NEW YORK — The rise of the tablet computer has come at the expense of PC sales. But is a tablet a viable stand-in or full-time replacement for a laptop when you’re about to take off on the road?
That’s the essential question for the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. The answer depends on how much you hope to get done. With a humongous screen and apps made for productivity, Samsung has built the Note Pro 12.2 to be more than a suitable stand-in for your notebook PC. But I’m not ready to make this premium business-oriented slate a permanent substitute for my laptop.
The numerals in the Note Pro name, of course, refer to the display size of the tablet in inches. But the machine not only carries relatively massive dimensions, but a massive price, too. It starts at a $749.99 for a 32-gigabyte model with Wi-Fi only, and costs $100 more for 64 GB. Coming later is a 4G LTE version from Verizon Wireless. You can expand the storage via micro SD. It runs the KitKat version of Android, though Samsung, for better or worse, makes liberal use of its own software interface.
The killer feature here is the brilliant high-resolution (2560 x 1600) display. It rivals, and in some instances exceeds, the screen size on an ultra-portable laptop. Work be damned — I enjoyed watching Netflix’s House of Cards on it.
The not-insignificant trade-off comes in a tablet that is certainly bigger than you probably bargained for. Still, it bothered me less than I thought it would as I surfed the Web on a commuter bus with the thing resting on my lap. At 1.65-pounds, this is far from the lightest tablet you’ll ever use. But the weight is evenly distributed, and the tablet is still lighter than your typical notebook. With a faux leather back, it feels comfortable enough.
The tablet has plenty of processing power, and you’ll certainly appreciate the extra-generous screen real estate on the 12.2-inch model. (Samsung has also recently released smaller-screen Pro series models.)
One way Samsung lets you take advantage of the screen is through a multitasking feature that gives you the option of displaying up to four apps simultaneously. It’s easy enough to do by dragging the representative icons for such apps off a panel that slides in from the right edge of the display. You can resize the windows in which the apps appear.
There’s also a handsome and customizable home screen layout dubbed the “Magazine UX” that borrows elements from Flipboard and the tile-style interface familiar to users of Windows 8. My “magazine” had apps from Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and various news sources.
When I first saw this tablet back at CES, Samsung drilled home the point that there remains something of a productivity gap between play-first tablets and work-first laptops.
To help bridge that gap, Samsung supplies an Office-like app suite from a Korean software producer called Hancom. It shares much in common with Microsoft’s more famous Office suite — Hcell, Hshow and Hword are the Hancom alternatives to Excel, PowerPoint and Word, each with the familiar menu headings (File, Edit, View and so on) that you see in those Microsoft programs.
Other onboard apps include Bloomberg Businessweek — you get a free one-year subscription — The New York Times, Cisco WebEx Meetings (6 months free), Dropbox (50 GB of space for two years) and Evernote.
Speaking of apps, for all that’s here, it’s worth remembering that the supply of Android apps for tablets still pales compared with the number of tablet-specific apps for the iPad.
In my mind, typing on this tablet is no substitute for an honest-to-goodness physical keyboard (which you can buy as an accessory). But Samsung did as well as it could emulating a physical keyboard with the onscreen keyboard here. It has a dedicated “Ctrl” key for those handy PC shortcuts: (cut, copy and paste), and the “Tab” key and “Caps lock” keys behave like their physical keyboard equivalents. There’s a bit of haptic feedback as you bang away on the keys, though I didn’t do well avoiding errors as I attempted to trying to touch type with abandon.
Yet, another feature lets you remotely connect the tablet to an actual computer, PC or Mac, by installing a software “agent” onto those remote computers — only I couldn’t get it to work right away. Weird quirk: I had to enter a long string of letters and numbers as I set up the Mac, but the instructions on doing so appeared in Korean.
I didn’t test an E-Meeting feature that would let you share and collaborate on documents with other tablet owners.
One thing that distinguishes the Note Pro from other freshly minted Pro series tablets from Samsung is the inclusion of its S Pen. Among its tricks: You can use this souped-up stylus to jot down notes, or to draw around an object on the screen that you want to save in a Scrapbook.
I didn’t run a formal battery test, but there was plenty of juice between charges. I encountered one unsettling message when I plugged it in one time: “Charging paused. Battery temperature too high.” Uh oh!
Samsung has made big strides engineering an appealing tablet for business. But it’s an expensive option that, taken as a whole, still doesn’t measure up to the laptop.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
$749.99 on up.
Pro. Brilliant and big screen. Hancom office suite. S Pen.
Con. Expensive. Too large for some users. Some quirks setting up Remote PC feature.