Late last year, Samsung released the revamped model of the largest Note tablet, the Note 10.1 2014 Edition (which actually came out in 2013, despite its name). It brought with it a full refresh to the lineup, including high end hardware, a better display, and an improved interface. The S Pen became more valuable, and Multi-Window more usable. All in all, it was a good upgrade.
The Note Pro 12.2 is a continuation of that upgrade to the product line, as it's essentially a larger version of last year's Note 10.1 in both hardware and software. Of course, it's not identical in either – there are some minor differences here and there, like processor, Android version, and the like. Given that, the overall experience is very much the same. The primary reason to consider the Note Pro 12.2 over the 10.1 is of course the display size.
Naturally, these increases also warranted a price increase. The question you really have to ask yourself is basically this: is having 2.1 inches of additional screen real estate worth one hundred-fifty more dollars more?
- Display: 12.2-inch 2560x1600 TFT LCD
- Processor: Exynos 5 Octa (1.9GHz Quad-core + 1.3GHz Quad-core)
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 32/64GB
- Cameras: 8MP rear shooter, 2MP front
- Ports: microUSB 3.0, microSD
- Wireless: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi Direct, AllShareCast
- Battery: 9,500mAh
- OS: Android 4.4.2
- Dimensions/Weight: 295.6 x 204 x 7.95mm, 750g (215 grams heavier than Note 10.1)
- Price: 32GB – $750; 64GB – $850
- Buy: Amazon
- The Display. The Note Pro's display is beautiful. But you already knew that.
- The size. I realize there is a select group of people who really want a 12.2 inch tablet. In the interest of objectivity, this bullet is for you. You'll love it.
- Good speakers. Most tablet speakers are shrill and tinny. The 12.2's speakers are actually very usable for watching movies or even listening to music... assuming you don't have headphones or an external speaker handy.
- The size and weight. I think the 12.2-inch size is much more suited to a Galaxy Tab instead of the Note. Why? Because holding it with one hand while trying to use the S Pen is a pain in the ass. Really, holding it with one hand for any reason is a pain in the ass.
- The price. At $750-850, it's just overpriced. I realize that a larger display equates to higher manufacturing costs, but let's not kid ourselves here – this is definitely overlapping into laptop pricing territory.
- Touchwiz is getting more encompassing and less intuitive. Very little of the OS has been untouched by Samsung, and the changes just keep coming. For example, every Samsung app is fullscreen all the time. Yes, that means the notification bar is hidden. And it's so annoying.
- Multi-Window is still not as useful as it could be. I realize that this is only partially Samsung's fault, since app developers need to add multi-window support before the device can take advantage of it, but on a device market as a professional, multi-tasking, do-it-all monster, I'd like to see a larger variety of apps that can run on the screen at once (like, you know, all of them).
- It's basically a bigger Note 10.1 2014 Edition, which is significantly more affordable. Unless you just have to have a 12.2-inch display, the Note 10.1 2014 is a smarter buy if you're looking at the Note tablet line.
As a result of the Note Pro 12.2's similarities to the Note 10.1 2014, I will be referencing back to that review quite often. In the interest of not re-writing the same review again (they really are that similar), I urge you to read it as well.
In terms of pure hardware specifications, the Note Pro 12.2 is pretty similar to the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, with the exception of the processor. Where the Note 10.1 2014 has a quad-core Exynos 5420, the 12.2 has an octa-core Exynos 5 chip that feature four A15 cores alongside four low-power A7 cores (big.LITTLE architecture). In reality, this doesn't make a massive difference in performance compared to the 10.1, but it's better balanced; the four A15 cores are in use during processor-intensive tasks, and the A7s take over for low power. The idea is to offer the perfect blend of processing power and battery life.
Build Quality and Design
The Note 12.2 shares the same design elements as the new Galaxy products: faux leather back/stitching, aluminum-wannabe plastic, the whole nine yards. At least they're consistent. In the Note 10.1 review I said I was torn about the device's appearance – and that hasn't changed. I've warmed up a little bit to the plastic-that-wishes-it-were-something-else aesthetic, but I would still prefer the real thing at this price point (or at least a different material that didn't try to pose as something else).
