by Brad Moon | March 20, 2014 10:38 am
One of the themes in Samsung’s (SSNLF) new PRO line of tablets is size. All the PRO models have a slight display size advantage over many of their competitors while pushing the pixel count. The result is a tablet that’s friendlier for the prosumer and business market, where capability and productivity trump portability.
The Galaxy NotePRO 12.2 reviewed last week is the extreme version of this “bigger is better” approach, while the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 is Samsung’s concession that some professionals might still want a tablet they can slip in a pocket. A big pocket, to be sure, but at least it doesn’t require a knapsack.
As our Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 review shows, the end product this time is a premium, relatively compact tablet that should make prosumers happy while offering business-friendly features that may just make this the best small tablet for professional use.
The typical compact tablet has a 7-inch display and has a shiny plastic case. Manufacturers have settled on the form factor as being ideal for consumers who are price conscious and value portability. Apple (AAPL) changed that up a bit with the iPad Mini, sporting a 7.9-inch display and a premium-look metal cladding.
SSNLF is trying to distinguish the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 from the competition (including its own tablets like the Galaxy Tab 3 7.0) by going bigger, packing in the pixels and taking the appearance up a notch.
So the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 gets an 8.4-inch display — bigger than all the other compact tablets, but still smaller than full-sized– with a very high resolution of 1600 x 2560 pixels, or 359 ppi. Apple’s iPad Mini with Retina Display, in comparison, has a 326 ppi display, so the Samsung’s should be sharper.
Content looks great, with videos and games in crisp detail and with good color reproduction. Not that the target demographic will be using the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 for gaming or watching movies — except perhaps between meetings or while waiting in the airport.
There’s still some shiny plastic on display around the bezel, but the back is now a faux leather look, with fake stitching around the edges, reminiscent of an old-school business planner. It looks (and feels) better than it sounds, and if you’re worried about what white faux leather will look like after handling, the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 review unit I received was white, had been used by many reviewers before me, and still looked good. In a worst-case scenario, it’s plastic –just wipe it off. And there’s a more traditional black faux leather option, too.
Big enough that scanning reports won’t leave you squinting, sharp enough that even small text is legible and with a professional-looking fake leather cladding, the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 looks the part of a business-friendly tablet.
That 1600 x 2560 pixel display means MultiWindow capability is in play; in this case, two windows can be active simultaneously for multitasking. During the course of my Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 review I found how useful this is, especially the ability to display e-mail in one window instead of constantly flipping out of an app to respond to queries.
Storage of large documents, photos, product manuals or video isn’t an issue since even the 16GB version has a microSD card slot that accepts inexpensive memory cards up to 64GB in capacity.
SSNLF has also packed the tablet with the kinds of apps, features and freebies it hopes will entice professional users and enterprise clients. The the tester I was given by SSNLF for the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 review included Samsung’s Hancom Office Suite — not quite Microsoft (MSFT) Office, but it’s compatible — 2 years of free remote PC control, 50GB of free Dropbox storage, 6 months of free Cisco (CSCO) Webex, 1 year of free GOGO inflight Wi-Fi, e-meeting screen sharing, Samsung Mobile Print, a free 1-year BusinessWeek subscription, On-Device Encryption, VPN, Samsung KNOX security and a $25 credit to Google Play.
Finally, by supporting the new 802.11 ac Wi-Fi spec (Gigabit Wi-Fi), the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 one-ups Apple’s current tablet offerings (as well as many other competitors) by being able to take advantage of this lightning-fast new wireless connectivity standard — if it connects to a compatible router (like the Linksys version we reviewed).
In other words, the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 may be compact, but it has the specs needed to support actual mobile productivity and it’s absolutely packed with the kind of apps, connectivity and security that make it a leading contender for being the best small tablet for professionals.
The only downsides? There is currently no LTE version showing up from SSNLF for road warriors (that’s probably just a matter of time), and more than one Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 review has complained about battery life. I found it middling on that front — less than the “up to 10 hours” SSNLF claims, but still in the 8-hour range.
Samsung is clearly not aiming for the casual small tablet user with the new Galaxy TabPRO 8.4. Not when it starts at $399 while best-sellers like the Google (GOOG) Nexus 7 or Amazon (AMZN) Kindle Fire HDX are priced at least $150 less.
However, Apple proved there is a market for a $399 compact tablet with its iPad Mini with Retina Display (also priced starting at $399). The question is, can the willingness to pay the so-called “Apple tax” translate into the Android tablet world, where powerful hardware at cut-rate prices has become the norm?
One thing that became clear during the course of this Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 review is that Samsung is hoping that the price premium will be overlooked by business and professional users. If nothing else, it’s worth a try, and that’s one of the things SSNLF does best — continually trying new approaches until it finds something that’s a hit.
As of this writing, Brad Moon did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.
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