A charitable sort might call Samsung's approach to tablets comprehensive, but it could just as easily be described as scattershot. The past few years have seen the launch of 7-inch, 8-inch, 10-inch, and now 12-inch devices aimed at a full range of budgets.
This focus on quantity has arguably come at the expense of quality for Samsung, with no single outstanding tablet coming from the world's largest consumer tech company.
The company's new Pro range shows signs of the company re-applying its considerable resources to produce something a little more special.
While the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is expensive and a little creaky, it's an undeniably powerful piece of kit with a much improved custom UI.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 takes many of the stylistic cues and components from that super-sized powerhouse and packages it in a decidedly more compact and versatile shell. The result is one of Samsung's best tablets to date.
But with a formidable rival in the iPad mini 2, is that enough? Starting from £349 ($400 or around AUS$440) for the 16GB model, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is more expensive than Apple's class-leading compact tablet.
It's going to have to offer something extra if it's to justify that difference, however slight.
The spec list reveals several areas in which the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 might excel. Its 8.4-inch LCD display isn't just bigger than the 7.9-inch iPad mini 2, it's also sharper, with a 2560 x 1600 resolution.
Samsung has gone with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU, clocked at 2.3GHz. I'll discuss this processor choice a little later.
This is backed by 2GB of RAM. In addition to internal storage of either 16GB or 32GB, Samsung has also included a microSD slot for up to 64GB of additional capacity - something no iPad has ever offered.
Add in an 8MP camera, and you'll see that this is clearly a tablet operating at the top end of the spectrum. The question, as with any Samsung tablet, is how all of these impressive components hang together.
You get the same straight edges, tightly curved corners and dead-flat surfaces. Unfortunately, you also get the same choice of materials.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's all-glass front feels fine, but the metal-effect plastic rim and faux-leather back (complete with stitching effect) ensure that the predominant impression is one of cheapness.
The tablet is just 7.2mm thick and weighs just 325g, which makes it slightly slimmer and lighter than the iPad mini 2, but it feels a lot less premium with it.
Still, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's more compact dimensions ensure that it feels a lot sturdier than the larger devices in the range. There's a lot less of the flexing and creakiness that I've detected in Samsung's recent 10- and 12-inch tablets, that's for sure.
Indeed, it's a very pleasant tablet to hold. That rear cover might be a little tacky, but it is pleasantly grippy. Meanwhile, the Galaxy Tab 8.4's lightness and 128.5mm span ensures that it's extremely comfortable to wield one-handed in portrait orientation.
Interestingly, this is the one device in the Tab Pro range to be designed with this orientation in mind. It's evident from the positioning of the home key (flanked as ever by capacitive multitasking and back keys), front-facing camera and Samsung branding along the shorter sides.
It's also clear by the positioning of the stereo speakers, which are both situated on the bottom edge. This doesn't lead to the excellent stereo separation of the larger models, but it does mean that the speakers will be unobstructed when holding the tablet as intended.
Of course, when you flip the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 into landscape mode to watch a movie, the sound will be all wrong - but that serves you right for not plugging in a set of headphones, doesn't it?
Elsewhere, the placement of the power and volume keys is decent, sitting up high on the right-hand edge. I found that they were a little awkward to access with my natural holding-hand (the left one), though I could at a push use my left middle finger to activate them.
Right-handed holding will free up your right thumb for the task, though again you'll probably need to bring your other hand (or your chest) into the mix to steady the tablet for the job.
Port placement is logical enough, with the microUSB slot on the bottom, between the speakers, and the very-welcome microSD port on the lower left-hand side.
The 8MP rear camera is situated on the top left-hand corner as you use the tablet in landscape view, and I frequently found myself covering the lens with the fingers of my left hand.
Samsung has obviously done this so that the camera is positioned naturally for portrait pictures - that being the tablet's intended orientation.
But I'd argue that this is usually not the natural orientation for those who like to frame pictures properly - which is usually in landscape.
Positioning the lens in middle of the device (we're back in landscape here), as the company has with the Tab Pro 10.1 and the Tab Pro 12.2, might have looked and felt a little odd here. But it would undoubtedly have been better for photo taking.
