Samsung’s 12″ Note Pro replaces my iPad

Since 2011 I’ve been using my iPad daily. It has replaced my laptop in many ways. From drafting to writing documents and notes, it covers the gamut of all my needs while being the size of a pad of paper.

There have been ongoing rumors about the release of a 12″ iPad Pro. The thought of having a large screen, stylus, and palm rejection are enough for me to throw down money on a new device. With forced “free” upgrades for Apple’s OS and the butchering of their pro line of products/offerings, I’ve begun to fall out of love with Apple as a brand.

I’ve also been waiting for the Ubuntu touch tablets to start rolling out as a replacement for the iPad. With the Ubuntu development’s slow progression for tablets and convergence, I thought that I would be able to bank on at least one more version of iPad before making the leap to a Linux tablet.

It starts with the phone

OPO phoneMy iPhone was still working, but I knew that I needed to upgrade. It was jail-broken and a pain to upgrade. Plus, I barely used it. I was looking at reviews for Android alternatives and came across the OnePlus One. It was a sleek looking mobile with similar specs to Apple at a fraction of the price. The phone also came unlocked. I’ve always bought my phones outright and never relied on subsidized phones by providers.

Once I got the phone, I was quickly able to style and customize it, making it look attractive. Since I got the phone, I’ve grown to like using Android as an OS over iOS.

Then fate took over. My iPad screen started look vignetted from light bleeding. One side of the screen began to look like it was powered by marquee lighting with hot spots. It’s most noticeable when the screen is white or light colored. After four years of lugging the little device everywhere, using it daily for hours, and dropping it on almost every surface known to man; my little iPad was reaching the end of its days and I needed to look for a replacement.

Mac news/rumor sites were reporting that the iPad Pro might not be released until late 2015 if at all this year. I knew I couldn’t wait for the iPad and needed to go a different route. My positive experience with my OnePlus made me decide to look into Android more and see what was out there.

Decisions, decisions

There were tablets like Asus and the Surface that ran Microsoft. If I was going to ween myself off of Apple products, I wasn’t going to do it with Microsoft. I was good with sticking with Android as my OS. Quickly while researching, it became clear that the only real choice was to get a Samsung Note Pro. They even had a 12″ model—just the size I wanted.

I read the reviews and they were quite favorable. The price was a little high, but I noticed that they recently dropped from $749 to $649 USD. While I was on Amazon, I saw the same model, refurbished, for only $429. I’ve bought Apple certified refurbs in the past and didn’t think it would be any different. Plus, returns via Amazon are super easy and hassle free.

The Note Pro arrived in perfect condition. I couldn’t even tell it was a refurb.

$429 for a 12" tablet was a price I couldn't refuse.
$429 for a 12″ tablet was a price I couldn’t refuse.

Verdict

Weight

I’ve had the tablet for a month and I really am enjoying the experience. Don’t believe the reviews that say that the tablet is heavy. It’s really not. Maybe I’m used to years of carrying around my old Modbook which weighs about 5.5 pounds. The Note Pro seems to be similar in weight to my iPad2. The back of the tablet is made of plastic that looks and feels like leather, probably making it lighter than being made of aluminum. I wasn’t fond of the idea of the faux leather back, so I checked it in person out at a Best Buy to see if it was something that I could live with. Turns out that I didn’t mind it at all.

Performance

The Note Pro has an Octa-core processor with 3GB of RAM. I chose the 32GB HD because I could expand it with an SD card. There is a noticeable difference going from the iPad 2. Programs launch quickly and web browsing is more responsive. It definitely feels like an upgrade.

Drawing

The most important part of using a tablet for me is having a light weight digital sketchbook. The iPad has been good to me with exceptional art programs and light-weight design. In order to replace my iPad, I was hoping for an improved experience. The stylus and palm rejection on the Note Pro achieve that improved experience.

From beginning to end, the Note Pro was an exceptional drawing tool. (Click to enlarge)
From beginning to end, the Note Pro was an exceptional drawing tool. (Click to enlarge)

 

Pressure sensitivity is nice to have while drawing but the real difference is having the palm rejection. Being able to balance my hand on the screen while I draw has greatly improved my drawing experience over using the iPad 2. With the iPad 2 I’ve relied on apps, like ArtRage, that have line smoothing options to help me create controlled lines. I found programs like Autodesk’s Sketchbook Pro unusable on my iPad because there was no line smoothing for the pen. One of my favorite apps so far on the Note Pro is Sketchbook Pro. Being able to rest my palm on the screen as I draw has given me control back while drawing. I don’t need to rely on the app in order to correct jitter.

