CES 2014 saw Samsung launch, quite literally, two of the biggest tablets of the year but went a little further with the announcement of two impressive slates that fit into more socially acceptable sized frames.
Samsung's Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 sits quite firmly against the more traditional tablet, aiming to take a hefty swipe at the dominance of the iPad Air, the Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet and Microsoft's own Surface 2. Even Samsung's own Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 can't be ignored given a similar spec list and the extra S Pen.
Unfortunately the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 seems to get off to a poor start as its fairly substantial price tag, of £449 ($499, around AU$809), makes it more expensive than its immediate competition.
A clue for this increased price tag may lie in the naming strategy. The "Pro" moniker definitely hints at the business market, aimed more as a working tablet than for casual web browsing in front of the television. This is backed up by the inclusion of Samsung's e-Meeting and Remote PC apps, as well as Cisco's WebEx.
That said, even casual users will be drawn to Samsung's offering thanks to some hefty internal grunt and a suitably impressive screen.
The Samsung tradition of eschewing metal products for a plastic back is continued in the white Tab Pro 10.1 I have in my hands, as is the same faux leather and stitch effect on the rear that was first seen on the Galaxy Note 3.
Initially I found this to be a bit disappointing but the textured plastic is actually rather pleasant to hold and I soon found myself drawn to the stitch effect. Love it or hate it, it's nice to see Samsung trying to break away from a traditional slab with a nod to the leather bound notebooks of old.
Samsung has elected to offer the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 in both black and white, with the review model I had being the latter. In terms of a "pro" offering, I do feel that the black version is far better suited, as the white plastic seems like it would fit far better on a coffee table rather than at a desk.
Wrapped in a 243.1 x 171.4 x 7.3mm frame and weighing a mere 469g, the Tab Pro 10.1 is easy to hold for long periods of time. The bezel also fits neatly between slim and stylish, whilst staying wide enough to allow a decent grip without leaving thumbs all over the screen.
This is a good call because there is no doubt that the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 screen is easily one of the best on the market. The 2560 x 1600 resolution leaves a density of 299ppi, higher than the 264ppi of the Retina Display on the iPad Air.
This resolution matches that of the Asus Transformer Pad, however the screen felt brighter, meaning a more pleasant viewing experience, and one that was less strenuous on the eyes.
I did find that there was the occasional problem with the auto-brightness coming out too dark even when adjusting the toggle, so I tended to keep the brightness on its maximum setting. This is a problem that I also found on the Asus and will hopefully be fixed in a software update.
Other hardware matches up to this high standard, with 2GB of RAM supporting an octa-core Exynos CPU. This is made up of four cores clocked at 1.9GHz and four smaller 1.3GHz cores.
Samsung has also opted to go for a traditional button layout, with the physical home key being flagged by the back and multi-tasking buttons. These are at the bottom when the Tab Pro 10.1 is held in landscape, something that makes more sense as I found that I held the tablet in landscape pretty much all the time.
The 2MP front facing camera sits in the opposite bezel, making a lot of sense for video calling. A rear facing camera is also included packing a total of 8MP, alongside a flash.
I've never been an advocate of using a tablet as a camera, using it out and about felt more than a bit ridiculous, but the generous offering means that the Tab Pro 10.1 could prove to be a decent alternative to having to search through drawers to find your compact.
In terms of speakers and ports, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 includes a microUSB port on the centre of the base, ideal for charging whilst using the tablet.
The left and right sides house a dual speaker system, something I was equally impressed by as the speakers sat just above where I placed my hands. Below the right hand speaker is the microSD slot, whilst the headphone port sits above the left.
This left the power/lock button and volume rocker to be placed along the top, sitting relatively flush but standing out enough that I never found any problems in hitting them.
An infra-red blaster also seems to be included but the lack of Samsung's WatchOn app left me a little confused. Overall though, it's clear that Samsung has given its tablet design a lot of thought.
Being a Samsung device one of the key areas to be looked at has to be the screen. Unfortunately we've yet to see a tablet from the Korean giant that comes with the same pop and sparkle that accompanies the Super AMOLED screens that ship on the Galaxy S5.
However, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 still manages to put in a more than decent shift.
There's no doubt that the occasional auto-brightness issue left me feeling a little frustrated, but generally the Tab Pro 10.1 was bright and usable whilst out and about, should you decide to do a bit of mobile web browsing or take a snap on the 8MP camera.
Colours reproduction was also second to none, something that has come to be a trademark of Samsung devices. This meant that watching videos on the 10.1-inch screen was superb, and it gave that extra edge to mobile gaming.