Considering this is the one tablet in the range that didn't make me feel like a complete idiot for whipping it out and using it as a camera, that's a bit of a shame. I wouldn't call this camera placement a design flaw, though - just an understandable compromise.
Lean and mean
Arguably, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's defining feature is the way it crams a really sharp display into such a compact form factor.
As we've already mentioned, the tablet's display is an 8.4-inch Super clear LCD example, and it's a stunner. Its 2560 x 1600 (also known as WQXGA) resolution is exactly the same across the Tab Pro range, but because of the smaller size, it's the sharpest of the lot.
Not only that, but it offers the crispest and cleanest picture of any of Samsung's recent tablets. That's because it's the only one to feature an RGB matrix rather than a PenTile one.
This means that each pixel is made up of a red, a green, and a blue sub-pixel in a uniform configuration. The result is an even image with none of the grainy or fuzzy edges found on other Samsung tablets.
Perhaps more importantly, with a pixel density of 359ppi, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's display is also sharper than the iPad mini 2's (which is 326ppi).
Another notable feature here is Samsung's choice of processor. As we mentioned in the intro, Samsung has gone with a Snapdragon 800 CPU, which continues to be the processor of choice for high-end Android devices such as the Google Nexus 7 and the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7.
However, this marks a change for the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro range - or a partial one at least. In certain territories, Samsung has installed its own Exynos 5 CPU in the Wi-Fi-only 10.1 and 12.2 editions.
This is a highly powerful custom processor that can switch between four low-power processors and four high-power ones, depending on the task, with the high-end ones packing quite a punch.
Here in the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, however, it's offering only the Snapdragon 800. I'll discuss performance in greater detail in the next section - suffice to say this is no great loss in real-world terms.
But it's worth noting that the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is no more capable or special under the hood than its nearest Android rivals.
Of course, these two components - the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's super-sharp display and its high-end processor - tie into the whole Pro branding. Samsung wants this range to be great for productivity, and there are a couple of notable tools that make use of the high-end hardware to that end.
Samsung's multi-window feature makes another showing here, allowing you to run multiple apps simultaneously. Drag from the far right-hand side of the screen at any time and you'll be greeted by a menu of compatible apps.
Tap these app icons and they'll open in their own separate window, similar to running multiple programs on a desktop computer.
You can bring each to the fore by tapping on them in the same way. You can only open three here, as opposed to the five on the Tab Pro 12.2 - likely down to the smaller device having 50 % less RAM.
No matter - it's a little fiddly in day to day usage, particularly on the Tab Pro 8.4's more compact screen. It's much easier to just use the regular multitasking mode for flipping between tasks.
More useful is the ability to split the screen between two apps and run them side by side simultaneously, which is done by dragging the app icons from the multi-window menu.
This is down from four apps on the 12.2, but that would be useless on the smaller screen here. As it is, you can read your email whilst checking Google Maps, or watch a YouTube video whilst skimming through your appointments.
It's potentially quite useful and, yes, 'Pro', and it's something that rival tablets just can't do.
Interface and performance
This being the Tab series rather than the Note, the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 omits Samsung's increasingly useful S Pen stylus system, so you'll have to rely on your good old pinkies to navigate the Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS.
Yes, Samsung has loaded its latest tablet range up with the very latest version of Google's Android OS, though you might not know it given Samsung's predilection for tinkering.
Even on that front, though, you're in for some good news. Samsung's latest custom UI is its best yet, with signs of uncommon restraint and simplification on the manufacturer's part.
Make no mistake - the stock Android OS of the Nexus 7 and the Tesco Hudl remains a cleaner, quicker, and just plain better experience. But this latest version of TouchWiz has its own appeal.
Samsung has cleaned up its home screens significantly. There's just the one regular home screen by default, with a single large widget showing the time, weather and any calendar events and stock updates you might have set up.
Further home screens are added automatically as required - mainly when the first one runs out of space to add a newly-installed app icon.
Samsung has stripped its home screens back in order to better integrate its Magazine UX feature. Scroll right from the main home screen and you'll find tightly stitched together a collection of widgets - your latest emails, an S Planner calendar view, a business-oriented news window, and a dedicated one for the third-party MS Office app Hancom Office.
Scroll right again and you get a list of curated stories, which is actually a wrapper for the pre-installed Flipboard app.
