Sunday, September 7, 2014

The world’s latest and coolest gadgets

Lenses that strap to your smartphone to turn it into a proper camera. Computers that strap to your wrist to turn you into a proper geek. This year’s IFA consumer electronics festival in Berlin had it all. Arguably, it had even more than the biggest CE festival of them all, CES Las Vegas, if only because IFA comes at a better time: just in time for Christmas.

So it’s with Christmas in mind (though, as you will see, not necessarily this Christmas) that we present to you our roundup of what we think were the best, most desirable gadgets from the IFA show, that may or may not fit perfectly into your Christmas stocking.

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Don’t be fooled by the seemingly lo-res specs. The 320 x 320 pixel, 1.63-inch AMOLED display on Samsung’s new smartwatch is gorgeous, and the watch is not quite as big on your wrist as you may think. (I have impish wrists, and the Gear was big, but not too big, on me.)
Expect the Gear to form an integral part of Samsung’s push into health and fitness. It has a pedometer built in, though, alas, no pulse meter.

Sony SmartWatch 2

The screen on the SmartWatch 2 isn’t as arresting as the screen on the Gear, but Sony’s watch does have one big advantage: it will work on most Android phones, including most of Samsung’s, whereas the Gear will only work on a few Samsung devices.
It will also have far more apps than the Gear at launch, and a much longer battery life.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

The Note 2 is one of our all-time-favourite smartphones, and the Note 3 should be even better. It has a faster processor; a marginally bigger, much sharper screen (5.7 inches, 1920 x 1080 pixels, versus 5.5 inches, 1280 x 720 pixels on the Note 2); and, better than all of that, it has a leather-look back for those of us who miss using a BlackBerry.

Sony Xperia Z1

It’s a little bigger than the marvellous Xperia Z smartphone but Sony’s new Xperia Z1 phone (above) has a marvel of its own: a 20.7 megapixel camera that Sony claims outperforms every phone camera on the market, including Nokia’s 41-megapixel Lumia 1020. We’re still testing that claim, but so far the Z1 results are promising.

Toshiba Encore

The Toshiba Encore tablet is what Microsoft’s Surface RT should be but isn’t: a slim Windows 8.1 tablet that runs the latest Intel Atom processor, instead of the ARM processor that the Surface RT runs.
Not that we have anything against ARM chips, per se. It’s just that Windows on an ARM chip is known as Windows RT, and Windows RT refuses to run almost every Windows app ever written. The Encore, on the other hand, will run every Windows app ever written, though just how many you would want to run on its low-powered Atom chip and its small, 8-inch screen, is another matter.

Sony Vaio Tap 11

The Tap 11 is what Microsoft’s Surface Pro should have been, but wasn’t: a slim Windows 8 tablet that runs a full-blown Intel Core processor. Between the 8-inch Encore and the 11-inch Tap, Windows tablets are getting pretty appealing.


The biggest dilemma facing humanity right now is the imponderable question of which new TV technology to buy into: OLED or Ultra High Definition. LG neatly answered that question at IFA, showing off a huge, 77-inch TV that’s OLED and UHD, both at the same time. The only thing wrong with the TV is that it’s only a prototype, and won’t be here till next year at best.

Sony QX-100

As with the smartwatches, it’s hard to judge whether Sony’s new “lens-style” cameras will capture the public imagination or not. The QX-100 and its little sister the QX-10 are proper compact cameras that lack only a screen.

Wi-Fi and an Android app turn your phone into that screen, either remotely or attached to the back of the phone. Detached, it’s perfect for selfies, but expect screen lag when there is Wi-Fi interference.

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