Samsung's 12-Inch Tablet: Is It Worth $850?

Galaxy NotePro tablet is Samsung's best piece of mobile hardware for the enterprise, and the 12.2-inch device has a price tag to match.
Mobile World Congress: 5 Hot Gadgets
Mobile World Congress: 5 Hot Gadgets
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Verizon Wireless is now selling the Samsung Galaxy NotePro tablet. The device, which was announced earlier this year, boasts a 12.2-inch display, LTE 4G, and a brand new magazine-style user interface from Samsung. With the right accessories the NotePro can almost replace a laptop. I spent several weeks using the NotePro. Is it worth the weighty cost?

The primary feature of the NotePro is, of course, the huge screen. At 12.2 inches across the diagonal, it is one of the largest available on a tablet. The NotePro's screen alone has a larger footprint than an entire Apple iPad Air. Samsung's tablet has a WQXGA (2,560 x 1,600) Super LCD panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio. There's no denying that it looks gorgeous. The display provides ample room for multitasking, such as running apps side-by-side in separate windows.

The NotePro has a classy design. The front surface is all glass, with Samsung's trademark button configuration along the bottom. There's an attractive chrome band around the entire rim of the tablet. This band houses stereo speakers (which sound great), buttons (that work well), and ports, all of which are positioned for easy use. The S Pen stylus is also tucked into the rim, and it is easy to retrieve. The entire back panel is made of plastic that resembles faux leather (complete with stitching along the edges). Samsung has upgraded its flagship products, such as the Galaxy Note 3 and Chromebook Series 2, with this leather look. The overall appearance of the NotePro is sharp and business-like. The materials are good, and the tablet feels solid and well made.

As the name implies, the NotePro was designed for people who need to be productive. The device ships with Android 4.4.2 KitKat on board and what Samsung calls its Magazine User Interface. The UI, which is what you'll experience on the home screen panels, lets owners customize the content that appears on the home screens in segregated boxes that resemble magazine pages. For example, on one home screen panel I was able to build a collection of boxes that included my calendar, email inbox, Google Drive documents, and a customized newsfeed. Customizing the home screens takes time, but can be rewarding once you come up with the right mix. Of course, the best feature is the multi-window function for running two apps at once. Individual applications behave just as they do on other Android devices.

There are tons of applications preloaded, including the full suite of Google-made apps found on all Android devices and a similar suite of Samsung-made apps, such as S Voice and Knos security. The software that accompanies the S Pen is quite good, and it really works well with the large screen. It felt natural to use the S Pen to scribble notes and then attach them to emails. Some of the third-party extras are Dropbox, Hancom Viewer (for PDFs), Netflix, Evernote, Flipboard, and Microsoft Office clones from Hancom.

[Will this tablet help Android stay the market leader? Read Android Takes Top Tablet OS Crown.]

The NotePro uses Samsung's Exynos 5 Octa processor, with four cores at 1.9 GHz and four cores at 1.3 GHz. It has 3 GB of RAM and comes with either 32 or 64 GB of internal storage and support for microSD memory cards. Connectivity options include WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth, and LTE. It also offers an 8-megapixel main camera and 2-megapixel user-facing camera. It carries a 9,500 mAh battery. I found it offered at least 10 hours of productive time. The NotePro weighs 1.65 pounds. It feels pretty heavy after a while, and I found holding it for more than an hour was tiresome.

The review package sent by Samsung included a stand, keyboard, and mouse. Used with these accessories, I was able to perform nearly all my job functions on the tablet. For my purposes, however, photo and video manipulation still requires a laptop or desktop computer. If your work is limited to editing documents and email, I have no doubt that the NotePro could be the only computing device you need. Of course, the accessories are what really make it a solid work machine, and traveling with them makes the entire package bulky and heavy. For couch-side surfing, I prefer smaller machines, such as the Nexus 7.

Verizon Wireless is selling the NotePro at stores beginning Friday. It is asking $849.99 for the tablet without a contract, though it is willing to take $100 off that price for those willing to sign a two-year agreement. (Pro Tip: Don't sign, just buy it outright.)

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