Head-To-Head: Samsung Galaxy Note PRO 12.2 vs. Apple iPad Air

Samsung's Big Kahuna

Samsung took a bold step at CES 2014 this week, asserting its market leadership in business-focused devices by unveiling four new tablets aimed at the enterprise. The cream of that crop is the Galaxy Note PRO 12.2, a KitKat-based tablet with laptop-size screen and high-caliber processor that's preloaded with software enough to put the office PC experience wherever the job takes it.

Its 12.2-inch screen is clearly the largest of any mainstream commercial tablet to date, as is Samsung's commitment to building multitalented tablets that are as effective for creating content as they are for consuming it. So how does it compare with Apple's current high-end slate? The CRN Test Center takes a look with this head-to-head comparison of the Samsung Galaxy Note PRO 12.2 versus the Apple iPad Air.

App Processor

The LTE version of the Note PRO 12.2 will contain a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad Krait-core system-on-chip running at 2.3GHz. Buyers of the 3G edition will be treated to Samsung's eight-core Exynos 5 SoC, with four ARM A15 cores clocking in at 1.9GHz and four A7 cores at 1.3GHz. The new iPad Air is built around the A7 SoC, Apple's industry-first 64-bit SoC introduced with the iPhone 5S last year. The A7 packs more than a billion transistors onto a 102mm die with two 64-bit ARMv8 application cores at 1.3GHz. Also inside is the M7 dedicated motion processor, which continually measures data coming from the iPad's accelerometer, gyro and compass. Apps can access this data using Apple's new CoreMotion API.

Graphics And Memory

The LTE version's Snapdragon 800 contains the Adreno 330 GPU, which improves performance of its Adreno 320 predecessor by about 50 percent, according to Qualcomm documentation. Samsung's Exynos 5 returns to the ARM-based GPU. In this case, it's the Mali-T628 MP6, which is designed to incorporate from one to eight cores. Qualcomm says it delivers up to 10 times the performance of the Mali-400, the GPU found in several earlier Galaxy device models. Apple's A7 reportedly includes the dual-core PowerVR G6430 four-cluster GPU by Imagination Technologies, which claims up to 20-times performance boost over prior generations.

Either Samsung device packs three GB of LPDDR3 RAM and comes with either 32 GB or 64 GB of storage; a microSD card slot can add as much as 64 GB more. The iPad Air is built with 1 GB of RAM and comes in models with 16-, 32-, 64- and 128-GB storage.

Display And Battery

Samsung's biggest-ever tablet is built around a 12.2-inch panel that puts out a resolution of 2,560-x-1,600 pixels. That calculates to 247 pixels per inch. Apple's flagship tablet faces the world with a 9.7-inch IPS panel capable of 2,048-x-1,536, or 264 ppi. Galaxy Note PRO devices come with a 9500mAh battery versus iPad Air's 8820mAH cell. Both companies have demonstrated a superior ability to develop power-saving algorithms for their operating systems.

Weights And Measures

With its 12.2-inch panel, Samsung's device measures 11.6 inches long and 8 inches wide. Apple's device and its 9.7-inch LCD is 9.4 inches long and 6.6 inches wide. But both are wafer-thin, separated by just two hundredths of an inch. Galaxy Note PRO 12.2 spreads the micrometer to 0.31 inches, and iPad Air opens it to 0.29. In terms of weight, Samsung's 12-incher tips the scales at 1.67 pounds, a super-lightweight in most anybody's book -- except that of Apple, of course, which boasts a featherweight maximum of just 1.05 pounds with Wi-Fi and cellular radios.

Cams And Comms

Samsung has a slight edge with its choice of cameras, and widens the gap when factoring in its communications. The Galaxy Note PRO includes an 8MP main camera with LED flash plus a 2MP face camera. Galaxy Note PRO supports 1,080p HD recording and playback at full frame rates. Apple puts a 5MP main camera with 2.4f aperture and five-element autofocus lens in the rear that also can capture 1,080p video. iPad Air's face camera is a fixed-focus 1.2MP unit with 720p video-capture capability. Both of Apple's cameras provide face detection, plus geotagging for photos and videos. Samsung and Apple devices offer dual-band, dual-antenna MIMO Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. In addition to the 802.11 a/b/g/n specs supported by both, Samsung also supports the three-stream 802.11 ac spec, which, in theory, can achieve up to 1.3-Gbps transfer speeds or 433 Mbps from a single stream. Neither device offers NFC.

Sensors And Software

Both devices offer the usual array of sensors, including three-axis gyros, accelerometers, ambient light sensors, and GPS and GLONASS geolocation receivers. To those, Samsung adds an infrared emitter for remotely controlling nearby electronic devices. Galaxy Note PRO will ship with Android 4.4 KitKat and Samsung's TouchWiz UI overlay with Knox security software on top. Samsung expands its lead over Apple in the multitasking department by doubling to four the number of running apps it can display on the screen at once. Samsung also includes an array of its own pen-optimized apps and will preinstall third-party apps for WebEx Meetings, LinkedIn, Dropbox and Remote PC, a tool to remotely control a PC. iPad Air includes iOS 7 and its fine tools for content sharing, printing, notifications, cloud storage, remote control and Siri, plus FaceTime, iPhoto, GarageBand, an ebook reader and more.

Ins And Outs

If it's like other Galaxy tablets, Note PRO employs a microUSB port for charging and file I/O with root-level access to Android's file system. File transfer works with Windows machines out of the box; Macs must download the Android File transfer utility. As with all devices running iOS, users are prohibited from accessing the file system directly, but must do so by synchronizing data through apps such as iTunes. These operations happen through Apple's Lightning Port, a sturdy, reversible connector that handles charging and hooking up monitors, docks and other peripherals. Both devices come with a 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone and buttons for power, volume and Home. The Note PRO adds soft keys for menu and back and includes a stylus.

The Bottom Line

Pricing for a 16-GB Apple iPad Air starts at $499 with Wi-Fi only or $629 with cellular too. Samsung has not yet released pricing for the Galaxy Note PRO 12.2, and history shows that Samsung doesn't necessarily think it needs to undercut the tablet market's big kahuna. With its spate of business software, multitasking and content-creation friendliness, Samsung's big, new tablet has a better than ever chance of making a go of it.