The 12.2's build quality, however, is a whole different story. I'm inclined to say it's "typical Samsung" – not completely terrible, but far from what I'd call "good." The back is "mushy" and creaky in certain areas (mostly on the left side of my review unit), and the power button is almost flush with the top, which makes it nearly impossible to find without looking. Neither of those thing scream "premium" to me, nor do they suggest this is a $750+ device. With that said, most other aspects of the unit feel good – all the seams are flush and solid, the volume and home buttons are stable, and the overall construction is fine. Still, it's hard for me to look past the creaky back – that's the very first thing I felt as soon as I picked up this device, and I've been reminded of its existence each time thereafter, as well.
The button layout is pretty typical: speakers on either side of the display (on the sides, not the front), the microUSB 3.0 charging port and microUSD slot are on the right, headphone jack on the left, and power button, volume rocker, and IR blaster are on the top. Not much out of the ordinary here.
...Except for the charging port. Let's talk about that briefly. Basically, the addition of USB 3.0 means two things: faster data transfer and charging, both of which are good. However, the device is also backwards compatible with standard microUSB cables for both charging and transfers; as you might imagine, however, both are simply slower.
- Single Tap – opens the recent apps menu
- Double Tap – nothing
- Long-press – nothing
- Single Tap – goes home
- Double Tap – opens S Voice
- Long Press – opens Google Now (!)
- Single Tap – goes back
- Double Tap – nothing
- Long-press – opens the multi-window tray
As you can see, there's now a quick way to jump directly into Google Now, whereas before long-pressing the Home key and tapping the Google option was the fastest way to get to Now. Sure, it only saves one tap, but it just makes Now all the more accessible. If you use Now as often as I do, then this is definitely a welcome feature.
This is easily the standout feature of the Note Pro 12.2, and the primary reason that most users are interested in the device. The 12.2-inch display is the first of its kind for Samsung, let alone the Note line. It's actually been rumored for quite a while, so I'm sure many people are glad to see it finally come to fruition.
The 12.2-inch TFT LCD panel has a resolution of 2560x1600, which is the same as the Note 10.1 2014, as well as the new TabPRO series of tablets. Since this is the largest display of the bunch, that means it also has the lowest pixel density, which clocks in at about 248 PPI. That's slightly higher than the PPI on a 10.1-inch 1920x1200 display, and probably close enough that the eye can't really differentiate. That should provide some kind of idea as to what you're looking it, assuming you're familiar with how 1920x1200 looks on 10.1-inches.
All that said, the display looks very good. Text is sharp and clear, and color reproduction is very nice. It's just a generally good-looking display. Like other Samsung devices, it features a few different display options: dynamic, standard, and movie; as well as an option for adaptive display. The latter is the default option, though I find the differences to be very subtle between them anyway. If you're really picky about the color output, however, maybe poking around with these options could provide the balance you're looking for.
So the Note Pro 12.2's speakers are actually quite good for a tablet. They're not shrill or tinny at all, so watching a movie, video, or listening to music doesn't make you want to scream. The unfortunate part for some, however, is that they're side-facing. Samsung got it right on the first Note tablet, only to switch the design and put them back in a place that isn't facing the user's ears on the follow up. They're in the same place on the 12.2, which isn't necessarily terrible. They're plenty loud, so as long as they're not covered, hearing them shouldn't be an issue.
Yes, it has one (well, technically it has two). No, it's not very good. Also, taking pictures with a 12.2 inch device is just wrong. Please, don't do it.
In the interest of completion (and ignoring my own advice), here are some sample shots from the Note 12.2's camera.
See? Pretty unremarkable. It has a lot of flashy features (just like the Note 10.1 2014), but they don't really help. But I'd be willing to bet you're not interested in this tablet for the camera, so it's really a moot point.
