Ahead of Galaxy S5 event, Samsung releases Galaxy NotePRO

Reviewers got their hands on the Galaxy NotePRO, and results are mixed. What does this indicate for Samsung's upcoming Galaxy S5 release?

Isaac Brekken/AP Photo
Vice President Samsung Telecommunications America Nanda Ramachandran introduces tablets during a news conference at the International Consumer Electronics Show, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Las Vegas. Samsung is reportedly releasing a new line of tablets with extra-large screens.

Just ahead of the highly anticipated Samsung Unpacked 5 event at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, reviewers got their hands on the newest tablet offering from Samsung: the Galaxy NotePRO.

The tablet, which is aimed more at a business-minded tablet consumer, seems to be a device that can top the increasingly competitive non-iPad tablet game. But reviewers say Samsung fails to offer anything particularly revolutionary, which doesn’t bode well for the much-hyped offerings coming next week at the major Samsung event.

To start, the NotePRO is solidly a tablet. It boasts a 12.2-inch screen, which leaves no room for confusing this device as a “phablet”, a current trend in the phone and tablet world. In fact, it is one of the largest tablets available, about an inch bigger than the Microsoft Surface Pro 2 and two inches bigger than Apple’s iPad Air. However, at only 0.31 inches thick and 1.65 pounds, it is relatively svelte. 

“It's awkward to hold, though it is impressively slim, and even in your lap it begs to be used with some sort of docking device or stand,” writes PC Magazine reviewer Eugene Kim.

Samsung does offer a variety of accessories, including a keyboard, wireless mouse, and folio cover, which Mr. Kim says all work to make the tablet more effective, but doesn’t replicate the feeling of a desktop computer, like other tablets. However, it does have an extra-sharp screen (247 pixels per inch) and stylus capability, both of which work well with the massive screen size.

Performance-wise, the tablet is also hit and miss. The tablet runs on Samsung’s Exynos processor (a combination of a quad-core 1.9GHz A15 chip and quad-core 1.3GHz A7 chip) and Android 4.4.2. It also comes with the newly released tiled-based Magazine UX, a sort of Flipboard-style interface for Android, and pre-loaded apps such as Autodesk Sketchbook, a photo-editing app, and Hancom Office, an office suite. Kim says these are impressive and useful products that bring this tablet to the next level.

“[Pre-loaded apps] coupled with the wireless keyboard and mouse accessories, the NotePRO delivers one of the closest laptop-like experiences when it comes to content creation on Android,” Kim writes. “Also onboard are built in tools for Cisco WebEx meetings and remote access to PCs.”

The focus of all this is the opportunity for new levels of multi-tasking, certainly something interesting to the enterprise crowd. But the variety of applications can bog down processing speeds, which CNET reviewer Eric Franklin found antithetical to the device’s mission.

“The Note Pro's laggy performance when running multiple apps at once limits its usefulness as a workstation replacement,” he writes.

The device starts at $750 for a 32 GB option, which reviewers say is a hefty price to pay, unless you know the device is perfect for you.

“With a $750 starting price, only power tablet users need apply… 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,” concludes Mr. Franklin.

This release comes just days before the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona where Samsung will host an “Unpacked 5” event in order to debut its newest smart phone, the Galaxy S5, as well as a new Galaxy Gear smart watch.

Rumors have been flying as to what could be on the newest Galaxy phone, including a fingerprint sensor, waterproof exterior, and a massive 5.2-inch screen. Will Samsung be able to upgrade its signature smart phone enough to capture attention from the growing iPhone 5S popularity, especially among formerly Blackberry-oriented enterprise users? This tablet doesn't seem to indicate as much, but we'll find out soon enough.

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