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Editors Letter: Sir Galaxy the Fourth

Tim Stevens

In each issue of Distro, editor-in-chief Tim Stevens publishes a wrap-up of the week in news.

After watching some of the life get sucked out of many of our favorite consumer electronics shows with major companies choosing to do their own thing in boutique events in fabulous cities around the world, we had our concerns about the 2013 iteration of Mobile World Congress. The HTC One got a showy New York City launch the week before the event and we already knew that Samsung was holding the Galaxy S IV until later. What's left to see in MWC, then? As it turns out, a heck of a lot.

I won't spend an awful lot of time running over the products launched at the show, because in this week's Distro we're giving you the run-down on the major ones, but I did want to highlight a few. The biggest of the bunch, and I genuinely don't mean to make a joke by saying that, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0. Some say it's a response to the iPad mini, or that it's Samsung plugging the gap between the Galaxy Note II and the Galaxy Note 10.1. All we know is, it's the biggest damned phone we've seen in a very long time.

All we know is, it's the biggest damned phone we've seen in a very long time.

Yes, it is a phone, or at least can be used as one, but those purchasing the thing aren't terribly likely to be using it as such -- at least not frequently. I don't think we've reached a state of social phablet acceptance where holding an 8-inch device to your head is cool. But, given the minimal additional cost to include the earpiece into what was already a cellular-equipped device, I say why not include it? No harm in providing the option.

Its primary use will certainly be tablet-like, with the typical stubby S Pen slotting in the back and allowing sketching on the 1,280 x 800 TFT LCD. Yes, an LCD, and a non-IPS one at that, which has me concerned about the ultimate display quality, but our brief hands-on with the thing left us reasonably impressed. No pricing or availability yet, but take a look at the pricing of the LTE-equipped iPad mini and you probably won't be far off.

That device will be using Samsung's Exynos processor, as per usual, but NVIDIA gave us a taste of what's in store for future Tegra 4 devices. A delicious taste. We were able to benchmark a reference tablet running the chipset and it delivered scores that were, on average, between three and four times faster than modern Tegra 3 devices. That was helped somewhat by the use of SanDisk's iNAND Extreme flash storage, which offers 45 MB/s reads and writes. Whether retail devices will also make the investment remains to be seen.

But enough about MWC stuff. Let's talk about what comes next. Samsung confirmed what we'd heard over the past weeks and months, that it will launch the Galaxy S IV in New York City on March 14th. To give the full NYC experience, Samsung has rented out Radio City Music Hall, which we presume means that the company's next great phone will have great legs. Aside from crude Rockette-based jokes, we know very little about what the GS IV is purportedly packing, but hopes of a drastic shift away from the company's plastic-heavy designs were dimmed somewhat by the "more of the same" design featured on the Note 8.0. Of course, if Samsung were going to drastically change things up, the launch of what will almost surely be the most popular Android device of the next year would be a mighty good time to do it.

Should you be suspected of shuttling bits illegally, you'll get a warning. Initial warnings will simply be emails or other messages.

Finally, the Copyright Alert System got rolling this week, a sort of penalty card system for those believed to be downloading stuff illegally. If you're a subscriber on one of the participating ISPs (which includes Verizon, Time Warner Cable, AT&T and Comcast), your internet doings will be subjected to algorithmic perusal. Should you be suspected of shuttling bits illegally, you'll get a warning. Initial warnings will simply be emails or other messages. Later warnings will result in you being redirected to warning websites before having your bandwidth throttled -- a curious punishment that implies slowly downloading illegal things isn't as bad as doing it quickly. Finally, should you hit your sixth strike, your case will be forwarded on to the MPAA or RIAA. Things then have the potential to get rather more serious.

In this week's Distro we're focusing on the excitingly portable world of mobile devices. We have previews of the most important devices coming out of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a feature from Brad Molen breaking down what the new unlocking policy in the United States means for the legality of bootloaders and the third part of his 30-day quest with the BlackBerry Z10. Sharif Sakr talks about the ever-evolving shape of the smartphone, Darren Murph weighs in on the Note 8.0, Ross Rubin talks 4K in Switched On and Joshua Fruhlinger explains why it's OK to still like vinyl -- as if you needed any further encouragement to go retro. All that plus a Q&A with modder extraordinaire Ben Heck. Whether you're on your first strike or your sixth, we hope you enjoy.

Tim Stevens is Editor-in-chief of Engadget and Editorial Director for AOL Tech. You can find him on Twitter at @tim_stevens.

This piece originally appeared in Distro #80.

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