Friday, October 19, 2012

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

Samsung Galaxy Note 2

BERLIN, Germany--Samsung has finally unveiled its highly anticipated Galaxy Note 2 (II) smartphone at the company's Mobile Unpacked event here in Europe. As expected, it features the latest Google Android 4.1 software (Jelly Bean) and is powered by an upgraded 1.6GHz quad-core processor. We got some hands-on time with the device and here are our early impressions, as well as comparison shots with the original Galaxy Note.


The Galaxy Note 2 has adopted a refreshingly new design offering a brushed-metal finish in white and gray colors. Its 5.5-inch Super AMOLED screen is also marginally larger than its predecessor's 5.3-inch version, albeit at a slightly lower 1,280 x 720-pixel resolution. Even with such a huge panel, there is very minimal increase in the overall size and weight for this new model.
Front view of the new Note 2 (right), which sports a wider home button compared with the original.
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
Gone is the filmy plastic rear, which has been replaced by a stiffer brushed-metal piece. In general, we find the new Galaxy Note II quite ergonomic and comfortable to use.
Rear view. The Galaxy Note 2 (right) uses a brushed-metal cover instead of a textured plastic version.
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
Samsung has slightly tweaked the placements of the ports and buttons as seen in the following comparison shots. The Note 2 is the one on top in these images.
Top view (microphone jack) with the Galaxy Note 2 on top.
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
Right view (power button).
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
Bottom view (micro-USB port).
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
Left view (volume control).
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
Samsung has included a longer and thicker stylus, known as the Advanced S Pen, supposedly to offer a more pen-like experience with better grip and precision. New functions such as Air View have been introduced for this accessory, too. More details on that later.
The Galaxy Note 2 comes with a thicker and longer stylus (top).
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)

New hardware

Aside from a powerful processor, Samsung has also included other significant hardware enhancements. Most notable is the onboard storage, which now comes in 16GB, 32GB and 64GB capacities--the original didn't come in a 64GB version. To take clearer photos in low-light conditions, the rear and front cameras are both equipped with backside illuminated (BSI) sensors. Matching these improved components is a 3,100mAh removable battery with fast-charging support, though an estimated battery life has not been provided by Samsung.
ModelGalaxy NoteGalaxy Note 2
Android OS4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Screen size5.3 inches Super AMOLED5.5 inches Super AMOLED
Resolution1,280 x 8001,280 x 720
Processor1.4GHz dual-core1.6GHz quad-core
Storage16GB internal storage; microSD card slot16/32/64GB internal storage; microSD card slot
Camera2-megapixel (MP) front; 8MP rear2MP BSI front; 8MP BSI rear
Connectivity options4G; Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; A-GPS
Dimension146.85 x 82.95 x 9.65mm151.1 x 80.5 x 9.4mm

New software

Software-wise, the chaebol claims that the Galaxy Note 2 is capable of delivering PC-like multitasking. Not only can users open multiple windows from one screen, switching among apps is easier since they can be stacked for selection, too. By "hovering" the Advanced S Pen over the screen, you can also easily preview and copy content between apps such as the photo viewer and email client. Pulling the stylus out of its silo will display a contextual page for users to select different apps such as the note pad.


To test the performance of the original Galaxy Note versus Galaxy Note 2, we have installed Aurora Softworks' Quadrant benchmark and here are the results. Please note that this is tested on a preproduction model and is not representative of the final retail set.
Samsung Galaxy Note.
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)
As you can see, the new Galaxy Note is considerably faster than its predecessor and scores well against the HTC One X powered by a quad-core Tegra3 processor.
Here is a quick test of the low-light photo capturing performance of the BSI sensor. Take note that the shot was taken through a window with the ISO setting configured to auto. While there is some graininess in the shot, the Galaxy Note 2 is able to deliver a relatively sharp image with good shadow detail, as well as maintaining proper exposure between the bright and dark sections.
Click for full original image.
(Credit: Philip Wong/CNET Asia)


The Samsung Galaxy Note 2 will be launched starting from October in selected countries in Europe, Asia and Middle East at around US$800 for the 3G model.

Samsung announces the Galaxy S3 mini

Samsung announces the Galaxy S3 mini

(Credit: Samsung)
Powered by a dual-core 1GHz processor, the Samsung Galaxy S III mini looks just like its larger cousin, the Galaxy S III. While it appears similar, the Korean electronics giant has instead chosen hardware specifications that are less stellar.
You'll note that the S III mini only has a 5-megapixel camera, as well as a 4-inch WVGA (800 x 480 pixel) display. It's certainly nowhere as powerful as the larger S III. Furthermore, the S III mini has a smaller capacity 1,500mAh battery as opposed to the S III's larger 2,100mAh.
The good news is that it will run Jelly Bean (Android 4.1) right out of the box, though this is layered with Samsung's TouchWiz interface. The S3 mini comes with NFC and will be available in 8- or 16GB versions. A microSD card slot is available if you need more space.
Samsung's press release did not mention availability or pricing, but a previous statement from Samsung Mobile boss JK Shin, who said that there was "demand for a 4-inch Galaxy S III in the European market", is a good indication of where the handset will be headed to first.

Google's new Chromebook not coming to Asia

Google's new Chromebook not coming to Asia

The new Chromebook uses an ARM processor from Samsung.
(Credit: Samsung)
The ARM laptop is coming with the launch of a new Google Chromebook built by Samsung, but it's unlikely to reach Asia anytime soon.
In a departure from previous Chromebooks, the new model, which still runs Google's browser-based Chrome OS, uses a low-power ARM processor from Samsung that claims to last up to 6.5 hours on battery. This 11.6-inch laptop is pretty handy at around 1.1kg and comes with USB ports (including USB 3.0), HDMI and an SD card slot.
At just US$249, the Samsung Chromebook is as affordable as the 16GB Google Nexus 7. Both devices come with limited internal storage, though Google does include 100GB on the cloud-based Drive with the Chromebook. The laptop uses a dual-core Samsung Exynos processor that is based on ARM's latest Cortex-A15 design. 
There's a proper keyboard and a 1,366 x 768-pixel matte display on the Chromebook. So if you find yourself bemoaning the missing keyboard on tablets, and an Asus Transformer-like slate is beyond your budget, the Chromebook could be the answer. You can find out more about the Chromebook in CNET's hands-on.
The Chromebook is available for preorder online in the US and UK. Consumers can try them out in retail outlets starting from Monday. There's no word on when sales will expand to other countries--older Chromebooks are available in eight countries and we expect that the new model will eventually follow suit. Google has informed us that it currently has no plans to sell the Chromebook in Asia.
While it's admirable that Google continues to improve Chrome OS, Android currently has much greater traction among consumers and developers. In the short term, the company would probably have more success with an Android-powered laptop rather than a Chromebook. After all, the mobile OS is even used in cameras now. 
Of course, given that it uses an ARM chip, it's probably just a matter of time before an avid tinkerer find a way to install Android on the Chromebook.