Samsung turns pro with new Galaxy TabPro line of premium tablets coming Feb. 13

/ Updated: February 4, 2014 1:50 PM PST

LAS VEGAS -- Samsung's new Galaxy TabPro line makes a significant step toward the company leaving behind the traditional Android interface in favor of something more graphical and immediate. The tablet comes in three sizes: 12.2-inch, 10.1-inch, and 8.4-inch. Look for Wi-Fi and LTE versions -- as well as a 3G variant in international markets -- in the first quarter of 2014.

The 8.4-inch and 10.1 inch models will arrive on February 13, while the 12.2-inch is coming in March. The 32GB Wi-Fi model of the 12.2-inch will hit at $650. The TabPro 10.1 costs $500 for 16GB, while the TabPro 8.4 gives you 16GB of internal memory for $400.

Widgets gone wild
The Galaxy TabPro ships with Android 4.4, but that actually may not be so apparent at first glance. The TouchWiz interface has been replaced with what the company has christened Magazine UX. It's a much more graphical UI that uses widgets to make accessing information and apps much more immediate.

While app icons are still accessible, the default interface looks like something closer to Windows 8.1, with the screen segmented into tiles. For instance, the default home screen puts a weather widget along the left edge, while the right side is divided between a Flipboard widget at the top and an array of frequently used apps below it.

The new Magazine UX interface makes widgets an essential part of the Galaxy TabPro interface. Sarah Tew/CNET

Each widget is completely interactive -- for example, swiping down on Flipboard cycles through different news stories -- and widget selection, size, placement, and orientation are all customizable. You can create several widget-filled screens like this each with its own widgets and design.

The interface isn't the most intuitive -- I had trouble figuring out why I couldn't make certain widgets as small or as large as I wanted -- but once I learned how to do things, it all started to fall into place for me. Thankfully, Samsung was smart not to upset the apple cart too much, as you can still access apps the traditional way if widgets just aren't working for you.

The Magazine UX interface looks even sharper on the 8.4-inch tablet. Sarah Tew/CNET

The advent of widgets, the newest and coolest software feature is Remote PC which allows the tablet to connect to and control a PC or Mac from even a world away -- during a demo in Las Vegas, the Samsung rep used the tablet to access her computer in Korea.

Earlier I compared the new Magazine UX interface to Windows 8.1, but it actually feels more like an evolution of the tweaks Samsung has made to TouchWiz over the last year or so. Samsung is attempting to answer the demands of its customer base, by bringing all the stuff that makes a tablet great more to the forefront. However, it will definitely take some getting used to.

The Galaxy TabPro with Ethernet adapter and mouse. Sarah Tew/CNET

Premium specs
The TabPro will be powered by either the latest Exynos processor or a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, depending on the region in which it's purchased. The 12.2-inch version includes 3GB of RAM which allows it to run up to four simultaneous apps at once. Both the 10.1-inch and 8.4-inch includes only 2GB of RAM and as result can run only two concurrent apps.

All three tablets deliver impressively sharp images with 2,560x1,600 resolution screens which makes the 8.4-incher the smallest tablet so far to sport that high of a resolution. Front cameras are rated at 2 megapixels, while the rear camera delivers 8-megapixel images with LED flash.

As with all Samsung tablets, each features a microSD expansion port, IR blaster, a micro USB port for charging, and come in both 32GB and 64GB configurations.

Design
The TabPros all follow Samsung's new house design for tablets first seen on the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition and Galaxy Note 3. This includes the leather-like backing, faux stitching at the top, and a plastic spine that closely resembles some type of shiny silver metal.

I'm a huge fan of home buttons on tablets, so I'm glad Samsung has still include the feature in its tablets. Sarah Tew/CNET

I'm a fan of this design despite the counterfeit nature of its materials and the plastic feel of the bezel. Its corners are smooth, the bodies are thin, and they're just comfortable to hold, especially the smaller 8.4-inch version. The 10.1-incher feels exactly like the Note 10.1 2014 Edition, and at 1.6 pounds, the 12.2 inch tablet is best laid flat on a desk.

First thoughts
I like premium tablets, and the TabPro's specs speak to that side of me that gets excited about running benchmarks. These are Samsung tablets however, so they will not be cheap, but their success will depend on how consumers react to Magazine UX.

I do like that Samsung is doing something that feels different. It's taking a chance with the new interface, and I'd honestly rather see that than just another Android tablet, no matter its premium appeal.

We'll definitely have more information on the Galaxy TabPro over the next few months.

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