IFA 2013 has reached its end, and judging from the sheer number of major devices unveiled, this was a banner year for consumer tech in Berlin.
Sony just about stole the show, as it took the opportunity at IFA to present Xperia Z1, its flagship smartphone for late 2013, as well as the QX100 and QX10 lens cameras and the Vaio Tap 11 tablet. Other companies of note include Toshiba, as it drastically expanded its line of tablets, notebooks and hybrids in Berlin, as well as Ultra High-Definition TVs; TP Vision with Philips, which convincingly demonstrated its UHD and Ambilight technology combination; Intel, which displayed several dozen devices with the economy Haswell chipset at its impressive exhibition area; and Lenovo and Acer, which also attracted show goers with new smartphones, tablets, and notebooks.
With so many gadgets and devices on hand, which five really stood out and have the most potential to make a splash in a crowded market?
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Samsung lit up IFA two days prior to the official opening with a simultaneous unveiling in Berlin and in New York’s Times Square, where it presented the Galaxy Note 3, the third generation of its successful phablet.
The Galaxy Note 3 sports a 5.7-inch full HD Super AMOLED display and a quad-core Snapdragon 800 (LTE version), or an eight-core Exynos (3G version). In a surprise move, Samsung finally opted to give up on plastic as the default body material, moving to so-called “eco-leather.” The Galaxy Note 3 looks fantastic in real life, feels great when held in hand, and unlike Galaxy S4 and its predecessor, the Galaxy Note 2, it really does feel like a premium device.
Samsung and Sony Smartwatches
IFA has been the launch pad for many new product technologies. In 1963, it was the cassette player. In 1993, it was the MP3 player. In 2011, it was the phablet. And this year, it may be the smartwatch. We’ve smartwatches before, but at IFA 2013, two big-name tech companies entered and possible legitimized the market, Sony and Samsung.
The Samsung Galaxy Gear has a 1.63-inch Super AMOLED display and a camera on the watch band; and apart from receiving notifications, it can be used for conversations through the mic and speakers innovatively placed on the watch band buckle.
At launch, it can only be paired with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and new Galaxy Note 10.1, while the Sony SmartWatch 2 can pair with any Android OS smartphone running version 4.0 or later. Sony’s watch has a somewhat smaller display, with a lesser resolution and a smaller set of features, but it has a more durable battery. Apart from Samsung and Sony, Qualcomm also presented its smartwatch at IFA, as well as a number of less notable vendors.
Sony Xperia Z1
Just like Samsung, Sony announced its IFA products two days before the show even opened, with the Xperia Z1 smartphone the focus.
It’s the Xperia Z successor, which is arguably Sony’s best and most successful smartphone, and includes a 5-inch full HD screen, waterproof glass body, and a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 running a 2.2 GHz clock.
The Xperia Z1 display is great, and offers significantly better and more sustainable contrast compared to previous Sony smartphones. Black tones are much darker, while white tones are noticeably lighter. It still has a TFT screen, but the gap between it and the excellent Super AMOLED panels found on competing devices, has significantly narrowed as of late.
In addition, the photographs taken by the 20.7-mega pixel sensor with Sony’s G lens and F7/2.0 of aperture are, simply put, fantastic and arguably surpass those taken by Nokia, Samsung and HTC flagships.
LG G Pad 8.3
Two long years have passed since the last LG tablet, and it used IFA 2013 for a return to the market with the G Pad 8.3. LG is touting the G Pad as the first 8-inch tablet with a full HD resolution. The display also has an IPS matrix, and the device is powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600.
What is more impressive than its speed and display is that it is exceptionally light and feels great when held in hand. Weighing .745 pounds and measuring just .326 inches thick, the G Pad 8.3 is very slick. The 1080 x 192-pixel display offers a pixel density of 265, resulting in exceptionally sharp imaging, while Qualcomm’s mentioned chipset running a 1.7 GHz clock with the help of 2 GB of RAM handles Jelly Bean Android OS 4.2.2 fantastically, offering all that advanced multitasking also present on the well-received LG G2 smartphone.
On the downside, TG was not impressed by the camera, and the display was a bit dim for our liking. But those two drawbacks only slightly mar what will otherwise likely be an excellent device.
Finally, a reasonably-priced and truly mobile Windows tablet. The Toshiba Encore is an 8-inch tablet running Windows 8.1, and it will ship this fall for $330. The tablet will ship with Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013.
The Toshiba Encore has an Intel Atom processor (Bay Trail), 2 GB of LPDDR3 RAM memory and up to 64 GB of internal flash storage, which can be expanded with microSD cards. The 8-inch diagonal screen has an IPS panel with the resolution of 128 0x 800 pixels as well as an 8-mega pixel camera, micro-USB and micro-HDMI connectors, two microphones and Dolby Digital Plus sound. It also has a built-in GPS receiver, while the battery can withstand up to 7 hours of work.