By pulling this visually appealing but not very Android-like Magazine UX more tightly into the home screen layout (in previous devices it was accessible with an awkward downwards swipe), Samsung has made it a genuinely usable - and useful - part of the experience.
Samsung has also rounded off some of the rough edges its TouchWiz UI used to have. The notification menu is much cleaner and fresher-looking, with pleasantly rounded shortcut toggles for key settings such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
The notifications themselves are handled in true Android fashion, with multiple message types for emails, Google Now updates, app installations and the like. You can dismiss these with a swipe, and even interact with some of them directly (such as when replying to emails).
Through all these general tasks, and on into demanding HD videos and games, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 hardly misses a beat.
As I've already mentioned, Samsung has gone with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU as standard here, and it's a very capable chip clocked at 2.3GHz.
You still get the odd pause when navigating through the home screens and menus, but that seems to be par for the course with custom Android UIs, and it's not drastically noticeable.
When it comes to recordable performance, the GeekBench 3 tests I ran were hugely positive. The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 achieved parity with those other Galaxy tablets in the range that run on Samsung's potent Exynos 5 CPU.
In fact, multi-core performance was slightly higher, with an average score of 2873 (I recorded 2728 during my Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 test).
This certainly bore itself out in general usage, with HD video, 3D games, and multitasking all performing flawlessly.
Battery life and the essentials
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is fitted with a 4,800mAh battery, which is of course significantly smaller than the 10.1-inch and 12.2-inch models. In fact, it's only half the capacity of the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 12.2's battery.
This led me to fear for the Tab Pro 8.4's stamina - after all, I've spent much of this review talking about how this device packs in all of the powerful components of its big brothers. Could it really operate satisfactorily on half the juice?
As it turns out, yes it can - even when it comes to performing continuous, intensive tasks such as playing HD video.
In the standard TechRadar battery test, which involves running a 90-minute 720p video with the screen whacked right up to full brightness, the power dropped to around 78%.
That's pretty much average for high-end Android smartphones and small tablets, but it's also 6% better than I managed with the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.
This is likely down to the significantly larger display of the 12-inch model. The resolution might be the same, but it has to put out a lot more light. The Galaxy Tab 8.4's Snapdragon 800 CPU is also known to be very power efficient.
This is perhaps confirmed by looking at our results for the similarly-sized LG G Pad 8.3, which sports a 4,600mAh battery and the less power-efficient Snapdragon 600 CPU. This dropped to around the 70% mark in the same test.
I found the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's decent battery performance to be replicated in real-world terms, too. After one day, 11 hours of moderate usage, which involved some light gaming, a little web browsing, dealing with emails and testing of the tablet's multi-window capabilities, I was only down to 40%.
In short, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 doesn't suffer for its high-end components, which is precisely what anyone shopping for a 'pro' tablet would expect to hear.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.4 operates much the same as any other Samsung tablet from the past 12 months or so, with a familiar selection of pre-installed apps and interface elements.
Samsung's default keyboard is present and accounted for, complete with dedicated number keys and intelligent word suggestion system.
It's pleasant to use, though I understandably found it a little less accurate to use than those on Samsung's recent 10 and 12-inch efforts.
Of course, default keyboards are no great issue on Android, as you can always download a third-party alternative from the Google Play Store - including Google's own fine effort.
One bugbear of mine is Samsung's continued habit of doubling up on apps. You get two web browsers (Chrome and Internet), two music apps (Google Play Music and Samsung Music), and even two app stores (Google Play Store and Samsung Apps).
It's a baffling decision I seem to raise every time I receive a new Samsung tablet to test, but it only gets more annoying with each successive example. I won't repeat myself on the respective merits of each doubled-up app - suffice to say, the Google offerings are invariably superior to Samsung's own. And by some margin.
Of course, when it comes to web browsing, Google technically supplies both web browsers. Chrome is the only one you need, though, with the other one belonging to a time before Google supplied a mobile version of its popular desktop browser.
Chrome continues to be one of the best mobile browsers out there. As always, the full TechRadar website is an excellent test subject for such a tool, as it's packed full of images and text to load up.
Here, it was rendered in a feature-complete and usable state in around three seconds, and loaded completely in around ten.
That's right up there with other high-end Android tablets, as you might expect given the popular Snapdragon 800 CPU at the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's heart.
