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Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4-Inch Tablet (White) (Model SM-T320)
on May 16, 2014
UPDATE 7 Dec 2014 - Added blurb on restrictions writing to the microSD card under KitKat (Android 4.4)
From time to time, as I learn more about this very powerful system, I will add to my review and adjust my comments when I think it is something noteworthy or that may help your decision
I have in my house both Apple and Android mobile devices (iPad - original) , iPod - touch, mini-iPads, iDream Tablet running Android 4.0), PC's running Windows XP, Vista, and 8.1, cell phones running Android 2.3, and feature phones -- so I consider myself tech savvy. And what I don't know, or can't figure out, my teenagers can.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is my latest acquisition and I use it for myself. As of this update I have had it a few months, playing with constantly.
PLACE IN SAMSUNG PRODUCT LINE
Samsung makes a variety of models, and it is often hard to tell what one model does that another does not, and which model or sub-model is the right one for you. For Samsung, there are now four Galaxy Pro lines that overlap:
1) Tab Pro - WiFi only (SM-T320), 16 GB (no 32 GB version available (yet?))
2) Tab Pro - WiFi & 4G (SM-T325), 16 GB (no 32 GB version available (yet?))
3) Tab S - WiFi only (SM-TSM-T700N) 16 GB (no 32 GB version available (yet?))
- -Tab S - 4G (coming soon?)
4) Note Pro - WiFi 4G/LTE (SM-P905) 32 GB
The difference between the four lines are:
1) The Note Pro line has the S-pen stylus handwriting and drawing on the screen,
2) The Tab Pro lines have no S-pen.
3) The Tab S is functionally the same as the Tab Pro, with these differences -- a super amoled display, 1.9 GHz Exynos 5 Octa Processor (1.9 GHz Quad Core + 1.3 GHz Quad Core), thinner and lighter. It is also priced about $70 more than the Pro 8.4.
The Note Pro also comes in two screen size (10.1' and 12.2"), while the Tab Pro and Tab S (will) come in three sizes (8.4", 10.1", and 12.2".) Otherwise, they all have similar top-of-the-line specs and features.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro is just below the Tab S at the very top of the Tab line. The Tab, Tab 2, Tab 3, and Tab 4 are successive budget models, while the Tab Pro and Tab S are the elite high-end (and expensive) versions. It (will) comes in four flavors: WiFi only, and WiFi plus data (3G/4G), combined with either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. It also comes in two colors: black, or white (I guess that would make eight flavors.)
As I go through the features and specs below, I think it will be increasingly clear that Samsung has targeted the Tab Pro 8.4 to one-up (or more) over the Apple mini-iPad Retina -- and at a significantly better price-point ($350+ versus $600 for a comparable Retina.) And there are numerous comparisons available in print and on YouTube, most favoring the Tab Pro 8.4. Just google "Tab Pro 8.4 versus mini-iPad Retina" to find the comparisons.
The Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is ten percent taller, four percent narrower, and maybe a smidge thinner than the Apple mini-iPad Retina. The two are almost exactly the same weight. The Tab Pro 8.4 has a pleasing simulated-leather back, which is very realistic in look and feel, including stitching. The mini-iPad retina has a metal back.
O/S, RAM & STORAGE
The Tab Pro 8.4 runs on Android 4.4.2 (Kit Kat) which is the latest released version of Android -- seems to be a very stable and a well executed O/S. I have yet to run into anything funny or alarming with it. One thing I like very much about Kit Kat is that the O/S manages your memory for you -- you no longer have to worry about where things go. And it has a massive memory/storage capability -- 2 GB RAM, plus 16 GB of fast internal storage, plus up to 64 GB external micoSDXC storage, for a whopping 80 GB of very fast combined on-board storage capability.
In comparison, the Apple min-iPad Retina does not have a user-accessible external storage, so once you purchase your mini-iPad, you can't add more storage later. Apple does offer sub-models with more internal storage, but at a greatly increased price, for example at 64GB, nearly $600. Compare that to an 80GB Tab Pro 8.4 at $400 ($350 for the 16 GB Tab Pro + $50 for the 64GB microSDXC card.).
