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

Despite its huge collection of software features and large screen, the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro won't quite satisfy business users looking to replace their laptops.

Eric Franklin Former Editorial Director
Eric Franklin led the CNET Tech team as Editorial Director. A 20-plus-year industry veteran, Eric began his tech journey testing computers in the CNET Labs. When not at work he can usually be found at the gym, chauffeuring his kids around town, or absorbing every motivational book he can get his hands on.
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Eric Franklin
7 min read

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.


Samsung Galaxy Note Pro

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.

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.

The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro is a hulking behemoth (pictures)

See all photos


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.

Weight in poundsWidth in inches (landscape)Height in inchesDepth in inchesSide bezel width in inches (landscape)
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 1.6511.648.030.320.75
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition 1.189.626.750.310.5
Apple iPad Air
Microsoft Surface 2 1.4910.86.80.350.81

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.

Samsung Knox creates a password- and PIN-protected instance of the tablet's interface with restricted app options. Useful if you're working with sensitive documents.

There's also S Note, the WatchOn TV controller, a three-month LinkedIn premium membership, a 3- to 12-month (depending on country) Evernote subscription, and 1TB of free storage for three months on cloud service Bitcasa. Samsung also throws in a 12-month free subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek+ and The New York Times.


Even on a screen as large as 12.2 inches, the Note Pro's 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution still looks impressive with no obvious signs of pixels or aliasing. The display is bright and colorful when viewed directly; however, it has one of narrowest viewing angles of any recent Samsung tablet. It doesn't reach twisted-nematic levels of color instability, but colors don't keep their integrity nearly as well as on top tablets like the iPad Air, Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, or even the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition. The fact that the screen reflects its environment so easily doesn't help matters.

Maximum brightnessMaximum black levelMaximum contrast ratioPixels per inch
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 368 cd/m20.62 cd/m2593:1247
Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition 326 cd/m20.33 cd/m2987:1299
Apple iPad Air 421 cd/m20.39 cd/m21,079:1264
Microsoft Surface 2 315 cd/m20.24 cd/m21,313:1208

Multi Screen allows multiple apps -- up to five on the Note Pro -- to be opened at once. Unfortunately, you can't choose any five apps, but instead must select from a designated few, found by swiping in from the right bezel.

Multi Screen's implementation has been changed slightly from previous Samsung tablets. While each app opens in a floating window when launched, which can make moving them around and resizing them cumbersome; however, if you drag apps from the tray to the screen it's much easier to handle.

As each new app is dragged on top of the other, they'll snap to the screen, each taking up an equal portion, until up to four are onscreen at once.

The Multi Screen app array. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

There are minimize and maximize buttons, but once an app is maximized, there's no clear way to then resize the windows to your liking, and you'll have to either completely minimize it into its own tray or close the app or drag another on top of it.

There's a definite overall system performance hit when running multiple apps. Also, the visuals don't always scale when the windows are resized, and as a result text can appear truncated or smushed.

Why we can't have nice things. Things slow down something awful with multiple apps open. Screenshot by Eric Franklin/CNET

Front and back cameras take better-than-average shots as tablet cameras go; the front shooter in particular appears to have a lower-than-usual aperture, resulting in fairly clean shots. The rear 8-megapixel camera takes sharp enough pics, but there's still a dearth of color within the images.

The Note Pro lasted 11 hours playing an HD video in Airplane mode. That's better than the average tablet and a pleasant surprise given its extra-large screen. That's about 30 minutes less than the Surface 2 and a good 2 hours less than the iPad Air. Check out our full list of tablet battery results for more comparisons.

Gaming performance is about equal to that of the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, putting it about on par with most of the top tablets currently in release.

3DMark (Unlimited)

Apple iPad Air 15,312Microsoft Surface 2 14,610Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition 13,677Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 13,674
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Graphics test 1 (GPU)

Apple iPad Air 103Microsoft Surface 2 90.9Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 86.5Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition 77.8
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Graphics test 2 (GPU)

Apple iPad Air 70.8Microsoft Surface 2 49.8Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition 46.7Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 44.8
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Physics test (CPU)

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition 46.5Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 44.5Microsoft Surface 2 44.2Apple iPad Air 28.2
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance


At $750, the question of whether you should you buy the Note Pro comes down to your own individual needs. There are plenty of great, but much cheaper, tablets available if all you're looking for is something to stream movies on while you lay in bed. The Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 and 8.9 -- $229 and $379, respectively -- and the $229 Google Nexus 7 are made for that kind of thing. For something larger, the iPad Air and Asus Transformer Pad TF701T should satisfy your needs.

For those looking to replace a workstation, there are a few viable options. There's been a rash of cheap full-Windows 8.1 tablets from the likes of Asus and Dell recently. These tablets give you the full Windows experience -- along with keyboard, touch pad, and usually a full-size USB port -- for a decent price. A price less than the Note Pro's starting price.

The Note Pro beats the Windows RT-based Surface 2 on software options, but right now Microsoft's tablet has the best keyboard on any tablet and its multitasking implementation makes less of a performance hit. However, I'll be sure to revisit the Note Pro after I've used it with the Logitech case for a while.

The Note Pro starts at $750 for 32GB of storage. That's a lot, even for a quality tablet, and even at that price it won't replace your workstation. There are just too many performance and interface issues.

Right now, there are no tablets I'd trade in for my MacBook Air. Tablets can be effective alternatives, but just aren't ready to use for all your workstation needs.


Samsung Galaxy Note Pro

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 9Performance 7