Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 review: first look

Samsung seized the opportunity to unveil its new PRO range of tablets at CES 2014, and the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 is the baby of the new family. With a 2,560 x 1,600-pixel resolution crammed into its 8.4in display, and a heavily modified version of Android 4.4 KitKat, the TabPRO 8.4 is looking pretty special.

The hardware

If you were hoping for the PRO range to mark the debut of a stunning new design for Samsung’s tablets, keep on hoping: this looks every inch a member of Samsung’s Galaxy family. With a same fake leather rear we’ve seen on other Samsung devices (you can choose from white or black), and a strip of textured silver metal running around the tablet’s circumference, there are no surprises here.

As ever, Samsung doesn’t disappoint when it comes to build quality. Perhaps there isn’t the same premium-feel that oozes from the likes of Apple’s iPad family, but the 331g body feels taut and nicely put together, and measures a dainty 7.2mm thick.

The 8.4in, 2,560 x 1,600 display is stupendous, however. Its 359ppi pixel density strides past the 324ppi of Apple’s iPad mini with Retina Display, and the result is that the Galaxy TabPRO’s display is fantastically crisp. Luckily, that’s not all: it’s also bright, and positively drips with rich, saturated colours.

Although Samsung was happy to reveal the 2GB of RAM in the hardware specification, no mention was made of the processor. Running SunSpider proved that the tablet is no slouch, however: it completed the test in 542.9ms, just a little slower than its 10.1in and 12.2in stablemates at the show, which finished in the mid-400s.

The software

While Android 4.4 KitKat is beavering away behind the scenes, Samsung has customised the OS extensively. First and foremost comes the new Magazine UI, which lets you customise the multiple homescreens with live tiles that dynamically shrink and expand as you add extra content. You can add homescreens as you go, and many of the tabs update automatically with constantly refreshed content, providing quick access to news stories, emails or other information.

Fire up the news or other aggregated content apps, and you can see why Samsung dubbed it the Magazine UI: flicking between pages is accompanied by a slick page-turning graphics effect.

If there’s a downside to the customisation, and the sheer amount of data flowing into all the live tiles, it’s that it comes at the expense of super-slick performance. When flicking between homescreens, judder is often evident, while some of the tiles prove unresponsive to taps, seemingly as they’re loading data behind the scenes.

The updated Multi Window feature, meanwhile, allows you to run certain apps split across the screen – simply drag the menu in from the screen’s edge, select an app with which to multitask, and then size up to four apps however you want.

Bundled apps include Cisco's WebEX web-conferencing tool, which comes with a six-month subscription; Remote PC, for controlling your PC or Mac from your tablet; and Hancom Office, for opening and editing all the documents you've created on your home or work computer.

Our verdict

Samsung has put together yet another quality tablet, but with no pricing confirmed, it’s impossible to say how competitive the Galaxy TabPRO 8.4 will be with the likes of Apple’s iPad mini or Android rivals.

The bigger issue is the groundswell of 7in and 8in Windows 8.1 tablets. If consumers (or indeed professionals) want a device that's capable of casual use and proper desktop work, we’re not convinced they’re going to choose Android over a Windows device. Samsung may find it tough to convince them otherwise – only time will tell. Keep an eye out for the full PC Pro review.

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