Jan. 7, 2014 at 12:49 AM ET
Samsung announced new versions of the Galaxy Note phablet and Tab tablet at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas on Monday. The "Pro" versions improve on every aspect of their predecessors, adding higher resolution screens, a new interface and more powerful multitasking.
A new 12-inch model leads the charge, but 10-inch and 8.4-inch versions are also on the way, all with a resolution of 2560x1600 — which means the smallest one will be about as sharp as Apple's coveted "Retina" iPad Mini. They differ on various internal specs, but share the marquee features.
In addition to the new hardware, the UI has also gotten a boost. The "Magazine" skin over Android 4.4 eschews the usual pages-of-icons look; instead, the page is divided into panes of various sizes, into which live apps can be pinned for easy access. It's like Android's widgets crossed with Windows Phone's gridlike layout, and it looks rather useful, which is more than can be said for many of Samsung's previous attempts at accessorizing the OS.
Samsung took another page from Microsoft's book with the new multitasking interface. Just swipe in from the side of the screen, like on Windows 8, and drag the icon of the app you want to where you want it. This could be handy for productivity junkies: Web conference in one pane, document open in another, Reddit in a third, and a fourth ready to go.
The devices achieve this without compromising too much on thickness, though the huge battery in the 12-inch model probably still adds a bit to the bottom line. It'll be about 50 percent heavier than an iPad — but that's still just about a pound and a half.
No pricing or launch date was mentioned except for Q1, so expect more information in the next month or two.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.