The Best Gadgets at IFA 2016
By PC Magazine, 3 September 2016.
By PC Magazine, 3 September 2016.
Berlin’s IFA trade show is huge. It takes twenty minutes to walk from one end of the convention center to the other, through 25 halls full of washing machines, mobile phones, skinny laptops, and giant TVs. This year, we saw a flood of wearables, about a dozen desktop and laptop PCs, a surprising number of phones, at least three smart refrigerators, and a tasty sprinkling of quantum dots.
PCMag’s Sascha Segan, Tim Torres, and Tom Newton roamed the IFA show floor looking for the best devices in a wide range of categories. Overall, they came up with no fewer than 12 products that are worthy of being called best in show.
But don't forget, IFA is just the tip of the consumer electronics iceberg. It leads into a busy fall that's sure to be filled with high-profile releases in anticipation of the holiday season, with no sign of slowing down before CES early next year. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, here are the best products we saw at IFA this year.
1. Best Phone: Moto Z Play
While it rained midrange phones at IFA this year, the Moto Z Play is part of a bigger story. Unlike LG, which proclaimed a modular G5 phone and then didn't do anything with it, the Z Play and its Hasselblad camera attachment show that Moto is going modular up and down its product line, at least this year. The Moto Z Play will truly come into its own when it breaks out beyond its Verizon exclusive next month, bringing modular phones to the global masses.
2. Best Desktop: HP Pavilion Wave
The entertainment PC lives. HP’s Pavilion Wave is a family or kids' room PC with a built-in speaker, eliminating an extra component, and it's good enough looking to sit out in the open. But it's also, securely, a PC desktop, with desktop-class components, an eminently reasonable price, and plenty of ports.
3. Best Laptop: Lenovo Yoga 910
Lenovo and Acer embarked on the Battle of the Ultra-Slim Laptops here at IFA, but Lenovo’s Yoga 910 takes the prize with the classy fit and finish Lenovo is known for. The Yoga 910 has the roomy keyboard we liked on the Yoga 900, with new USB Type-C ports and 7th generation Intel Core processors. It'll be a leading business ultraportable this year.
4. Best Smartwatch: Samsung Gear S3
The Samsung Gear S2 was our favorite wearable of IFA 2015, and a lot of that was the software: Samsung’s Tizen OS is much less confusing to use than Android Wear, and it's compatible with a much wider range of phones than the Apple Watch. The Gear S3 has a chunkier, manlier design, and uses the extra space to add a bigger battery, bigger screen, and water resistance. Its always-on screen shows that it's a watch first, but dig in and you'll find a capable wrist computer.
5. Best Fitness Tracker: Fitbit Charge 2
The Fitbit Charge 2 upgrades our longtime Editors' Choice, the Fitbit Charge HR, with more features and an improved design. It automatically tracks your calories burned, distance traveled, heart rate, steps, and sleep, and it can help you return your breathing to normal after a workout. It offers the best balance of comfort and functionality in the fitness tracker market; it feels great to wear, and it does a lot.
6. Best TV: Philips 901F
With its perfect blacks and rich colors, OLED is our favorite display technology right now. Philips' first OLED entry, the 55-inch 901F, adds the company’s proprietary Ambilight 3 technology, which projects colored LEDs from the sides and back of the TV to enhance the image. When you're watching TV, the colors appear to spill a little bit out of the sides of the set; the 901F also has modes to support music playback and room mood lighting. A built-in soundbar and Android TV software make it a complete home entertainment hub.
7. Best Smart Home: LG SmartThinq Hub With Alexa
Our prediction: Amazon's Alexa will become the common voice interface for everyone other than Samsung and Apple. (While it had a good start on phones, Google Now doesn’t seem to be taking off elsewhere.) LG is jumping on the bandwagon by integrating Alexa into its SmartThinq home hub, which we first saw at CES. It controls lighting, electrical plugs, security cameras, home entertainment, and all of the other devices you’d associate with a home hub. Hook up the right sensors, and you'll be able to holler, "Alexa, I’m home!" so she turns on the lights and the TV when you walk in the door. That's a leap forward for smart home usability.
8. Best Tablet: Lenovo Yoga Book
Lenovo gave the boring realm of Android tablets a massive boost with its 2-in-1 for creative types. Borrowing ideas from Microsoft's Courier concept and the Livescribe pen, the Yoga Book is for anyone who loves drawing or writing, and it comes in Windows and Android versions. Not only does it undercut Apple’s iPad Pro on price, its Wacom tablet-like workflow is much more comfortable for artists who don’t want their hand blocking their work.
9. Best Monitor: Samsung CF791
Quantum dots are one of the hottest technologies in TVs right now; they're little sprinkles of inorganic matter that make LCD TVs' colors purer. The new Samsung CF791 is one of the first monitors, rather than TVs, to use quantum-dot technology. It's a 34-inch, 3,440-by-1,400 curved gaming monitor with 4ms response time and a 100Hz refresh rate, and it comes with 7-watt speakers. The real advance here is in color reproduction; Samsung says this brings LCDs to the rich color levels we're more used to from OLEDs, but without the OLED prices.
10. Best Audio: Sony MDR-1000X
The Bose QuietComfort headphones have been our noise cancelling Editors' Choice for years now. They’re almost everyone's. But Sony could potentially unseat them. It'll be a tough call, but Sony has piled in the audio technology in its spectacular MDR-1A headphones and added noise cancelation that’s customized to the shape of your head. Cup your hand over one ear to talk to someone, and it mutes your music until you’re done chatting.
11. Best VR: Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 VR
Qualcomm’s untethered VR reference design fills in the missing piece with mobile VR: it can do location and position tracking, so you can walk around virtual rooms and look around objects. Previously, we’d only seen that in the PC-tethered Vive and Microsoft’s US$3,000 HoloLens. But since the 820 VR is based on the common and relatively affordable Snapdragon 820 platform, it's likely to enable fully interactive VR headsets in the US$500 range early next year. That’s a big step forwards.
12. Best Gaming: Acer Predator 21x
Acer's gigantic gaming "laptop" looks like something the company made on a dare, and it's glorious. It has a 21-inch curved screen, high-end mechanical keyboard, and dual Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics cards. More luggable than portable, it’s a no-compromise gaming experience for people who don’t want to have to deal with desktop cables, or who still prefer LAN parties to laggy online gaming.
Top image credit: IFA Berlin.
[Source: PC Magazine. Edited. Top image added.]