Best of IFA 2018: 8K TV, an epic gaming throne, Google's new wearable OS and more

Berlin was awash with new products at this year's IFA trade show. Here's what we saw that impressed us the most -- and the one category that didn't.

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Rich was the editorial lead for CNET's Home and Wellness sections, based in Louisville, Kentucky. Before moving to Louisville in 2013, Rich ran CNET's desktop computer review section for 10 years in New York City. He has worked as a tech journalist since 1994, covering everything from 3D printing to Z-Wave smart locks.
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Rich Brown
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Fear not, America. Even though many of the products announced here at IFA won't come to the US, Europe's largest trade show, we still saw plenty of new things to get excited about that will hit the market globally. For every Europe-only smart oven from Bosch or AEG/.Electrolux, we found an exciting TV, a laptop, a wearable and even networking hardware that will show up at your US retailer, online or otherwise. 

If you'd like to see a deep dive into the announcements from IFA, we've wrapped it all up for you here. Here you'll find just the stuff we thought stood out the most this year.

Samsung Q900 8K television


Samsung's 85-inch 8K Q900, on display at its booth during IFA 2018 in Berlin.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Even if there's not enough content to really take advantage of an 8K screen yet, the march toward ever-finer TV resolution seems likely to resonate with consumers more than curved displays or 3D support. LG also made 8K news by reiterating its commitment from CES 2018 to bring out an 8K OLED display, but it was Samsung's 85-inch Q900 that made the biggest impression at IFA. 

Unlike its competitors, Samsung had the 8K Q900 television on display at its booth on the show floor, for anyone to walk up to, with the promise to start selling it this October. The price -- potentially five figures -- and the lack of content will keep the Q900 from taking any noticeable market share, but its release will be one of the first steps on the way to finding out if consumers are willing to march along to the cadence of higher-resolution TVs . They will be, especially once the price premium for 8K starts to shrink away, as it quickly did with 4K.

Read our preview of the Samsung Q900.

Google Wear OS watches


The Casio Wear OS watch.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The apparent leak of what appears to be the next Apple Watch -- expected to be unveiled at Apple's Sept. 12 event -- is raising the stakes in the smartwatch wars. But Google isn't standing still: The company expanded its own wearable plans at IFA to get ahead of the Apple PR wave. Google's Wear OS (formerly known as Android Wear) is an update to its wearable operating system that incorporates heart rate tracking and other health-oriented features (wrapped in the Google Fit branding) as well as easier notification navigation system and tighter integration with Google Assistant, Google's AI-drive voice assistant. 

The Skagen, Diesel and Casio Wear OS smart watches that debuted at IFA might not be the most advanced Google-powered wearables you'll see this year. As our own Scott Stein points out, Google itself might introduce a Pixel-branded Wear OS watch later this year, and Qualcomm's smartwatch event is just days away. Still, the time for Google to build up enthusiasm for Wear OS is now, before Apple captures all the excitement for smartwatches this year, and potentially an even more dominant share of the wearable market.

Read: Google's Wear OS updates hint at a wave of fitness smartwatches to come

Read: Smartwatch makers try to get a jump on Apple with fitness push

Lenovo Yoga Book C930


The convertible Lenovo Yoga Book C930 has an E Ink keyboard that's also a note taking surface and a PDF reader.

We saw a lot of laptops in Berlin, including this gaming system from Acer, and a premium two-in-one Chromebook from Dell, but Lenovo's Yoga Book C930 was the most innovative of the bunch. An E Ink keyboard is the highlight of this convertible Windows laptop, replacing the LED-based second screen on previous YogaBook models. 

With E Ink, the keyboard gains a more tactile feeling when you type on it, and a dynamic virtual touchpad that can adjust its size to minimize accidental presses. 

Lenovo amped up the speed on this model, replacing Atom from the previous gen with Core m5 and Core i5 chip options. It also has a gimmicky-but-cute knock-to-open feature, whereby you rap your knuckles on the top of the display when it's closed, and via an accelerometer and a system of magnets, the laptop opens up, seemingly by magic. The Yoga Book C930 goes on sale in October, for a starting price of $999, with international pricing and availability still to come.

Read our preview of the Lenovo Yoga Book C930.

Netgear Orbi Voice


Netgear Orbi Voice aims to consolidate your mesh router and your Alexa speaker into a single piece of hardware.

First, you buy a wireless router. Then, when you find your router doesn't extend your network to your basement entertainment center, you buy a mesh Wi-Fi extender. Follow all of that with an Amazon Echo or Google Home speaker, and all of a sudden your home feels overtaken by hardware, like an onset of plastic-shrouded fungus.

Like a squirt of bleach, the Netgear Orbi Voice wants to tame that infestation of technology. For $430 or £430 (which converts to AU$585), you can pick up the Netgear Orbi Voice Kit, which nets you the new Orbi Voice speaker/mesh Wi-Fi-extender, as well as a standalone Orbi router to connect to your modem. With that, you get a best-in-class mesh wireless network to bring Wi-Fi to every corner of your home, as well as an speaker equipped with Amazon Alexa. The Orbi Voice unit itself also has a pair of Ethernet jacks to facilitate adding more networked devices via a hardwired connection. 

If you're already an Orbi mesh router owner, you can buy the Orbi Voice speaker by itself for $300/£280 later this fall. The kit version goes on sale at the end of September.

Read our preview of the Netgear Orbi Voice.

Acer Thronos



Tyler Lizenby/CNET

LG's robot pants (fine, "robotic exoskeleton") might ease the burden for manual laborers one day, but if we have to choose between over-the-top entrants this year, Acer's Predator Thronos captured our hearts and then sliced them in half. A PC gaming pod composed of a recliner and a motorized arm that supports three 27-inch monitors, you can climb into this thing and slide back to 140 degrees of gaming immersion. Acer gave no specifics on price (expensive), availability ("never, since this is trade show bait" seems not unlikely) or death blossom capability.

Read our preview of the Acer Predator Thronos gaming chair.

Missing from Berlin: Smartphone wow factor 


HTC U12 Life: One of many fine but unremarkable phones in Berlin

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

We saw plenty of new phones unveiled in Berlin, but nothing in the mobile space felt like a "best of show" candidate this year. They all exuded the same sort of "evolutionary, not revolutionary" restraint that has dominated the peak smartphone era: It's hard to get excited about minor updates like the BlackBerry Key2 LESony Xperia XZ3 and HTC U12 Life. Meanwhile, models that are potentially more exciting, like those teased by Huawei, don't seem destined to be arriving in the US anytime soon -- or ever. 

Blame Samsung, Apple and Google. Those titans of the smartphone space studiously avoided IFA, opting to go earlier -- Samsung's Galaxy Note 9 debuted in Brooklyn earlier this month -- or later. Apple's big reveal will be Sept. 12, and Google's new Pixel phones are coming Oct. 9, according to at least one published report. (The latter appear to be popping up in Russia, in the meantime.) Those are the phones will be talking about through the end of the year and beyond.

Maybe, with 5G wireless inching ever closer to reality, next year's IFA will be a more eventful show for mobile.

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