Expert Reviews - Best of MWC 2014 - Award Winners
The best of the best from the Mobile World Congress 2014 show in Barcelona
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MWC 2014 has been a brilliant show, with plenty of exciting new smartphones, tablets and technologies on display. To celebrate what was on display, we've given out our annual Best of MWC awards.
The winners include handsets that will sell by the bucketload over the next 12 months, technologies that will power the next generation of mobile devices, and the odd left-field entry that might just change how we use our devices in future.
So, without further ado, here are our Best of MWC 2014 award winners.
Samsung Galaxy S5
The S5 was probably the most highly-anticipated smartphone at CES, and was certainly launched with the biggest fanfare, but we're happy to say it doesn't disappoint. Much has been made of the phone's fingerprint scanner and heart rate monitor, but the reason the S5 has won this year's Best Smartphone award is due to it just being an amazing Android handset. The screen is astonishingly good, and the phone is streets ahead of the competition for performance. We can't wait to get one in for a full review.
Samsung Galaxy S5 review - hands on
Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet
With the Z2 Tablet, Sony has taken last year's most desirable Android tablet, the Tablet Z, and made it even better. The Z2 is thinner, at just 6.4mm, and at 426g is even lighter than an iPad Air. The audio jack is now water sealed, so there's no fussing about with a fiddly cover, either. The speakers have also been relocated from the sides of the tablet to the front for better audio, making the Z2 great for watching video.
The tablet also has the very latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, so has serious performance, too. The Z2 Tablet brings a number of useful refinements to an already excellent tablet, so wins our Best Tablet award.
Sony Xperia Tablet Z2 review - hands on
Qualcomm Ultra Sound NotePad
Qualcomm was demonstrating its Snapdragon 805 system-on-chip (SOC) at MWC, and one way in which it showed the new chip's power was through its fascinating Ultra Sound NotePad technology.
This uses seven microphones built into a tablet, and a special stylus that emits ultrasonic frequencies higher than those that would bother you or your pets. The combination of emitter and receiver means the tablet can tell where the stylus is and how it is moving, so it will transcribe notes you make on a sheet of paper to the tablet, for example.
The system can also be used as a substitute for a touchscreen, as the microphones can tell where the stylus is in the 3D space in front of the tablet. This could lead to cheaper tablets, as manufacturers could make a model with a standard LCD display, without the complexity and expense of a capacitive touchscreen digitiser. It's a fascinating technology, which is a deserved winner of our Best Innovation award.
Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 review - hands on
Best of MWC award winners
We have also picked five other winners that impressed us at this year's show:
Next-gen YotaPhone - The new YotaPhone stands out among the many other handsets on show at MWC. The innovative device has both front and rear displays, with a Full HD AMOLED screen on the front, and a high-contrast, low-power e-ink display on the rear. This new version also has a powerful specification with a Snapdragon 800 chipset - we can't wait for it to come to the UK.
AMD Nano – AMD was showing off its new "Mullins" tablet processors at MWC, which showed impressive 3D performance while drawing minimal power. As well as putting the processor in a prototype tablet, though, AMD had also made a prototype "Nano" mini PC. This is even smaller than the mini PCs we've seen recenty such as the Intel NUC, and is around the same size as a slimmed-down phablet. We love mini PCs, as they're perfect for plugging into your TV to act as a media centre or to play casual games, so we'd love to see one this tiny. Hopefully AMD will be able to find an OEM partner to make the Nano, or something very like it, soon.
Samsung Gear Fit – There was an abundance of wearable tech at MWC this year, but we think Samsung's Gear Fit was the most impressive. This slim band is a smartwatch and fitness tracker in one, which will wrap unobtrusively round your wrist while measuring your heart rate, keeping you up to date with incoming calls, messages and notifications, and letting you control your phone's functions from your wrist with its super-bright and clear curved AMOLED screen. It's the first smart accessory we've really wanted to wear.
Intel Merrifield – The smartphone processor market may be dominated by ARM-based designs, but that doesn't mean you should discount Intel. We've been impressed by its smartphone processors in the past in phones such as the Motorola RAZR i, and the new Merrifield chips look to be just as impressive.
The dual-core model we tried ran Android 4.4 incredibly smoothly, and was even capable of silky-smooth 1080p 3D gaming on an external screen. If previous Intel smartphone chips are anything to go by, it should be easy on your phone's battery, too. We can't wait to get our hands on a phone with the new chip to see how it stacks up against the latest SOCs from ARM and Qualcomm.
Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ - The gorgeous Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet may have walked away with the Best Tablet award, but the Lenovo Yoga Tablet 10 HD+ is a very close second. It's a huge improvement on last year's Yoga Tablet 10, with a new Full HD display which neatly addresses our major criticism of the original tablet. The new panel makes text beautifully clear, and the screen's improved viewing angles make it easier to use the built-in stand to find a comfortable viewing angle. The tablet should also be reasonably cheap when it arrives in the UK, too, so has a chance of being one of our new favourites.
Congratulations to all our winners. We look forward to bringing you further coverage and reviews of all these fantastic new devices throughout the coming year.