ANDROID 4.4 (KitKat) - Writing to the micro SD card.
Some forums have been complaining about the restriction on 3rd party apps not being able to write to the microSD card when running under KitKat. So I address that issue here. This applies to all Android devices running KiTKat (Android 4.4), not just the Samsung brand or the Galaxy Tablets and phones.
The Google Android Team has begun enforcing a restriction in KitKat (Android 4.4) that was put in place in early versions of Android 4 that requires the app creator to give permissions to "foreign" apps on moving what the app owns or creates. This is a security enhancement to prevent rogue apps from malicious actions on your device.
Prior to KitKat, the default was "permitted," which didn't require the app creator to do anything. However, under KitKat, the default is "not permitted," so the app creator has to specifically allow permission to move a file it owns or creates (if the app creator wants to allow a "foreign" app to do this.)
This primarily affects 3rd party apps like "File Commander," which can no longer move apps or files it didn't create from "device storage" to "external storage" (it can not write to the microSD card.)
Samsung's own native file manager, named "My Files," does not have this restriction -- it can write to the microSD card, and it can move files to the microSD card of other apps that have given it permission to do so. Generally, if you get an app from Samsung's Galaxy Apps store, it has given Samsung's file manager permission to move it's files and write to the external storage (the microSD card.)
So your first source of added apps should be Samsung's Galaxy App Store. Apps sourced elsewhere may or may not have been updated for KitKat (Android 4.4)
The 175 page hyper-text user manual (available only on-line) states that some microSD cards may not be compatible, which influenced me to by a Samsung-brand 64 GB microSDXC card. A very small-format printed Quick-Start guide comes in the package, but you can download the digital User Guide from Samsung's web site (even before you buy), which is more comprehensive.
-- WiFi & Bluetooth
The Tab Pro 8.4 has the latest versions of Bluetooth (version 4.0), and WiFi (802.11 a/b/g/n/ac),.
-- Infra Red Blaster
Infra Red Blaster provides an all-device remote control.
The tab Pro 8.4 does NOT have a dedicated HDMI port, though it does support a USB to HDMI adapter, which you can purchase at many outlets, including Amazon.com.
-- WiFi Direct
WiFi Direct allows you to connect wirelessly with multiple devices (that also have WiFi Direct capability) and share information and files. WiFi Direct may not be immediately useful to you, but it is a feature you would probably want in all your future devices.
-- USB to PC
Normally, when you connect a handheld device to a PC by USB cable, the device becomes just an external storage device to your PC (or Mac), and no other features of the device can be used while so connected. If you do this on the Tab Pro 8.4, you will see two new storage devices on your PC: "Card" and "Tablet." "Tablet" is the internal storage (16 GB) that comes with the device - don't mess with it. "Card" is the external microSD card that you can install, and add files to from your PC. If you go about changing folder and file names you didn't add, you can screw up your device. When you are connected to a PC by USB, the Tab Pro 8.4's battery will not be charged. So you should have the Tab Pro 8.4 fully charged before attaching it to a PC by USB cable.
Samsung Kies is software to install on your PC or Mac which enables you to connect safely using a USB cable to update firmware, synchronize files, and transfer data much faster that Bluetooth. You can also synch with your PC's Windows Media Player (but forget synching with Apple iTunes - Apple just won't cooperate with Samsung or Google in any way.)
You download Kies to your PC from Samsung's website. There may be more than one version -- You use the latest version For the Tab Pro 8.4. After you install Kies, it will ask you to download a Samsung Kies USB driver that will increase the speed of the connection.
When you use Samsung's Kies software to connect your PC by USB cable to the Tab Pro 8.4, you won't see the Internal and external storage drives. Kies will perform firmware upgrades, and while doing so, you can't use the device for anything else. However, if you are just transmitting folder and file, or synching, you can simultaneously use the Tab Pro 8.4 features and apps. Using Kies makes transfers safe, and it knows where to put your music, pictures, and videos. For those files and folders, Kies will give you a choice whether to store on the internal storage or external microSD card.
