Review: 12-inch Galaxy Note Pro is too big for its own good
Samsung's mega tablet wants to be both a tablet and a laptop, but it's too awkward for either purposeFollow @MobileGalen
The Multi Window feature works only with apps you dock to its Multi Window bar, which you open by swiping from the screen's right edge. Basically, it's a clone of Windows 8's App bar, which is on the left side of a PC's screen. But the Note Pro continues to use Android's standard methods for opening apps -- going to the Apps screen from the home page or using the Running Apps bar invoked from the Multitasking button. If you use those methods, you get only full-screen views of apps, even those docked to the Multi Window bar. It's a bit confusing to have these multiple methods and multiple display results. (The previous Multi Window had no such slide-out bar; instead, it used an icon in each app to split the screen or go back to full screen. It was a better approach for a tablet.)
The Multi Window feature has an option to minimize an app to a circular button that you can move anywhere you want onscreen. That sounds like a nice idea, except these buttons overlay whatever is running, so you'll frequently need to move them out of the way. There's no place to dock a minimized window so that it's always out of the way, and closing a minimized window means long-tapping the icon, moving the window so that you can see the Close button, and tapping that Close button. There should be a simpler way to hide or close them.
To me, the previous generation of Multi Windows made more sense: It split the window into side-by-side panels, similar to what Windows 8 allows in its Metro UI, keeping text readable and incurring no performance penalties. In trying to have Multi Window act more like a PC than a tablet, Samsung made it less usable in practice, if not in theory.
When running with Multi Window enabled, the Note Pro's floating windows can overlap the tapped window. Here, you can see the Calculator app is above the active Calendar app, obscuring the onscreen keyboard.
What the Note Pro 12.2 has to like
Although it has some big usability flaws, there are good aspects to the Note Pro 12.2 shared by its smaller brethren. (Unlike many reviewers, I liked the original Note 10.1, and I still encourage Android tablet buyers to consider the current version of that model.)
One nice feature is the included S Pen stylus, which is a great adjunct if you use software optimized for it, especially for drawing and sketching. The Note's Air View contextual menu is also a handy use for the S Pen, for the few apps that take advantage of it. There's not much software designed for the S Pen, but it's useful even in regular apps as a more accurate way to select items. My only beef is that the pen's button is hard to feel and press, an issue in every generation of the S Pen.
The Email app has an option to display messages in three columns: one for folders, one for messages, and one for the selected email's content. (You can hide the folder column if desired.) That's a PC-style feature taken from Windows and OS X, but it's a good one and works quite nicely on the Note Pro 12.2's 12-inch screen. I absolutely love the new ability to create mail rules within the Email app -- I've been begging Apple for years to do that in iOS, which it continues to ignore.