The high specs are also continued inside the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, shipping with an octa-core Exynos CPU powered by four 1.9GHz cores and four 1.3GHz cores. This means that whilst browsing the web sat in front of the television was a breeze; pages loaded as quickly as Wi-Fi would allow.
Heavy lifting was also carried off with aplomb. Throughout my time with the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 I only found that the CPU stuttered once.
That was during initial set up as nigh-on every app that came pre-installed had an update located on the Play Store, and throwing YouTube browsing its way left the Tab Pro 10.1 hesitating a few seconds before bringing up the latest edition of the Phone Show.
Two gigabytes of RAM also helped the Tab Pro 10.1 take the strain, although this was a little disappointing given that there are three found inside the Galaxy Note 3. That said I never found this to be a problem.
Samsung has also thrown in a variety of differing business-focused apps, from its own e-Meeting and Remote PC apps to Cisco's WebEx. This means that the Galaxy Tab Pro range will certainly be sitting on the radar of many IT departments.
Also included is Samsung's Knox software. This provides not only a protected section on the tablet for file storage, but also a secure connection to the outside world via the internet app, as well as a host of other apps that can be found through the Samsung App Store.
Despite its current troubles there is no doubt that BlackBerry still has a certain hold over the business world thanks to its reputation for security, but this is an area that Samsung is definitely starting to break ground in.
Interface and performance
With all that power behind the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1, it should be no surprise that it performs really rather well. Any concerns surrounding the lack of a 64-bit chip such as the one found in the iPad Air are quickly allayed.
Geekbench 3 results gave an average score of 2722 putting the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 at the highest end of scores, as well as being the highest scoring tablet on the Geekbench site - unsurprising really given the wealth of power on offer.
Some of the touches to the UX that are found on the larger Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2 seem to be missing on the Tab Pro 10.1. Instead the Tab Pro 10.1 follows the far more traditional Samsung layout that has been seen before.
That said there is still a dedicated screen for Flipboard as well as a business page occupied with a calendar, large email, office and business magazine widgets.
The inclusion of Flipboard with its own home screen is a nice touch, adding an almost BlinkFeed feel that is found on the HTC One M8 and its predecessor, the HTC One.
I did find myself ignoring it a fair bit though, as it is the page to the left of the default home screen. This was a little disappointing as I think it would have been a far more useful feature had it been baked in slightly tighter to the overall experience.
Another area that Samsung has excelled at has been its use of multiple windows. As a feature that I have come to use on Windows 8.1 devices, this was something that I was really looking forward to using. Unfortunately I found that it was a little more convoluted than the Windows equivalent.
Side by side viewing was possible when loading documents or videos, and apps could be launched as pop ups via a side-swipe in from the right side of the screen.
These pop ups can also be minimised, appearing in much the same manner as Chat heads from Facebook messenger; little floating icons. I would have liked a way of implementing snapping these pop ups to the side though, something that Windows definitely excels at.
It is a little disappointing that a keyboard dock doesn't come bundled as it does with the Asus Transformer Pad. There did seem to be a similar problem on both tablets however: the Android software.
The Tab Pro 10.1 has come on in leaps and bounds in terms of tablet performance. However, when it comes to productivity I still feel that Windows 8.1 has both Android and iOS beaten hands down as the multi app view I mentioned is more impressive and better implemented on Windows.
Battery life and the essentials
Including an 8,220 mAh battery seems about standard for this size tablet, coming in at exactly the same size as the iPad Air, and sits rather well between the 4,800mAh Tab Pro 8.4 and the 9,600mAh Tab Pro 12.2.
The larger battery size compared to the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 left me feeling like the Tab Pro 10.1 could go for a long time. Nine hours of standby whilst connected to the Wi-Fi left a drain of 3%, meaning I never felt the need to ensure that the slate was hooked up to a power supply over night.
Running the TechRadar battery test of a 90-minute HD video with the screen brightness maxed out caused a battery drain of 26%. Compare that to the 22% drop of the Tab Pro 8.4 and the 28% drop on the Note Pro 12.2 and things seem about right.
This also means that the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 outperformed the almost identically specced Galaxy Note 10.1 2014.
The Note tablet saw a much greater drain, dropping by 35%. This could be down to the extra power that sits behind the Note 10.1 2014 (it comes with 3GB of RAM rather than 2), as well as a slight variation in the software.
Should you plan on watching HD movies whilst on the way home from the office, or want to give the kids something to keep them entertained on those long journeys, you'll be more than covered with the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1.
In terms of essentials on a tablet, we've already seen that the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 covers video playing impressively, alongside that I'd expect to see a decent web browser, keyboard, email integration and perhaps some interesting games and social apps.
The Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 covers most of these pretty well. There is more than one web browser available on the Tab Pro 10.1. I always opt for the Chrome browser as I find that it syncs across my devices better, and provides the majority of features that I've become accustomed to on the desktop.
In no way should this be taken to mean that the Samsung Internet browser should be ignored, although as expected, the functionality is pretty much identical.
The biggest reason to use the internet app rather than Chrome is Samsung Knox as when you are in Knox mode you can browse securely.
The Tab Pro 10.1 does offer a really rather respectable on screen keyboard offering. I found that it will never be able to replace a full sized physical keyboard, nor will it rival the physical offerings that can be obtained alongside the Microsoft Surface 2 or Asus Transformer Pad, but it sufficed for tapping out a few emails and for web browsing. The dedicated number row was a big help.
However, if you're considering using the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 as a replacement for a laptop I would definitely recommend investing in a third party Bluetooth keyboard.
Email integration was also well handled, with the Gmail app working as well as ever. The standard email app also worked well, handling multiple accounts and also being compatible through Knox.
In terms of replacing a compact camera, there is no doubt that any tablet comes with a massive disadvantage. Where a compact camera can fit easily in a pocket or small bag, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 needs to be carried in a much larger bag.
That hasn't stopped Samsung from including a rather decent 8MP camera, complete with flash, to accompany the 2MP front facing sensor.
As I consider the front facing snapper the primary camera on any tablet device, I would much rather have seen these two swapped over to allow for much clearer video calls.
I did find though that the 2MP camera was more than sufficient in testing, especially combining it with Samsung's Beauty Face (although there is no quick software fix that will make me look like Bradley Cooper).
Video calling was also well handled; with the biggest problem I faced being the strength of my Wi-Fi, especially when being used by a house full of devices all connected to the same network.
When it comes to snapping photos though, there is no doubt which one of the two you will be using.
Out and about trying to snap a shot with the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 did feel odd, and the extra screen real estate didn't really seem to help with the positioning of the subject.
In terms of picture quality though, there is no doubt that this is an area where the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 isn't lacking. The 8MP sensor matches the size that was seen in flagship smartphones only a few years ago, and in smartphones that are still towards the upper end of the middle market.
This means that pictures taken are on par with the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini, a phone that I found took some rather nice shots. Samsung's camera app also comes with the same variety of modes that are now found on Samsung smartphones.
It does seem that in order to be able to take a decent photo of yourself to put in the corner of your main snap, you need to have arms like the bright orange Mr. Tickle. T-Rex's need not apply.
Whilst the camera on the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is by no means a slouch, there is no doubt that media consumption is far more important on devices of this size.
This means the Tab Pro 10.1 needs a decent screen, powerful speakers and enough internal grunt to ensure smooth gaming and video streaming.
Decent storage should also be thrown in there, as all of this will prove completely useless if there is no way of storing all your media. Thankfully Dropbox comes preinstalled so you can store a wealth of media there, all being available to play via the Video app.
This backs up the available 8.9GB of free space, disappointingly low given that this is the 16GB model. Of this, 2.6GB also comes filled leaving a rather measly 6.3GB. You're left with less than 40% of the space advertised.
Samsung does allow this to be boosted through microSD though, so there is some light at the end of the storage tunnel. With 64GB cards supported, and 50GB of Dropbox there is a possibility of 120GB, which isn't to be balked at.
With storage sorted, you can get on to playing with your media library. I've already mentioned the screen a few times, but I'll mention it again once more for good luck.
There are few tablets that can give the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 a run for its money when it comes to screen quality. Its high resolution and impressive colour reproduction really do HD movies justice, even if the battery seems to suffer.
Where the Tab Pro 10.1 does begin to suffer is with the speakers. Whilst they are loud enough and the dual speakers do mean that there is none of the associated problems of sound only entering one ear, at full blast I found the sound to be a bit tinny. Anyone expecting HTC One M8 levels of quality will be a little disappointed.
The Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 doesn't have a lot to shout about when it comes to media apps, with the standard Samsung apps on offer when it comes to both the video and media apps. Google's standard YouTube app is also bundled in.
Another area that I expected to be able to use when reviewing the media section of the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 was a tablet version of Samsung's WatchOn service.
This is thanks to the apparent inclusion of an infra-red blaster at the top of the tablet, which seems ideal for throwing information towards the television. Perhaps Samsung has something for the future? I hope so.
Last on the list of requirements for a decent media device is the internal powerhouse, of which the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is by no means lacking.
