Samsung's newest Note tablet includes premium specs, widget-based interface, and 12.2-inch screen
Editors' note: Aside from the Samsung Galaxy TabPro 12.2's lack of S Pen compatibility, both it and the Galaxy NotePro are identical in design and specs. If you've read the First Take for the TabPro, you'll notice very similar text below.
LAS VEGAS -- Along with the new Galaxy TabPro line, Samsung's new NotePro makes a significant step toward the company leaving behind the traditional Android interface in favor of something more graphical and immediate. Look for Wi-Fi and LTE versions -- as well as a 3G variant in international markets -- in the in the first quarter of 2014.
The NotePro will arrive on February 13, starting at $750 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model and $850 for the 64GB Wi-Fi option.
Widgets gone wild
The Galaxy NotePro 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.
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.
Beyond 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 NotePro will be powered by either the latest Exynos processor or a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, depending on the region in which it's purchased. It includes 3GB of RAM, which allows it to run up to four simultaneous apps at once; the previous Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition could display only two concurrent apps.
The tablet delivers impressively sharp images with a 2,560x1,600 resolution screen. Front cameras are rated at 2 megapixels, while the rear camera delivers 8-megapixel images with LED flash.
As with all Samsung tablets, the NotePro features a microSD expansion port, an IR blaster, and a micro USB port for charging, and comes in both 32GB and 64GB configurations.
The NotePros 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 fan of this design despite the counterfeit nature of its materials and the plastic feel of the bezel. The corners are smooth, the body thin, but at 1.6 pounds, the 12.2-inch tablet is best laid flat on a desk.
I like premium tablets, and the NotePro's specs speak to the 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, regardless of its premium appeal.
We'll definitely have more information on the Galaxy NotePro over the next few months.