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IFA 2016 review – PCR-online.biz

IFA is Europe s largest consumer electronics trade show and it s always a way of gauging the state of the tech industry. Jonathan Easton takes a look at the highlights from and picks out some of the trends that emerged.


Between 2-7 of September, the eyes of the tech world turned to Berlin s ExpoCenter for Europe s largest consumer electronics trade show, IFA. There were a whole host of new gadgets shown off but also a few trends which were unavoidable throughout the show. Advertisement

Firstly, as unavoidable in 2016 as a bicycle in Berlin, was all of the smart technology. From a 1,000-plus Laurastar connected iron (literally, the thing you use for uncrumpling your shirts), to a raging war between LG and Samsung to see who can make the smartest fridge, nothing is safe from being absorbed into the internet of things (IoT). There was even a smart thermostat in case you don t want to physically touch your radiator.

The amount of IoT devices on display at this year s IFA shows that this is a trend that isn t going away anytime soon. With connected devices becoming more and more vital to the tech industry, it seems inevitable that coming trade shows such as January s CES in Las Vegas will see more household objects endowed with smart technology. While the internet of things was shown off to the fullest at the show, that was nothing compared with the slew of wearables presented at this year s IFA. Almost as if they knew what Apple had up its sleeve, the likes of Samsung, Asus and Withings all showed off their latest, distinctly analogue-looking, smartwatches. With a lot of devices taking a particularly bold look at this year s IFA, it was refreshing to see more subtle and moderate design. Turns out space-age tech doesn t have to look like something from The Jetsons.

Speaking of loud design, Acer revealed the outrageous and audacious Predator 21X gaming notebook. This laptop has a 21 inch curved screen (a first for a notebook), dual Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics cards, two power supplies, five fans and a mechanical keyboard all wrapped up into an 8kg package that ll cost around 3,800. Acer s unwaveringly daring notebook seems to have stolen the show with outlets including PC Advisor and Trusted Reviews, echoing those sentiments. The resounding take away is that, to quote TrustedReviews, it s mad, but that doesn t mean we don t want one .

Amongst the optimism surrounding all the new gear on display, there was a bit of pessimistic shade hovering over ASUS who mostly asides for their stellar looking ZenWatch 3 rehashed everything from June s Computex. To round things off, the show also saw lots of different vendors make their first entries into the VR space at varying price points. VR has thus far been dominated by high-cost devices (HTC Vive, Oculus Rift) and low-end, mobile options (Samsung Gear VR, Google Cardboard). At IFA, however, we saw a few companies trying to approach something of a middle ground between the two.

Qualcomm s phone, computer and wireless VR headset platform will be licenced to manufacturing partners so they can create their own affordable devices. Similarly, Alcatel revealed the Vision which is a similar headset without wires and a significantly cheaper price point than the Rift and Vive. IFA is always a good way of gauging the current state of tech. This year saw evolution rather than revolution with concepts being tweaked instead of game-changing technologies being introduced. Attention now turns to Las Vegas for CES in January.

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Logitech K380 Multi-Device Bluetooth Keyboard

People tend to have several devices — a laptop, a phone and maybe a tablet — which is why Logitech keeps putting out “multidevice” Bluetooth keyboards. The company’s newest model, the K3801, which I’m using to type this, costs £40, 35 or AU£70 and is one of the best compact full-size wireless keyboards Logitech has created to date. The first thing you notice about it is that it has a little bit of heft to it — it weighs 14.92 ounces (423 g) with batteries — which makes it suitable for use with a desktop computer, though it’s still light and compact enough to fit into a bag and take on the go. Measuring 4.9 inches (124 mm) high, 10.9 inches (279 mm) wide, and 0.6 inches (16mm) deep (including feet). It comes in two colors — dark gray or blue; I prefer the latter. You can set it up to pair with three different devices and press one of the numbered “Easy-Switch” buttons in the top left corner of the keyboard to toggle between them. Pairing went smoothly with my test devices — an iPhone 5S2 , iPhone 63 , Samsung Galaxy S64 , iPad Air5 , MacBook Air6 , Dell laptop and an Asus Chromebook7 .

The K380 comes in two colors. Sarah Tew/CNET

The keyboard can distinguish between Mac and Windows machines as well as Android and iOS devices and map keys to supported functions and shortcuts. It also supports connectivity with Chrome OS devices and Apple TV8 .

I liked the feel of the keys and they’re spread out enough to keep mistypes down to a minimum. Some people don’t like round keys (as opposed to square), but I didn’t have a problem with their shape. For those with very large hands, the keys may be cramped, but for those with average-sized and smaller hands should feel comfortable typing on the keyboard.

