and apps still align to the same grid that the other screen uses, so it's not exactly a stock experience. Again, it's not terrible, but it's probably less than ideal for the Android power users out there.

The units we were able to spend some time with were running pre-release software (naturally), but there are definitely some noteworthy (puns, haha) idiosyncrasies with the interface that Samsung will hopefully address before the public release – namely, the fact that the notification bar disappears on the homescreens. Magazine UX is basically full screen all the time, so in order to see the notification bar, a quick swipe down from the top is necessary. Within five minutes of using any of the new Pro devices, this was already the most annoying aspect – the notification bar is something that should always be visible. Not only that, but it requires two pulls to access the notification area – the first one to display the bar itself, and the second to actually access the panel itself.

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Overall the Pro series tablets are something for those looking for a little extra oomph from the tablet experience, be that in size or just overall processing power. The 8.4 and 10.1 inch models are both nice additions to the Tab family, and the first high end devices carrying the name that we've seen in years. The 12.2 inch Tab and Note Pro are probably the standout devices of the new Pro lineup, as they're the first to carry this extra-large form factor. While they may not be for everyone, there's no question that someone out there is in the market for a 12+ inch tablet. And really, despite the seemingly large form factor, they don't feel all that cumbersome, at least not in the few minute timeframe I got to use them. It's hard to say how I'll feel after more time with the devices – I guess we'll have to wait till review units are available for that.

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • navjot

    Also looks like they swapped out the menu button for a recent apps button :) Hopefully this change will carry on to the S5 and Note IV

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    • Alberto

      Finally!!! Now if only they would rearrange the order of those buttons...

  • http://www.anivision.org/ Christopher Bailey (Xcom923)

    When will they release the 8.4? I want that so badly.

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  • jamesfuston

    I would buy an 8.4 but it probably won't launch under $399 for the baseline model because Samsung.

    Hard to go with a baseline model that'll inevitably cost more than the 32GB LTE N7

    • jamaall

      Assuming it will cost $399, I would much rather wait for a new Nexus 10, assuming it comes out in the coming months.

      • crackinthewall

        I'd rather get an iPad Mini Retina if the 8.4 sells for $399 for the baseline model. While I do love Android, I'd rather burn $399 on a 16GB iPad Mini Retina than on a 16GB Samsung which will (1) be supported for a shorted period of time, (2) be replaced by a better product in six months time instead of one year, (3) offers nothing extra for the price. I think I might be spoiled by the Nexus pricing but the only other tablet I'd consider $399 on would be an 8" Note with the latest spec or a 10" Nexus.

        • jamaall

          In probably going to end up waiting for a new nexus. I have a new nexus 7, but I'm finding it too small. When I got it, I had a little RAZR m with a 4.3" screen and on screen keys. Now I have a droid maxx with a 5" screen and no on screen keys. Now my nexus 7 isn't greatly larger and I find myself using it less. I really hope the new nexus 10 comes out soon.

          • crackinthewall

            If you're interested, the GPE LG G Pad would be the current equivalent of a Nexus 8. I also think the Nexus 7 is too small given that current flagships are around 5-5.5". I'd consider a 7" tablet if only I have a smaller phone. To be honest, 8-9" seems to be the perfect size for me. I find 10" to be too big given that I use tablets for reading.

      • jamesfuston

        I've never been taken by larger Android tablets. 8.4" is just on the edge of what most consider a "palmable" tablet, as proven by the LG Pad 8.3. Unless Samsung has a massive bezel on this thing, I think it's safe to assume it'll be a one-hander. I agree that 7" feels small for a tablet, but the added benefits of an N7 (doubled storage, LTE, priority updates) and saving $50 still falls under the category of "no brainer" for me.

        • jamaall

          That's true. I actually have owned a Nexus 10 around a year ago until I got a nexus 7. I do really like the size for stuff like watching movies or typing and web browsing. If I want to do something using only one hand I'll just use my phone. It is also true that 10" tablets are less portable but that's the trade off for more screen landscape. My nexus 7 can easily fit into my jeans and cargo shorts, while the nexus 10 I'll carry it with a case and maybe slip it into a bag. But I feel like a 10" would be more suitable for me since my phone is 5".

          • jamesfuston

            The coat-pocket portability you mention is why I'm a fan of smaller tablets. I very rarely watch video on a tablet. I use it to control my media PC (via Microsoft's RDP app), but the only "media consumption" my tablet sees is reading (for which 1080p/5" is too compact). If I'm going to watch something on a larger screen that requires retrieval and removing a case, I'll just use my laptop.
            In a sentence, that's my corner of the tablet market. It needs to be bigger than my phone, still usable with one hand, and must be within arms length when mobile.