Stylus

The stylus that comes with the Note Pro is a simple S-pen. The pen itself is on the small side. It doesn’t have an eraser which may be a deal breaker for some. I tried my Modbook stylus and a Lenovo ThinkPad stylus. Both worked but there was an alignment issue. The s-pen that comes with the tablet seems to work best. It has a softer feel than the other pens. I thought that the stylus would feel too fragile, but I actually like using it.

I looked into other styli, like the Wacom Bamboo Feel, but reviews state that they don’t work as well as the original Samsung stylus. I’m interested in buying the Samsung S-Pen with eraser. It’s currently being sold on Amazon for only $17.99 USD and has great reviews.

This is the pen I'm going to buy for my Note Pro. It has an eraser and good reviews for alignment.
This is the pen I’m going to buy for my Note Pro. It has an eraser and good reviews for alignment.

Apps

Most of the apps that I’ve used on my iPad are available in the Google Play store. One program that I haven’t found a good equivalent is InkPad. It’s the perfect vector drafting program, developed by Steve Sprang. I’ve tried other vector software like Infinite Design or Vector Art Studio. If someone can recommend a replacement for InkPad on Android, I’m all ears!

InkPad is the only app that I'm having a difficult time replacing on Android.
InkPad is the only app that I’m having a difficult time replacing on Android.

Programs that I love on the Note Pro

Artflow appArtFlow touts 70+ brushes with over 4,000 X 4,ooo pixels of canvas. I really like the UI of the program and I’m looking forward to using the app.

Artrage appArtRage has been one of my mainstay apps on the iPad. The interface is a little different on Android, but all the functions are the same. The only thing that’s missing that I absolutely love is the script recording function. When you first create a painting on the iPad, you have the option to turn on the recording script. It records every stroke, making it possible to replay the painting stroke-by-stroke on your computer. You can also change the size and resolution of the painting before you replay the script on your computer.

Sketchbook appAutodesk Sketchbook wasn’t a program that I loved on the iPad. I had a difficult time controlling the line quality. It turns out that the palm rejection on the Note Pro makes all the difference. This is just to show you that something as simple as resting your hand on the screen while you draw can really make a difference.

Infinite Painter appInfinite Painter is like Sketchbook and ArtRage. It has tons of brushes and a simple interface.

Hawkwriter appHanx (Actually, it’s Hawk Writer on Android/not the same) is my favorite word processor because it reminds me of typing on my parent’s old Underwood. I’m glad to see this app made it’s way over to Google Play. (UPDATE: Okay, I was fooled. The app icon may be silimar, but the name and experience are totally different. It turns out that the app’s called Hawk Writer instead of Hanx. The app has none of the functionality of Hanx, and it doesn’t even pair with a keyboard. There is a possible alternative called Typewriter that I’m going to try out. Here’s to hoping Hanx makes it to Android!)

Programs I’m thinking about trying

Animation Studio app Storyboard appAnimation Studio and Storyboard Studio look like potentially good animation tools. Both apps are created by Sean Brakefield, the same creator of Infinite Painter and Infinite Design. It looks like both Animation and Storyboard have not bee updated for some time. I’m curious as to the where Sean is with developing/updating both apps. Reading the reviews gives me the impression that the apps have a lot of promise but they’re buggy. Hopefully both apps are not abandoned.

 

Comments: 2

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  1. My favorite tablet, I like it because the pen using Wacom technology so it doesn’t need to charged forever. I sold my ipad pro because must using 2 apple pencil as substitution when one of them charged, and sometimes the battery is empty before the one fully recharged, this is very annoying!

    When I want to go to a cafe, I need to make sure the Apple Pencil battery fully recharged, and if I want to go all day, I need to recharge both apple pencil as a backup.

    1. Thanks for the feedback. It’s good to know that there were others that purchased the Note Pro before it was put out to pasture. I agree! I love having a Wacom pen. I also like different ones for different tasks. Where Samsung misses the mark is with security and OS updates. There has been only one OS update in two years and only a few security updates. This shows a lack of commitment on Samsung’s part to support a professional product appropriately. It’s a shame because the hardware is durable and beautiful. I wish that Google would have more control over their OS. If it were more like Windows, and upgrading was dependent on Google than the manufacturer, people would be a lot happier. Plus all the silly options, UI design choices and custom experiences that Samsung included in the OS only jumps up the experience. And the Apple pencil is horrible. To think that I’d have to buy a rechargeable pen for an extra $100 and eventually it will stop charging sucks to the highest power. Like I want to have another item that needs to be charged in my house. The amount of chargers and cables required to travel has gotten ridiculous. Oh, and if I decide to buy an iPad Pro 2, I’ll have to say goodbye to my microSD.