The IFA trade show in Berlin is Europe's version of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Every September electronics manufacturers all over the world come to Germany to show off their latest devices. It's the biggest source of major industry announcements of the fall, and we've been on the ground to cover it.
IFA takes place at Messe Berlin, a sprawling convention center with 25 separate halls scattered across multiple buildings. It's a labyrinthine schlep through hundreds of booths and displays showing off the newest appliances, hardware, phones, smart home tech, and wearables.
PCMag analysts Matthew Buzzi, Ajay Kumar, and Victoria Song spent the week in Berlin to survey the tech landscape as it shifts and evolves. And they came up with a handful of top picks from the show.
Remember, IFA is just the start. We're heading into autumn, and that means a lengthy holiday season with plenty of buildup to the shopping frenzy of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday month after. Then, after the New Year, we head to Las Vegas for CES to keep you on the cutting-edge of technology for 2018.
Best Big-Screen Phone: LG V30
The LG V30 is the heavyweight phone of the show, and LG's primary competitor to the Samsung Galaxy Note 8. It boasts a 6-inch Quad HD OLED display, a Snapdragon 835 processor, and dual camera sensors with a slew of software customizations for taking crystal-clear photos and cinematic video, especially in low light. Throw in some high-resolution audio playback and a top-tier microphone array for recording, and you have a multimedia powerhouse.
Best Small-Screen Phone: Sony Xperia XZ1 Compact
Despite a petite build, Sony's 4.6-inch Xperia XZ1 Compact is powered by a Snapdragon 835 processor, making it the most powerful small phone at the show. It also has the same 3D-scanning camera capabilities of its larger sibling, along with a wide-angle selfie mode. The Compact is easily the most promising sub-5-inch phone to come out of IFA, and could very well become your best alternative to big-screen phablets.
Best Tablet: Acer Switch 7 Black Edition
This Surface alternative impressed us in our hands on, with a clever kickstand that automatically extends when you push the spine against your desk or table. And when you want to stand it back up, it resets itself to rigid once it reaches a certain angle. Add to that an in-glass fingerprint reader and a fan-less design—a first for a tablet with discrete graphics—and it looks like a winner.
Best Desktop: Acer Aspire S24
One of the most aesthetically pleasing products we saw at IFA, the super-slim all-in-one Aspire S24 desktop looks like another great entry in a category that still has room for improvement. Its 23.8-inch IPS display is only 0.23-inch thick, and gold trim gives it a sharp look. Though the Full HD resolution could be higher, it helps with another of the machine’s main draws—a $999 price point. Add in Intel's eighth-generation processors and a wireless charging base, and you've got quite an attractive package, in more ways than one.
Best Laptop: Lenovo Yoga 920
Another great-looking system, the thin and convertible Yoga 920 is the most striking laptop we saw. The Yoga line is well-oiled at this point, and this looks another slick entry, with fresh Intel CPUs and up to 4K resolution for a 13.9-inch display. It also includes far-field mics for hollering at Cortana, as well as two Thunderbolt 3 ports and Dolby Atmos. There are even some sweet Star Wars lid designs available for super fans.
Best Gaming Machine: Asus ROG Chimera
There were a number of appealing gaming systems at IFA—Acer's Predator Orion 9000 desktop among them—but the Chimera does something worth recognizing. It's the first laptop with a 144Hz refresh rate display, which it couples with Nvidia's G-Sync technology. Gamers pay big for monitors with these features, so building one right into a laptop (and combining it with a GTX 1080 and a Core i7-7820HK CPU) is a head-turning proposition. It's sure to be expensive, but it's a notable step forward.
Best AR: Lenovo Mirage and Star Wars: Jedi Challenge
What kid hasn’t dreamed about being a Jedi? The Lenovo Mirage AR headset can finally make that dream a reality. Well, an augmented reality. Star Wars: Jedi Challenge bundles a Mirage headset with a lightsaber touch controller with haptic feedback and a tracking sensor. It gives you a wide range of gameplay options including duels, grand strategy battles, and Holochess straight from the movies. You'll need a compatible smartphone and some open space, but that's a small price to pay to become a Jedi Knight.
Best Smartwatch: Fitbit Ionic
Technically Fitbit announced its first official smartwatch, the Ionic, right before IFA, but it's still one of the buzziest wearables in Berlin. It’s set to ship in October and will feature NFC payments, its own app gallery, customizable clock faces, and an open SDK for third-party developers. It also adds two red LEDs in addition to the typical optical heart rate sensor, which opens it up to monitoring for sleep apnea in the future.
Best Fitness Watch: Samsung Gear Sport
The Gear Sport took center stage at Samsung’s press conference. It has the same distinctive bezel as the Gear S3, but a slimmer profile for a sleeker look. And swimmers rejoice. The Sport is water resistant to 5 ATM, or 165 feet, and comes with an exclusive Speedo On app to track your laps, strokes, and splits.
Best Fitness Tracker: Garmin Vivomove HR
While Garmin already has some serious street cred among, it hasn’t exactly won points among the fashion crowd. Until now. The Vivomove HR is a comfortable hybrid smartwatch complete with GPS, continuous heart rate monitoring, and subtle on-screen notifications. Best of all, it’s wrapped up in a chic, classic design.
Best Smart Home Device: Neato Botvac D7 Connected
Roomba might be the more recognizable name, but Neato threw down the gauntlet at IFA with the Botvac D7 Connected. Rather than having to use "virtual walls" to cordon off a section of your home you don’t want vacuumed, the D7 will map your space in an app and you can simply draw a line where you don't want it to go. Plus it supports integration with If This Then That (IFTTT) and has its own chatbot for Facebook Messenger.Neato Botvac D7 Connected
Best Speaker: Sony LF-S50G
Sony’s LF-S50G isn't exactly a name that rolls off the tongue, but “Ok Google” might suit you better. The LF-S50G is an attractive wireless speaker (yes, it looks like the Apple HomePod) powered by Google Assistant. Aside from the excellent search capabilities and machine learning protocols the AI assistant is known for, the speaker supports useful gesture controls that replace physical navigation buttons. It also has Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, dual-band Wi-Fi, and Chromecast support, providing you with no shortage of ways to stay connected.