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Best of IFA 2016: From Android to Audio & Computing
With every trade show comes a slew of announcements as companies vie for your attention and column inches across the web. With hundreds of new products on show, it can be difficult to cut through the mediocre and average to find the best products, so why not leave it to the experts?
For the past week, we’ve been trawling the show floor talking to companies, testing their new products, and using our expert judgement to find our picks for the products that truly stand out. With 16 picks across three sites, there’s bound to be something for everyone so let’s take a look at which products we thought stood out above the rest (and why) at IFA 2016.
Android Authority Awards
Let’s kick things off with the Android Authority awards and while the show may have felt a little light in some areas this year, there was an abundance of Android and Android-related products. Here our pick for the top 8 of these:
One of the standout products at the show was Lenovo’s unique and quirky YogaBook, which features two tablet slates in a 2-in-1 form factor and runs either Windows 10 or Android. The main screen features a 10.1-inch Full HD display, which is connected to the secondary display with Lenovo’s unique watch-band hinge.
The second screen is where the magic really happens; instead of a traditional keyboard, the second screen sports a touch keyboard that somewhat successfully provides haptic feedback. With the tap of a button however, this screen can be converted to a slate that you can draw on using Lenovo’s stylus and should you so wish, you can even place a notepad on top of it, draw on it and have both a physical or digital copy.
Simple, ingenious and you wonder why no one did it sooner; definitely a worthy winner! Head over to our Lenovo YogaBook hands on for more info and an in-depth look.
Moto Z Play
To say that Android smartphones were dearth at this show is an understatement as both Samsung and LG opted to leave their major announcements for separate events before and after IFA, respectively. That being said, Lenovo decided to show off the new Moto Z Play at its event on Wednesday and to good effect.
The Moto Z Play is the follow up to the Moto G4 Play but brings the modularity and familiarity of the Moto Z range at a lower price, with the obvious drop in specs. If you wanted modularity that didn’t break the bank and wanted access to Lenovo’s modules, look no further, as the Moto Z Play definitely ticks these boxes.
Be sure to check out our full review of the Moto Z Play to get an even better look at this new phone.
Lenovo Tab 3 Plus
As we’ve come to expect from previous IFA events, Lenovo loves to announce a slew of products at the Berlin trade show and this year was no different, with another tablet in the Yoga Tab 3 range announced.
Like previous devices, it allows you to use the tablet in four modes (each providing comfortable viewing for a different use-case-scenario) and it comes with JBL speakers, a 10.1-inch QHD IPS display, rich theater sound and up to 18 hours’ battery life on a single charge. Coupled with a metal chassis and leather-like finish, the Tab 3 Plus is splash-proof, allowing you to use it almost everywhere in your daily life.
Samsung Gear S3
With the Gear S2 offering one of the most credible alternatives to the Apple Watch at last year’s IFA, Samsung announced its successor this year and it seems to offer much of the same. While not technically replacing the Gear S2, the Gear S3 is available in two versions and brings a larger display while keeping much of the design philosophy that made its predecessor popular.
Some of the notable differences versus last year include a Gorilla Glass SR+ – which supposedly offers better damage resistance – a bigger 1.3-inch AMOLED display, a much larger 380mAh battery and a choice of two options – a Classic and a Frontier model. The changes may not be plentiful but with the Gear S2 ticking a lot of the right boxes, Samsung didn’t need to change too much to appeal to those who wanted a larger wearable.
Let’s first say this – when Nubia invited us to a briefing on their new flagship, we never quite expected to be giving them an award. Nonetheless, we were pretty impressed with Nubia this year. Any company is worthy of an award when they truly innovate and Nubia certainly delivered on this with the Nubia Z11, which is arguably the world’s first truly bezel-less smartphone.
Using a patented arc design, the Nubia Z11 has no bezels either side of the display and this also means the company was able to add touch gestures to the side of the phone. These gestures include the ability to adjust brightness, flick between apps, open your recent apps, close all apps and more. A worthy award for a truly unique smartphone.
Sony Xperia XZ
Sony hasn’t had the greatest of successes these past few years but at IFA 2016, the company showed it’s never too late to reinvent the wheel and stave off what many predicted was inevitable doom. The Xperia XZ is arguably the flagship that many Sony fans have been waiting for and features a specs list that, while not being the best of the best, does offer a very compelling experience.