I don't find any information or spec from Samsung about USB OTG (On the Go), which would allow the USB port to host external devices connected by USB (such as an external USB flash drive or an external GPS antenna.) However, some reviewers report that it does support OTG. OTG requires a special OTG USB cable/adapter, which is available from Amazon.com and other outlets.
To check it for myself I connected my USB flash drive by an OTG USB-to-microUSB cable, and I could see all the files on the flash drive, and the Tab Pro 8.4 could open the files that it had a type for, such as graphics, music, and video files, and some documents. If it didn't know what file type the file was, it couldn't open it. So OTG (with an OTG USB cable)does work.
When you are properly connected to a flash drive, you find the flash drive within the app named "My Files." Open "My Files" and on the left side of the screen will be a list of "folders" as follows:
- - - Device Storage (that's your internal 16 GB or 32GB storage)
- - - SD Memory Card (f you added a microSD card), and
- - - USBDriveA (if your flash drive is properly attached)
When you are finished with the flash drive, don't just disconnect it - first unmount the flash drive.
In comparison, the Apple mini-iPad Retina has the same Bluetooth and Wifi, but not Direct WiFi. It has USB to its proprietary Lightening connector, which is about the same size as a microUSB connector. Apple touts its lightening connector as very high speed, but that would only be true if the PC on the other side has USB 3.0. Leave it to Apple to be as incompatible as possible with any other standard. The mini-iPad Retina has no IR Blaster, nor capability for additional user-furnished storage. The Apple mini-iPad Retina does not mention OTG, so I can't say whether or not it has it.
A Snapdragon 800 2.3 GHz Quad-Core Processor (with 2GB RAM), and on-board GPU powers the Tab Pro 8.4, which is the most advanced and fastest processor used in Android devices.
The mini-iPad, by contrast, uses a Apple A7 CPU, which is no slouch, but only 1 GB of RAM on board. In throughput test comparisons, the edge goes to the Tab Pro 8.4.
The Tab Pro 8.4 has a 5% larger screen area than the min-iPad Retina.
The Tab Pro 8.4's also has a higher pixel density -- display resolution is WQXGA (2560 x 1600 pixels) at 359 pixels per inch. That is better than Apple's retina display (2048 x 1536 pixels) at 326 pixels per inch.
The aspect ratio of the Tab Pro 8.4's screen is 16:10, which is the same as my computer monitor - so everything I see on my PC screen can be shown in even higher resolution on the Tab Pro 8.4.
A 16:10 aspect ratio is nearly the same as the HDTV aspect ratio of 16:9. Contrast that to mini-iPad's aspect ratio of 4:3, which causes HDTV content to either be truncated on the sides, or the HDTV image to be very small on the screen.
Samsung's default screen settings are a little too dim for my tastes. The Tab Pro 8.4 really shines with blazing, vivid colors at slightly higher brightness levels. The downside to increasing the brightness level is that the screen (which is the primary culprit in battery usage) depletes the battery faster.
White is the color with the highest battery drain (white requires all color pixels to be on). So the use of white backgrounds should be eliminated or minimized. I created a wallpaper that is just a totally black rectangle (stored as a .jpg file). The black wallpaper allows images on the screen to stand out better, even at reduced brightness levels. I also set my Kindle app to "white type on black background" for the same effect. Finally, I created a lock-screen which has my logo on it on a black background.
Clearly, the Tab Pro 8.4 is positioned to compete aggressively (both feature and price wise) with the Apple Retina mini-iPad. Excellent, very sharp images on the display (depending on the resolution of the image itself). This is the type of display that you only want high-definition images on.
MULTI-TASKING / MULTI-VIEWING
All Android devices can multi-task, but you can normally only view one screen at a time for any running app. The Tab Pro 8.4 allows up to four multi-tasking apps to be displayed simultaneously, and you can pair any two so they always show up together. This is a great feature for comparing two documents side by side, organizing files into different folders, or displaying a graphic in a separate window while browsing a document. It is a big step that brings much of the power of the PC display to the Android Tablet.
