Introducing the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro Lineup

Samsung Galaxy series of tablets and smartphones have been well received since they first started appearing on store shelves, and with good reason. Not all manufacturers really get industrial design, aesthetics, and the goal of building a cohesive whole that doesn’t cut corners. With the latest Pro series of tablets, Samsung looks to improve on their existing devices, with better performance, some tuning of the industrial design, and some software updates as well. We have the 8.4” and 10.1” Galaxy Tab Pro models in house, though there’s also a larger 12.2” model and a Note version of the 12.2” model that includes a Stylus as well as some other tweaks. Also worth mentioning is the that the Note 10.1” 2014 model appears to be nearly identical to the 10.1” Tab Pro, other than the fact that it has a stylus (S Pen). Here’s the short overview of the current Galaxy Pro product stack:

Overview of Samsung Galaxy Tab/Note Pro/2014 Models
  Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 Galaxy Note Pro 12.2
Dimensions 128x219x7.1mm
Display 8.4” WQXGA
10.1” WQXGA
10.1” WQXGA
12.2” WQXGA
12.2” WQXGA
Weight 332g (WiFi)
(0.73 lbs.)
470g (WiFi)
(1.03 lbs.)
541g (WiFi)
(1.19 lbs.)
751g (WiFi)
(1.65 lbs.)
732g (WiFi)
(1.61 lbs.)
SoC (CPU) Snapdragon 800
(Qualcomm MSM8974)
(4 x Krait 400 @ 2.3GHz)
Exynos Octa 5420
(big.LITTLE up to 1.9GHz,
4+4 Cortex-A15+A7)
Exynos Octa 5420
(big.LITTLE up to 1.9GHz,
4+4 Cortex-A15+A7)
Exynos Octa 5420
(big.LITTLE up to 1.9GHz,
4+4 Cortex-A15+A7)
Exynos Octa 5420
(big.LITTLE up to 1.9GHz,
4+4 Cortex-A15+A7)
SoC (GPU) Adreno 330 Mali-T628 Mali-T628 Mali-T628 Mali-T628
Connectivity 802.11ac WiFi 802.11ac WiFi 802.11ac WiFi 802.11ac WiFi 802.11ac WiFi
Memory 2GB 2GB 3GB 3GB 3GB
Storage 16GB 16GB 16GB/32GB 32GB 32GB/64GB
Battery 25.4Wh (~10 hours) 31.2Wh (~10 hours) 31.2Wh (~9 hours) 36.1Wh (~13 hours) 36.1Wh (~13 hours)
Online Price $399 $499 $549/$599 $649 $749/$849

Many of the core elements in the new line of Galaxy Pro offerings are similar –the displays for example are all WQXGA, and frankly that’s probably the biggest selling point right there. Coming from the world of laptop reviews, it’s awesome – and a little disheartening – to see such great displays on tablets. I’ve been asking for good laptop displays for years, and while we are starting to see a shift in the marketplace, most budget laptops still have lousy displays. Not all tablets come with awesome displays, but just about every tablet out there right now at least uses an IPS panel, and more and more we’re seeing high resolution displays as an added bonus. Worth note is that the 10.1 and 12.2 models are available in either black or white versions, but the 8.4 only comes in white (for now?); I actually prefer the white version, though, so that’s not a problem.

Obviously the size and weight of the three core models differs, and the Note versions with their S Pen weigh a bit more, but somewhat surprisingly the SoCs aren’t all the same. The odd man out here is the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, which uses a Snapdragon 800 processor whereas the other four all use the Exynos 5 Octa 5420. (Reportedly the LTE versions of the Pro 10.1 models appear to also use the Snapdragon 800.) What’s ironic about this bifurcation is that in most of our benchmarks the Snapdragon 800 and up being faster than the Exynos 5420. It’s not a major difference in performance, but it is measurable. Battery life on the other hand appears to be better on the Exynos SoC, so it’s not a clear victory regardless. Basically, not all SoCs are created equal in every area.

Wrapping up our quick overview, the amount of RAM varies slightly; the 8.4 and 10.1 "Tab Pro" models come with 2GB, but the 10.1 Note and 12.2 models come with 3GB memory. Battery capacity also varies, with the larger devices having larger batteries – presumably to help power the larger displays, though in practice it often means the larger tablets also get better battery life. The cameras are the same 8MP rear/2MP front, with a flash on the rear camera as well. There are of course different storage capacities available, though they’re more limited than what you might see with, e.g. Apple, as some of the devices only have one eMMC size. The 8.4 and 10.1 Tab Pro models we received have 16GB, with the 10.1 Note 2014 having 16/32GB options; the 12.2 Tab Pro gets bumped to 32GB (only) while the 12.2 Note has 32/64GB options. At least all the models come with an SD card slot (up to 64GB SDXC supported), though that doesn’t necessarily help with (all) applications.

In terms of pricing, the 8.4 is the least expensive of the devices, with an MSRP of $399. The 10.1 costs $499 ($50 extra for the S Pen in the Note, and another $50 to go to 32GB eMMC storage) and the Tab Pro 12.2 costs $649 while the Note Pro 12.2 costs $749 ($849 with 64GB eMMC). LTE versions of the 10.1 and 12.2 devices will typically add another $100 or so (off contract), but there’s no LTE 8.4 option. While none of these are inexpensive tablets, I do have to say that after using the 8.4 and 10.1-inch models, I find myself gravitating towards the 8.4-inch form factor. It’s small enough to be easily transportable and you can hold it with one hand, but it’s significantly larger than any smartphone so it doesn’t overlap that use case. I also generally like using the 8.4 in portrait mode, though some of that is certain personal preference. The fact that it also happens to be a bit faster in many cases doesn’t hurt either, though it would be nice to have a 32GB option.

