Big, bigger, biggest
If you’ve owned or touched a Samsung device in the last several years, there’s nothing surprising about the Note Pro. It’s as if someone stood in a lab in South Korea, grabbed the edges of the Galaxy Note 3, and stretched. And then kept stretching: the resulting slate is 1.6 pounds, 11.6 inches wide and 8 inches tall, and it’s one of the largest tablets I’ve ever held. (The Toshiba Excite 13 still holds the title, barely.) It’s remarkably thin, though, at just 8 millimeters. It’s made of Samsung’s traditional plastic, in blue or white, with a chromed edge that looks metallic but feels as cheap as it is. Mercifully, though, Samsung has continued to eschew its glossy, greasy back for a faux-stitched faux-leather covering that sounds like a terrible idea, but looks okay and feels great. Samsung never used to pay attention to how your fingers feel as they rest on the underside of the tablet, and this change makes a huge difference.
The Note Pro is meant to be used in exactly one way: landscape mode. Reading in portrait looks ridiculous, and the device starts to tip out of my hands as soon as I grip it from the bottom. The physical home button sits on the bottom as I hold it in landscape, flanked by multitasking and back keys; the loud stereo speakers blast audio from both sides; and the camera actually faces me and not somewhere over my right shoulder. It’s meant to be used flat on a desk, too, or cradled by your elbow, since it’s virtually impossible to hold in one hand and only slightly more stable in two.
Its sheer size makes it a great way to show something to a co-worker or client, but too big for almost anything else. I often lie in bed, on my back with a tablet held above my face while I watch TV shows before going to sleep. The Note Pro all but blocked my entire vision, was so bright it left me seeing spots, and tired my arms out pretty quickly. Playing Asphalt 8: Airborne gave me a headache, the frenetic game jittering so large so close. It’s essentially like holding a television two feet in front of my face.
The screen itself is quite good, a 12.2-inch, 2560 x 1600 panel with great colors and viewing angles. But I can’t help wondering if Samsung could or should have done better. The Note 10.1 has the same resolution in a smaller display, and side by side with the Pro is noticeably sharper. The Pro is so designed around its screen, and its best features improve with every available pixel, that something even higher-res would have helped make the Pro worth its $749.99 sticker price. As it is, bigger doesn’t add anything: you’re getting larger icons and bigger text, not more pixels to work with.
And above all, that’s what Samsung’s trying to do with the Note Pro: give businesses something to work with.