Here the edge clearly goes to the mini-iPad Retina with a 6,470 mAh battery to the Tab Pro 8.4's 4,800 mAh battery. That translates to roughly 10+ hours for the mini-iPad Retina versus 8 hours for the Tab Pro 8.4. Of course, user time will vary greatly - depending on screen brightness, sound volume, and the number of apps open. If you need more time between charges, consider purchasing a mobile battery extender, and/or invest in a car charger.
BATTERY CHARGER (wall mount)
The supplied Samsung USB Battery charger is rated at 2 amps, which is designed to rapidly recharge the device. Don't use any battery charger with less than a 2-amp capacity (which would include most cell phone charges) - they won't charge rapidly, if at all.
The same goes for the included Samsung USB cable - it is designed to handle a 2-amp load on recharging. Other USB cables may not be able to handle a 2-amp current.
The Tab Pro 8.4 is (in my humble opinion) the perfect size for a handheld mobile device. Any bigger display/device, and you would have trouble holding it with one hand. Any smaller and you would be sacrificing clarity and resolution.
The Tab Pro 8.4 has a higher aspect ratio (16:10 to mini-iPad's 4:3), which is easier to hold in one hand. And the higher aspect ratio of the Tab Pro 8.4 is better for watching HD movies and video content.
That this size tablet is the new norm is testified by the fact that my wife and daughters have pretty much abandoned their larger iPad and smaller iPods for the mini-iPad. And I have pretty much done the same for Android devices. While my wife and daughters are designer brand afficionado snobs, and will probably always choose Apple over Android, they were impressed by the Samsung Tab Pro 8.4's display.
Two Cameras -- 8MP Rear + 2MP Front. That is better than the mini-iPad Retina's cameras (5MP rear + 1.2MP front.) Not the highest resolution for professional photographers, but very good for the price range, and excellent for the amateur. The higher camera resolution allows a wider utility for the digital zoom without undue pixalation. And the Tab Pro 8.4's rear camera has flash, which the mini-iPad Retina doesn't. Both have auto-focus. Neither have an optical zoom.
The Tab Pro 8.4 has a fully functional on-board GPS. And it is fully compatible with Google Maps and Google Earth. The Apple mini-iPad Retina does not have GPS.
The Tab Pro 8.4 has stereo speakers on the bottom (same as the min-iPad Retina.) Surprisingly good sound comes out these tiny speakers - no deep bass, but good enough to listen to movies and music without earphones. Put on some HiFi earphones for the best sound, or plug into some quality big speakers with a woofer for that big bass component.
At first glance, the included Samsung music player (simply labled "Music") appears to be just a plain, simple, featureless music player. But it is actually a very understated, but feature rich, player. I mention it here because it would be all too easy to prematurely dismiss it.
You access the features from the Music screen by tapping on the small "Options" icon (three vertical dots) in the upper right corner of the screen, and then tap "Settings," and then "Player." It would have been better (and much more noticeable and convenient) to have these in tabbed folders directly from the player screen, but it is what it is.
The options under "Settings > Player" are:
- - Sound Alive
This is a multi-feature that has "Basic" and "Advanced" tabs.
Under the "Basic" tab is a graphic square layout that allows you to choose a setting between "Instrument" and "Vocal" (Karaoke effect) in five levels on the horizontal; scale, and simultaneously a setting between "Treble" and Bass" in five levels on the vertical scale. Some of the setting possibilities are labeled, such as: Classic, Normal, Pop, Rock, and Jazz.
Under the "Advanced" tab is a seven-band equalizer, and three special effects choices for "3D," "Bass," and "Clarity."
Available under either "Basic" or "Advanced" is a "Tube Amp Effect" that puts a little reverb in the sound. The "Tube Amp Effect" is only available with the earphones plugged in.
-- Adapt Sound
It is either on or off. I'm not sure what it does, but it only works with the earphones plugged in.
- - Play Speed
You can slow the music down, or speed it up -- by quite a bit - using a bar scale.
- - Music Auto Off.
Turns the Music player off after a time interval you choose.
- - Lyrics
Provides song lyrics. It is an on/off switch, and I presume you have to be subscribed to Google Music, or some lyrics service, to use it.
