The phones, tablets, and smartwatches of IFA 2014

The big electronics show in Berlin is a smorgasbord of gadgets. Here are some of the highlights.

ifa 2014
Credit: Florence Ion
Welcome to Berlin

We were not expecting IFA to turn into a fanfare of new devices, but lucky for you trigger-happy, tech-loving consumers, you’ll soon have a large spectrum of new gadgets to choose from.

Here’s a quick run through of all the devices we went hands-on with at IFA, including smartwatches, smartphones, and tablets. We’ve also included some newly announced devices we missed at the beginning of the conference, so you don’t feel like you missed out on the event.

sony watches
Sony SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk

The Sony SmartWatch 3 and SmartBand Talk are two very different wearables. The SmartBand Talk is meant for the fitness enthusiast, while the other is simply the company’s rushed effort to be a part of the Android Wear scene.

I liked the SmartBand Talk because it reminded me of a FitBit with a little more functionality,and I could snap my fingers and it would perform a function. The SmartWatch 3, on the other hand, was seriously underwhelming.

xperia z3 and xperia z3 compact
Sony Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact

Sony’s new flagship phones are definitely worth paying attention to in the upcoming quarter, especially since they have finally been freed from T-Mobile’s exclusive clutches. Its curved, metal-trimmed edges are super sleek, its 20.7-megapixel camera is top-notch, and its speaker capabilities might even be better than the HTC One (M8)’s. I blasted a Ke$ha song (hush now!) while I was on the show floor and I was impressed at how well I could hear the song despite all the commotion around me. 

Oh, and they're the first phones to work as a remote display for your PS4 via the Remote Play feature.

I am worried about one thing, however: the demo phone I tried out got really hot while it was playing music. It’s a phone covered in glass, so when it gets hot, it’s almost too uncomfortable to hold. 

sony z3 tablet compact
Credit: Florence Ion
Sony Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

This tablet was love at first sight. It’s simply a beautiful Android device, and one of the thinnest I’ve ever held. Its 8-inch display also means it’s the perfect size for Android users who want a capable piece of hardware they can still hold with one hand. 

I also tested out the speakers on this particular device and they sounded great, even in the loud convention hall. The Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact also comes with Intelligent Noise Reduction. I put on a pair of earbuds to try it out, and while it didn’t have the same noise canceling effect as, say, a pair of Bose over-the-ear headphones, I could barely here the loud TV in the booth that was blaring above me. I also appreciate that Sony made its tablet with audio quality in mind, because watching Beverly Hills, 90210 on my second-gen Nexus 7 is an underwhelming experience. And like the Xperia Z3 phones, this tablet will also support PS4 Remote Play.

samsung galaxy tab active ifa
Credit: Florence Ion
Samsung Galaxy Tablet Active

Samsung sprung this tablet on us out of nowhere. It’s essentially a blown-up version of the companion Galaxy S5 Active phone, and despite the common software and its internal hardware, it’s nothing like the rest of the Galaxy Tab family.

For starters, it’s much heavier, and definitely not the kind of tablet you want if you aim to just watch TV shows around the house. It’s also really bulky, and doesn’t strike me as something that would actually be comfortable lugging around in a bag. I could see this being a worthy buy for someone who camps often or works outdoors in a rough environment, but this is definitely a niche product for a narrow subset of tablet users. 

samsung galaxy edge
Credit: Florence Ion
Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Speaking of niche products, both the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note Edge made their debut on the first day of IFA. The Note 4 looks and feels like a solid piece of hardware, while the Note Edge feels a little ahead of its time, with an OLED display that is bent sharply along the right edge. If you want to try something new, and still want all the capabilities of the phablet-sized Note 4, the Edge could end up being an interesting smartphone experience. 

gear s
Credit: Florence Ion
Samsung Gear S

Yes, we have a few more Samsung products to get through here. The Gear S is essentially a computerized cuff you wear on your wrist. It’s big, bulky, and powered by Tizen. You can kind of use it as a standalone phone, but then you also kind of can’t? We’ll get more details once the carriers start announcing specific plans for the device. Oh, and you can get it bedazzled too if you want to spring for the Swarovski version.

Asus Zenwatch
Credit: Florence Ion
Asus Zenwatch

The Asus ZenWatch is a seriously good looking smartwatch, and it doesn’t cost too much. For a first generation Android Wear product it’s not bad at all, and that leather band with works for both men and women who want to be a part of the wearables trend. 

lg g watch r
Credit: Florence Ion
LG G Watch R

Last, but certainly not least, is the LG G Watch R. It’s the watch we wished LG had launched when Android Wear made its debut. The watch face is made of steel and aluminum and features markings that make it indistinguishable from a TAG Hueur from afar. Its band is pure leather, too, and much more comfortable than some of the other smartwatches coming this fall. If only it weren’t so manly-looking.