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Expert Reviews – Best of IFA 2015 winners

We pick our winners from IFA 2015 - all the gadgets that truly impressed us at Berlin's biggest technology show

IFA is one of the biggest consumer technology shows on the planet, with major manufacturers from all over the world turning up to Berlin’s Messe to reveal their latest products just in time for the Christmas season. There were more new devices on display this year than ever before, which made it a tough decision to pick our Best in Show winners. After a lot of deliberation, we can now reveal the products we think were deserving of an award.

Best Smartphone: Sony Xperia Z5

Traditionally, IFA isn’t a show that has a big focus on smartphones, but that doesn’t stop Sony from trotting out a new Xperia flagship every year. At first glance, the Xperia Z5 is very similar to the Xperia Z3+, Sony’s latest premium handset which launched this summer. It has the same 5.2in Full HD screen and Snapdragon 810 chip as its months-old predecessor, but what makes this handset stand out from the rest of the Z family is Sony’s brand-new super-slim fingerprint sensor, which is built straight into the power button on the side of the phone, and all new camera module. 

Sony Xperia Z5 hands on display

We’re also big fans of the Z5’s new frosted glass design, as it effectively eliminates Sony’s age-old problem of slippery glass backs while still maintaining its classy, minimalist look. Of course, the fact that it’s launching this late in the year means it’s got a tough road ahead of it, especially if it’s going to compete with this year’s top handsets as well as next year’s early high-end contenders, but we certainly like what we’ve seen so far. 

Read our full Sony Xperia Z5 hands-on review 

Best wearable: Samsung Gear S2

There were plenty of smartwatches on show at this year’s IFA, with TomTom and Alcatel focusing on sport and fitness, Motorola updating the Moto 360 with a second generation model, and Philips aiming at the growing health technology sector. However, there was one clear highlight: Samsung’s beautiful Gear S2. The company’s previous wearable efforts weren’t exactly the epitome of style, but the Gear S2 absolutely nails the sleek, modern look that you would be happy to display on your wrist.

It wasn’t just the Gear S2’s looks that won us over, either. Samsung’s Tizen operating system was redesigned from the ground up to suit the circular display and rotating bezel, which makes navigating through menus and interacting with apps incredibly straightforward. It’s the first smartwatch we’ve seen that can give Apple a run for its money in the design stakes, and it might have the edge in terms of usability too. We can’t wait to get one and give it a full review.

Read our full Samsung Gear S2 and Gear S2 Classic hands-on reviews 

Best Tablet: Lenovo Miix 700

Lenovo has brazenly ‘borrowed’ almost all the design elements from Microsoft’s Surface for its Windows 10 tablet, including the detachable keyboard cover and integrated kickstand. However, Lenovo’s IdeaPad Miix 700 could be a great budget alternative to Microsoft’s high-end slate, as current prices are set to start from just $699 when it launches later this month. 

Lenovo IdeaPad Miix 700 hands on

With a 12in 2,160×1,440 resolution display and one of Intel’s Skylake-based Core M processors on board, the IdeaPad Miix 700 has a formidable specification for a Windows 10 tablet, and its rear RealSense 3D camera and watchband hinge add a touch of class to its design. 

Read our full Lenovo Miix 700 hands-on review 

Best TV: Philips Ambilux

IFA is traditionally a very TV-heavy technology show. For the past few years, the industry has been focused on high dynamic range (HDR) and 4K, and this year was no different. While we applaud Panasonic for returning to OLED development and were impressed by the clarity of both Samsung and LG’s HDR-compatible TVs, our best of show has to go to Philips for its incredible Ambilux television. When every other manufacturer is essentially doing the same thing, it’s great to see something genuinely different.

Ambilux is the next step up from the existing Ambilight ambient backlighting technology Philips has been using in its TVs for years, only this time the LEDs have been swapped for tiny projectors that expand what’s onscreen out onto the wall behind the TV. It works brilliantly in games and with sports, making you feel like the action is exploding out of the screen and into the room.

Read our full Philips Ambilux TV hands-on review 

Best Laptop: Toshiba Satellite Radius 12

With back to school season just around the corner, laptops always get plenty of attention at IFA. Throw in the fact that Intel used the show to officially reveal its 6th generation Core processor line-up for mobile devices, and there was a huge selection of models to choose from. The highlight was definitely Toshiba’s Satellite Radius 12. You might not normally associate the brand with premium design and top-end performance, but the Radius 12 delivers both in spades.

The stunning 4K resolution display should make it ideal for photo editing or multimedia playback when on the move, and the Skylake CPU is energy efficient enough that you should be able to make it home and still have charge left too. The hinge design that lets you use it as a laptop, tablet, and everything in between, and the metal construction is the icing on the cake.

Read our full Toshiba Satellite Radius 12 hands-on review 

Best PC: Acer Revo Build

Mini PCs are growing in popularity, but still lack performance power compared to traditional desktops. Acer is hoping to change that with the modular Revo Build, a tiny system that you can upgrade with additional parts – including a graphics module for gaming. It’s an evolution of the original Revo One, a tiny system we loved for its ability to hold multiple hard disks. There might not be space to add extra 2.5in disks this time around, but that’s because the stacking design lets you add on as many extra disks as you like.

Acer Revo Build 1

The connectivity module and wireless charging module (which also doubles as a portable battery pack for recharging your smartphone on the move) are both great additions, but it’s the graphics module we’re most excited about. With an AMD GPU at the bottom of the stack, this could easily be one of the most powerful mini PCs around when it comes to gaming.

Read our full Acer Revo Build hands-on review

Best connected home: Samsung SmartThings

The connected home has been steadily picking up traction over the past few years, but 2015 felt like the first time intelligent sensors, home automation and smartphone controls were becoming genuinely mainstream. Samsung’s SmartThings was the most high-profile system on show at IFA, and with good reason; it’s a comprehensive all-in-one package that can be hooked into existing smart home technologies – as well as forthcoming ones.

With five different sensors included in the box, along with a Hub that plays nicely with Zigbee, Z-wave and other connected home wireless protocols, SmartThings should be the ideal starting point for anyone looking to turn their house into a smart one. The simple smartphone app and straightforward setup should have your lights turning on when you enter the front door in no time.

Read our full Samsung SmartThings hands-on review

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