Our Favorites from IFA 2017
The IFA trade show in Berlin is a battleground for new laptops, mobile devices, wearables and other gadgets competing for your attention (and ultimately, your dollars). And while each edition offers up its share of interesting hardware, only a select few products really capture the imagination of everyone in attendance.
This year was no different, as our favorite products at IFA 2017 included a gorgeous-looking smartphone, powerful new laptops, some drool-worthy gaming rigs and even a Star Wars AR headset. Here are our top picks for the best products at IFA.
Best of Show: LG V30
A lot of the key details about the LG V30 trickled out long before the new phone made its debut at IFA — with many of those leaks coming directly from LG — but this 6-inch phone and its dual cameras still lived up to the advance billing. We love the OLED display on the V30, and from what we’ve seen so far, the two rear cameras on the back of the V30 show a lot of promise. In particular, the wide-angle lens captures a lot of scenery, and we expect the f/1.6 aperture on the V30’s 16-megapixel shooter will help with low-light shots. The last part of 2017 figures to be a battle between several flagship phones, and LG has proven it’s up for a fight. — Philip Michaels
Best Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Device: Star Wars Jedi Challenges
This joint offering from Lenovo and Disney should be just the thing for anyone who’s ever dreamed of taking on the Empire all by themself. The $199 Star Wars Jedi Challenges uses a Lenovo-built augmented reality headset, a lightsaber-shaped controller and a tracking beacon to put you in a Jedi’s virtual shoes. You can battle baddies from Kylo Ren all the way up to Darth Vader himself, recreate epic Star Wars battles on your floor and even play a game of Holochess, all without having to travel to a galaxy far, far away — PM
Best Smartwatch: Gear Sport
Smartwatches are increasingly about fitness tracking these days, and Samsung’s Gear Sport does more than just pay lip service to health-focused features. For starters, the Gear Sport’s 5 ATM water resistance rating means it can join you for a swim, and Samsung teamed with Speedo to create an app that better tracks your aquatic workouts. A heart rate monitor and GPS tracking should keep accurate tabs on you whether your workouts are on land or sea, and Samsung included nice add-ons like the ability to enter calories consumed directly on the watch. The 42.9mm watch looks good, too, with a watchface that can be color-matched to the strap you’re wearing. — PM
Best Fitness Tracker: Garmin Vivoactive 3
If smartwatches are going to beef up their fitness features, then why shouldn’t fitness trackers adopt some of the best attributes of smartwatches? Garmin took that approach with the Vivoactive 3, opting for a circular design that improves on the look of the last Vivoactive while also adding a side swipe feature that lets you easily scroll through widgets and notifications. Best of all, support for Garmin Pay mobile payments means you can buy a bottled water — or something stronger — at the end of a run and pay for it just with a flick of your wrist. — PM
Best Smartphone: Moto X4
The Moto X4 may be a mid-range phone in terms of price, but it’s packed with some serious features. Motorola’s latest Android device sports dual cameras, a Gorilla glass-coated body and display, and both Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant. Oh, and it’s water and dust-resistant, too. You might not get slim bezels for the 5.2-inch screen, but for just a few hundred bucks, the X4 is a serious contender. — Andrew E. Freedman
Best Laptop: Lenovo Yoga 920
The Lenovo Yoga 920 is the kind of annual update that’s easy to lust over. With a powerful new 8th Gen Intel Core processor and up to a 4K display, it will perform well and look good doing it. We also appreciate the two pairs of Thunderbolt 3 ports for blazing fast data transfers. The three colors -- bronze, copper and silver -- allow for some individuality, but if those don’t suit your needs, you can always spring for one of the limited edition Star Wars themes.
