IFA 2012 highlights: what you need to know
3rd Sep 2012 | 15:01
The biggest stories from Europe's biggest tech show
IFA 2012: what you need to know
The biggest date on the European technology calendar has been and gone for the year, with IFA 2012 bringing a bounty of new gadgets, gizmos and innovations from the tech world.
The Berlin-based event opened to the press on 29 August, and TechRadar was there in full force, reporting from the show floor and serving up all the breaking news as it happened.
To bring you up to speed, we've listed all the key announcements below.
Acer at IFA 2012
The Aspire S7 was one of the best Ultrabooks at the show, available in 11.6 or 13.3-inch models, with a Core i5 or i7 processor, 4GB of RAM and SSD storage of up to 256GB.
Asus at IFA 2012
Asus has bolstered its Ultrabook range with the 15"-screened, Core i7-toting Asus ZenBook U500VZ and the multi-touch ZenBook Prime UX21A Touch.
Asus also talked up the Asus Taichi (pictured below) - a notebook with a screen on the front and rear so it can be used in notebook and tablet mode, and the Transformer Book laptop with a screen that can be detached to use as a tablet.
In our time with the Asus Taichi we found that the Intel Core processor offered plenty of grunt to multitask over the two IPS panels, which can even be used independently.
IFA 2012 also sees the Vivo Tab and Vivo Tab RT Windows tablets being shown off, with release dates to coincide with the Windows 8 release date. TechRadar spent some time with each of the two devices...
But enough about tablets! Asus has gone back to the old school with a heavy duty desktop PC and a pair of monitors. The ROG TYTAN CG8890 desktop is aimed at gamers and features an Intel Core i7-3960X six-core processor which runs at speeds up to 4.2GHz.
Dell at IFA 2012
Mindful of the upcoming iPad Mini, Dell has decided to take the market in a different direction with its 27" tablet (that some might call an all-in-one PC), the Dell XPS One 27 Touch.
This super-sized touchscreen features an Intel Core i7 processor, a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440, a wireless keyboard and Blu-ray drive, but as it is mounted to a stand and needs to be connected to a power supply, we're not sure this is a tablet that will appeal to the commuter market.
On a more portable note, Dell has shown off its XPS Duo 12 laptop, which features a flip-hinge allowing you to use it as a tablet or notebook. It's got a 12.5" screen, and the option of an Intel Core i7 processor, although lower-spec, lower-price options will also be available.
There's also a smaller Dell XPS 10 Windows RT tablet with detachable keyboard in the range, which we spent some time with and rather liked, but we'll wait until the price is announced before passing judgement.
HP at IFA 2012
What IFA really needs is more tablet/notebook hybrids, so we were relieved to discover that HP has just thrown its Envy x2 onto the creaking bandwagon. HP touts it as "the right device for the right time, every time" but we're unconvinced it'd be so great if the device you need at the time is a hedge trimmer. Still, we're happy for HP to prove us wrong.
HP also unleashed the 15.6-inch HP Spectre TouchSmart Ultrabook and 14-inch HP Spectre TouchSmart Ultrabook 4. Both notebooks feature multitouch displays and the latest Intel Core processing options.
HTC at IFA 2012
HTC has put in a bit of a modest IFA offering so far, with a mid-range handset called the HTC Desire X. Specs-wise, it's capable if unremarkable, but it may appeal to those who want to cut their monthly phone outlay, if it comes in at £15-£20 a month on contract, or £180-£200 on pay as you go deals.
With the launch of the new Desire, HTC has also killed off its Wildfire range in an effort to simplify its offerings, though Graham Wheeler, director of commercialisation product management at HTC, didn't rule out bringing the range back in the future.
Huawei at IFA 2012
Adding 30 smartphone points to the G300, we have the G330, which features a 4-inch WVGA screen, dual-core 1GHz processor and 512MB of RAM.
And then Huawei goes all the way to 600 with the G600, which must mean that it's twice as good as the G300. The handset rocks a 4.5-inch qHD resolution screen, Gorilla Glass front and a dual-core 1.2GHz chip.
The Chinese manufacturer also showed off its new revamped Android skin, Emotion UI, which was created on the premise of "placing people before technology," according to Dennis Poon, Huawei Device's global UI design director.
That skin should be seeing regular updates, too, as Huawei has committed to twice-monthly software updates for the overlay.
Poon told TechRadar that the first release, on the first day of the month, would be the stable one, offered as an over-the-air update, and the second, on the 16th day, would be a beta release that can be downloaded from Huawei's website. So now you'll have the option of a phone that's stable for the first half of the month with the added bonus of spontaneous crashes for the latter half.