As for the actual web browsing experience, well, that's great too. True, viewing a full zoomed-out web page isn't quite the comfortably luxurious experience it is on the 12.2-inch models, or even the 10.1-inch models.
But the increased sharpness and improved quality of the Tab Pro 8.4's screen, with its RGB pixel arrangement, means that text and images are rendered more crisply here than anywhere else in the Samsung tablet range.
We've criticised Samsung's duplicate apps, but the company has also supplied some worthwhile original efforts.
Samsung e-Meeting, for example, lets you set up a virtual meeting room where you can share content without the need of a network connection.
As anyone who's ever used a rented space for such a meeting will know, this is a useful tool for the roaming professional.
Cisco WebEx, meanwhile, allows you to conduct virtual meetings from anywhere there is a connection, complete with video conferencing and file sharing facilities.
Samsung likes to fit its top-end tablets out with decent cameras, which might seem like a bit of a waste of effort if, like me, you treat your tablet as the last resort for taking photos.
But as last resorts go, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's 8MP snapper is very accomplished. Indeed, as I've already alluded to, the tablet's compact dimensions make it the most practical picture taker in the whole Tab Pro range.
Given the common components I've discussed up to this point, it probably won't surprise you to learn that the camera here appears to be the same as the one I encountered on the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2.
As with that camera, the default picture size is 6MP in order to get the Full HD 16:9 aspect ratio, and view your images back full-screen on the Tab Pro 8.4's screen.
You have to manually bump this setting up to 8MP, at which point things squidge up into an old-school 4:3 aspect ratio, and the camera UI gains a pair of black bars along the sides.
Still, the images captured are generally very good for a tablet. Detail levels in strong natural lighting are uncommonly good, with accurate colours and a nice blurring effect for background details that aren't in focus - particularly with close-up shots.
Speaking of focus, the Galaxy Tab 8.4 is quick to pick up on the object in your sites and focus in, but you can always take matters into your own hands with a tap of the screen.
Shutter speeds are virtually instantaneous, and it's possible to take 20 quick-fire shots by holding the virtual shutter button down for a second or two.
Samsung hasn't skimped on camera modes and tweakable settings, either. There's a creditable HDR mode that yields appreciably natural-looking results in scenes of high-contrast.
Then you get the more gimmicky modes, such as Beauty face mode, which gives any faces an unnaturally smoothed-out sheen, or Sound & shot, which adds a snippet of sound from the environment to provide aural context.
Best photo is a little more useful, allowing you to take multiple pictures before selecting the best for you. Best face is another clever one, allowing you to merge multiple group shots into a single 'best of' picture.
You can shoot video at Full HD 1080p, as has become the norm. It yields perfectly serviceable results, provided you don't shake around too much (something the size of the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 helps with).
On the front, you have a 2MP camera for video calls and selfies, which is pretty decent as tablets go.
Both of the rivals I've mentioned in this review - the LG G Pad 8.3 and the iPad mini 2 - come with inferior efforts, at 1.3MP and 1.2MP respectively.
Given the natural usage of tablets is indoors as a communication tool rather than out and about taking snaps, this is arguably a more important spec than the main camera.
Flip the camera to the front one in the camera app, and you instantly get a front-facing Beauty face mode, which again softens your features for selfies that actually make you look good. Or weird, in my case.
While it lacks the large-screen majesty of the rest of the range, the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is a superb media player.
A large part of that, of course, is down to its WQXGA display which, at 8.4 inches, is clearly better suited to playing movies and games than even the largest phone or phablet.
On movies, in particular, the colours are excellent and blacks, while not exactly inky like Samsung's AMOLED smartphones, are suitably deep.
Sound, on the other hand, is a bit of a weak point here. It's loud enough, if lacking in low end (a common issue with mobile devices), but the positioning of the two speakers for portrait usage makes for a disjointed sound profile for films. Get those headphones out.
When it comes to sourcing video content, the Google Play Store features a comprehensive library of TV shows and movies at decent prices. New films tend to be around £3.49 in SD or £4.49 in HD.
Samsung also has its own media store, the Samsung Hub, but it's really not worth bothering with.
You get a similar selection for a similar price, but with an uglier interface and limited prospects for any purchased content (you'll be stuck without access if you buy a non-Samsung device as your next tablet or phone).
