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Samsung goes bigger but lighter with Note 3, updates Note 10.1

The Korean electronics giant boosts the screen size of its phablet and updates its 10-inch tablet.

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NEW YORK--Samsung Electronics on Wednesday unveiled an update to its Note 10.1 tablet and its Note 3 phablet, renewing its push in the phone/tablet hybrid category that it created.

Some of the most noticeable changes for the devices come in their design. The Note 3 sports a slightly larger screen than its predecessor, and both devices feature a svelte, new leather-effect rear casing edged with stitching. While still made of plastic, the new design gives the devices a more premium appearance. Samsung's products have faced criticism in the past for looking too "plasticy" when compared to the sleek metal designs offered by companies such as Apple and HTC.

"Our inspiration came from our customers," JK Shin, co-CEO and head of Samsung's mobile business, said during the company's event. "We listened to you. You said you wanted more options. You wanted to do more with your smartphone. You wanted a bigger screen and bigger input capabilities. The first Galaxy Note was just the beginning. Today we cross a new boundary by pushing higher."

Samsung is launching its new devices during a splashy Unpacked event at the IFA consumer electronics show in Berlin. It held a simultaneous event in New York's Times Square to broadcast the launch for reporters.

Along with the Note 3 and Note 10.1, Samsung also unveiled the Galaxy Gear smartwatch. That wearable device syncs with Galaxy smartphones and tablets, allowing users to do things like control their music or check messages without touching their mobile devices. Gear runs Android, though the customized interface closely resemble's Microsoft's operating system.

Gregory Lee, president of Samsung Telecommunications America, showed off Gear and the Note 3 in New York before the main event started in Berlin.

Samsung is hosting an event in New York's Times Square to coincide with its Unpacked event at IFA in Berlin. Shara Tibken/CNET

"This is proof and [a] reflection that Samsung is truly relentlessly innovative in bringing first-to-market products and having the best mobile products in the marketplace," Lee said.

Samsung packed supercharged components into both Notes. The Note 3 features a beefy 2.3GHz processor and a 3,200mAh battery, as well as a 13MP camera. Even with the larger super AMOLED screen, the Note 3 is thinner and lighter than its predecessor.

Check out CNET's full reviews of Gear, the Note 3, and Note 10.1.
As for the Note 10.1, Samsung included a 1.9 GHz 8-core processor and 3GB of RAM. The rear-facing camera clocks in at 8MP, while the front is 2MP. The WQXGA LCD screen features a resolution of 2560x1600.

Both devices also include new multitasking features and uses for the S Pen stylus.

The Note 3 and Gear will hit US stores in October and will arrive in other countries Sept. 25. The Note 10.1 will be available later this year.

The product launches come as competition heats up against Apple. The Cupertino, Calif., electronics maker will host an event of its own next week to launch an update to the iPhone. It also is expected to launch a low-cost device that will take on Samsung in areas outside of the high-end smartphone market. However, it's the high-end devices -- such as the Note products -- where the companies will continue to focus most of their attention.

Updated at 10:20 a.m. PT with details about the Note 10.1 and again at 10:40 a.m. and 11 a.m. PT with additional details.