Lenovo at IFA 2012
Wouldn't the tablet market be a much less confusing place if the next iPad was called the iPad I7458OMG instead of the iPad Mini? That's what Lenovo must have been thinking when it named its three new tablets that it brought along to the Berlin tech-fest.
The Lenovo Ideatab S2110A (below) features a 10" screen, micro-HDMI port and 5MP camera with LED flash, while the A2107A and the A2109A are 7-inch models. Try closing your eyes and reciting those model numbers back from memory.
Lenovo also debuted a series of new Idea-brand laptops, including the IdeaPad U510 Ultrabook, along with some IdeaCenter A and B-series all-in-one, multi-touch Windows 8 PCs.
- Hands on: Lenovo Ideatab S2110A review
- Hands on: Lenovo Ideatab A2109A review
- Hands on: Lenovo IdeaPad U510 Ultrabook review
Panasonic at IFA 2012
Panasonic's biggest ever LED TV, the Smart Viera TX-L60ET5, promises improved backlight control which increases the number of generated frames from 50 to 100 frames per second through area splitting. The TV features built-in Wi-Fi, DLNA compatibility and four HDMI ports.
Panasonic has also given its Smart Viera Remote App a bit of an overhaul, allowing you to throw content onto your television from your mobile device, and announced a full HD 3D home cinema projector, the PT-AT6000E.
Panasonic also gave us some hands-on time with its jaw-dropping 145 inch 8K PDP Super Hi Vision TV. As we wrote in ours hands on: "With the lovely looking 4K panels arriving thick and fast and this 8K television sticking its luscious visuals just over the horizon, the future certainly looks bright for even better definition televisions."
The 145" screen dwarfed the 20" 4K panels we looked at next, but these little pixel-packed screens looked stunning. Don't expect them to be cheap, though.
Philips at IFA 2012
After showing up with Jamie Oliver and a new cooker, Philips lifted the lid on two new Philips 9000 models of full HD 3D LED TVs, the 46" 46PFL9707 and the 60" Philips 60PFL9607, featuring Moth Eye Filter technology which improves contrast ratio by dramatically reducing reflections. Both sets are LED TVs with three-sided Ambilight Spectra XL.
Alongside the 9000 range, Philips also showed off its gorgeous frameless TVs in the form of the 6900-series Edge LED smart TVs. These bezel-free sets are initially launching in two sizes: the 42-inch model Philips 42PFL6907 and the 47-inch Philips 47PFL6907.
Samsung at IFA 2012
If you're a fan of the Samsung Galaxy Note but you wish it was just a bit bigger, then you'll be delighted to hear that Samsung has upped the screen size by 0.2 inches to a pocket-stretching 5.5 inches with the new Note 2.
When it comes to power and functionality, the Note 2 is top of its class, with a quad-core Exynos processor running at 1.6GHz and 2GB of RAM. It's an amazingly fast phone/tablet/phablet/wtf/whatevs but the size is likely to put many people off.
Samsung confirmed to TechRadar that the Note range will continue to grow in numbers, so we may well see cheaper, smaller models hitting the shelves.
If you'd prefer a more pocketable Android device, then how about the Samsung Galaxy Camera? You can't use it to make phone calls, but you can download apps such as Instagram and Facebook to it. The camera features a 16 million pixel 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor along with an f/2.8 21x optical zoom lens, integrated Wi-Fi, and runs Android 4.1. Our news story Samsung introduces Galaxy Camera packing Android has the lowdown while our hands-on review has our early verdict.
This whole "Is it a laptop or a tablet? NO, IT IS BOTH! *EXCITED FACE*" trend hasn't passed Samsung by, with the South Korean company showing off a pair of Intel-powered Slate PCs in the form of the refreshed Series 5 and Series 7.
Samsung also announced its Ativ brand, kicking that off with two more keyboard-optional tablets, the Smart PC and the Smart PC Pro, both powered by Intel processors and tablet, and the keyboard-less Windows RT Ativ Tab, running a 1.5GHz mobile chip.
- Hands on: Samsung Ativ Smart PC review
- Hands on: Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro review
- Hands on: Samsung Ativ Tab review
Sharp at IFA 2012
Never afraid to push the boundaries of TVs, Sharp rocked up at IFA with the world's biggest LED TV - a 90-inch set weighing in at a portly 64kg. Start saving for the 90-inch AQUOS LED TV now and so when it goes on sale in Summer 2013 you'll be able to watch your big-ass TV while talking on your big-ass phone.
