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First Look: Samsung Goes to Work With the Galaxy NotePro, TabPro

Samsung's newest Pro series tablets want to work hard and play hard.

For all the talk about being in a post-PC era, consumers are still turning to their laptops and PCs, not their tablets, when it comes to work-related tasks and content creation. Samsung wants to change that.

Today at CES, the Korean consumer electronics giant unveiled a new line of tablets aimed at being true productivity tools, not just media consumption devices. They’re called the Galaxy NotePro and the Galaxy TabPro. Both will be offered in 12.1-inch versions (a new, larger size for Samsung), and the Galaxy TabPro will also come in a 10.1-inch and an 8.4-inch model. All are running the latest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system.

In designing these products, Samsung said it looked at why people were switching from tablets to PCs for productivity tasks, and based on its findings built the Galaxy NotePro and Galaxy TabPro around three pillars: A better viewing experience, powerful productivity apps and optimized content and services.

To the first point, all four models come with a 2,560 by 1,600 pixel resolution touchscreen (by comparison, the iPad Air’s display has a resolution of 2,048 by 1,535 pixels), and a revamped user interface that Samsung is calling the Magazine UX. The combination of the two are meant to provide users with a great-looking screen for creating (and consuming) content, and access to more information at a glance.

On the productivity app side, the Galaxy NotePro and Galaxy TabPro ships with Hancom Office for Android and a Remote PC client, so you can access and work on files saved on your computer from the tablet. Another app called Samsung e-Meeting provides a real-time collaboration and sharing tool for you and your co-workers.

There are also built-in functions to help boost productivity. Like the company’s other tablets, the Galaxy NotePro and Galaxy TabPro supports multi-window view, and you can now work in up to four apps at once (previously, the limit was two). Samsung also revamped the virtual keyboard to have a roomier layout and provide haptic feedback via vibration and sound.

Finally, Samsung is touting that the tablets come with more than $700 worth of premium content and services, including free (but limited) subscriptions to Cisco WebEx Meetings, Dropbox and LinkedIn Premium.

Other things to note: The only major difference between the Galaxy NotePro and Galaxy TabPro is that the former comes with the S-Pen stylus. Both will come in 32 gigabyte and 64GB models (both with microSD expansion slots), and Wi-Fi and 4G LTE versions. And for those who care about such details, the Wi-Fi version is equipped with Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa chip, while the LTE model uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 processor.

Samsung didn’t announce pricing or a release date today, but said that the tablets would be available globally in the first quarter and pricing would be “competitive.”

I actually got a chance to go hands-on with the Galaxy NotePro at a preview event yesterday, and here are some of my initial thoughts on the device:

  • The design of the tablet reminded me a lot of the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition, which is a good thing. It feels like a premium device, and the faux leather back is a nice touch. But admittedly, the bigger 12.2-inch model isn’t optimal for holding in the hand for long periods of time. The screen is stunning though, displaying sharp detail and vibrant colors.
  • The Magazine UX looks like a mix of Flipboard and Microsoft’s Metro user interface with its dynamic dashboard and app shortcuts. It’s attractive, but I felt overwhelmed at times by all the information that was presented on the screen. You can, however, customize the appearance and number of home pages. But whether you like it or not, you’re going to have to learn to use it, since this is the primary UI.
  • The typing experience on tablets is one of the main reasons I don’t use them as productivity devices. But I have to say the Samsung virtual keyboard is pretty impressive. It’s spacious, mimics the layout of a physical keyboard, and has nice haptic feedback.
  • I didn’t get to try out any of the productivity apps on my own. Instead, the Samsung representatives gave us a demo of the Remote PC client and WebEx video conferencing, and both worked fine.
  • While the prepaid content is nice, I’m not sure I’d consider it a major selling point of the device. Samsung has offered similar deals on other devices, and after the complimentary subscriptions run out, it feels like a bunch of bloatware to me.

All that said, it’s impossible to pass final judgment on these devices after just 30 minutes with them. I’m looking forward to spending more time with the Galaxy NotePro and Galaxy TabPro to see if they truly are the workhorses Samsung claims them to be.

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