It’s one of the gadget world’s annual migrations: the late summer surge to Berlin for IFA.
Known as the Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin to its mates, IFA is Europe’s premier consumer tech show, having taken over the German capital for a few days each year since 1924 (with a few years’ gap 1939-1950, for reasons that you can probably work out on your own). It’s been the stage for many huge product launches in the world of TV, audio, home cinema, photography, computing and smartphones – and 2016’s show has been no exception.
But you want specifics, don’t you? So without further ado, here are the five announcements that shook our world. It’s a gadget celebration, baby!
Sony’s greatest Xperia yet?
We have a confession to make, dear readers. We already knew about the Sony Xperia XZ before Sony officially dropped its public fact-bomb at IFA. But it was all under NDA, so we weren’t allowed to tell you.
That’s just the way it goes in the tech reporting world sometimes, but to make it up to you we’ve only gone and already reviewed the bloomin’ thing! So there’s no need to for you to agonise for weeks (it doesn’t hit the shops here until October) about whether or not Sony’s IFA promises about its new flagship phone actually hold water.
Click the link below for our definitive verdict on the Xperia XZ, but if you want to know a few specs, here you go: there’s a 5.2in 1080p screen; 23MP rear camera and 13MP front camera; Snapdragon 820 CPU and 3GB of RAM; all tucked into a water resistant glass and metal body. We’re talking premium stuff – and it certainly numbers among the true elite of the smartphone world. Roll on October, we say.
Read the review › Sony Xperia XZ review
A wireless speaker with class – and Cast
Yes, we know wireless speakers are ten a penny these days – and certainly not in short supply at IFA 2016 – but for us the JBL Playlist stood out from the pack.
Why? Well, for starters, it’s got Google Cast built in, which means you can "beam" tracks to it from your phone then wander out of Bluetooth range and it’ll keep playing. Cast also lets you group a collection of compatible speakers together to work in unison, so if you own multiple Playlists (or even a collection of various Chromecast Audio-connected hi-fis and other brand Cast speakers), you can team them all up, making it house party o’clock.
It also supports Spotify Connect (so you can control it from your phone’s Spotify app) and will play hi-res audio without downgrading the quality.
Look out for it in shops from October, priced at around £150.
Panasonic makes 4K Blu-ray affordable
Ultra HD Blu-rays are now available, but there aren’t more than a handful of actual players around. Thank the AV gods, then, that Panasonic chose IFA to pull the wrappers off its brand new – and actually quite affordable – DMP-UB700, a disc spinner that’ll play these pixel-packed movies not only at the highest resolution available, but also with eye-poppingly vibrant HDR colour.
The deck conforms to all the newly-defined "Ultra HD Premium" certification spec, and its twin HDMI setup means it can output video from one port while sending audio signals to your surround sound receiver with the other. It’ll also stream 4K content from internet-based sources like YouTube and Netflix – and all for a very reasonable £400.
Look out for a review soon, movie buffs.
Samsung delivers a smart smartwatch
The smartwatch market is starting to mature, with the horrendous, plasticky, clown-like wristwear of recent years steadily being replaced by techy timepieces that, you know, a person who cares about their appearance might actually want to wear. And Samsung’s new Gear S3 is a perfect example.
Previous Gear smartwatches have been pretty naff on the design front, but the Gear S3, a round-faced watch made of metal, exudes understated charm in both its Classic and Frontier guises. We liked plenty more besides, so to get clued-in on all our first impressions, have a read of our hands-on preview here.
Related › The 10 best smartwatches in the world
Fiat Lux! Philips combines OLED and Ambilight
IFA had a LOT of televisions. Far too many to write about without becoming a bit squared-eyed, you might say – but among the legions of rectangular boxes, one screen stood out: Philips 55910F.
Or perhaps we should say "shone out", because this 55in TV boasts the brilliance of Ambilight, Philips’ famed backlighting technology and, for the first time, combined it with an OLED screen. So it combines glorious, vibrant colours both on the front and on the wall behind.
Read team Stuff‘s initial thoughts in our preview.