I've touched upon the music offering here already. Essentially, Google Play Music is all you'll need, with a comprehensive MP3 library, Spotify-like subscription service, and even the ability to save your own music collection to the cloud.
The only real advantage to running Samsung's own Music app is the presence of a lock screen widget for playing, pausing, and skipping tracks. Yep, that's it.
This is also an excellent gaming device. The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's dimensions ensure that it sits perfectly in the hands - or hand, depending on the type of game you're playing.
It's also light enough that you won't have wrist-ache after a lengthy game, and that 8.4-inch display is large enough to show off lush 3D games like Real Racing 3 but small enough to make the dual-thumb controls of Dead Rising 2 feel comfortable.
Of course, with the the same high-end Snapdragon 800 processor as Google's own Nexus 7 - Android's reference tablet - every game I threw at the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 ran like a dream, and looked beautiful to boot.
In terms of storing all this media, you get either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage here. With around 4GB required just to run the system, that can leave you a little short if you opt for the smaller capacity.
Fortunately, Samsung has included that microSD slot on the left hand side, and apps can be shunted over to this removable storage in the settings menu.
iPad Mini 2
Apple's iPad mini 2 is the best-designed - in fact, just plain best - 8-inch tablet on the market. While it's 7.9-inch display is both smaller and less sharp than the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's, it's just as stunning to look at, and has an app ecosystem that's fully optimised for it.
The iPad mini 2 also feels like a premium device, with a sleek metal-and-glass design. It's a pleasure to hold in a way that the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 simply isn't.
But most decisive of all in this comparison is the price. The iPad mini 2 is £30 cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 - and I knocked Apple's effort for being a little expensive when it launched.
LG G Pad 8.3
LG often provides the most direct rivals to Samsung in terms of specs and design philosophy, and that's true here in a couple of ways.
The LG G Pad 8.3 is pretty much the same form factor as the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4. It's a few months old now, which manifests itself in an inferior Snapdragon 600 CPU that proves to be less powerful and less power efficient than the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4's newer model.
Its 1920 x 1280 resolution display is also significantly less sharp than the Samsung equivalent. However, the LG feels better in the hand and is significantly cheaper. You can pick one up for £200 (around $325 or AUS$360) at the time of writing.
Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9
Amazon's range-topping HDX 8.9 is more of a 9-incher than an 8-incher, but it's as close to the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 in size as the iPad mini 2 is.
The HDX 8.9 offers a similarly stunning 2560 x 1600, the same punchy Snapdragon 800 CPU, and a comparable (on paper at least) 8MP camera. It's also about £20 cheaper.
However, Amazon's walled-off OS means that you don't get the full, flexible Android experience the Google's services and apps, which instantly puts it at a disadvantage to all but the most dedicated Amazon users.
In the Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4, Samsung has arguably found the best form for its high-end components. With a stunningly sharp display, impressive performance and Samsung's best UI yet. It's just a shame that its price tag doesn't match its less-than-premium feel.
This is the most impressive display in the current extended Pro range, with the same 2560 x 1600 resolution as the larger models - but with a superior pixel configuration.
It's also a very well proportioned tablet, with a weight and heft that make you feel as comfortable hunkering down to an HD film or game as you do reading an article on the way to work.
Samsung seems to be learning a thing or two about software design, too - the latest TouchWiz UI is a considerable improvement.
Samsung still needs to address the look and feel of its tablets. The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is a decidedly premium device, so why isn't it designed like one? Especially when you're paying a pretty penny for it.
Making your 8-inch tablet pricier than the stylish iPad mini 2 is a brave - and somewhat foolish - move.
While Samsung's UI design is much improved, I'm baffled that it continues to fill its devices with so many duplicate apps - especially when its own efforts are markedly inferior to Google's stock provisions.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 won't be the one grabbing the headlines in the new Tab Pro range, I suspect, but it's arguably the best of the lot.
Condensed down to this size, the WQXGA display renders everything in super-sharp detail, while the creakiness of the larger tablets is all but gone with the 8.4's compact shell.
This may well be the best compact tablet Samsung has ever made, but at a price that exceeds the peerless iPad mini 2, that's not quite enough to rule the roost.