Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 12.2 Tablet Review
A real iPad alternative?
IntroductionDespite Apple's best efforts Samsung are still around and producing tablets that offer a real alternative to the iPad. Over the last few years we've seen a move to shrink the tablet from the original 9.7" iPad and 10.1" Samsung Galaxy Note to smaller devices such as the iPad Mini at 7.9" and 7-8" Android tablets and a whole host of comical 'Phablet' devices around the 5" size. But the larger tablet still has a place with the iPad Air comfortably outselling the iPad Mini. If rumours are to be believed Apple are working on an iPad 'Pro' with a screen size of 13" so bigger still seems to be better as far as some people are concerned.
With this in mind Samsung have released their largest Galaxy tablet to date, the Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 12.2. As the name would suggest this is a 12.2" device with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a very high specification including 3GB RAM, dual quad core CPUs in the shape of Samsung's own Exynos 5 Octa and 32GB of internal storage. Other features include Multi Window, remote PC app and an 8MP camera all using the latest Android KitKat 4.4.2. Given that tasty specification we have high hopes that this tablet will improve on some of the negatives we found with previous Galaxy tablets such as poor build quality and audio. Let's find out...
Design and ConnectivityUnless you've just crawled out from under a rock, the Samsung tablet design will not be an unfamiliar one to you. It's a design that appears to be working for Samsung and they are sticking to it, although to be fair they are continuously tweaking and updating the overall look. The TabPRO 12.2 keeps to this same style of an all white screen surround with a chrome effect bezel and all white rear panel. The difference, which also features on several of Samsung's current tablets, is that the rear panel has been changed to a faux leather look and feel, even down to leather effect stitching around the edges. Whilst it isn't fooling anyone and clearly doesn't look like leather, it does create a much nicer feel to the rear panel. Previous Samsung tablets have felt very cheap and plasticky on the rear and this faux leather look definitely improves this area. The build quality is reasonable but it's not brilliant by any means and despite the improved rear panel, Samsung tablets never seem to have the look and feel commensurate with their price range.
To the front we find the usual oval shaped home button with the recent apps and back buttons to either side, a 2MP camera at the top next to the chrome Samsung logo and on the rear we get an 8MP camera with flash. As for connections it's pretty sparse and in line with other Samsung tablets, with an SD memory card slot (up to 64GB) along with the multi functional Charger/microUSB 3.0 port on the right, headphone jack to the left and to the top we find the power and volume buttons together with the Infrared blaster. For connecting devices such as external hard drives or outputting via HDMI to your TV you will need to purchase the relevant adaptors. Out-of-the-box connectivity unfortunately strongly resembles Apple here.
There's no beating around the bush, it's a hefty tablet in both size and weight. Coming in at a whopping 738g, this is definitely a two handed device, unless you happen to have arms like LL Cool J. Compare that to an iPad Air at just 469g or even Samsung's own 10" tablets at 477g and the extra weight could be a real concern. It measures 296 x 204 x 8mm. Further issues come with the placement of the speakers which are located on either side of the tablet towards the top. The most comfortable position we found to hold the tablet in when watching videos meant you are covering the speakers up with your hands. This clearly was a detriment to the audio quality and it's almost as if the designers didn't really hold the tablet prior to deciding where to put the speakers.
The S-Pen is sorely missed.
Our last issue is the lack of the excellent S-Pen. Given the much increased screen space that the 12.2" display gives you the S-Pen is sorely missed. Present on the more expensive 12.2" Galaxy Note our previous reviews have found the S-pen adds a huge amount of functionality and opens up a load of apps to be exploited such as the excellent Adobe Photoshop. A stylus was synonymous with the early (pre-iPad) tablets and it may seem odd that in the current modern technological times it should return, but once you've used the S-Pen and have seen how much functionality it adds to a tablet, you won't want a tablet without one.
Specification and PerformanceThe Samsung is listed at £549 but can be picked up for less, which isn't bad for a tablet of this size and the specifications certainly don't disappoint. We have not one, but two processors in the shape of the Exynos 5 Octa providing a 1.9Ghz ARM Cortex-A15 Quad Core and a 1.3Ghz ARM Cortex-A7 Quad Core CPU, 3GB RAM and 32GB of internal storage (a 64GB version is available). Along with the latest Wi-Fi 802.11ac in both 2.4 and 5Ghz, 2MP front camera and 8MP rear camera with flash. The external storage via microSD cards is available up to 64GB.
Thanks to the increasing support for Android by various software developers we at last have several options available to benchmark these tablets. Firstly starting with 3D Mark, using the Ice Storm Unlimited test we get an excellent score of 13773 which puts this tablet firmly amongst the best out there and using Passmark's Performance Test Mobile we get a System score of 5448 which again benchmarks this tablet's performance as being in the top sector, the best score currently recorded on Passmark's website being 5600 so a clear indicator of just how powerful this tablet is. Benchmarks are fine, but real world performance is the key here and in this area we found the tablet to perform very well indeed.
