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Samsung Galaxy Note II Unveiled

Samsung unveiled the sequel to its phone/tablet hybrid device, or phablet, the Galaxy Note 2 at the IFA tradeshow in Berlin this week and we got some hands-on time with the device at Samsung's exhibition stand.

The first thing we noticed about the Galaxy Note 2 was its similarity to Samsung's flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S3. It's made from the same materials, having a very similar design with its rounded edges, which Samsung refers to as a "pebble" design. Though ergonomically it fits in the hand well considering its large size, it feels a little cheap due to the glazed plastic used in the casing, something which Samsung says improves reception.

One good thing that comes out of the textured plastic casing is that it makes the device really light and thin, weighing only 180g and measuring only 9.4mm thick, which is excellent for a device of this size.

On the underside of the Note 2 is where the S-pen stylus is housed and when you pull it out, an S-note document ready for writing on is presented on screen instantly. Build quality isn't the highest we've seen on a smartphone, but what we did like about the Note 2 was that its bundled features, such as the S pen, seem to work well with the device, with touchscreen response being immediate.

Screen and performance
The best thing about the Note 2 is without question its super HD AMOLED screen that is even bigger than its predecessor, measuring an impressive 5.5in as opposed to the original Note's 5.275in display. This has to be the best screen we've seen on a phone, ever. The colour representation is simply excellent. It's extremely bright and clear, and watching videos in HD 1080p resolution on the 16:9 ratio display was quite enjoyable.

Swiping your fingers across the screen leaves fewer greasy smudge marks than you'd expect, and copying and pasting images to and from various tabs with the stylus is a breeze. The Note 2's quad-core 1.6GHz processor and 2GB of RAM ensure that operations remain smooth and responsive with no waiting for it to complete simple tasks.

For example, when we played around with HD video, pulling it from Youtube onto the homepage and resizing it while it was playing, we didn't encounter any lag. Samsung really impressed us here.

Operating system 
The Note 2 brings a slew of new software features all loaded on top of the latest Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system. Perhaps it's Google's embedded Project Butter feature in the new version of the OS - a feature aiming to make tasks on the phone run more smoothly - that is responsible for the Note 2's ability to respond fast to commends.

Battery and Camera 
On our quick hands on, we found that the Galaxy Note 2 camera worked the same way it does on the Galaxy S3, only with a much bigger screen that makes picture taking a more pleasurable experience.

It has a rear-facing 8MP camera and a front-facing 1.9MP camera, and can also shoot full HD 1080p video. Unfortunately, we didn't get enough time with the Note 2 to really scrutinise it's camera's image quality reproduction in comparison to other high-end smartphones on the market, but this is something we'll do when we get our hands on the device for a full length review. Nevertheless, in our tests the Note 2 camera was fairly good in taking photos quickly without blur, as long as you didn't move around while doing so.

As for the battery, Samsung claims the Note 2's 3,100mAh battery means that the device will last for at least a day.

The Note 2 will ship globally in October, available in white and dark grey colour options. 

Acer's Aspire M3 and Aspire V5 Announcement

Acer’s newest two Ultrabooks have touchscreens. They are touch-enabled versions of the Aspire M3 Ultrabook and Aspire V5 thin-and-light. There is no info on price or availability yet, but we have some specs.

The Aspire M3 Touch has a frameless, 15.6-inch screen, and the same aluminum design as the older M3. The addition of the touchscreen means that its chassis has widened to 22mm thick. It will still be offered with Ivy Bridge processors and discrete NVIDIA graphics.

The Aspire V5 Touch laptops will be sold with 14 and 15 inch screens. Just like the former, the design resembles the already available V5 laptops, but with a bit of extra weight due to the touchscreen. The touchpads measure a little under 23mm thick, and weigh 2.1kg and 2.4kg, respectively. It also comes with Ivy Bridge CPUs and discrete NVIDIA graphics.

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