Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 review: Premium small tablet for premium price

I like the new Windows 8-reminiscent experience of the Magazine UX pages, but also appreciate the regular ol' TouchWiz features just as much (I'm talking to you, WatchOn remote). If you're not a fan of the Magazine UX, you can minimize its presence on your tablet, but Samsung offers no way to opt out of it. For a different perspective on Samsung's Magazine UX, check out Eric Franklin's review of the Samsung Galaxy Note Tab Pro 12.2.

Samsung's Pro line of tablets, which include a 10.1-incher and the abovementioned 12.2-inch behemoth, ship with a few productivity apps, including Hancom Office, a six-month free subscription for WebEx Meetings, and a two-year subscription to RemotePC, which allows you to remotely access your PC or Mac from the tablet. RemotePC worked well as a way to access files and perform other small tasks, but it lagged too much to use as you would your normal workstation.

The design predisposes the tablet to a portrait orientation, but using it in landscape can spice things up. Josh Miller/CNET

Hardware features
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 houses a Snapdragon 800 chipset, with a 2.3GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU. There's also 2GB of RAM and 16GB or 32GB of internal storage, with a microSD card slot.

The 8.4-inch slate also packs an infrared port, stereo Bluetooth 4.0, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope sensor. With their respective adapters, the Galaxy Tab Pro can support Ethernet, HDMI TV-out, and a USB host. The tablet features Wi-Fi 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n, and will be available in 3G and LTE versions.

The rear camera works best in well-lit situations, otherwise things get fuzzy easily. Josh Miller/CNET

Performance
The 2,560x1,600-pixel-resolution screen makes the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 one of the most pixel-dense screens to date. The super-sharp screen has great wide viewing angles and it more than satisfies in clarity and color when it comes to watching HD video or gaming.

HD video is super-sharp and vibrant, like Frank Underwood. Josh Miller/CNET

Tested spec Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display
Maximum brightness 361 cd/m2 472 cd/m2 289 cd/m2 370 cd/m2
Maximum black level 0.36 cd/m2 0.40 cd/m2 0.24 cd/m2 .46 cd/m2
Maximum contrast ratio 1,002:1 1,180:1 1,204:1 804:1
Pixels per inch 359ppi 339ppi 273ppi 326ppi

For a tablet, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's cameras aren't too shabby. The rear camera takes sharp photos with lifelike color, and the flash option works surprisingly well at night -- for both photo and video -- as long as what you're capturing is in the flash's range, of course. Dark photos without the flash come out grainy and even when you use the Smart Stabilization mode, which helps brighten the image, it tends to oversaturate colors and over-contrast the image.

Despite the low-light possibilities, using the flash in dark situations always worked best. The left photo is without the flash, the center photo uses a low-light mode, and the right one uses the rear LED flash. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

The front 2-megapixel camera is pretty decent; photos are both a little grainy and fuzzy, and there's a slight reddish tint to the photos. Video taken with the camera was surprisingly stable, even when taken while the camera was moving around. The quality is still a bit fuzzy, but I was impressed by the image stabilization.

Gaming performance is smooth and fast. Mobile games like Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, and Candy Crush ran without a hitch. Large games sometimes crashed if there were too many apps open, but they otherwise loaded quickly and performance was consistently smooth.

Device CPU RAM OS tested
Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 2.3GHz quad-core 3GB Android 4.4
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 2.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 2GB Amazon Android Mojito 3.0
LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition 1.7GHz Snapdragon 600 processor 2GB Android 4.4.2
Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display Apple A7 1GB iOS 7.0.3
3DMark (Unlimited)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The two bottom speakers go surprisingly loud. Some genres of music sound flat, but vocals, no matter what genre, tend to sound crisp and clear. Horns and cymbals are tinny and harsh if too loud, not an uncommon problem, but otherwise, for tablet speakers, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's are pretty, pretty, pretty good.

The large number of customization options truly do optimize your listening experience. Xiomara Blanco/CNET

Just like a few Samsung Galaxy tablets before it, the Tab Pro 8.4 has multiwindow capabilities. By simply swiping left from the right edge, you can make a variety of multiwindow apps appear, for your productivity -- or procrastination -- pleasure. All of the apps launched fast and once I got the hang of resizing the windows, it was a great way to quickly look things up without having to exit the app I was using. Unfortunately, the Netflix app doesn't allow streaming while a window is open, so you can't simultaneously watch "House of Cards" and browse dog breeds on Chrome. Even though I enjoyed being able to use the multiwindow function at my whim, it often caused performance to slow down and lag, discouraging me from using it often.

Conclusion
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 makes a good case for spending more to get more. Its top-of-the-line specs and zippy performance come in a package that will appease the aesthetically inclined and the business professional alike. Its $400 starting price is an expensive far cry from what you'd pay for some small slates, like the Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, but, in the face of this budget-tablet flood, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 offers more than those models -- a lot more. The Apple iPad Mini with Retina Display costs the same amount, but if you're more interested in a high-end slate with Android appeal, the Samsung Galaxy Pro Tab 8.4 ranks high in the niche of premium small tablets.

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Wireless Connectivity Wi-Fi
  • Type Android 4.4 (KitKat)
  • Weight 11.2 oz
  • Storage 16 GB
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