This year's models: The ten best gadgets at the world's biggest electronics conference
Televisions you can draw on, video memos that stick on to the fridge... What else was a hit at the world's biggest electronics conference? David Phelan picks his top 10 products
Friday 16 September 2011
Every year, in the first days of September, Berlin is host to the Internationale Funka-usstellung (IFA), said to be the world's largest electronics trade show.
Spread across more than two dozen halls the size of football pitches, more than 1,400 exhibitors build massive stands to win attention with bright lights and soft carpets. Almost every company you've heard of is there. The one that's not – surprise, surprise – is Apple. But its shadow looms large, with hundreds of me-too tablets littering the halls and scores of iPod docks and cases. At the show, Sony dominated. Most products announced are released in the two or three months that follow, though we've included a concept TV which may take a little longer to appear.
Sony Tablet S
Try as they may, makers of tablets just can't make inroads on the iPad's dominance. Sony may be about to change that. The Tablet S is a beautiful, classy machine, designed like a folded newspaper with the weight centred on one edge. This makes it easier to hold, especially when you're using it as an ebook. The 9.4ins display is smaller than the iPad's but the Tablet S feels lighter. And you can use it as a remote control for your TV, Sky box or hi-fi, play some early PlayStation games on it and wirelessly transfer video playback from the Tablet onto a suitable TV.
On sale: this month, from £399 www.sony.co.uk
Samsung Galaxy Note
How big a smartphone can you manage? This phone has a massive display (5.3ins) which is pin-sharp and gloriously colourful. If you fancy watching movies on the go, this is a great combination of amazing picture quality and ultimate portability. It really feels too big to hold comfortably to your ear, mind, although the front-facing camera makes it good for video calls. And you can take decent photos on the 8-megapixel camera mounted on the back. It comes with a stylus for annotating documents or images.
On sale: late 2011, price unknown. www.samsung.com/uk
Sharp 8K4K TV
Size is key here, too, in this not-for-sale TV from Sharp. Sharp is famous for delivering enormous TV concepts (it's gone bigger than this before) but the important factor on this 80in display is the resolution. A full HD screen manages 1,920 x 1,080 pixels, but this has 16 times as many, clocking in at 7,680 x 4,320. The image is shockingly sharp. Walk right up to it and every object is rich, realistic and jaw-droppingly detailed. Step back, way back, and the overall picture is overwhelming.
On sale: don't hold your breath
Native Union Play Video memo pad
Fridge magnets, Post-Its, they're all so 20th century. The Native Union memo pad sticks to the fridge and has a front-facing camera and microphone so you can record a video message up to three minutes long. The small LCD screen means, when the intended recipient gets home they can press a button and see you as you insist: "You forgot the milk this morning." You can leave nicer messages, too. The battery lasts for three hours – less if you keep doing "just one more take".
On sale: this month, £50 www.nativeunion.com/uk
LG PenTouch TV
So you've got your eye on LG's 60in PZ8590T plasma TV but you feel there's something missing? Perhaps you're not satisfied with Freeview HD, or the way the TV can convert 2D programmes to 3D – although this is not as good as true 3D. Well, how about the facility to write on the telly? The PenTouch is a stylus which lets you feel you're drawing directly on to the big screen or display photos or video games from your PC on the telly. You can play Angry Birds with the pen, for instance.
Out: this month, £1,900 www.lge.com
Toshiba 55ZL2 glasses-free 3D TV
The annoying thing about 3D is the glasses. Toshiba's new flatscreen aims to make them obsolete. This is thanks to the high resolution – four times full HD resolution, ie, 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. A camera below the screen works out where you're sitting to create sweet spots for multiple viewers. It's not flawless – move your head too much and it blurs – but it's a good start. No price yet, but it won't be cheap.
On sale: December or January. www.toshiba.co.uk
Philips Fidelio AS851 Android speaker dock
It's all very well if you're an iPhone user – there's endless docks for your gadget. But for Android users, there's not much choice, not least because every phone is different. Philips has solved this a dock that uses a movable connector so you can slide, twist and nudge it into place. The phone stands upright so you can read the screen. The music plays via Bluetooth using a dedicated Android app and the sound quality – as usual from Philips' Fidelio audio range – is tremendous.
On sale: Oct, £200. www.philips.co.uk
Sony PRS-T1 Reader Wi-fi
Until now, if you wanted an ebook reader, the best by a mile was Amazon's Kindle. Sony's new model is very light (168g) and has a large, easy-to-read 6in screen. It's glare-free and, like the Kindle, or, you know, a paperback, is easy to read in the brightest sunlight. It's touchscreen and you can pinch-to-zoom if the print is too big or small. Previous Readers have suffered because it was difficult to transfer ebooks onto the gadget. This one does it by wi-fi, making it simple and fast to download titles from the Sony Reader store with its 1,000 rollicking good reads on board. Impressive.
On sale: October, £130. www.sony.co.uk
The Sony HMZ-T1 Personal 3D viewer
Clip the wraparound 3D headset over your lugholes and you're faced with two high-quality displays floating in front of your eyes. You can watch 3D movies from a Blu-ray player and enjoy PlayStation 3D gaming and home movies. The sound from the headphones is loud. The screens are small, less than an inch in diameter but very impressive – they're super-sharp and clear – and the resulting image utterly immersive.
On sale: November, £800. www.sony.co.uk
Samsung Multiview MV800 camera
Self-portraits are always a gamble. Samsung's earlier snappers featured a small front-facing display so you could see if you were half out of shot. Now it's gone one better with the 16 megapixel MV800. It has a conventional 3in LCD screen on the back that cleverly flips through 180 degrees and can be positioned at any angle. You can also swing it up for low-angled shots. It has a touchscreen interface and it's all in a sleek, slim case.
On sale: this year, price unknown. www.samsung.com/uk
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