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Hey, business users, the Samsung Galaxy TabPro could be your next tablet

With its Galaxy TabPro 12.2, Samsung targets productivity users and represents a sizable challenge for Microsoft's Surface 2.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With its Galaxy TabPro 12.2, Samsung takes direct aim at Microsoft, the Surface 2, and the productivity tablet market. Thanks to its huge bounty of business apps, the TabPro can easily challenge the Surface 2 as the best ARM-based productivity tablet and may even be able to surpass it.

It's taking a slightly different trail than Microsoft's to get there, and though I haven't spent nearly enough time with the TabPro just yet -- look for a full review later this month -- its appeal as a business tablet is crystal-clear.

Productivity software
You can't have a productivity tablet without productivity apps. Well, you could, but you wouldn't get much actual work done.

Thankfully, the TabPro ships with a wealth of free apps, including a free subscription to Hancom Office, 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.

If it's remotely businessy and available for Android, apparently you'll be getting it free on the TabPro.

Sarah Tew/CNET

However, the two apps that best exemplify Samsung's commitment to the business user are Cisco's Web conferencing tool, WebEx -- with a six-month free subscription and unlimited meetings -- and the inclusion of a two-year free subscription to RemotePC. RemotePC lets users access their PCs from the TabPro if both the tablet and the PC in question have Internet access.

In comparison, the Surface 2 ships with Microsoft's entire Office 2013 suite, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote. It also comes with 200GB of free SkyDrive space for two years. There's a remote desktop app for the Surface 2, but no WebEx apps in the Windows Store.

Each app in Microsoft's suite is arguably the best around for its intended purpose. Office is a household name and the brand has an overall positive reputation. It's a quality experience; one that makes the Surface 2 a unique tablet in a sea of increasingly similar devices.

Samsung's approach instead appears to be throwing as many free business apps and subscriptions at the user as possible in an effort to cover all your business needs. Do most of us need a subscription to Businessweek+ to get our work done? Not likely, but I'm not one to turn up my nose at free software. I just hope that the quality of the TabPro's software offerings comes close to what you get from Microsoft. I've never used Hancom Office, but after a quick perusal of the iOS version's user reviews, I'm not filled with confidence.

Samsung's new Magazine UX interface for the TabPro feels like an evolution of what the company has been doing on tablets for the last year or so. It augments the pure Android experience by bringing widgets to the forefront in an especially visual -- and quite elegant and beautiful -- way. And it does so without sacrificing the flexibility and customization Android is known for, even allowing you to switch back to the more familiar apps shortcut-based interface.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Visually it's a striking change -- possibly, too much of a change -- from what we're used to on Android. Based on my brief time with the UI, the interface is much easier to customize than Windows RT and offers at least one useful feature RT can't match.

While Windows RT lets you use two concurrent apps onscreen, the Galaxy TabPro 12.2 doubles that number. However, only a few specific apps are compatible. Nevertheless, with four apps open at once, you could get seriously productive if you want.

When pitting Windows RT against Android, the pink-polka-dotted elephant in the room needs addressing: there are simply way more apps available for Android than there are in the Windows Store. Not all are business-focused of course, but even if you worship at the altar of business and productivity, it's nice to have the option of letting off a bit of steam now and again. And with the Google Play Store, you'll have many more time-wasters to choose from.

There's no official keyboard for the Galaxy TabPro 12.2; however, Logitech will release its own keyboard accessory for the tablet. I got a chance to use it briefly at CES earlier this year and was surprised at how comfortable it was to type on.

James Martin/CNET

I can't say it's as comfortable as my favorite tablet keyboard -- the Touch Cover 2 for the Surface 2 -- as I'd have to spend more time with each, but it delivers satisfying feedback from each keystroke and is, thankfully, as wide as a typical laptop keyboard. It also folds around the tablet like most folio case keyboard designs for easy portability.

The Galaxy TabPro's 12.2-inch screen is one of the largest ever on an Android tablet, and with a 2,560x1,600 resolution, it's poised to deliver extremely sharp images. However, it must be said that with such a large screen, its 9,500mAh battery will need to pack in some serious cell life to compensate. The Surface 2, with its sharp 1,920x1,080 screen, is currently one of the longest-lasting tablets available.

The TabPro's extra features include a microSD slot for storage expansion and a Micro-USB 3.0 port. Admittedly, not as appealing as the Surface 2's full USB 3.0 port.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As for true mobility, The TabPro will launch with both Wi-Fi and LTE models, appealing to that business user on the go. Surface buyers have to wait a bit still before we see the LTE Surface 2.

Microsoft Surface 2 Samsung Galaxy TabPro 12.2
Dimensions/Weight 10.81 inches by 6.81 inches by 0.35 inch; 1.49 lbs 11.6 inches by 8.02 inches by 0.31 inch; 1.65 lbs
LTE: 1.66 lbs
Display 10.6 inches; 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution; 208ppi 12.2 inches; 2,560x1,600-pixel resolution; 247ppi
Operating system Windows RT 8.1 Android 4.4; Magazine UX interface
4G LTE Expected early 2014 Yes (global)
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth v4.0 v4.0
Rear-facing camera 5 megapixels 8 megapixels
Front-facing camera 3.5 megapixels 2 megapixels
Processor Nvidia Tegra 4 Samsung Exynos Octa 5
Capacity 32GB and 64GB; 2GB RAM 32GB and 64GB; 3GB RAM
Expandable memory Up to 64GB Up to 64GB
Available colors Silver Black and white
Pricing $449 (32GB) and $549 (64GB) Unconfirmed

According to Samsung news Web site SamMobile, the TabPro's price will hit around $650 for the Wi-Fi version at 32GB, and $750 for LTE with the same amount of storage. We'll also see 64GB versions, presumably at a higher price.

Samsung is notorious for overpricing its Android tablets, but given its continued success, I don't expect that to change any time soon. While it's no surprise that the 12.2-inch TabPro will be expensive, at least Samsung isn't holding out on the extras.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Hey, there's a Stylus version too
The Samsung Galaxy NotePro is identical in every way to the TabPro 12.2. It also just so happens to come with an S Pen Stylus, and of course its screen is compatible with said Stylus.

Sarah Tew/CNET

A Stylus can be a handy tool for taking notes in meetings and its implementation in the Note line has thus far been quite successful, from both a design and usability standpoint.

There are a number of styli available for the Surface 2, but the pen isn't integrated nearly as deeply into the OS as it is in the Note line.

Personally, I'm not ready for any tablet to completely replace my laptop as my preferred workstation. I enjoy the comforting security of multiple full USB ports, tons more storage, and the ability to easily type on my lap without having to make too many adjustments.

However, I'm aware that there are plenty of you ready to take the plunge and go all-tablet. Samsung appears to offer a feasible alternative to the traditional workstation with gobs of free software, a customizable interface, and of course a gigantic screen.

It's great to see a worthy productivity challenger to the Surface 2 pop up, but until we have final TabPro hardware in our hands, we can't fairly crown a winner just yet.

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