Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 vs iPad Air head-to-head review

For the past few years Apple's iPad has become an increasingly common sight in most offices, with many companies preferring its secure iOS operating system and user-friendly interface to those of competing tablets. But now Samsung has looked to establish its own position in the enterprise market with Android, creating its unashamedly productivity and security-focused Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 tablet.

But with Apple already having a foot in the door, some have questioned whether the giant 12.2in tablet's software will be enough to persuade businesses to ditch the iPad.

Design and build
The iPad Air and Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 are about as different as you can get. The first and most obvious reason is the massive disparity between the two tablets' size. The Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is an absolute beast, measuring in at 296x204x7.95mm. This makes the 240x170x7.5mm iPad Air look tiny.

The iPad is also significantly lighter than the 750g Galaxy Note Pro 12.2, weighing in at 468g, which means the iPad Air is far more travel friendly.Galaxy Note Pro 12 vs iPad Air back
The iPad Air's button placement also made it slightly more pleasant to use on the move than the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. This is because Apple has chosen to place the Home button on the bottom short side of the iPad Air. Samsung took the opposite approach, placing the Home button on the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2's bottom long side.

The iPad button placement means using the iPad in portrait – as most people do when trying to read a webpage or document on the move – is far more intuitive and easier to do than it is on the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2. While the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2's placement makes it easier to use the tablet in landscape, the appeal of this is diminished by the fact that it doesn't feature an attachable keyboard or kickstand, so it can't easily be used as a laptop replacement, like most other tablets with this button configuration can.

In terms of build quality, picking between the iPad Air and the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is fairly difficult. Featuring an aluminium backplate, the iPad Air has a slightly more premium and robust feel. However, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2's faux leather back and metal sides are far more scratch and dirt resistant than the iPad Air's. Running around London with the two tablets in our satchel, we found the iPad Air finished the day looking fairly scruffy and had picked up a fair amount of dirt. Having endured the same punishment, the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 remained clean and respectable looking.

Another selling point for the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 is that it can be charged using a regular micro USB cable. The fact the iPad Air has to be charged using a proprietary cable made by Apple has been an ongoing annoyance as it makes it more expensive and time consuming to replace or borrow chargers when caught without your own.
Winner: The iPad Air

DisplayThe Apple iPad Air’s 9.7in 1536x2048, 264ppi in-plane switching (IPS) LCD Retina display should be slightly crisper than the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2’s 12.2in WQXGA, 2560x1600, 247ppi, Super Clear LCD screen.

But we struggled to pick a clear winner when it came to screen quality. Both displays are wonderfully crisp and vibrant, with great viewing angles and colour balance.

However, using the two tablets for business purposes, the Galaxy Note Pro’s extra screen space was a serious bonus, making it quicker and easier to edit spreadsheets and word documents. This was particularly true when using the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2’s S Pen stylus, but more on this later.

Winner: The Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Operating system and software
The Apple iPad Air runs using iOS 7 while the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 runs Android 4.4 KitKat with Samsung's Magazine UX skin.

We’ve always struggled to pick between iOS and Android when it comes to productivity, because both operating systems come pre-loaded with a variety of business-friendly applications and services. For iPad Air users, Apple has made Pages for documents, Numbers for spreadsheets and Keynote for presentations free on the App Store.

The iPad Air’s iOS 7 interface is also more user friendly than Android and features a host of consumer and BYOD-friendly features. Chief of these is its advanced iCloud integration. The integration makes it quick and easy to set up a new iPad, letting users automatically pull their settings from older Apple devices into the new iPad. It also makes it easy for users to store documents and files on the iCloud - though as a consumer service this may be less appealing to businesses.

Galaxy Note Pro 12 vs iPad Air front
Android comes with equivalent Google Drive, Now, Calendar and Gmail applications, and Samsung has done a brilliant job of bolstering Android's business applications and services offering with its new Magazine UX software.

Magazine UX is a custom skin for Android that radically redesigns the operating system's user interface. The most obvious way it does this is via the addition of new tiled widgets. The widgets can be organised to create a similar interface to that seen on HTC’s BlinkFeed news aggregator service. The widgets offer dynamic updates from a variety of news outlets and services, such as email and calendar.

Magazine UX also adds a number of enterprise-friendly applications, including pre-installing Evernote and Cisco WebEx Meetings - both of which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store - along with Samsung apps like e-Meeting and S Note. Cisco WebEx and Samsung e-Meeting are video conferencing tools. WebEx is useful as it lets users make and join video conference calls in full HD audio. It also has a useful screen-share feature that lets users show spreadsheets, presentation slides or documents to other people on a call.

Samsung e-Meeting is a free conference tool designed to let users take advantage of the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2’s S Pen stylus. The service is useful as it features a Whiteboard collaboration tool that lets users collaboratively scribble notes on a shared digital board.

S Note is a similarly useful application, which lets users scribble and save notes to their Evernote or Samsung account using the S Pen stylus. Combined with the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2’s multi-window and screen-splitting servies we found S Note made the tablet a fantastic research and note-taking tool.

The multi-window support is a key software feature differentiating the Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 from the iPad Air, and lets users open certain applications as floating windows, while the split-screen feature lets you set the screen to run and display up to four applications at once. This meant we could have S Note open alongside a web article or document we were researching and taking notes on.

Winner: Galaxy Note Pro 12.2

Next: Security and performance
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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

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