Samsung Galaxy Note Pro review: Not (quite) a workstation replacement

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CNET Editors' Rating

3.5 stars Very good
  • Overall: 7.7
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 9.0
  • Performance: 7.0
Review Date:
Updated on:

The Good The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro's gigantic bright screen serves as an unhampered stylus pen canvas. The included apps and software features trump anything you'll find on a pure Android tablet. MicroSD storage expansion is a welcome plus.

The Bad The Note Pro's laggy performance when running multiple apps at once limits its usefulness as a workstation replacement. And with a $750 starting price, only power tablet users need apply. Writing on the screen doesn't feel as smooth as with the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition.

The Bottom Line Not quite a workstation replacement, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro is an expensive behemoth of a tablet with a vast amount of features that will benefit only the most serious of tablet users.

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The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro won't completely replace your workstation, but it comes closer to doing so than any other Android tablet before it. That's right, the Windows RT-based Microsoft Surface 2 is still the closest thing to a workstation replacement among ARM-based tablets in the market.

With enough accessories -- mouse, keyboard, or keyboard with a touch pad; none of which are included or come cheap -- the Note Pro could satisfy some business users looking to carry around something lighter, and cooler-looking, than their tired old portable "computer."

Still, the Note Pro's incredibly large 12.2-inch screen, myriad of useful software features, storage expansion slot, and industry-leading stylus integration makes it one of the most fully featured tablets yet. The feature set actually borders on overkill, so before you plop down $750 -- starting price (!) -- make sure you'll actually get some use out of most of the features.

Design
The Galaxy Note Pro doesn't stray too far from the current Samsung house style, looking like very much a 12.2-inch version of the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, with a few small differences. The leathe-like backside returns, along with the faux stitching, and although my colleague, Jessica Dolcourt, wasn't a fan of the stitching in her review of the Note 2014, I quite like the feel, as it reminds me of holding a leather-bound journal. Like something Indiana Jones would carry if he were still alive, and an actual person.

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition Apple iPad Air Microsoft Surface 2
Weight in pounds 1.65 1.18 1 1.49
Width in inches (landscape) 11.64 9.62 9.4 10.8
Height in inches 8.03 6.75 6.6 6.8
Depth in inches 0.32 0.31 0.29 0.35
Side bezel width in inches (landscape) 0.75 0.5 0.75 0.81

You get the now-typical Samsung tablet ports, including microSD for storage expansion, an IR blaster so you can use it as a remote control, and Micro-USB for charging and file transfers. The tablet weighs 1.7 pounds, which is a lot heavier than normal-sized tablets, but it honestly doesn't feel too heavy if held at the center of its body; and since the 13-inch Toshiba Excite 13 tablet weighed in at 2.2 pounds a couple years back, I'm willing to give the Note Pro a little slack for its heft.

Make no mistake, this is a gigantic behemoth of tablet, but it's the 12.2-inch screen that really makes it the best Note tablet yet. While previous entries in the series have featured great stylus integration, I have to admit writing on them always felt a little cramped, even on the 10.1-inchers. Now with a full 12.2 inches to work with, the awkwardness is nearly gone and I feel like I can write more freely.

Josh Miller/CNET

Holding the tablet in landscape, you'll find the home button, recent apps button, and back button on the bottom bezel. I like home buttons on tablets, but I hate attempting to tap this one with the S Pen stylus as it tends to slide across the button, and I sometimes feel like the stylus will snap in half if I press too hard. A minor nitpick.

Hardware features
The Note Pro is powered by the same 1.9GHz Exynos 5420 processor inside the Note 10.1 2014 Edition and features an identical 3GB of RAM. There's also support for the latest Wi-Fi standards, including dual-band 2.4/5GHz 802.11ac MiMo Wi-Fi.

Josh Miller/CNET

Software features
Samsung's TouchWiz interface has only gotten better with each iteration and this latest version is the best yet, surpassing stock Android 4.4 KitKat in the options it offers. All the shortcuts and customization options return, with quite a few added to the mix. The number of settings available is staggering, but Samsung keeps them all well-organized, while including useful tutorials for some of its more unusual features.

The biggest change from previous Galaxy tablets -- and Android tablets in general for that matter -- is Samsung's new widget-Flipboard amalgamation, called Magazine UX. The UI is really an evolution of what Samsung's been doing for the last year or so. Instead of having one or two big, pretty widgets at the top of the screen with normal app icons under them, here Samsung covers the whole screen with them. You can choose from a predetermined set of widgets or Flipboard channels to add to these pages, and can have up to five Magazine UX pages in all.

Magazine UX is best described as having a widget-based coating with a creamy Flipboard center. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Unfortunately, there's no way to completely be rid of Magazine UX if you're not sweet on Flipboard or screen-covering widgets, as the interface requires at least one Magazine UX page to exist.

With the Pro line of tablets, Samsung doubles down on free apps that should appeal to business users. Chief among them are a two-year free subscription to RemotePC, WebEx Meetings -- with a six-month free subscription and unlimited meetings -- and Hancom Office. With RemotePC you can access a PC or Mac from your tablet. It's essentially a virtual desktop app and honestly is only appropriate for simple tasks like copying files. The lag impedes anything more taxing, such as gaming or even editing documents, from being done. At least comfortably.

Customizing Magazine UX Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Hancom Office does a pretty good job of impersonating Microsoft Office, complete with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint facsimiles. WebEx is an online conferencing tool in the vein of Skype.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity Wi-Fi
    Bluetooth 4.0
    Bluetooth LE
  • Weight 1.65 lbs
  • Type Android 4.4 (KitKat)
About The Author

Eric Franklin is a section editor covering how to and tablets. He's also co-host of CNET's do-it-yourself and how-to show, The Fix and is a 20-year tech industry veteran.