Best of IFA Berlin 2012: Top 10 Gadgets from the Big Show
Windows 8-based notebooks, tablets and hybrids received a lot of attention at this year's IFA Berlin show, which has become so huge the folks running CES should be nervous. We also saw a slew of new Android phones and slates, iOS accessories, gaming peripherals, cameras, TVs and more. But these were the devices that truly stood out in terms of innovation, design and pure "wow" factor.
Best Smartphone: Samsung Galaxy Note II
At last year's IFA show, Samsung released its first pen-enabled Android phone in the Galaxy Note. In 2012, the electronics giant kicked it up a notch, unveiling the Galaxy Note II, which features an epic 5.5-inch screen, a quad core processor, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a whopping 3,100-mAH battery.
With the Galaxy Note II, Samsung has perfected the pen, with a new rubberized stylus tip that makes writing on the screen feel more like writing on paper, and a host of new pen-enabled features. Users can preview photos, emails or videos by hovering over them with the stylus, write notes on the back of photos and scribble quick commands that let you open emails or make calls from anywhere in the OS.
Best Windows 8 Hybrid: HP Envy x2
At IFA 2012, we saw a number of Windows 8 tablets with detachable keyboard docks, but HP's Envy x2 stood out from the crowd with its sleek aluminum design, full-size keyboard and touchpad and bright 400-nit display. Throw in support for NFC-enabled sharing and an optional pen for scribbling notes, and you have a hybrid that makes the competition jealous.
Best Notebook: Lenovo IdeaPad S400
Want Ultrabook-like portability without the sticker shock? Take a good look at Lenovo's IdeaPad S400, which weighs less than 5 pounds and sports your choice of three premium soft-touch metal finishes: Crimson Red, Silver Grey and Cotton-Candy Pink.
Starting at $499, this 14-inch laptop comes with your choice of current-gen AMD or Intel processors and up to a 500GB hard drive. Even better than the IdeaPad S400's sleek looks is its highly-tactile keyboard, which makes typing a pleasure.
Best Tablet: Samsung ATIV Tab
One of the first tablets to run Windows RT, Samsung's ATIV Tab features a bright 10-inch screen and an attractive, 1.3-pound chassis with a dark gray bezel and silver back. With a bundled copy of Office Home and Student 2013 and a long-lasting 8,200 mAH battery, this sexy slate will help keep you productive as well as entertained.
Best Peripheral: Genius Gila Mouse
It's not often we get excited by a mouse, but Genius's new input device has lots of stand-out features that separate it from the pack. The $99 Gila has 4 lights that can be customized to show up to 16 million different colors, but it's more than just another pretty pointer. With 12 customizable buttons for your macros and features such as "Sniper Mode," which lowers the DPI for more accurate, slow-motion strafes, the Gila could be your ultimate gaming mouse.
Best Camera: Samsung Galaxy Camera
Every smartphone lets you edit and share photos, but even the best handsets don't provide the kind of image sensors or optical zoom capability you get from a high-end point-and-shoot. Enter Samsung's Galaxy Camera, an upscale camera with 21x optical zoom, a 16MP sensor and a 1.4-GHz quad-core processor that runs Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi or 3G.
In addition to running any app from the Google Play store, the Galaxy Camera has some unique photography features. A Smart Pro mode will pick just the right settings for any environment while a slow-motion video setting captures video at 120 frames per second. You can even control the camera with your voice or use Samsung's Share Shot to automatically distribute your pictures in real-time to eight other devices in your vicinity.
Best Video Camera: Sony HDR-AS15 Wearable Camera
If you're not doing things that would break a normal camera, maybe you need to get out more. And when you do, bring the Sony HDR-AS15 to shoot action videos from your bike helmet, surfboard, ski goggles or parachute harness. The 1080p HD camcorder captures a sweeping 170-degree vista. Once inside its rugged clear-plastic housing, the camcorder is controlled from Sony's Android or iOS app. Look for it in October for about $400.
Best Speaker: Creative D5XM Wireless Speaker
More than just another pretty Bluetooth speaker, the Creative D5XM connects wirelessly not only to mobile gear but also to additional D5XM speakers and a subwoofer. The speakers can either blast the same music from different spots in the house or join into a four-part audio home-theater audio system. Better still, the D5XM calibrates itself for the shape of your room. Look for it in January for about $200.
Best Headphones: Moshi Keramo In-ear Headphones
In the world of audio, where exotic material and exorbitant prices go together, Moshi is bucking the trend. Its Keramo headphones have a ceramic housing to reduce distortion and an asymmetrical shape to limit echoes. Normally those specs are followed by a big price tag. But in October, Moshi will sell the Keramo for about $120 — a pittance considering that competing headphones bump against the $1,000 mark.
Best Accessory: LifeProof Nuud iPad Case
You use your iPad in the living room, read from it in the bedroom and even carry it to the bathroom, so why not take it boating or swimming? With LifeProof's $159 Nuud case around it, your iPad can survive being submerged 6.6 feet deep in water or dropped from more than 4 feet. And because the case doesn't cover your iPad's screen, its picture and touch sensitivity are as good as always.