Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 review

Can the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 make a dent in the tablet market?

Reasons to buy
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    Amazing display

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    Smooth performance

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    Thin and light

Reasons to avoid
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    TouchWiz (again!)

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    Faux leather

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Samsung's Tab Pro line is meant to offer a tablet with professional quality features. Does it? Find out in our Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 review.

Has Samsung finally made a great tablet? It's about time the South Korean mega-brand produced a winning tablet, to go along with its super popular smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Galaxy Note 3, as so far we've been fairly unimpressed with its slate offerings.

The mid-size tablet market is currently jam packed, with Apple's iPad Mini our favourite of the bunch. But on the Android side of things you've got a load to choose from like the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire HDX and the LG GPad.

So, can the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 finally put Samsung on the tablet map? Read on to find out.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4: Size & Build

Announced alongside a bevy of other tablets, including the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, at CES 2014 in Las Vegas, the Tab Pro line is meant to be Samsung's professional-aimed selection of slates, going head to head with Apple's iPad Air for supremacy.

While we appreciate Samsung has tried to rid its tablets and smartphone of slimy, greasy plastic, the faux leather replacement is only marginally better. Though, in terms of feel, we quite like it. It's slightly textured, which makes it grippy and your fingers sort of dig in - aiding comfort. It's just the cheesy 'notebook' look that we don't like. Give us aluminium any day.

Just as we found with the 12.2-inch version, the back can get smudged with grease quickly and requires an almost daily wipe down.

There's also a faux metal band around the rim, which again just doesn't scream premium quality.

Look at the device straight on and you'd be hard pressed to tell it apart from any members of the Tab family. There's still that familiar home button, flanked by two capacitive keys for going back and multitasking and that's about it.

On the side you'll find some nice and clicky volume buttons and a power switch, along with space for a micro SD card.

The design is minimalist and while it certainly won't be picking up any awards, there's nothing that wrong with it. We just wish it looked a bit better.

The big question here is whether or not 8.4 inches is just a bit too big for a tablet that's meant to be highly portable. In fact, for the most part we really liked the size. You get so much more screen real estate than on the Nexus 7, even though the frame isn't that much bigger.

Though, it is pretty tall, meaning one-handed usage is limited to anything other than reading.

If you're a fan of the dimensions, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.3 comes in at 219 x 128.5 x 7.2mm, weighing 331g (it feels really light), while the iPad Mini 2 is 200 x 134.7 x 7.5mm, again weighing 331g.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4: Features

As this is a pro tablet, you'd expect it to boast a feature set that is not only great for enjoying the odd Netflix binge, but that also can hack it when it comes to getting stuff actually done.

Like the Microsoft Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2, Samsung has built in a nifty multiscreen view that lets you do two things at once. Browsing the web and viewing a document for example, or flicking through a PDF while knocking out an email.

While being severely limited due to it only working with a few Google and Samsung apps, it was a feature we found ourselves using frequently. Especially as there doesn't seem to be any slow-down at all when you've got two apps running.

Another touted 'pro' feature is the Magazine UX. A pseudo Blinkfeed and Flipboard mashup that isn't nearly as useful as either of those two products. We went in pretty hard on Magazine UX in our Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 review, and our opinion hasn't changed much since then. As with the multi-screen multitasking it's limited to a few chosen Samsung apps and you can't add your own news sources, which is a big no no.

Magazine UX runs alongside Samsung's Android skin Touchwiz, which is built on top of Android 4.4 and it's another feature we far from like about its products. The overly blocky and childish icons, strange text fonts and incessant, annoying sounding 'blips' are all still here, while strong pieces of Android's design, like the sleek notification shade have been replaced by ghastly imitations.

It is true that with a few clever apps you can switch the launcher and keyboard to something more like the stock Android that we've seen on the Nexus 7, but you can't completely escape the grasp of TouchWiz.

On the back you'll find an unremarkable 8-meg camera, while up front there's a 2-meg version for video chat and the like. Again, it works well, but is nothing to write home about.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4: Screen

Even though we aren't convinced by the build quality of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, or even by the bloated software the tablet runs, there is one area that we absolutely love about this slate, and that's the screen.

No amount of adjectives, cliches or extravagance can quite sum up just how beautiful this Full HD, 2,560 x 1,600 resolution TFT LCD display really is. It's hands down one of the best mobile displays we've had the pleasure of gazing upon, with sharp lines, accurate representation and colours that are vivid and bright. The iPad Mini's Retina display is good, but this is better.

One, albeit small, downside to this uber high res is that parts of Android can look too small, especially buttons and checkboxes. The section options in the Google Play Store are tiny and apps often look mismatched and odd.

Does it put us off? Nope, not even a bit. This is an amazing panel that makes reading a joy - our eyes didn't even begin to hurt after hours of scrolling through webpages and flipping through books and video is equally impressive.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4: Performance

Powering that gorgeous display is a quad-core, 2.3Ghz processor and 2GB RAM. These are impressive specs for a tablet and instantly put it above other Android slates in the 7-9 inch category.

As you'd expect with internals like this, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is a real pleasure to use. Scrolling is quick, with minimal lag and we barely suffered any slow down during our time with the device.

Gaming was just as impressive. We played lag-free rounds of Asphalt 8, Badlands and Modern Combat 3, which all looked great on the display and performed past our expectations.

Interestingly, the only areas we did find some slow down were opening up the Magazine UX and going into the settings menu, both probably down to the TouchWiz software.

You'll find 16GB of onboard storage, though if that's enough (hint: it's not) then the micro SD can significantly improve the space available.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4: Battery

You'll easily be able to get the tablet to last a decent few days of moderate usage, though with a lot of gaming and HD video viewing that time is cut significantly. The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 may boast a better display than the iPad Mini, but the battery just can't match.

Samsung says the 4,800 MAh battery should be good for 10 hours, we say this is probably a bit on the optimistic side.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4: Verdict

At the start of this review we posed the question, has Samsung finally made a great tablet? So, what do we think? Well, this is easily the best slate to ever come from the South Korean company and yes, we do think it's a great device.

It's far from perfect, though. The build is still a misstep, with too much faux leather and metal for it to be really classed as a pro piece of kit. TouchWiz and Magazine UX are also well off the mark, easily outclassed by similar offerings from Google and HTC.

But, we can't help but love everything about that display. It's just such a pleasure to read or watch a film or even browse through pictures on it. Pair it with smooth performance, a light and thin build and you have a device that we would thoroughly recommend.

Coming in at £349, it's definitely priced on the premium end of the market, even costing £30 more than its biggest competitor, Apple's iPad Mini with Retina display.

But, this isn't looking to be a Nexus 7 beater; it's looking to be more. Even though Android is still far behind Apple when it comes to the tablet OS, if you want a slate running Google's OS then this is the one you should save up for.

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 release date: Out now

Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 price: £349 (16GB)