Business Technology

Sunday 26 February 2017

IFA 2015: The gadgets to dominate this year....including Sony Walkman

Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Asus Vivostick (€120)
Asus Vivostick (€120)
Samsung Gear S2 (price not yet announced)
Lenovo Phab Plus (€650)
Sony Walkman (from €350)
Polaroid Snap (€100)
LG 9500 Oled (over €5,000)
Acer Predator 6 (price not yet released)
Samsung Sleepsense (price not yet released)
Sony Xperia Z5 Premium (from free with Irish operators later this month)
Panasonic GH4R (€1,500)

What are the gadgets that will dominate the rest of 2015?

This week, tens of thousands have gathered in Berlin for one of the year’s biggest gadget fests: IFA 2015. Hundreds of phones, smartwatches, tellies and laptops have been launched ahead of the all-important Christmas markets.

Here are 10 of the most notable products announced at the show:

1. Asus Vivostick (€120)

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If you needed proof that PCs are getting smaller and smaller, Asus’s new Windows computer should seal the argument. It has stuffed a full functioning PC, with Windows 10, two USB ports and earphone jack, onto a gadget the size of a large USB stick.

You simply stick it into a monitor, connect a keyboard and away you go. It also comes with wifi and Bluetooth on board.

It’s not the most powerful PC you’ll ever own, but it holds its own compared to many budget laptops: there’s 2GB of Ram, and Intel (Cherry Trail) processor and 32GB of storage inside.

2. Samsung Gear S2 (price not yet announced)

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Square smartwatches are out, Samsung has decided. Its new Gear S2 has a 1.2-inch round watch face and a rotating outer dial that can be used to control some functions of the watch.

The tech here is being decidedly ranked behind fashion as Samsung cops on to the fact that people prefer looking good to having the most powerful processors on their person.

This may be one reason that the Korean giant is stubbornly forging ahead with its own Tizen operating system for the S2, instead of switching to Android Wear, the choice of most smartwatch rivals because it allows you to use it with almost any smartphone. (The S2 will likely only work with a handful of Samsung phones.)

The battery life on this device is pegged at over two days, an improvement on first-generation smartwatches. Samsung says that it will also release a 3G version that can make calls without being paired to a phone at the time.

The watch comes with a choice of different bands as fashion accessories, while a high-end S2 Classic version will come with a leather strap.

3. Lenovo Phab Plus (€650)

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When it comes to phones, how big is too big? Lenovo is really pushing it with its new 7-inch Phab smartphones. There are two models, the Phab and Phab Plus.

Both measure up with 7-inch screens which, for purposes of comparison, is about twice the size of an iPhone 6. How many pockets can take a phone like this?

Although the Phab has the better battery, at 4,250mAh, it has less Ram (1GB) and storage (16GB) than the Phab Plus (2GB and 32GB).

However, both come with dual sim slots (which are handy for travellers) and have 13-megapixel main cameras with 5-megapixel selfie cameras on the front.

For me, bigger is usually better with phones. But this might be a half-inch too far. Don’t expect to see these in your local Meteor store, either: Irish operators don’t range Lenovo handsets. If you want one, you’ll have to get one through an online store like Amazon or Expansys.

4. Sony Walkman (from €350)

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Last year, Sony reintroduced its Walkman music players but at a much more premium level (and premium price). This year, it’s brought prices and down, with a trio of new Walkman models.

The base machine is the A25, which comes with 16GB of storage (but is expandable via a memory card). It has noise-cancelling technology on board, can play 24-bit music files and has a claimed battery life of 50 hours.

At the higher end of the spectrum, Sony’s ZX100 Walkman is being pitched at serious audiophiles. It can play high resolution audio -- which is becoming a thing for real music fans -- and comes with its own high resolution earphones.

5. Polaroid Snap (€100)

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Because none of us ever print off our thousands of cameraphone shots, instammatic cameras have remained a thing throughout the digital boom. Polaroid’s latest Snap device prints 3x2 photos without using any separate ink.

Instead, the paper you load into it reacts to heat from the camera to fashion the images.

The Snap also has a selfie timer and a range of preset filters you can use. And if you want to print off previously taken phone photos, it also has a microSD card slot that it can print from.

6. LG 9500 Oled (over €5,000)

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This year, it seems that ‘Oled’ technology is the mating call of TV manufacturers. Not content with ‘4K’ (or ultra high definition UHD as some call it), Oled sharpens the colours even more and gets as close to actual black on a screen as we’ve yet seen.

LG has gotten ahead of the pack, announcing a new (non-curved) Oled range of TVs designed to make you throw your austerity budget out the window.

The 9500 model, which comes in both 55-inch and 65-inch sizes, will be able to stream 4K from Netflix, YouTube and other services, although there’s very little content thus far at these high resolution levels.

It also supports high dynamic range (HDR) video, whenever anyone gets around to providing that. Finally, it uses WebOS as its operating system.

7. Acer Predator 6 (price not yet released)

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Are smartphones the next big thing for ‘real’ gaming? Acer is taking a punt that they might be. Its new Android Predator 6 has Alienware-style red and silver design and massive firepower (for a phone) under the hood.

This includes a whopping deca-core (10-core) processor as well as 4GB of Ram. On top of this, it comes with dual haptic feedback motors that vibrate whenever something in a game happens.

8. Samsung Sleepsense (price not yet released)

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There’s a lot of voodoo behind sleep-tracking devices, partly because so much of it is guesswork and estimation (based on your movement in bed, for example).

Samsung’s Sleepsense tries to being a little bit of practicality to the process. It does this by connecting to other smart devices in your home, going so far as to switch them off if you’re in adjudged to be asleep. (Your smart TV, for example.)

The gadget is also useful in that it’s not a wearable device, which many people just can’t hack. Instead, you slip it under your mattress.

The whole thing is supposed to be part of Samsung’s burgeoning Smartthings smart home set-up, so it’ll really work best if you plan on investing in other ‘smart’ gadgets for your home.

9. Sony Xperia Z5 Premium (free from Irish operators later this month)

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Sony’s new 5.5-inch Xperia Z5 Premium has two main boasts. First, its 23-megapixel camera lens is, Sony says, the ‘world’s best phone camera. Second, it’s the only phone to have a 4K screen, boasting a whopping 807 pixels-per-inch.

Whether you’ll be able to discern this from an ordinary HD screen is another issue.

But for what it’s worth, that’s about twice the resolution of most rival handsets. The Z5 Premium won’t be available in Ireland until November, where it is likely to cost north of €700 unsubsidised.

Sony also launched two other phones, the 4.6-inch Z5 Compact and the 5.2-inch Z5, both of which will available here at the end of the month. Like teh Z5 Premium, these come with 32GB of storage, 4GB of Ram and octocore processors.

They’re also waterproof but without the need to cover over their micro USB charging ports. Battery size vary from 2,700mAh on the Z5 Compact to 3,400mAh on the Z5 Premium.

10. Panasonic GH4R (€1,500)

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Panasonic’s GH4 camera has been a big hit with videographers because of its 4K shooting and the range of controls and accessory compatibility it brings. Panasonic’s newly upgraded GH4R takes the filming a little further with “unlimited” 4K recording.

This means that instead of being limited to 30-minute recording sessions at the ultra high definition standard, the camera can now shoot indefinitely, limited only by the size of your memory card.

For professionals, the camera has also added new controls (V Log L) that makes footage easier to integrate into a post-production workflow.

 

 

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