If Cortana is the digital assistant of your choice, the far-field microphone will let you summon it from afar. And if you’re a creative type, the new Lenovo Active Pen’s 4,096 degrees of sensitivity will give you a better drawing experience than ever before. So, sure, it’s an update, but it’s one that’s well-planned, feature-rich and, frankly, kind of drool-worthy. — AEF
Best Gaming Laptop: Asus ROG Chimera
When you have the power of a GTX 1080 GPU and overclockable Intel Core i7 CPU, it’s downright silly for your screen to be the bottleneck that keeps games from looking as great as possible. The Asus ROG Chimera’s 144-Hz display with a 7 millisecond gray-to-gray response time is insanely fast for a laptop, and it makes animations extremely smooth, especially when placed next to your average 60-Hz panel.
We’re still waiting on US pricing and availability, but when it gets here, the 17.3 inch, 1080p panel will be the most responsive on the market. Additionally, it pairs easily with Xbox accessories, allowing you to use headsets and other peripherals for the console without any chunky dongles. — AEF
Best 2-in-1: Acer Switch 7 Black Edition
The main specs on Acer’s new 2-in-1 are impressive enough. The Switch 7 Black Edition features an 8th Gen Core i7 processor, Nvidia MX150 discrete graphics and Acer’s Liquid Loop cooling system that keeps this convertible cool and fanless. But we were also impressed with the little touches, like an auto-activated kickstand that deploys when you touch the Swift 7 against a tabletop. And the included stylus, which tucks discreetly behind the Switch 7’s display is a winner, too, with 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. — PM
Best Audio: Sony WF-1000X Noise Cancelling Headphones
“Truly wireless” headphones were all over the IFA show floor, but Sony’s had some secret sauce. The WF1000X Noise Canceling Headphones were the only wireless earbuds to block out sound--but not all sound. Sony’s technology can detect what you’re doing and realize that you may need to hear car engines if you’re walking in public or hear announcements if you’re sitting in an airport or a bus station.
The noise-canceling tech makes these buds chunkier than competitors like Apple’s AirPods, Bragi’s Dash or new entries from competitors like B&O Play, but you’ll hear a lot more outside noise with those. If you don’t like wireless buds, Sony also offers similar tech in the forms of neckbuds and over-ear cans. — AEF
Best Accessory: Razer Basilisk
Generally, you want a gaming mouse to give you as much freedom of movement as possible, but sometimes a little restraint is in order. Razer’s Basilisk features a clutch trigger that lets you temporarily lower the DPI, allowing for extremely accurate gunplay in first-person shooters. Besides being a comfortable mouse, it allows for some flexibility. The Basilisk’s clutch comes in two sizes, or, if you just like the feel of the mouse, it comes with a rubber cap to get rid of it all together.
Additionally, the Basilisk allows you to adjust the sensitivity of the scroll wheel, and, as always, Razer Synapse allows for customizable sRGB lighting and a ton of other personalization options, like button mapping. Most of all, it made me feel like I was better at Battlefield 1, and I’d say that’s worth something. — AEF
Best Desktop: Acer Predator Orion 9000
Why is the Predator Orion 9000 so powerful? Because Acer can make it that way, that’s why. The massive chassis can house up to four Radeon RX Vega GPUs (or two Nvidia GTX 1080 Ti cards in SLI) with Intel’s Core i9 Extreme Edition and up to a mind-numbing 128GB of RAM. Do you need that kind of strength? Probably not, but if you’re like me, you love the idea.
Add in an intimidating design with handles and wheels for some portability, plus easy upgradability, liquid cooling and customizable RGB lighting, and you have a massively strong PC that you can build up even further in the future. It’s even got little touches, like a built-in headphone stand. You probably won’t get the full setup at the $2,000 starting price, but you’ll always be able to add more capability without any tools.— AEF
Best Innovation: XYZ da Vinci Color
3D prints aren’t exactly known for bursting with color, since most printers only produce a monochrome object. XYZ’s da Vinci Color wants to change that by adding inkjet printing features to fused filament fabrication, in which CMYK inks are laid down upon the layers of a print. The result can be some pretty colorful designs, as the $3,499 da Vinci Color can reproduce around 16 million colors in very intricate patterns. — PM