The biggest and strangest tech trade show in Europe, and the one held in one of the most confusing buildings around (also a location for several movies), is just opening its doors to the public. But for CNET at IFA, that's when the action stops. We've already been on the ground in Berlin for a few days, charging between press conferences and the convention center to bring you the top tech of the show. From the coolest, to the most innovative to the most bizarre, here's what we found.
A laptop you can anchor a boat with
Really, Acer!?! Really!?! A 21-inch gaming laptop that weighs 17 pounds? Why? What are we to do with this? But there you went and built the Predator 21X. To understand how insane it is, consider these fun facts. It weighs 17 pounds (8 kilograms)! Yeah, we already said that, but it bears repeating. It has four speakers and two subwoofers and it needs two power supplies to run. To stay cool? Why, five system fans and eight heatpipes, of course.
OK, snark aside -- gosh, that was hard -- it is the world's first laptop with a curved screen, which is lovely. It also has two GeForce GTX 1080 GPUs and a built-in mechanical keyboard. The company told us it wanted to push the boundaries and there's no denying that's just what it's doing with the 21X. Admittedly, we haven't seen it in action at all since Acer only showed a prototype in Berlin. Who knows? It may be awesome, but it also weighs the same as small dog. You'll also need to pay more than $5,000 (£3,820 or AU£6,661) to play with it yourself.
Sony plays it safer
Last year at IFA, Sony treaded into absurdity with the Xperia X5, the first phone with a 4K screen. In the end, the extra resolution didn't add much to the phone other than inflate the price. That's why we're glad Sony played it a bit safer this time around. The Xperia XZ (we're not huge fans of the name) isn't terribly big with its 5.2-inch display, but we like some of the features.
Sony knows how to build a quality phone camera so we expect that the XZ's 23-megapixel rear shooter and 13-megapixel selfie cam will deliver. It also has a metal body that you can submerge in 5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes, a Qualcomm 820 chipset and Android Marshmallow. No, nothing is particularly groundbreaking, but it was an interesting phone as a wildly diverse show.
A modular phone you may want
It's not that a modular phone isn't a great idea, it's more that no one has really mastered the concept quite yet. In other words, the technology still has to explain how it fills a consumer need that no other gadget does. If your phone already has a good camera, for example, why snap on a second camera accessory that you have to carry around?
The Hasselblad True Zoom, however, is worth a serious look. It snaps on to the back of the Motorola's Moto Z phones and delivers something other phone cameras don't have: optical zoom. In our review, we found that the video quality wasn't spectacular and the software was annoying, but it has an intelligent design and is easy to use. Next time, Hasselblad can make it better by adding a larger sensor. For now, though, you can use it on the Motorola Z Play, which also announced in Berlin. A respectable phone in its own right, it has both a USB-C jack and a headphone jack, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor and a 5.5-inch 1080p AMOLED display.
Watch the throne
Size isn't everything -- unless you're a battery. One of the bigger (or smaller) challenges faced by smartwatches is how you make the battery big enough to run all your fancy features while still keeping the overall size small enough to suit your wrist.
The Samsung Gear S3 smartwatch looks great, but with a bigger 380mAh battery it's chunkier than its predecessor (and it's chief rival, the Apple Watch). That raises concerns about how this undeniably feature-packed device looks on daintier arms. It also has that nifty rotating bezel-based design.
The Withings Steel HR meanwhile is both smart and a watch, but it's not exactly a smartwatch. In fact, it's a traditional analogue watch with a fitness tracker inside and a heart rate monitor on the back to measure your exercise. That's another way of dealing with the battery issue, because the battery doesn't have to keep a power-hungry screen running.
More cordless cans than ever
Wireless headphones were all the rage at IFA. The move to cordless cans continues a trend that's followed improvements in Bluetooth headphones, but it's also driven by a decision that hasn't officially been announced yet from a company that isn't even here: yes, we're talking about Apple's rumoured plans to drop the 3.5mm headphone jack from the forthcoming iPhone .
And wireless headphones are going super luxe, too: Sony's MDR-1000X don't come cheap, but they offer amazing sound and active noise-canceling that takes square aim at Bose. In fact, their noise-cancelling takes into account the shape of your ears and even whether you're wearing glasses. Sounds good to us.
The Yoga 910 all but eliminates the bezel around the screen, meaning you get a decent trade-off between screen size and the overall size of the device.
More intriguingly, the Yoga Book does away with a traditional keyboard. Instead of boring old physical buttons, the space where you type is a touchscreen displaying a digital keyboard. That means the device is slimmer, not to mention the fact you can display custom keyboards or even display a drawing pad instead. So it's true that Yoga makes you more flexible.
Dishwasher wish list
Appliances are always big at IFA and as we expected, we saw innovative features here in Berlin that we might not see in the United States for awhile. Electrolux's newest washers soften water on the way in to help care for your clothes during the cycle. Bosch's stand mixer weighs your ingredients as you add them. Haier showed a double drum washer similar to the one from last year's IFA. Only this time, the drum on the bottom washes and dries your clothes.
Most exciting to me, though, were the dishwashers that go above and beyond the call of duty. Sharp showed off a dishwasher that opens on its own when the cycle ends, so steam can escape and the dishes can dry more effectively. Electrolux debuted a retail ready dishwasher with the ComfortLift technology it's been working on for years. Pull out the bottom rack of the ComfortLift dishwasher, and it'll swing up to waist level so you don't have to keep bending over to unload your plates and bowls.
In a field with so many similar options, it was nice to see these unique features stand out. Now here's hoping we get these cool add-ons in the US at some point in the future.
Touchscreens in fridges
Samsung's not the only company with a tablet built into its fridge anymore. The battle for the best smart fridge escalated to new heights at IFA. Samsung showed a trimmer, European version of the popular Family Hub fridge -- the model with a touchscreen in the door that made a splash at CES. LG debuted its response to the Family Hub -- the LG Smart Instaview Door-in-Door Fridge.
Not only does the Smart Instaview have a see-through panel on the door -- similar to the Instaview LG showed on its Signature fridge at CES -- but that Instaview panel now doubles as a tablet. The Family Hub has a touchscreen -- the Smart Instaview has a touchscreen and a translucent panel, and LG's touchscreen includes the full Windows 10 operating system complete with Cortana enabled voice controls. It's still early in development, but it stands to out-do Samsung's fridge tablet when it comes to smarts while also letting you look at the contents of your fridge.
Samsung could certainly add to the Family Hub functionality by the time the Smart Instaview hits stores, but LG isn't the only company chasing the Family Hub's glory. Sharp also threw its hat into the ring with the Sharp 4LifeHub. The smart fridge from Sharp has, brace yourselves, a touchscreen panel built into the door. At CES, the feature was a strange outlier. At IFA, it's becoming a trend.
Smart Home symbiosis
For as exciting as the appliance innovations were, a lot of the smart home gadgets gave us a strong sense of deja-vu. The Berlin Convention Center was filled with connected cams, motion sensors, and security systems, and few stood out from the many smart home devices we've reviewed before.
That said, we're big fans of the Bosch 360 degree indoor camera, simply because the lens sinks into the base when you want some privacy, and the retracting head reminded me of a turtle.
The biggest news from the smart home section was Bosch's collaboration with Drop -- the makers of the Drop Connected Scale. Whirlpool's Jenn-Air teamed up with silicon valley's Innit earlier in the year, and continued collaboration between smart home companies and large appliance manufacturers points to a better integrated smart home on the horizon.
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