IFA Pre-Party is fun fun fun

The IFA global trade show for consumer electronics and home appliances officially started today in Berlin, but pre-show announcements over the last couple of days have pretty much stolen the show.  

In press conferences throughout the day Wednesday and Thursday, major players unveiled their latest and greatest gadgets, and some of them are pretty great.  In order of appearance, here are some of the highlights.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Asus kicked things off on Wednesday morning (our time) with the announcement of a new super-thin ultrabook (Zenbook UX305), a laptop (EeeBook X205), the MeMO Pad 7 (ME572C), and the company’s first wearable device, a posh-looking android watch called the ZenWatch that looks like a proper watch but works like an awesome phone watch.  Here is a video of the Asus press event.

Next up, Acer announced several convertible notebooks, most with touchscreens, and three new tablets, two running Android 4.4 KitKat (Iconia One 8 and Iconia Tab 10) and the other its first Windows tablet (Aspire 8 W, around $150 coming in November).


Samsung was the winner of the poop-your-pants-excited contest on Wednesday (check out the press conference video), when it announced its highly-anticipated Galaxy Note 4 alongside the much-rumored Galaxy Note Edge, which, while not sporting the 3-sided display imagined by the masses over the past few months, does boast an entirely innovative curved display with a side-runner, the potential uses of which appear to be endless.  Here’s how the two new phablets compare.

As if twin Galaxy Notes weren’t enough, Samsung also revealed a pretty cool smartwatch (Gear S) and the Gear VR kit, a set of virtual reality goggles based on Oculus technology that pairs with the Galaxy Note 4.  The company also announced the Galaxy Tab Active, but no one seems that excited about it.  But remember Samsung doesn’t just make awesome gadgets.  They also spent a good chunk of its press conference talking about the smarthome of the nearer-than-we-think future.  So, maybe soon we’ll be providing you with skins for your Galaxy toaster.

Sony has a couple special things this year, particularly the Cyber-shot DSC-QX30 and the ILCE-QX1, essentially lens-shaped cameras that use your smartphone for the viewer and controls.  They also announced two Xperia Z3 android smartphones (Xperia Z3 and Xperia Z3 Compact) and a tablet (Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact), all of which include PS4 Remote Play, which enables gamers to access and play PS4 games seamlessly on these devices.  But the fun’s not over.  Sony also announced a new smartwatch (cleverly named SmartWatch 3) that has interchangeable straps, a new fitness band (Smartband Talk), and a mid-range smartphone called the Xperia E3 Dual.  Here’s the video from the Sony press conference.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Compared to the Wednesday crowd, HTC’s showing on Thursday was a little underwhelming.  It was pretty much just the Desire 820 smartphone, which, with its 64-bit, octo-core Snapdragon 615 processor is pretty cool for its price range, doesn’t really carry the futuristic glamor of virtual reality goggles or lens-camera hybrid attachments.

Microsoft’s Nokia conference was not a lot more exciting than HTC’s.  They announced the Lumia 730 and 735, it’s new “selfie” phones, as the stars of it’s two-act show, with the Lumia 830, a more affordable alternative to the high-end Lumia 930, playing straight man.   Lumia phones will also be getting new software, including improvements to its Cortana talk-to-your-OS function and fixes to reportedly slow shutter times, as well as some handy new accessories like a wireless charging stand and a screen sharing device a la Chromecast, only not as slick.

If HTC and Microsoft were light on the new good stuff, Lenovo more than made up for it.  It announced a slew of new machines, from ultrabooks to towers, too many to name here.  These are the ones that seem most exciting.  The ThinkPad Helix is a 2-in-1 Ultrabook with a detachable keyboard; the Edge 15 is a new super-thin, but not ultrabook-thin, laptop; the HORIZON 2s and 2e are tabletop PCs (all-in-one PCs that can lay flat like giant tablets); the ThinkCenter Tiny-in-One (this is cool) is an all-in-one desktop that lets you change out the PC without changing the monitor.  Lenovo also announced some new machines for gaming, two new smartphones (Vibe Z2 and X2), and a Tablet (TAB S8), plus a bunch of other stuff.

And, just for Motorola, Friday, 5 September 2014

Perhaps the only announcement more anticipated than the Galaxy Note on Wednesday was Motorola’s Moto X  smartphone and Moto 360 so-hot smartwatch announcements today.  Motorola also introduced the more budget-friendly Moto G smartphone, but no one was looking because they were still cleaning up their 360 drool.

No doubt, more cool stuff will be forthcoming now that the trade show has actually begun.  And amidst all this hullabaloo, Apple will be making a certain highly anticipated announcement from its own exclusive venue, streaming live for the world to see September 9 at 10 a.m. PDT.  So we will have much to discuss in the coming weeks.  Stay tuned.


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