Said specs list includes 5.2-inch Full HD Triluminos display with dynamic contrast enhancement encased in a metal body with more symmetry and curves than previous Sony flagships, a unique shimmer finish when you twirl the phone in the light and water resistance. Other notable specs include a 64-bit Snapdragon 820, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of expandable storage and a 2900mAh battery with Qnovo Adapative Charging. What truly sets the Xperia XZ apart is the 23MP camera on the back and a 13MP snapper on the front, which should hopefully mean exceptional selfies.
Asus ZenWatch 3
The Asus ZenWatch 2 sported a generic design that provided a credible alternative to other Android Wear watches, as well as the iPhone, but the ZenWatch 3 tears up the rulebook again with a new sportier look that seems to fit in whatever you wear. Unlike its predecessor, the ZenWatch 3 is also IP67 certified meaning it’s water and dust resistant, so you’ll be able to use it in more places than ever before.
The ZenWatch 3 offers 3 buttons along the right hand side of the watch – although two could easily have become software-based features – a choice of either silicone or leather for the strap, and a choice of silver, bronze or rose gold for the dials. Other notable specs include a 1.39-inch AMOLED display offering 287 pixels per inch density, a 340mAh battery and Android Wear, which comes with over 50 watch faces allowing you to customise the experience even further.
Ok, so this isn’t technically Android but the possibilities are endless and 3Doodler’s new Pro pen allows you to basically draw and doodle absolutely anything in 3D. What sets the Pro apart from the original 3Doodler is a wider choice of materials; while the original only worked with plastic, the 3Doodler Pro lets you draw in wood, copper, bronze, nylon and polycarbonate plastic.
Other notable features include adjustable dials for temperature and speed, an adjustable fan for control over cooling of the plastics and an LCD to show the pen’s settings. To show just how easy it is, 3Doodler mocked up our Android Authority logo in plastic in just a couple of minutes, made a case for the Galaxy S7 Edge in just 10 minutes and created a 3D version of the Android Authority mascot. Definitely a cool product and if you’ve been looking for a way to create customised and unique cases (and accessories) for your smartphone or beyond, the 3Doodler Pro could be the answer.
Moving past just Android, TabTimes’ gives us their best picks for laptops, 2-in-1s and tablets at IFA 2016.
Huawei MediaPad M3
With tablets a dying breed, fewer companies are making dedicated Android tablets yet Huawei’s new MediaPad M3 aims to offer just this. Sporting a metal build, Quad HD display and 5100mAh battery, the MediaPad has a lot to offer if you’re after an Android tablet.
Like other Huawei products, the MediaPad M3 comes with a fingerprint sensor that also supports gestures, including the ability to go back a step, swipe between apps, and launch your recent apps. Other notable specs include Android Marshmallow with Huawei’s EMUI 4.1 on top, a Kirin 950 processor with 4GB of RAM, 32 or 64GB of expandable storage, and a Mali T-880 GPU that offers surprisingly good performance and gaming. Check out our full MediaPad M3 review for more info.
Lenovo Yoga 910
Whereas dedicated Android tablets may be a dying breed, Android-powered 2-in-1s are growing in stature and Lenovo’s Yoga 910 is certainly one of the most stylish. Measuring just 15mm thick, the Yoga 910 is less of a tablet for media and more of a tablet for powerhouse users that need everything a tablet and a computer offers in one machine. The svelte look of the Yoga 910 is made complete by Lenovo’s signature watch-band design hinge and the powerhouse specs include a 13.9-inch display of either Full HD or 4K resolution with supremely thin bezels on 3 sides.
Connectivity is also a high point with two USB Type-C ports, a standard USB 3.0 port, an audio jack and a 4-in-1 card reader. All of this is powered by a dual-core Intel Core i7 processor and a 66-watt battery that’s absolutely massive by 2-in-1 standards. If you’ve ever wanted a high-performance laptop that’s super-stylish with a touchscreen yet definitely portable, look no further than the Yoga 910.
Acer Swift 7
The Yoga 910 might combine portability and power in a slim body but it’s not quite as slim as the Acer Swift 7, which nabs the title for the slimmest laptop at just 9.98mm thin. Despite its thin profile, it features a 13.3-inch non-touch Full HD IPS display with Gorilla Glass protection, a large trackpad and a full-size keyboard.