Our test games range from ones that are graphically demanding such as Soulcraft, Six Guns, Heroes Call and the gorgeous looking Dark Meadow to fast paced games such as Air Attack HD. With all of these games the tablet was more than a match for them with smooth frame rates and we encountered no issues of any kind. If you are a fan of some of the best games Android has to offer, this tablet will not disappoint. Our only issue came with the Simpsons Tapped Out game which had serious frame rate issues, but given our experience with the previous games we'd put this down to an App issue rather than a tablet issue. As for the non gaming side of things again the tablet showed more muscle with no issues on a wide range of apps we tested from the basics such as twitter, to more demanding ones such as the 4 way Multi window feature and the Samsung Remote PC app. All installed and opened very quickly and ran with no issues whatsoever.
FeaturesThe TabPRO uses the latest Android KitKat 4.4.2 with Samsung's TouchWiz UI. After playing around with this for a while Samsung have certainly made a lot of improvements here. Whilst the UI on the Samsung tablets we reviewed last year seemed decent enough, they did feel a tad cluttered and unintuitive. The version here feels very smooth and easy to use and you can configure it just to your liking too, something Apple still haven't figured out. Another improvement is Samsung's Magazine UX which has been optimised for the large screen and has its own screen rather than having that tacked on feel with previous versions. The layout can be configured with various different widgets and apps but unfortunately they do not automatically update, so news feeds, twitter, sport feeds etc all have to be manually refreshed to get the latest information. Given the tablet's specification, this seems to be something of a missed trick here.
The tablet comes with hundreds of pounds worth of free apps and subscriptions.
The tablet comes with various pre-installed apps, the first one of note is Hancom Office which is a Word Processing, Spreadsheet and Powerpoint app offering all the functionality you would expect from Microsoft Office for example. Our next favourite app is the Samsung Remote PC. After installing the software on your host PC and connecting you get presented with your desktop on the tablet's screen. This works surprisingly well and far better than we expected. Remote PC apps for tablets are sometimes slow and clunky but this was very smooth and responsive to use. This makes the tablet ideal to use as part of a home cinema for example where a PC or server provides the media. Emphasising the business side of the tablet we also have Cisco WebEx and Samsung e-Meeting which provide easy routes for remote meetings and a free one year subscription to Bloomberg Businessweek+, NY Times and 50GB of Dropbox Storage. The final pre-installed apps are S Note which offers a simple way of creating quick notes and SketchBook for Galaxy which is an excellent free drawing app. Unfortunately the lack of an S-Pen on the Tab removes a lot of the functionality of these two apps, particularly the SketchBook, but they both still work with your trusty finger.
DisplayThe display is a 12.2" TFT with a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and a colour depth of 16M and capable of Full 1080P HD video playback. This gives the screen a healthy PPI (pixels per inch) of 247. The 8.4 and 10.1" versions of the TabPRO use the same resolution which does give them a far superior PPI of 359 and 299 respectively, so the extra 2.1" of screen you get here does reduce the quality in comparison. Although the 247PPI here is not far off the iPad Air with the retina screen at 264PPI. Our overall impression of the screen was a very positive one with a side by side comparison with the iPad Air not really throwing out any obvious quality deficiencies. The brightness level is excellent with the maximum brightness most likely being far too bright for normal use, unless you are a cool dude who wears sunglasses indoors.
Our review last year of a previous generation Samsung tablet showed the screen was still behind the iPad in the quality stakes, but Samsung have come on leaps and bounds with all their latest releases. We had no complaints with the screen here and using several of the screen test apps now available on the Play Store we found the colours to be bright and bold and the black tests showed only a very tiny amount of light bleed from the bottom right hand corner of the screen and of course no stuck or dead pixels. The screen again came up trumps when we tested it with several 1080P video files and a couple of 1080P movies, an excellent screen overall.
AudioThe audio is always the bridesmaid, never the bride it seems with tablets. We've reviewed a number over the years and the quality of the speakers has at times been shocking, so our bar is set pretty low when we get to this area. But with the TabPRO 12.2 the speakers are actually pretty decent. The quality is clearly there, even with the hardware at full volume - which is probably too high for regular use - with no distortion or crackling. Across all the audio files we tested ranging from HD music, films and to gaming audio the quality was very good.
The indicators of poor quality speakers such as the hideous tinny sound were not heard with these speakers at all. Our only slight negative and one we mentioned earlier is the placement of the speakers. Due to the weight of the tablet you are most likely going to hold it with two hands and near the top as this balances it out well, unfortunately that means you could be covering the speakers up. Hopefully Samsung can extend this audio quality across their whole range of tablets as we were very happy with the speakers here.
