Skip to main content

Best of IFA 2015 Awards

A true Apple Watch challenger, a smartphone with a jaw-dropping 4K screen and a water-cooled gaming laptop were among the exciting innovations at this year's IFA 2015 event in Berlin. The biggest themes of the show were smartwatches, whose looks are finally catching up with their capabilities, along with flexible 2-in-1 devices. Two of these hybrids made our Best of IFA list, including a potential Microsoft Surface killer. On the entertainment front, we were most impressed by a 4K Blu-ray player that will help make the most of your shiny, new UHD TV, and a set of headphones that sound so good we didn't want to take them off.

Here are the best products from IFA 2015. 

Best of Show: Samsung Gear S2

While other smartwatches continue to take small, iterative steps forward, Samsung's Gear S2 has jumped to the head of the pack with its sleek, futuristic styling and intuitive design. The rotating bezel just makes sense. It provides a much better way of navigating the interface on a 1.2-inch screen than fiddling around with tiny, side-mounted crowns or tapping microscopic icons. The Gear S2 will support Samsung Pay, which means you'll be able to use the watch as your wallet where NFC payments are accepted.

The Gear S2 will have about 1,000 apps at launch, including Uber, Nike+ Running, Twitter and Yelp. Even more compelling are the new watch-face options, which integrate with such brands as ESPN and CNN, to deliver headlines and scores without the need to open an app. A 3G version of the Gear S2 will be available through wireless carriers for those who want to be able to leave their phones behind. At the end of the day, the Gear S2 is the one device we wanted most to take home from IFA, and that's we why picked it as our Best of Show.

MORE: Samsung Gear S2 Hands-On: Fresh New Twist on Smartwatches

Best Smartphone: Sony Xperia Z5 Premium

The Sony Xperia line of smartphones has not changed radically between the first and fourth versions, but one variation of the Z5 might just shake up the world of smartphone displays. The Xperia Z5 Premium features a full-4K screen, which is unheard of for a 5.5-inch panel. Beyond that, the Android-powered Z5 boasts an extremely sensitive camera that focuses faster than you can blink, a host of Sony-exclusive social and fitness features, and enough power to run just about any app or game on the Google Play Store. The ability to stream Netflix on 4K in the palm of your hand is appealing, but since the Z5 is waterproof, you could even do so in the bath or pool.

MORE: Sony Xperia Z5 Is First Smartphone with 4K Screen

Best Laptop: Toshiba Satellite Radius 12

Toshiba has more than stepped up its game with the Satellite Radius 12. This 2.8-pound wonder features a superpremium brushed-metal chassis that gleams like a freshly armored gladiator ready for battle. With its 4K resolution (which is calibrated and certified for accuracy by Technicolor), and 6th-gen Intel Skylake processor, it has the arms to stand victorious at the end of the fight.  Oh, did we mention the screen flips a full 360 degrees, so it can double as a superpowerful tablet at a moment's notice? It even has a dedicated key for Cortana for use with Windows 10, and USB-C for that little extra bit of future proofing.

If you want a bigger version, there's a less flashy, but equally attractive Radius 14, which can even be configured with discrete graphics for mobile gaming in any position.

MORE: Toshiba Radius 12 Hands-On: Slick 2-in-1 Superiority

Best Gaming PC: Asus GX700

The benefits of a water-cooling PC are obvious: lower temperatures and less power consumption. While desktop gaming rigs have had this option for years, the Asus GX700 is the very first gaming laptop to employ a water-cooling system. This impressive machine features a full-4K display, an Intel Core i7 processor, a top-of-the-line Nvidia graphics card and a whopping 64 GB RAM. In addition to an aggressive, stylish new design that doubles as extra ventilation, the GX700 also features a large water-cooling apparatus that keeps the machine running at peak efficiency, no matter where — or how long — you choose to game.

MORE: Meet the First Water-Cooled Gaming Laptop

Best Tablet: Acer Predator 8

Nvidia's Shield has had the gaming tablet arena all to itself for a while, but now there's a new competitor. In the Predator 8, Acer wants to elevate Android gaming to a level on par with the Nintendo 3DS and the PlayStation Vita, if not the major consoles. The slate is an 8-inch powerhouse that features an Intel Atom x7-Z8700 processor, 2GB of RAM and at least 32GB of storage. Not only will it run any Android game at peak settings, but its rubber grips and four front-facing speakers ensure that players get the most comfortable and aurally pleasing experience possible. Acer says that the slate's smaller touch sensors are packaged with higher density on the display, which results in better accuracy. The Predator 8 will go on sale in November.

MORE: Acer Predator 8 Tablet Empowers Mobile Gamers

Best 2-in-1: Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700

With the IdeaPad Miix 700, Lenovo has created the first real competitor to Microsoft's Surface Pro, and boy is it a doozy. For $699 — $100 less than the cheapest Surface Pro 3 — you get an Intel Core m7 CPU, 8GB of RAM and, most importantly, the detachable, magnetic folio keyboard at no additional cost. (Microsoft charges an extra $129 for its keyboard.) Lenovo also brought over the signature watchband hinge from its Yoga 3 Pro 2-in-1 to add a stylish and sturdy kickstand to the Miix 700's already impressive arsenal. Microsoft is trying to take down laptops with the Surface, but Lenovo is going one step further by trying to kill the Surface.

MORE: Lenovo Tackles the Surface Pro With IdeaPad Miix 700 Hybrid

Best Home Entertainment: Samsung UHD UBD-K8500 Blu-Ray Player

Now that 4K TVs are here to stay, the next step is securing a steady stream of ultra-high-definition content. Samsung's new UHD Blu-ray Player allows users to own their favorite media in a physical 4K format. The 4K Blu-ray discs have four times the resolution and 64 times the color accuracy of 1080p Blu-rays, and the UHD Blu-ray Player can also stream 4K content from services like Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. Users can even pop in their old DVDs and Blu-rays and see them upscaled to near-UHD quality. Streaming services come and go, but the UHD Blu-ray player will let you keep a permanent collection.

MORE: Samsung's 4K Blu-ray Player: Incredibly Crisp Movies

Best Audio: Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro Headphones

At $599, the DT 1770 Pros aren't cheap, but they are the least expensive way to enjoy Beyerdynamic's new Tesla audio technology. And once you hear them, you'll know that your money was well spent. These closed-back, 250-ohm, over-the-ear headphones feature giant magnets that power the drivers, delivering deep, rich bass and supercrisp highs without a hint of distortion. Even in the hustle and bustle of the show floor at IFA, the DT 1770 Pros delivered ambient-noise reduction that let us appreciate high-quality audio among the ruckus. Add in velvety velour ear cups, and you'll never want to take these premium cans off.

MORE: Beyerdynamic DT 1770 Pro Hands-On: Musical Masterpiece