Storage and Wireless
After years of users saying that 16GB of internal storage just isn't enough in a tablet, and Samsung finally listened. The Note Pro 12.2 comes with two storage options: 32GB and 64GB. My review unit is the 32GB model, which has around 24GB of available space right out of the box. The system takes up a whopping six gigabytes, and pre-installed applications take up about 1.5GBs. I guess that, ultimately, Samsung decided it wasn't going to make its UI any smaller or bundled apps any less, um, bundled, so the the company decided more storage was a must. When put in that perspective it's kind of a hollow victory for consumers, but I suppose it is still a victory nonetheless.
Oh, it also has a microSD card slot, so you can effectively have 128GB of storage on the device. You know, should you need all those geebees to store stuff.
On the wireless front, the Note Pro 12.2 basically covers most of the bases: it support 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks. So, it should be able to take full advantage of any kind of Wi-Fi out today. Its also sporting the latest Bluetooth (4.0), so accessory support and whatnot shouldn't be an issue. In other words, it all just works.
So the Note Pro 12.2 has a massive 9,500mAh battery. That's good, because that big beautiful screen definitely drinks some juice. Still, Samsung managed to get roughly eight hours of usable time from this device. That's screen on, doing work, watching videos, playing games, checking Twitter, responding to emails, browsing the web time.
And when you're not using it, the Note Pro 12.2 does a pretty good job of just sipping power while idle (thanks to the big.LITTLE architecture, no doubt). Overnight it generally only lost about 3-4% of the battery during my use, which is actually less than most other Android devices I've tested.
In short, if you're worried about getting through a full day with the Note Pro, don't be. It should be able to take you through a work/school day and still have a little bit of juice leftover at the end of the day to relax with.
The S Pen doesn't appear to have undergone any major redesigns since the revamped version showed up in the Note 10.1 2014, so here's the long and short of it: it's a little on the short side, is extremely light, and feels pretty fragile. The butt of the pen matches the plastic banding on the outside of the tablet, so it blends in pretty well when inside the bay. Really, everything about it is exactly like with the 10.1 2014.
Much like the hardware, the Note Pro 12.2's software is nearly identical to the Note 10.1 2014, save for some changes to the primary interface and the inclusion of Android 4.4.2 right out of the box. Unfortunately, some of the changes made to the software layer on the 12.2 are incredibly obnoxious and serve absolutely no purpose.
Launcher and UI
Let's start with the biggest change in this new version of Touchwiz: the launcher. On the Note 10.1 2014, Samsung introduced a new Flipboard-powered addition to the launcher called My Magazine. With the 12.2, it has taken this to the next level by incorporating the magazine UI directly into the launcher. Out of the box, there are two pages of "traditional-"style pages, along with two magazine-style pages. Samsung calls this Magazine UX.
The overall interface is slightly different than the pre-release models we saw at CES, in that Magazine UX is less obtrusive – instead of being the primary interface, it serves as more of a secondary feature. That's good, because it's definitely not the first thing most users want to see when firing the device up for the first. Or every time after that.
With that said, some of the annoyances are still present. For example, when entering the magazine section of the launcher's UI, the notification bar disappears. Magazine UX is fullscreen all the time with no way of changing that option. Of course, it only takes a simple swipe down to briefly display the notification bar (then a second swipe to see the entire panel), but I stand by my earlier statements on this: the notification bar should simply be present all the time by default, especially while in the device's primary interface (the launcher).
Of course, Samsung didn't stop with the fullscreen business on the launcher: nearly every Samsung app on the Note Pro 12.2 is fullscreen-only. Open Settings, fullscreen. Action Memo, S Voice, Contacts, Gallery, Scrapbook, My Files, or Sketchbook? Fullscreen. I see no value in this practice at all. This is a device with a 12.2-inch display; it's not like the notification bar is really taking up any much-needed screen real estate.
Speaking of screen real estate, the Note Pro's 12.2-inch panel brings about one significant change over the 10.1: more apps in Multi-Window. Thanks to the increased screen size, you are now able to run four apps at the same time instead of just two like other versions of the Note. Of course, that is limited to apps that support Samsung's multi-window feature, which seem to be pretty hit and miss depending on what you're doing.
