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Review: 12-inch Galaxy Note Pro is too big for its own good

Galen Gruman | March 19, 2014
Samsung's mega tablet wants to be both a tablet and a laptop, but it's too awkward for either purpose

The reality is that you need three hands to use the Note Pro 12.2 unless you have a desk or table to rest it on. To use it on such a surface, be sure to buy the $79 Book Case cover for it. Like the $79 Apple iPad Smart Case, the Book Case raises the tablet's back so that you get an inclined surface for both viewing and typing. Samsung didn't loan me the Note Pro 12.2's Book Case to test it, but I use the Book Case for the Note 10.1 and the Smart Case for the iPad. I can tell you covers like these are essential for sustained deskwork. Without such covers, you have to hunch directly over to the tablet to work with the screen, with horrible ergonomic results.

The frustrating Multi Window mode
Like the other 2014 Galaxy Note Pro and Tab Pro Samsung tablets, the Note Pro 12.2 has a mode called Multi Window that displays apps in floating windows, like those in a Windows PC or a Mac. The feature makes logical sense on a 12-inch screen, which approaches the size of an Ultrabook's or MacBook Air's screen.

The 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Note Pro's screen with Multi Window enabled. Note the floating window at upper right, the circle buttons for minimized apps, and the new, expanded onscreen keyboard.
The 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Note Pro's screen with Multi Window enabled. Note the floating window at upper right, the circle buttons for minimized apps, and the new, expanded onscreen keyboard.

But it's an awkward feature in practice. Even on the 12-inch screen, the app windows are hard to read, due to how they shrink the contents and UI elements. On a PC or Mac, opening multiple windows does not shrink their contents, but I suspect Samsung did so on its tablets because Android apps aren't designed for resizable windows as Windows and OS X apps are. Bad choice.

They can also be slow to load, as well as hard to select and move; in my tests, the tablet ran like molasses when I worked with these floating windows. The reason, though, turned out not to be Multi Windows' fault but Android's. Something -- I never did figure out what -- was consuming the tablet's RAM, and Multi Window really slows down in a low-RAM situation.

The solution is to power down and reboot the tablet. That sped up their performance noticeably Samsung's engineers told me this is an issue in the Android OS itself that happens occasionally, similar to runaway processes in Windows. You may not notice it in a regular Android tablet, where only one app is onscreen at a time, because the other apps are deprived of resources as they are shunted offscreen. But in Multi Window, that Android trick can't be used to hide the low-memory effects of a runaway app or service.

 

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