  • TY

    I'm curious how they rewrote the Samsung Apps following the loss of menu button.

  • bungadudu

    Touchwizz, despite all the criticism, was the reason why the Note series is so successful and the galaxy series in general.

    Although in the android world usually all OEM's are bragging with the hardware, lately Samsung concentrates on software, on ux, on functions.
    And this is great!
    That's what android means.
    That's why Samsung is the alpha dog.

    • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

      You really think TouchWhiz is why Samsung has been so successful? REALLY? That's just funny.

      The real reason is that Samsung just has the best hardware choices (battery + sdcard + oled + display sizes etc), combined with good marketing. Most people really don't use the gimmicky s/w features, nor did they buy it for that reason.

      I'll be happy to see TouchWhiz off my Note 3 once CM11 is stable-ish.

      • Himmat Singh

        I don't think it's funny. To the average person, that is why they buy Samsung devices over everything else out there.

      • bungadudu

        I honestly would buy the Note 3 just for the functions! For what touchwizz means on it.
        Unfortunately it's size is just too big for me.

        Also, check what's the situation on xda regarding custom roms. (TW based vs aosp based). For the international s4 only the omega thread (based on tw) has >2 mil views.
        And we're talking here about more tech inclined people / power users.

        I know much more people who prefer stock touchwizz + root rather than cm/aokp/etc.

        A poll regarding this matter would be interesting..

    • Ray Sunghwa Woo

      Not really. To majority of users, having TouchWiz or not doesn't really matter. They look at the brand name more than what the benchmark says or what APU or GPU it's running on or how many RAMs it has. Even if they change whole lot to TouchWiz on next model, people won't care or even notice as long as it's functional.

      They buy it because it's one of the top named Android brand and they believe it is the best phone to buy with Android system.

    • Roh_Mish

      True but not true. My dad Uses Note2 and he does not like the touchwiz but hecant replace it with custom roms due to SPen and corporate email.

      • Lex Thomas

        I had Touchwiz on my Note 2014 10.1 but replaced the launcher with NovaLauncher and the tablet became much more usable (at least while I owned it). The S-Pen still worked and even though the tablet had a bunch of Touchwiz stuff on it, it rarely got in the way.

    • https://plus.google.com/112830849462286532136/about Kevin Geng

      Samsung software and hardware? Sure. But TouchWiz and Samsung's UX? NO. Just no. As far as I've known, their UX ranges from inconsistent to just plain ugly. (I'd take the stock Android feel any day.) But this post is definitely a step in the right direction.

  • https://plus.google.com/108596272537415356460/posts Jason Farrell

    The 8.4" tab is most interesting to me, but with the hardware buttons I won't even consider it. Tablets are often rotated and thus should have consistent bottom s/w nav buttons only.

    • jamaall

      For me, it would have been a flat out no to their tablets if they still had a menu button. Thank god they switched it the recent apps button. Now it isn't as bad. I want to buy a large tablet in the near future and I would take these into consideration, but I have a good feeling these will cost a lot. I would rather wait even a year to get a new Nexus 10 ( whenever it comes out) for $399 rather than a Samsung considering the regular Note 10.1 2014 is $549. This Pro lineup will most likely have a high price tag.

  • Ray Sunghwa Woo

    Physical button is the only thing that makes me not want this. To press the button, if the tablet is laid over stand, you need to hold the tablet and press it - so not needed. This is probably why some people prefer Nexus or LG tablets because they don't have a physical home button.

  • Kryppy

    I'd love a new 8 inch note tablet.

  • ianranson

    Has Samsung 'fixed' the notification bar this time around - ie used the two pull down bars (like Google does on the Nexus 7&10) or is it still like it was on the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 where the notification panel takes up the whole screen (designed for phones and looks bad on tablets)?

    • Davis Hernandez

      i know, my galaxy 2 7.0 tab had the small notification bar but the OTA jelly bean update made it look ugly :C

  • Lex Thomas

    I took my Note 2014 10.1 back to the store after about a month of owning it. I didn't like the h/w buttons on the side as I only use the tablet in portrait mode. Also, as good as the stylus feature is, it's hurt by poor software. I tried several handwriting applications (Papyrus, S-Note, Handrite and others) and found them to be seriously lacking in features (even after in-app purchases). The battery life wasn't what I was needing either. I was hoping the 12.2 would be better suited to my needs but I guess I'll pass since I really hate the landscape oriented nature of the tablet and require better apps. I would buy a new iPad but it doesn't have an active digitizer so I'll have to wait for another cycle or two of products.

  • schmolch

    I would instantly buy a note pro from google with all the pen-functionality built into android.
    I'm not willing to deal with all the samsung-crap.