Under the hood it’s powered by Intel’s new Kaby Lake Core m7 processor with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB Solid State Drive and despite the supremely thin profile, the Swift 7 comes with two USB-C ports and a headphone jack. For audio loves there’s also Dolby Audio speakers on the bottom of the unit which should ensure great audio. Considering this supremely-thin laptop has the power and features of ones that are much thicker, Acer has certainly shown off its design chops with the Swift 7.
Acer Predator 21
From the insanely-thin to the absurdly-large as there’s no other way to describe Acer’s other stand out creation: the world’s first curved notebook. However, before you rush out to buy it, it’s worth noting that this is one monstrous machine and the chances of you ever actually using it as a notebook are slim-to-none.
Why so monstrous? It has a 21-inch display, two GeForce GTX 1080p GPUs and a built-in mechanical keyboard. It weighs in at 7.7-kilograms and that’s before the 2 power supplies it needs to run although the weight does include the five system fans and eight heatpipes in the machine itself. Other specs include up to 64GB of memory, five storage drives, a Tobii eye-tracking camera, four speakers, two subwoofers and a trackpad that transforms into a numpad.
Without doubt, the number of potential owners are few and far between yet Acer has shown its possible to put a curved screen into a notebook, just not quite the one that many were hoping for.
From computing and TabTimes we’re heading over to SoundGuys and our top 4 picks for the best audio products at IFA 2016. Rather than just pick headphones or speakers, we’ve picked products that we feel show true innovation in audio.
We kick the audio section of these awards off with a visit to Harman Kardon and the company’s new AKG N40 headphones that allow you to tweak the listening experience to your particular tastes.
Want a boost in the bass, linear sound or a boost in the highs? Both are possible thanks to customised sound filters which make their way down the price point from the award-winning N60 NC to the N40s. Allowing you to experience Hi-Res audio direct from your smartphone, the AKG N40 are definitely worthy winners in our book!
Audeze iSine 10
If you’ve been hunting for an undeniably quirky in-ear pair of headphones that showcase good audio, the iSine 10 definitely deliver. Made by Audeze, a boutique headphone brand known for making some of the best planar headphones in the world, the iSine 10 deliver what many people thought impossible.
For the uninitiated, planar magnetics offer a larger surface area from which sound can resonate compared to the speaker cone and magnet arrangement found in traditional headphones. Considering the technology itself, headphones utilise planar magnetics are often quite large but someone forgot to tell Audeze and the result in the world’s first planar in-ear headphones. A well-deserved award for a company that has truly innovated in audio.
For those who need a portable solution that allows them to tweak and customise the sound they hear, RHA is hoping its new DACAMPL1 portable headphone amplifier and DAC is the answer. Offering Hi-Res Audio on the go, the DACAMPL1 is the first device of its kind to feature dual DACs and amplifies, with each pair responsible for one channel of stereo audio.
The DACAMPL1 comes with premium DAC components to decode, convert and product high-resolution analogue audio and can connect to devices using either USB, mini-TOSLINK or 3.5mm line-in. Output connectivity options include 3.5mm and Mini XLR allowing you to use headphones that support between 12 and 600 ohms output while other notable specs include a 4000mAh battery, bass and treble control dials and 3-step gain control.
Sennheiser Venue Modelling
Our last pick for audio is by far one of the most unique and to explain it, we want to ask you this question; have you ever noticed how different music sounds in a large venue compared to when you listen to it on your phone? Thanks to a variety of acoustical anomalies and variables per venue, the same song can sound very different in different venues and for producers and artists alike, this can be a challenge.
Sennheiser is hoping to take the mystery out it with its AMBEO Venue Modelling solution that offers 3D Immersive audio and is likely to be a milestone in virtual room acoustics replication. Although it first debuted at CES this year, Venue Modelling never ceases to amaze us and the ability to listen to your favourite tracks at venues such as the Rex Club in Paris and Mighty in San Francisco is certainly an experience to remember.
IFA 2016: A show with many products
And there you have it – 16 of the best products we found at IFA 2016. From Android to Computing to Audio and everything in between, these products stood out for a variety of reasons from the hundreds of new products on show.
Which of these gets your vote for the overall best product of IFA 2016 and what did you think of our picks? Vote in the poll below, let us know your views in the comments below and don’t forget to check out all of our coverage from Germany in our dedicated IFA portal!