Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 deep-dive review: Almost a laptop replacement

Samsung's new Android tablet offers a great display and a lot of useful features, but can it substitute for a laptop? Matt Hamblen tried it and reports on the results.

Samsung's big Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet offers a desktop or laptop computer experience -- almost.

The new Note Pro has a crystal-clear 12.2-in. diagonal LCD display at 2560 x 1600 pixels, which provides 30% more screen real estate than on a 10-in. tablet. The viewing experience is complemented by a stunning sound system that makes playing videos truly immersive.

Samsung Galaxy Pro 12.2
Samsung Galaxy Pro 12.2

With a 9,500mAh battery, a Samsung Exynos 5 Octa Processor and 3GB of memory, I was able to get more than 13 hours of battery life with intensive use (including streaming much of the original 1990 BBC trilogy of House of Cards), impressive by any standard.

There are many other hardware plusses, including Samsung's customary micro SD slot that lets you add up to 64GB of external storage. An 8-megapixel rear camera comes with a super quick shutter speed (rated at zero by Samsung) and full HD video at 60fps; there's also a 2-megapixel front camera.

My Wi-Fi-only review unit came in black with a faux leather back and a glass screen that, unfortunately, did little to reduce outdoor glare. A white version is also available, and Verizon Wireless now offers a 4G LTE version.

Samsung is pitching this tablet mainly as a productivity machine for writers, artists, executives and students who are mobile and need a way to create content as much as they consume it. So I decided to give it a try for 10 days -- first, at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona and afterward in my home office.

At 1.7 lb., the tablet felt heavy. It weighs more than the Microsoft Surface 2 (1.5 lb.) and the iPad Air (1 lb.) -- and at 11.6 x 8 x 0.32 in., it's noticeably larger as well. Still, it is much lighter than the 4.5 lb. MacBook Pro that I regularly use for work.

The limits of a virtual keyboard

To make the Note Pro truly an effective mobile productivity device at MWC, I needed to carry along review units of the Samsung Bluetooth keyboard ($60), the S-Mouse ($40) and the Book Cover case ($70). Unfortunately, even with these add-ons, there were problems.

I tried -- in a cramped newsroom cubby -- to prop up the Note Pro with the snap-on Book Cover; the cover wrapped around the back to work as a stand. Then I placed the Bluetooth keyboard and mouse in front. Unfortunately, the Book Cover was too flimsy to offer much stability, especially if I needed to touch the screen, so I quickly reverted to my laptop instead.

Typing on the separate physical Bluetooth keyboard with the Note Pro worked okay. However, when I didn't have the time or space to set up the keyboard -- for example, at news conferences and during meetings where a table wasn't nearby -- typing on the virtual keypad was practically impossible. The "keys" wouldn't always respond quickly to my touches, and when I tried to hit the keys a bit more forcefully, they seemed to "stick," so that a string of letters would be produced even after I lifted my fingers away.

I found out later that recent surveys have shown that up to 40% of IT shops are considering replacing their employees' laptops with tablets. (Perhaps that's because many workers are willing to trade a heavier laptop for a lighter tablet; hopefully, they don't really need the ability to type quickly or often.) The touch on the virtual keyboard obviously takes some adjustment -- I saw other fast typists at MWC making use of virtual keyboards on their tablets -- but I never found the proper pressure and gave up because I had a quick alternative with my MacBook.

One ergonomic note on using a tablet regularly: To type on a tablet that sits flat, most people have to bend their head, neck and back over the screen. It's bad posture by any measure. Most of us know that using a laptop for long periods for years can worsen posture problems, but using a tablet all the time can be potentially worse -- as my test of the Note Pro reminded me.

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