Battery LifeThe battery here is 3.8volt Li-ion Polymer 9500mAh which Samsung claim will offer Video playback time of up to 11 hours and internet use time up to 13 hours. Whilst these claims are probably laboratory test times and should usually be ignored, the battery does have a lot to offer. In our YouTube video test with the screen at 50% brightness, but with all the other features on as standard, we received a healthy 8 1/2 hours with the tablet automatically lowering the brightness (which you can't alter) when the battery gets to 5%. From completely flat the battery takes almost 6 hours to recharge.
After our first full recharge and putting the tablet through all of our tests, getting lost playing Dark Meadow for a while and disappearing into YouTube for an hour or so, the battery is still showing a healthy 40%. For gaming alone the battery lasted just over 3 1/2 hours on a single full charge. The battery is yet another tick in the positive box here for the TabPRO 12.2.
Media IntegrationPre-loaded is the excellent Samsung WatchON app. Using the Infrared blaster this app turns the tablet into a fully functioning remote control and media device. After the initial setup of your TV and freeview/Sky box you can use the tablet with the integrated TV guide to look for a program (currently on live) that you want to watch, select Watch Now and the tablet will automatically change your equipment to the channel you are watching. It also has a multi room function to identify different TVs and set top boxes in other rooms. The app does have some limitations though as you can't add other equipment to it and it doesn't allow you to send a record command to your equipment for future programs.
There are of course many other apps available that can exploit the IR Blaster feature. Plenty of free ones from basic universal remote apps such as IR Universal Remote to the pricey $39 Samsung Universal Remote Pro. Apps aside, out-of-the-box connectivity as we mentioned previously is nonexistent with most of Samsung's tablets these days, definitely an approach we had hoped to just associate with Apple. To connect to your TV or Home Cinema setup for example, you will need to shell out for a HDMI adapter, but fortunately given the impact on the tablet market Samsung has now made, there are several aftermarket accessories which will open up the tablet's connectivity. Some can be picked up reasonably cheap too. But we'd love to see Samsung increase the out of the box connectivity, it would certainly give them a big step up on Apple in this regard.
- Superb specification
- Huge array of features
- Great battery life
- High Quality display
- Excellent internal speakers
- Very nice UI
- No S-Pen
- Limited connectivity
- Slightly cheap feel
Samsung Galaxy TabPRO 12.2 Tablet ReviewIf the size and weight doesn't bother you, this tablet is a real top notch device. With a list price of £549 including 32GB of internal storage, it may seem fairly pricey, but it does pack a huge specification and a whole host of excellent features. The iPad Air 32GB with the 9.7" retina display comes in at £479, so for an extra £70 you are getting an extra 2.4" of display area, but if you shop around the TabPRO 12.2 32GB can be found for the same price as the iPad Air 32GB anyway and less in some cases, which makes the TabPRO a very interesting proposition.
The hardware is top notch too, firstly with the excellent 12.2" 2560 x 1600 display offering very good visuals, bold and deep colours and a high brightness level and then with the two Quad core CPUs offering superb scores in our benchmark tests and proving what a powerhouse it is in all other areas. The games we tested ran superbly, the Multi-Window feature ran without issue even with all 4 windows running tasks and the various other apps such as the excellent Hancom Office and Remote PC worked without any issues. The Remote PC app in particular ran very smoothly and worked perfectly.
Further superlatives come in the shape of excellent battery life, giving over 8 1/2 hours video playback and 3 1/2 hours for some pretty intense gaming. The internal speakers also step up to the plate, delivering excellent quality audio, no discernible distortion and a total lack of that annoying tinny sound you get with cheaper speakers. The audio quality here has certainly helped to banish the bad experiences we've had in the past with other Samsung tablets, which we hope will only improve further as time goes on.
Android KitKat 4.4.2. with Samsung's TouchWiz UI and their Magazine UX definitely looks the part. It gives the tablet a very clean look, highly customisable as you would expect with an Android tablet and as with everything else on this tablet, it works very well. The only slight negative to the Magazine UX is that it doesn't automatically update the various widgets and apps, you have to manually refresh each one. The pre-installed (or free to download) apps offer a great range of functionality, from design to business orientated apps and more. The free apps and subscriptions themselves are several hundred pounds in value alone. It's also good to see on the Google Play Store that you can now tell if an app is optimised for a phone rather than a tablet, a tiny addition that has been missing for far too long.
We've struggled to find any real negatives to mention in our review, the Samsung TabPRO 12.2 is just that good. If we were being picky we could mention the build quality; it's not quite Apple levels yet with a certain amount of flexing to the tablet and it does feel a little cheaper than the price tag would suggest. Although the new faux leather rear panel has got rid of that awful cheap plastic panel on their previous releases. So overall this tablet is an easy winner of our AVForums Recommended award and unless you are a complete Apple fan-boy or the larger size puts you off, this is definitely a tablet you should consider.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £549.00
Value For Money9
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.