- - Smart Volume
It is an on/off switch that adjusts the sound level of all music tracks to level 13.
The options under "Setting" > "My Music" are:
- - Tabs
Tabs allow you to choose which attributes you want to be able to sort your music by (Playlists, Tracks, Albums, Artists, Folders, Genres.) "Playlist" and "Tracks" are mandatory defaults. In addition, when you sort, you can choose to sort by where your music is stored (Bluetooth folder, Music (internal storage), external SD card.)
- - Playlists
These are the default playlist choices (Favorites, Most Played, Recently Played, Recently Added) plus any playlists you created (in another screen.)
Other Music options directly on the music player are music "Shuffle," and "Repeat." "Repeat" has the following settings: play all, repeat all continuously, and repeat once.
BUILT-IN APPS & APP MARKETS
Both of these devices have a slew of apps to choose from, running in the hundreds of thousands. The edge in apps probably goes to the Apple mini-iPad Retina because any app for Apple usually runs across all of its product lines, regardless of O/S version.
Android apps tend to be more device and O/S specific - many apps created for older Android versions, or a specific manufacturer, or made for cell phones, won't work on the Tab Pro 8.4. Google Play Store will advise you if you try to buy or install an app that is not compatible with your Android device. And it asks you to report apps (with a single tap) that stop working, so it can prevent future downloads until the app is fixed.
The Samsung Apps store is now called the Galaxy App Store (tap the "Galaxy App" icon) should be your first resort to look for Apps. Samsung has produced a line of apps specifically for its Galaxy lines, and new apps are being added all the time. Samsung is serious about bettering Apple in every way, including apps, many of which are not available on Google Play. And some apps originally designed for the Galaxy Note also work on the Tab Pro, and are free.
- - SAMSUNG
The included Samsung apps for the Tab Pro 8.4 are in a folder named "Samsung" while the Samsung App Store icon is now named "Galaxy Apps." That is a little confusing, so I thought I would mention it, because the "Samsung" folder icon looks just like an app icon rather than a folder. When you tap on the "Samsung" icon, a window opens up with the included apps displayed (Alarm, Calculator, Downloads, Help, KNOX, S Voice, Side Sync, World Clock.)
- - KNOX
Think of Knox as in Fort Knox - a place of high security. Knox is the secure (encrypted) part of your Tab Pro 8.4 - password protected. When you tap on the Knox icon, it prompts you to create a password and creates a secure folder for all your Knox-secured applications and files. It then opens a table of secure (KNOX) versions of applications, some of which are free, and some you might have to pay for.
In addition to the included apps, Samsung includes a $25 voucher for your choice of apps to purchase (from the Samsung App Store, not Google Play.) Some very powerful business apps in the Samsung store may be free, such as the Hancom Office set (HOffice, Hword, Hcell, Hshow, etc.) which will give you all the power to read, modify, and create Microsoft Office compatible documents.
Two internet browsers are included. Both are mobile versions, and both will look for a mobile version of the website you are visiting, but both will also provide full internet browsing.
- - Google Chrome Mobile, just labeled "Chrome," will synch itself with your Google account (if you are signed in.) And if you have tabs pinned on your PC version of Chrome, they will also be pinned in the mobile version. What you won't get with the mobile version are the apps and extensions that your PC version of Chrome can have. But word is out that Google is working on adding the apps and extensions to the mobile version, with a target release of late 2014. Chrome will allow you to zoom in and out on the web page.
- - Samsung mobile browser, just labeled "Internet," has a different tactic - you set the "small" print at the level most easily read by your eyes, and the content is sized accordingly. You can still zoom in and out on the web page. I had my doubts about this small print-setting tactic, but after using it, I rather like it.
It may be debatable exactly what the best hand-held thing on the market is now, but the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 is right up there at the top - feature wise, and price-point.
I, as a rational engineer, would pick the clearly superior Samsung Tab Pro 8.4 over the Apple Mini-iPad Retina. I bought one for myself. And my wife said she was going to upgrade to the Tab Pro 8.4 and abandon her Apple mini-iPad.
And I would definitely recommend the Tab Pro 8.4 to my friends.