If you've ever used a Note device before, then you're probably familiar with how multi-window actually works. It's basically the same on the 12.2, but instead of only being able to apply one app per side, it's possible to add up to two per side, for a total of four. The apps are aligned to a grid, but can easily be resized to the desired layout by dragging the connection point of the four corners. It's actually quite intuitive and a useful take on Android multi-tasking. Again, however, I just wish more apps actually supported the feature.
Past those things, there aren't really any major changes with the Note 12.2. I covered the software and S Apps pretty extensively in the Note 10.1 2014 review, so in the interest of avoiding redundancy, I'll point you in that direction.
The Note 10.1 2014 had its share of minor performance irritations, but I've yet to really encounter anything like that on the 12.2 on a consistent basis. For the most part, everything is snappy and fluid, including S Pen features like Air Command, which was laggy on the Note 10.1.
I think the big question is how the 12.2 performs while multitasking – four apps running at the same time can really take a hit on both the processor and RAM. Fortunately, it seems to handle this without a single issue. I was able to browse the web, edit a spreadsheet, watch a YouTube video, and have the S Pen on S Note all without a single hint of choppiness (see the screenshot above). It's actually pretty impressive how well it works. With that said, there is a slight amount of choppiness when exiting that many apps and going back to the homescreen. It's not too bad, but still something to make note of.
GPU performance, however, is another story altogether. While the device isn't lacking in the processor department, it doesn't perform as well as expected on gaming or graphically intense applications. 2560x1600 is a lot of pixels to push, so given that I wouldn't say the GPU performance is terrible, but I would like for it to be better. All the games I tried were still very playable, but there are certain parts (like when there's a lot happening on the screen at one time) when you can feel the framerate drop.
Overall, however, I'd give the Note 12.2 good marks in the performance department. It should be able to do everything you throw at it without [much] hesitation.
The Note Pro 12.2 is an interesting device. On one hand, I'd say it's too big, but I realize that's pretty subjective and there are people out there who want a 12.2-inch tablet. Still, it's definitely one big tablet, which makes it very difficult to use with one hand. At 750 grams, it's 215 grams heavier than its 10.1-inch counterpart, which is more than the weight of most smartphones in itself. It's definitely not a "pocket-able" unit at all. In fact, it's too big for the tablet compartment in most backpacks, which is something else to keep in mind.
Still, if you're looking for a laptop-replacement tablet, the Note 12.2 may be the way to go. I would personally be more inclined to suggest something like a Surface Pro for a laptop replacement tablet, but if you'd rather use Android instead of Windows, I'm not going to fault that, either. From a productivity standpoint, you'd be hard pressed to find an Android tablet that allows you to get more done than the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. Add a Bluetooth Keyboard and mouse, and it's easily a portable Android-powered workstation. In fact, Samsung included a keyboard and mouse with the review unit, and it's extremely usable with that setup.
Of course, it's also a killer device from an entertainment standpoint – watching movies on this tablet is second-to-none in the Android world, and the speakers are good enough to get you through a flick with ease.
That said, gaming is a different story. The performance in that department isn't as good as it could be, and honestly, trying to play certain games (Like Dead Trigger 2, for example), is a task on the 12.2-inch display. Unless you have LeBron James-sized hands (or are, in fact, LeBron James), then the stretches are just too much. Also, if you are LeBron James, hit me up and we can shoot some ball sometime.
Then there's the question of price: it's just too damn high. While the Note Pro 12.2 has a few big unique features – like four-app multi-window, for example – I can't say that it justifies the $150 price difference over the Note 10.1 2014 Edition. And let's not overlook the fact that for the $750-850 price range you can get a decent (but maybe slightly underpowered) Windows laptop that allows you to run as many applications at once as you'd like, while maintaining similar portability.
So really, the takeaway is this: if you want a 12.2-inch tablet, there aren't a lot of choices on the market. And even if there were, the Note Pro 12.2 would still be a good option, despite its annoyances (like fullscreen Samsung apps). While it may be overpriced, it's easily an Android multitaskers dream come true. Or at least the closest thing they'll get to one right now.
But really, you should probably just buy a laptop instead.