References

  1. ^ K380 (www.logitech.com)
  2. ^ iPhone 5S (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ iPhone 6 (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ Samsung Galaxy S6 (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ iPad Air (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ MacBook Air (www.cnet.com)
  7. ^ Asus Chromebook (www.cnet.com)
  8. ^ Apple TV (www.cnet.com)

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HP Spectre x2 (12-a001dx)

HP’s upscale-feeling Spectre x2 is a hybrid that isn’t afraid to go against the popular wisdom. That’s an admirable quality in some areas, less so in others. Most of the hybrid PCs we see these days — computers that shift between laptop and tablet1 configurations by flipping, folding or detaching — have settled into the fold-back style popularized by Lenovo’s Yoga line2. These systems, including HP’s own x360 series3, have 360-degree hinges that allow the system’s screen to fold all the way back into a table mode. But that’s not the only game in town, especially if you’re looking for something a bit on the slimmer side, or something that feels more like a tablet and less like a laptop, without going full iPad Pro4. For you, the pull-apart hybrid is what you’re looking for, taking a glass-covered slate-style tablet and adding a keyboard cover and kickstand to create an ersatz laptop.

HP Spectre X2 (12-a001dx)

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The HP Spectre x2, which is clearly a close cousin of the Surface Pro, starts at £799 ( 799 or AU£1,699).

Sarah Tew/CNET

That idea has been around for years but has really been popularized by the Microsoft Surface5 line, which continues to refine and improve itself year after year. But the latest Surface Pro 46, from late in 2015, isn’t the only pull-apart hybrid worth looking at. The SP4 is expensive, starting at £899 in the US for the tablet itself ( 749 or AU£1,349), and going up from there. Even the lowest-cost model requires an extra £130 investment ( 109 or AU£199) in a keyboard cover, which is a must-have accessory for even minimal typing. In contrast, the HP Spectre x2, which is clearly a close cousin of the Surface Pro, starts at £799 ( 799 or AU£1,699), and includes its very good keyboard cover in that price. It also embraces features such as built-in mobile broadband (which requires a separate subscription), handy USB Type-C ports, Intel’s RealSense 3D camera and second-generation Intel Core M processors, which may be a better price/performance choice than the mainstream Core i3/i5/i7 chips in the Surface and other hybrids. The Spectre x2 we tested is a more expensive model, with the faster Intel Core m7 CPU, a big 256GB SSD and 8GM of RAM for £1,149 in the US ( 999 or AU£2,299) — but keep in mind, that also includes the keyboard cover, something not included with even the most expensive Surface Pro model.

HP Spectre X2 (12-a001dx)

HP Spectre X2 (12-a001dx)

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The HP Spectre x2 includes a keyboard cover, unlike the Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Some of the ideas here feel fresher than the Surface Pro line, and once you get it set up on your desk, it feels flexible and functional. But, like the Surface, it’s still not as lap-friendly as an actual laptop, and the kickstand here, a U-shaped model on a spring-loaded hinge, thoroughly mystified every single person who tried it in the CNET Labs, thanks to an unforgivingly stiff release button tucked away on the left edge. The Surface also has faster processor choices, higher resolution (with brighter) screens and includes an excellent active stylus, an accessory sold separately here. To shave some bucks off a Surface Pro, or for easy to use mobile broadband (if you don’t mind Verizon’s service), this is an excellent tablet-first hybrid. A few design quirks keep it from being a clear winner over Microsoft’s slightly better-conceived-overall Surface line.

HP Spectre x2

Price as reviewed £1,149 Display size/resolution 12-inch, 1,920 x 1,280 touchscreen PC CPU 1.2GHz Intel Core m7-6Y75 PC Memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz Graphics Intel HD Graphics 515 Storage 256GB SSD Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0 Operating system Micorsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

Design and features

Like other pull-apart hybrids, the HP x2 is comprised of two distinct halves. The top part is the slate-style tablet, which contains the display and also the internal components, including the motherboard, CPU, RAM and storage. It has the same glass slate look as an iPad, Surface Pro or any other modern tablet, with a glossy top surface, buttons and ports along the outer edges along with a wide black bezel surrounding the display. Its footprint is slightly larger than the Surface Pro 4’s, but they’re overall very similar.

HP Spectre X2 (12-a001dx)

HP Spectre X2 (12-a001dx)

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The Surface Pro 4 next to the Spectre x2.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The outer edges are a little busier than on the Surface Pro 4, with protruding buttons for volume, power and the kickstand release, plus two USB-C ports and covered slots for microSD and SIM cards (which will require a pin or paper clip to open). The bottom edge has a strip of magnetic connection points which bind to the included keyboard dock. It’s a strong connection, so the two halves snap together effortlessly and stay firmly connected. Unlike the soft, textile-like keyboard cover of the Surface Pro 4, the keyboard here has a metal surface on the keys, wrist rest and keyboard tray. The back of the cover, the part against your knees or tabletop, or that’s exposed in a shoulder bag, has a soft felt-like coating. The end effect is a keyboard that feels stiffer and more substantial than the Microsoft version. Aside from that, the two keyboards are remarkably similar in terms of key size and layout, and the size of the touchpad. The HP version also includes some extra (small) speakers that kick in when the two parts are connected. Like other new HP systems, the speakers carry Bang & Olufsen branding, which basically means the audio company listened to and signed off on the system’s speakers, but didn’t actually build or design them.

References

  1. ^ tablet (www.cnet.com)
  2. ^ Lenovo’s Yoga line (www.cnet.com)
  3. ^ x360 series (www.cnet.com)
  4. ^ iPad Pro (www.cnet.com)
  5. ^ Microsoft Surface (www.cnet.com)
  6. ^ Surface Pro 4 (www.cnet.com)

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