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Episode 18: The Galaxy Note 2 and a ThinkPad torture test

This week, Always On unboxes the cult-fave Galaxy Note 2, tortures a supposedly rugged ThinkPad ultrabook, and drives a car that literally will not allow you to rear-end something.

Now playing: Watch this: Episode 18: Unboxing the Samsung Galaxy Note 2

When Samsung debuted the Galaxy Note last year at CES, the phone met with, well, a mountain of mockery.

It was inexplicably huge, it came with a stylus, hallmark of the hopelessly unhip, and worse, pundits took to calling it a "phablet" -- half phone, half tablet. It appeared to be a product in search of a market it could never, ever hope to find.

The Note 2 boasts (snicker) a stylus. You want to laugh, but it's actually kind of great!
The Note 2 boasts (snicker) a stylus. You want to laugh, but it's actually kind of great! CNET

We were wrong. The Note found a following, and Samsung reportedly sold 20 million of the funny little things. That's pretty good for a tweener device with no known purpose.

And here we are less than a year later with a sequel: the Galaxy Note 2, currently available unlocked, but hopefully coming to the U.S. sometime this month. It looks more like a Galaxy S3 than the original Note, it's quad-core (at least overseas), it runs Android Jelly Bean 4.1 (thank goodness), and ... I mean, what can I say. It's huge. See it in all its gigantic unboxing glory in this week's episode.

Also this week, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ultrabook looks good, doesn't weigh much, and has a really nice keyboard, but despite its "rugged" construction, it's really not that tough at all, sadly. Introducing our newest torture test: the coffee spill.

In future tech this week, I continue to drive the cool cars of the future, including a Cadillac that literally will not allow you to rear-end something -- in one of the most obvious first steps toward mainstream autonomous vehicles, the car stops itself if it detects an object. Plus, seats that measure your level of distraction and much more cool car gadgetry.

We'll also have an Always On Torture Test giveaway this week, coming up Friday! As noted in the Mailbag (awesome Mailbag again this week, by the way, I love the e-mail from Canada, don't miss it), we'll be giving away the iPhone 4S we torture tested in Episode 8-- if you saw that episode, you know the phone is, um, no longer completely functional. But I believe it can be rehabilitated, and one of you is just the person to rescue it. That giveaway starts Friday, so come back then for all the details. In the meantime, please keep watching, e-mailing, and tweeting! I hope you enjoy.