Samsung Galaxy NotePRO and TabPRO first impressions

The latest entries into the Galaxy tablet lineup deserve the PRO moniker

When the Galaxy TabPRO and Galaxy NotePRO line of tablets was first introduced in Las Vegas last month, it was met with a subdued reception: Samsung, after all, seems to announce tablets in brand new sizes and spec configurations on an increasingly-regular basis, leading critics and consumers alike to dismiss yet another set of Galaxy tablets with an incremental bump in specs. But a closer look at the new PRO line revealed something exciting — this wasn’t just one of Samsung’s run-of-the-mill refreshes, but rather an exciting overhaul of both its Tab and Note lineups. With a fresh new UI, the best spec sheet in the business, and a few new sizes added for good measure, the PRO line just might include some of Samsung’s best tablets to date.

Our Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 and Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 arrived on Saturday, and we spent the snowy weekend curled up getting to know what it takes to be a PRO. We’ll be spending much more quality time with the tablets in the coming weeks, but ahead of our full in-depth review, here are a few of our initial takeaways.

It would appear as though Samsung is taking a step toward standardizing its tablet lines, shifting away from the confusing “Galaxy Tab” and “Galaxy Note” differentiators and using PRO as the new common denominator. The TabPROs and the NotePRO share many of same specs, including that stunning 2560x1600 LCD display found on each model. It’s Samsung’s crowning achievement to date with breathtaking clarity, color saturation, and viewing angles. At 8.4 inches on the Galaxy TabPRO, its pixel density offers mind-boggling detail; on the higher end at 12.2 inches on the NotePRO, you’ll notice some degradation only if you’re comparing the two sizes side by side. Simply put, this is one of the nicest displays on the market today, and Samsung has successfully set the bar for the upcoming wave of flagship smartphones and tablets hitting shelves this year.

Both the Exynos 5 and Snapdragon 800 produce lightening-fast speeds and stellar multitasking capabilities

Samsung has also standardized the look and feel of its PRO line, including the faux-leather finish it introduced in its Note 3. No longer a Note exclusive, the finish looks great on these tablets and adds a premium sense of quality and durability to the lineup, as does the tasteful faux-chrome outer skeleton. 

Much of what’s under the hood is the same across the board, too, though with some slight differences: all of the WiFi tablets use an Exynos 5 octa-core processor, except for the TabPRO 8.4 and the various LTE versions – these models use a Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.3 GHz. The RAM and storage setup differs too: on the 12.2-inch NotePRO and TabPRO you’ll find 3 GB of RAM  with 32 or 64 GBs of onboard storage; on the TabPRO 8.4 and 10.1, you’ll find 2 GB of RAM with 16 or 32 GBs of storage.

Using the NotePRO 12.2 and the TabPRO 8.4 I was exposed to both internal setups, but was unable to really tell the difference between the two. Both the Exynos 5 and Snapdragon 800 produce lightening-fast speeds and stellar multitasking capabilities, and it’ll take a few more days of usage to really determine if there’s a clear winner here.

All in all, the PRO tablets are truly something to behold, and with roughly the same specs in each model, the decision really comes down to size

Even with such powerful guts, though, the PRO tablets still seem to be throttled by Samsung’s TouchWiz, which appears here in a slightly-evolved form atop Android 4.4 KitKat and with the tablet-centric Magazine Home in tow. It’s a nice refresh and packs some cool tricks up its sleeve, but it’s still relatively heavy and at times can slow the tablets down. You can check out our first impressions of Magazine Home here, and stay tuned for much more coverage of what’s new in this latest iteration of TouchWiz.

All in all, the PRO tablets are truly something to behold, and with roughly the same specs in each model, the decision really comes down to size. I truly enjoy the 8.4-inch footprint, which is just small enough to be portable yet large enough for comfortable multimedia consumption. Despite it’s place at the bottom of the PRO totem pole, it’s plenty powerful with a gorgeous design and a pixel density that will leave your head spinning.

At the other end of the spectrum, the NotePRO 12.2 offers its own set of strengths: at this size viewing movies and playing games has never been more immersive, and the S-Pen, along with Samsung’s Note-centric software, can really shine with so much room to work with. Sure, you’re sacrificing portability, but this is a device meant for your living room or office rather than your backpack.

I’ll be spending the next few weeks putting the PRO lineup through its paces for a full review; until then, you can let us know in the comments and in the forums what you’re most curious about.

Samsung Galaxy NotePRO and TabPRO first impressions