Let’s move on to a subjective overview of the two devices we received for testing.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 Subjective Analysis
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  • Wilco1 - Monday, March 24, 2014 - link

    What is claimed this is CPU performance at maximum frequency, not a latency test of bursty workloads. It would be interesting to see Anand's browsing test reporting both power and performance/latency results as it seems a reasonable test of actual use. However SunSpider is not like a real mobile workload.

    The datasets for most of the benchmarks in Geekbench are actually quite large, into 20-30MBytes range. That certainly does not fit into the L2 on any SoC I know, let alone on L1. So I suggest that Geekbench gives a far better idea of mobile performance than a benchmark that only measures the set of JIT optimization tricks to get a good SunSpider score.

    Intel doesn't have magic that makes frequency scaling 10-100 times faster - PLLs and voltage regulators all use the same physics (until recently Intel was using the same industry-standard voltage regulators as everybody else). The issue is one of software, the default governor is not recognizing repeated patterns of bursty behaviour and keeping clocks high for longer when necessary. Intel avoids the Linux governor issues by using a separate microcontroller. I have no doubt that it has been well tuned to the kind of bursty behaviour that SunSpider exhibits.
  • virtual void - Monday, March 24, 2014 - link

    So you are suggesting that the performance counters in Sandy Bridge is reporting the wrong thing when it reports 97% L1D$-hit rate in Geekbench? They seem to work quite well on "real" programs.

    The performance counters also suggest that Geekbench contains trivial to predict branches, while program developed with dynamic languages and/or OOP languages usually contains a lot of indirect and even conditional indirect calls that is quite hard to predict. Only the most advanced CPU-designs keep history on conditional indirect calls, so a varying branch target on a indirect call will always result in a branch-prediction miss on mobile CPUs.

    The sampling frequency of CPU-load and the aggressiveness the Linux kernel switches P-state is based on the reported P-state switch latency. All modern Intel CPUs report a switching latency of 10µs while I haven't seem any ARM SoC report anything lower than 0.1ms. The _real_ effect of this is that Intel platforms will react about ten times as fast to a sudden burst in CPU-load when running Linux-kernel.
  • Wilco1 - Monday, March 24, 2014 - link

    SPEC2006 has ~96% average L1D hit rate, so do you also claim SPEC has a small working set and runs almost entirely out of L1? The issue is not about the correctness of the performance counters but your interpretation of them. The fact that modern CPUs can run at multiple GHz despite DRAM internally running at ~50MHz still is precisely because caches and branch predictors work pretty well.

    C++ and GUI code typically only has a limited number of distinct targets, which are easy to predict on modern mobile CPUs (pretty much any ARM CPU since Cortex-A8 has had indirect predictors, and since A15 they support multiple targets). I've never seen conditional indirect calls being emitted by compilers, so I can imagine some CPUs may ignore this case, but it's not in any way hard to predict. The conditional indirect branches you do get in real code are conditional return (trivial to predict) and switch statements on some ARM compilers.

    Well if there is such a large difference then there must be a bug - I did once glance over the Samsung cpufreq drivers and they seemed quite a mess. It is essential to sample activity at a high resolution, if you sample at Nx slower rate then you do indeed react N times slower to a burst of activity - irrespectively of how fast the actual frequency/voltage scaling is done.
  • Egg - Monday, March 24, 2014 - link

    Alright, I'll admit I didn't actually read the article. It just seemed you were unaware of what Brian had said previously.
  • UltraWide - Saturday, March 22, 2014 - link

    The Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 has 3GB of RAM.
  • JarredWalton - Sunday, March 23, 2014 - link

    It's not clear if all 10.1 Note 2014 come with 3GB, or just the 32GB models, but I'm going to go with 3GB (and hopefully that's correct, considering the cost increase for the Note). I had the Samsung specs pages open when putting together that table, and unfortunately they didn't list RAM on the 10.1 16GB I was looking at. Weird.
  • Reflex - Saturday, March 22, 2014 - link

    " If you want another option, the Kindle Fire HDX 7” ($200) and Kindle Fire HDX 8.9” ($379) pack similar performance with their Snapdragon 800 SoCs, but the lack of Google Play Services is a pretty massive drawback in my book."

    For many of us that's actually the Kindle line's largest advantage. Android and a good chunk of its app ecosystem, without compromising our privacy and exposing ourselves to all the malware. Plus we got these specs six months ago with the HDX line, and for a lower price in a better package.
  • A5 - Saturday, March 22, 2014 - link

    Yeah, because the best way to avoid malware is to bypass the Play Store and install an APK from a random website to get Youtube to work.

    And you're only fooling yourself if you think Amazon is any better for your privacy than Google.
  • Reflex - Saturday, March 22, 2014 - link

    Have you actually read their privacy policies and compared? Or taken a look at their profit models? There is a significant difference between the two for their approaches to privacy.

    And no, if I really care to get an app like that I can get it from a third party market if I must. There are some that mirror the Play store. But that said, there are very few needs that are not met via apps already available in the Amazon store.
  • R0H1T - Sunday, March 23, 2014 - link

    So you're saying that Amazon has no record of you in their database whatsoever OR that they don't track your browsing history through their Silk browser, using Amazon's own servers, & never target (ads/promos) you based on your buying/browsing history ?

    I'd say you're deluding yourself if you think that Yahoo, twitter, FB, bing or even Amazon are any different than Google when it comes to tracking their users or targeting them with specific ads/promos based on their (recorded) history ):

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