TechRadar also got an up-close look at IGZO, a screen tech that Sharp has been working on for the last 10 years, and that's rumoured to be making its way into the iPad Mini. Named IGZO because it's made up of indium, gallium, zinc and oxidea, the images displayed are jaw-dropping. We can't wait to see this tech in our gadgets.
Sony at IFA 2012
Sony took to the stage at IFA admitting that the company needed to look at itself honestly and make changes with "laser-like focus and speed." Some of these changes have already taken place. In phones, Sony has dropped the Ericsson partnership, making Xperia its main mobile brand, for example.
The flagship Experia T features a 4.6-inch HD (1280 x 720) screen, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, backed up by 1GB of RAM, which runs Ice Cream Sandwich (version 4.0.4), with an update to Jelly Bean coming after launch.
The Sony Xperia J is being pitched as an affordable smartphone (4-inch, TFT 480 x 854 display), while the Xperia V sports LTE connectivity and looks to be headed to the US (but not the UK, unless there is demand from the networks and customers, Sony told TechRadar).
We got some hands-on time with Xperia J and liked the design and the display, but we can't help thinking that it might be outclassed by the Orange San Diego in the price bracket that we expect Sony to put the Xperia J in.
Keeping with the Xperia naming theme, a slimmed-down Sony Xperia Tablet S was also shown, featuring a svelte aluminium body, quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor and Android 4.0.3. The revamped tablet gives the well-received Tablet S a refresh, while retaining its iconic folded-book design.
Laptops that double up as tablets, or tablets that turn into laptops, have become a firm theme at this year's IFA, and Sony's new Windows 8 powered VAIO Duo 11 (shown below) falls into that hybrid camp. The Duo 11 has an 11.6-inch multi-touch screen, weighs 1.3kg, and comes with a choice of Intel Core i3, i5 or i7 processor, 4GB or 8GB of memory, and a 128GB or 256GB SSD.
Also in the new Sony VAIO range is the VAIO Tap 20, a 20" touchscreen PC (or a massive, heavy tablet, if you like) aimed at families. With an Intel Core i5-2217U processor, 4GB of RAM, a 1TB hard drive and other assorted features like Bluetooth and USB 3.0, expect this rather desirable machine to come with a hefty price tag.
On the camera front, Sony revealed the NEX-5R, the latest model to sit in its range of compact system cameras. The NEX-5R features a 16.1 million pixel APS-C sized CMOS sensor and uses a Bionz processor.
In our hands-on review of the NEX-5R, we found the camera a joy to use and felt it was a good CSC upgrade or the perfect companion to a DSLR for beginner and intermediate photographers.
The Personal 3D Viewer that Sony impressed us with last year in the form of the Sony HMZ-T1 got an upgrade in the form of the HMZ-T2 (snappy new name, marketing department!). The upgraded Personal 3D Viewer pushes the resolution from 720p to full-HD 1080p, and keeps the dual OLED displays.
TomTom at IFA 2012
TomTom is making a play for the Android market with its preview announcement of its Android sat nav app. The app doesn't need a mobile data connection and offers free map updates for life.
TomTom has a battle on its hands against the free Google Maps, but TomTom's MD Corinne Vigreux reckons that people will be happy to pay, telling TechRadar: "people realise to get a good experience it's worth spending a bit of money". Perhaps they haven't met many Android users.
Toshiba at IFA 2012
Like the keyboard-sliding Sony Vaio Duo 11 Ultrabook, the Toshiba Satellite U920T is also half Windows 8 Ultrabook, half tablet, a 12.5" notebook with a screen that slides over the top of the keyboard so you can use it as a tablet. The U920T is powered by Windows 8, third-gen Intel processors, Intel HD Graphics 4000 and up to 128GB of SSD storage space.
Also launching at IFA 2012 from Toshiba is the slightly more mundane Toshiba Satellite P845 touchscreen laptop, the first 14-inch laptop in the Satellite P-series family.
On the TV front, Toshiba announced its new WL968 range of LED TVs, available as 47-inch and 55-inch models, which feature 2D-to-3D conversion and YouTube and BBC iPlayer streaming.
Toshiba also announced an 84-inch 4K TV - possibly called the Toshiba 84ZL2 - to sit alongside the Toshiba 55ZL2 that the firm showed off at IFA last year.
So that's IFA 2012 in a nutshell. it's been a year of tablets pretending to be laptops, laptops pretending to be tablets, Windows 8 and touchscreens of all sizes. We've got our favourite gadgets of the show, but what are yours? Hit us up on Twitter (@techradar) or Facebook and let us know what's on your wishlist.