Every year, the world’s electronics companies take over the epic Messe Berlin complex for IFA, filling it with the best of the year’s tech, as well as lots of brand new products announced at the show.
And every year, T3 goes deep into the aisles of new TVs, phones, smart home tech, gaming gear and kitchen gadgets, trying to find the very best stuff you need to know about.
Once we had a chance to take it all in (and there’s a lot to take in), we chose the most innovative and exciting tech – new stuff that was announced or launched at this year’s show – and handed out our Best of IFA 2018 Awards. Read on for this year’s winners.
Best phone: Honor Play
With its flagship-grade benchmark scores and speed, spacious 6.3-inch FHD+ screen, and dedicated gamer-centered hardware and software, the Honor Play is a crazy attractive proposition.
Thanks to GPU Turbo running even the most graphically impressive mobile games is a no-compromise situation, while the Honor Play’s 7.1 Channel Histen audio, and 4D gaming, scenario-based shocks add a level of immersion not found on other handsets.
Best audio: B&O Beosound Edge
Nobody does statement speakers like B&O, and though the circle design of the Edge is one of the company’s simpler designs on the surface, it’s packed with little touches, and powerful audio tech, of course.
You can mount it on a wall, sticking out like a shop sign, or sit it on its edge on a table or the floor. This is what you’ll be tempted to do most, because of the way it makes the most of the round shape: you can turn the volume up and down by rolling it gently.
Yes, it’s basically its own huge volume dial (though you only need to turn it a small way, not bowl it across the room). It sounds fantastic, too, of course, featuring twin tweeters, twin mid-range drivers, and a big 10-inch woofer for bass. It’s the kind of speaker we love the most: design icon, innovative tech creation, and superb sound.
Best TV: Philips OLED903
We were already big fans of Philips’ 4K OLED TVs, and with this year’s new version bringing better picture quality as well as astonshing home cinema audio, it’s onto a winner.
For a start, a new brighter panel makes even more out of HDR images, while the rich blacks that OLED is known for look even better thanks to a new anti-reflective coating, so you get a better view even when you’re not locked in a pitch-black room. The new processing is incredible too, giving non-HDR video a vibrancy that comes close to matching true HDR footage.
The final fantastic touch, though, is the new speaker system designed with audio legends Bowers & Wilkins. Four front-facing drivers produce the kind of audio we’ve only heard before from serious dedicated soundbars. Throw in Ambilight tech for extra immersion, and you’ve got maybe the most exciting and competitive TV package of the year.
If you wanted to buy a TV right now, and you wanted it to be one that was announced at IFA, the Philips OLED903 is the TV we’d tell you to buy.
Best Small Appliance: Tado Smart Thermostat V3+
Though we think of thermostats as just being a way to control temperature, their place in the centre of the home means they can do more than that. Really, the aim of a thermostat is to keep you comfortable, and Tado is embracing that with one especially clever new feature in its third-gen thermostat.
One of the big focuses in tech right now is air quality, and the new Air Comfort Skill in Tado v3 makes it easy to ensure you’re breathing healthier air – and it doesn’t require paying loads for even more tech. The unit analyses your house, and gets information about the air quality outside, and advises you when do something as simple as opening the windows to let fresher air circulate. But it’s clever enough to know when the air outside will be heavy on pollution or pollen, and will adapt for that.
The upgraded smart thermostat sees the Tado app getting an update, too, which allows users to activate the Skills they would like to use and then tweak them via the app. Skills include the new Air Comfort Skill as well as Geofencing, Weather Adaptation, Open Window Detection, Smart Schedules, and Insightful Reports.
Seeing products use the extra smarts they’re already built with to make our lives that little bit better is exactly what T3 loves.
Best Large Appliance: Sharp 1-Touch Pro Series
Sharp’s new super-clever range includes a washing machine and dishwasher that you can operate with, as the name implies, a single touch. You don’t need to fiddle around with settings because the sensors can detect what kind of loads you’ve put in, and choose the correct program automatically.
In the case of the washing machine, it detects textile type and weight, overall load size, and the intensity of wash needed. The idea is that it can help you avoid any accidental shrinkage from a settings mistake, and can run really efficient cycles. It’s a similar story with the dishwasher: it works out whether you need shiny glasses or to blast cookware, and adjusts.
We love this range not so much for the seconds you save choosing a setting manually, but that it takes one more decision off your plate, and makes it easy to get cleaning right, no matter how tired or rushed you are.
Innovation Award: Kirin 980
Huawei took to the stage at IFA to announce the world’s first 7nm system on a chip, the Kirin 980, and it’s really fast. The new chip delivers hugely improved performance and power efficiency over the Kirin 970. It smokes Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845 chip, too, which powers the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Samsung Note 9.
A faster phone with longer battery life is something that everyone wants but there’s something else that the Kirin 980 is paving the way for, and that’s 5G phones – the Kirin has a 4.5G modem as part of the chip, but it can also be paired with a separate 5G modem chip to deliver speeds which will make 3G look like dial-up.
Expect Qualcomm to follow up with a 7nm 5G-enabled chip of its own soon and then for a raft of 5G phones to be announced – and that could happen as soon as Mobile World Congress in February 2019.
Huawei said in a press briefing at IFA that building the Kirin 908 was “the biggest engineering challenge we have ever met”. We’re excited to see how smartphone tech develops as a result of its availability.
Best in Show: Samsung Q900R 8K TV
This year’s showstopper was easily Samsung’s 8K TV range (they go from 65 inches to 85 inches). They weren’t the only 8K TVs shown off at IFA, but Samsung is doing something no one else is: actually making models you can buy. It’s also packing some cutting-edge TV tech in to make the most of the 7680×4320-pixel QLED panel.
In particular the peak brightness of 4,000 nits is astonishingly high, and in combination with the advanced local dimming system that lets pixels go truly dark when they need to show black, it can show incredible HDR images, too.
There are still some unknowns – it will go on-sale in mid-October, but no price has been revealed so far – but it thoroughly deserves our Best in Show award for being the product that pushed spectacular 8K images from being an intriguing concept to a reality that’s coming sooner than anyone thought.
Congratulations to all the winners!