Graphically intensive games may prove to be a bit of a drain on the battery, but I didn't find any stuttering or hesitation that so often plagues the mobile gamer.
Apple's dominance of the tablet market, at least when it comes to the number of devices being sold, might be on the wane, but the iPad Air proved that Apple is still very much the king of the tablet computer.
It is currently the only tablet that has managed to earn all five of our coveted stars and for some very good reasons. The inability to expand the internal storage will prove to be a frustration for many users, but the sheer power and presence of the iPad will equally attract a lot of attention.
The suite of free apps with iOS7 including the likes of Pages, Numbers and Keynote also make the iPad Air suitable for business users. In fact it helps make the iPad Air "as near to tablet perfection as you're going to get."
It might not pack an octa-core processor, and the screen is 'limited' to a 1920 x 1080 Full HD resolution but the Xperia Z2 tablet does include Qualcomm's Snapdragon 801 chipset boasting four cores of 2.3GHz goodness, and a whopping 3GB of RAM. The 16GB version also comes in cheaper.
This means that it is, in theory, more powerful than the Tab Pro 10.1 and should be a little less power hungry. Given the 6,000mAh battery though, this could prove invaluable.
It also manages to come in almost a 1mm thinner than the Tab Pro 10.1, as well as being almost 10% lighter. This means that, coupled with the Sony's other key selling point, the Xperia Z2 tablet is ideal for gaming, web browsing and movie watching whether in front of the TV, or in the bath, or both!
A 10.6-inch Full HD screen might not pack the same resolution as the Tab Pro 10.1, but for those looking at a tablet for productivity as well as casual use, the Surface 2 can do little wrong.
While the back camera might not be as impressive at 5MP, the front facing camera is improved over the Samsung with 3.5MP's on offer to make the most of the tight Skype integration. Full MS Office is also supported, as is a more traditional desktop.
Probably the biggest boost for the Surface is the inclusion of Windows 8.1 RT. Whilst confusion still surrounds Windows RT, access to the ever increasing Windows App Store, impressive multiple windows and a keyboard smart case make the Surface 2 ideal for those looking to work on the move.
Although the budget tablet market has taken off, Samsung has proven that there is still an awful lot of life at the premium end of the tablet spectrum.
Sitting between the Tab Pro 12.2 and the Tab Pro 8.4, this 10.1-inch slate has a lot of work on its hands to prove that it can take on the likes of the impressive iPad Air, whilst living up to a £449 ($499/around AU$809) price tag.
The screen has to get a mention here given the amount of times that it highlighted in this review. Even after using the tablet for a while I found that the screen impressed me as much as the day I first opened the box.
The 2560 x 1600 resolution leaves everything crisp, whilst the impressive colour reproduction and brightness gives it that extra edge.
Whilst undoubtedly geared to more professional users, and coming out more impressive on the larger Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2, the Magazine UX still provides a lot of features that will get a lot of use to general consumers. Whether it's the multi-view and pop up windows, or the integration of Flipboard there is enough to keep everyone happy.
The camera also impressed me. Given my objection to using tablets for photography, I was surprised at just how well the camera coped and proved good enough for me to consider pulling out the Tab Pro 10.1 when I needed to take a snap.
There is no doubt that despite what is on offer, the Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is still an expensive device. The impressive specs make a very decent case but there are a lot of consumers who will look at the price and simply move on.
This is in no way aided by the plastic build of the Tab Pro 10.1. Whilst I'd argue that the tablet is well built, the metal chassis that adorns the iPad Air will undoubtedly help sway many opinions that it is a tablet worth the extra cash and the faux leather casing will still split opinion.
Finally I am also disappointed with the lack of internal storage that is on offer. There will always be a case to be made for the microSD and cloud expansion but having decent in built storage is still very necessary thanks to the large amount of apps that can't be moved across. Heavy users may just find that a 16GB tablet fills up very quickly.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 10.1 is a tablet that offers a lot, but equally costs a lot. It is definitely not a tablet for the casual user, hinted at rather strongly with the 'Pro' tag. This leaves the Samsung sat with a large price tag and a small potential user base.
If Samsung can market the Tab Pro 10.1 right, and offer some decent deals to IT departments I can see it making waves as the tablet of choice.
Having staff all running the same device will certainly solve a lot of headaches attached to the mobile worker, but iPad's are still dominating this sector and the Surface 2 adds to the headache.
In short it's hard to see the Galaxy Tab 10.1 selling in the same sort of droves that the likes of the iPad does, but when Samsung has a tablet range that includes the Galaxy Note 10.1 2014, Tab Pro 8.4 and Galaxy Tab 4, is that so much of a problem?