The IFA 2011 consumer electronics show powers up in Berlin in a matter of days and with it one of the most important dates in the gadgets and technology calendar. If you don’t know what IFA is all about then by all means do yourself some learning but, for the potted version, it’s when the big manufacturers get together in a particularly large and unwieldy exhibition centre to tell the kit-lovers of Europe just what we’ll be finding on the shelves of our favourite outlets come Christmas. It's an EU tech-fest.
While the AV world normally dominates the proceedings, there's a suspicion that this year's event will see more of a maturing of the newer TV technologies - 3D, smart TV - rather than anything wildly groundbreaking. So perhaps time for other categories to take centre stage. Here's the list of what we're expecting to be announced and what we're sure to be grabbing hands-on pictures of for the very first time.
With a whole 6 months plus to wait until the actual annual mobile phone trade show, that is Mobile World Congress, there's simply too vast a handset turnover in this day and age for some manufactures to wait that long. The upshot is that IFA can often be the time that some phones make their debut.
Samsung Galaxy Q
The biggest rumour, practically nailed on with the official teaser trailer, is surrounding Samsung's supposed super-sized smartphone known simply as the Galaxy Q. It’s a 5.3-inch device with a Super AMOLED display and connectivity via 3G WCDMA as well as 4G LTE - just in case a suitable high speed network infrastructure turns up any time soon.
The screen size puts it in that small tablet/massive phone category so far only occupied by the dubiously successful Dell Streak. Whether or not the Q is set to improve upon the Streaks 800x480 screen resolution remains to be seen, but doubtless the prayers are for 720p.
Samsung Galaxy XCover
From the big to the mucky, Samsung has already announced the official on its double-hard handset for 2011 but the first chance the Motorola Defy-defying Samsung Galaxy XCover will have to meet the masses in person is at IFA 2011.
Covered tastefully in this season's shade of bog, the XCover is a Gingerbread phone with modest but acceptable 800MHz processor on board, 3.65-inch HVGA screen and a tasty enough 3.2-megapixel camera with LED flash glued on. It also happens to conform to IP67 break-me-if-you-can standards so that you can drop it, sink it and bury it in dust - to a point. More to the point though, it's the kind of handset that really should last the term of your 2-year contract without falling apart.
White Samsung Galaxy S II
White is the new black, black is the new white but, however you wish to look at it, both belong to the culture of mobile phone colour. The Samsung Galaxy S II has proven to be a hugely successful piece of kit and, just in case Apple was looking to sue the Korean giant on yet another piece of IP infringement, Samsung has decided to produce a second wave of buzz by re-releasing its top mobile in white.
The white SGSII is hitting the shelves on 1 September, so you can bet your bottom SIM card that it'll have pride of place on what is always one of the most impressive stands to behold at IFA. Brace yourself, for photos and descriptions of just how white it really is, in a matter of days.
Samsung Galaxy Y & Y Pro
Yes, Samsung has gone mobile phone mental. Presumably smelling blood with with some impressive market success over the last year, the company has just launched a clutch of Android smarties - all of which we'll be grabbing snaps of at IFA 2011 - starting with this cheeky pair aimed at the youth of today. The Y features 3-inch QVGA (320x240) TFT LCD screens and 832MHz CPU whereas the Pro, as one might expect, comes with a full QWERTY keyboard and consequently a smaller 2.6-inch display.
There's all the usual connectivity: the Social Hub, TouchWiz UI and Swype keyboard software pre-loaded too. In fact, the only compromise is on the camera where you're stuck with a titchy 2 megapixels at your disposal. Well, they had to help the kids save on cash somewhere.
Samsung Galaxy W & M Pro
Now while these next two on the Samsung slate look remarkably similar to the ones above, there are subtle differences on the inside and out. Under the new company smartphone nomenclature - with W standing for Wonder, M for Magical, Pro for keyboard and we think we're going to be sick... - this pair are slightly more advanced from the last.
The Samsung Galaxy W will come with a 1.4GHz Processor, HSDPA 14.4 Mbps connectivity, a 3.7-inch touchscreen and is touted as the little brother of the Samsung Galaxy S II. It runs Gingerbread and has a 5MP camera, a front-facing VGA webcam and everything else you would expect.
Meanwhile the Samsung Galaxy M Pro has keyboard and optical track pad to go along with the touchscreen, which is the same as that on the Y Pro above but with a better HVGA resolution. The processor, however, isn’t quite as magical as the W. It’s 1GHz. A 5-megapixel camera with LED flash, second front-facing camera and HD video playback at 30 fps go towards making up for the loss.
Samsung Galaxy S II - improved version
You know it, you love it, the Samsung Galaxy S II is already a classic, top-selling Android phone, so just to keep it leading the way, Samsung has said it'll be bringing out a version at IFA 2011 with a 50 per cent faster processor - up to a dual-core 1.5GHz unit.
Now, while that was supposed to be the only change, the press release did list the screen to be 0.2 inches longer on the diagonal from 4.3 up to 4.5. It may have been a mistake but we'll be taking along a tape measure for our photos in Berlin to find out.
Samsung Wave 3
Samsung has been promising a higher-end Bada OS Wave device for a while now, and some dirt digging into the teaser trailer for the Samsung Galaxy Q revealed that the launch of the Wave 3 will be at IFA.
Now official, we know the Wave 3 packs a 1.4GHz processor, HSDPA 14.4 connectivity, a 4-inch WVGA Super AMOLED display, 3GB of onboard storage (expandable with microSD), Bluetooth 3.0, Wi-Fi, an accelerometer, a digital compass, a proximity sensor and a 5-megapixel camera with AF and an LED flash. There's also a VGA camera for video calling.
LG Optimus Sol
Proving that anything its neighbour can do, it can do, if not better, then as well; LG looks to have at least one mobile phone trick up its own shirt sleeve in time for IFA 2011 with the LG Optimus Sol. The Sol is another Optimus Android handset to add to the throng, but it neither claims to be the fastest nor the best. Instead, this little devil attempts to solve the age old problem of actually being able to see your mobile phone screen when it's in direct sunlight.
Rather than Super AMOLED technology, the Sol employs Ultra AMOLED technology, of course, which apparently boils down as glass with an advanced reflection rate resulting in lower image degradation by the time it hits your eyes. Expect some shots with lots of halogen bulbs to test out the theory.
Announced just the other day and set for the shops in September, we'd be left agog if we couldn't find the Motorola Fire sitting on the stand of Google's mobile hardware arm at IFA 2011. Rather like the Samsung Galaxy Y Pro above, it's an Android communicator device aimed at the youth market with 2.8-inch QVGA screen, 3-megapixel camera and full QWERTY keyboard complete with easy to thumb knobbly bits as made famous by BlackBerry phones.
At the same time, you'll still find 3G, Wi-Fi, GPS, microSD slot and even an FM radio with RDS support. As for how much all that will cost, we'll have to wait and see.
Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V
There's not a lot we're expecting ahead of IFA from Sony Ericsson, but that doesn't mean that we won't be hit by a string of launches once the show press conferences get underway. In the mean time, all there is to go on is the Sony Ericsson Xperia neo V which is probably one of the most missable handsets around.
It's not that the phone itself is no good. It appears to be fine. It's a 116 x 57 x 13mm phone weighing 126g, it runs Android Gingerbread on a 1GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon MSM8255 processor and spurts it all out via one of Sony's 3.7-inch Reality Displays with Mobile Bravia Engine at a 480x854 resolution. The trouble is, so does the normal Sony Ericsson Xperia neo. So, what does the V add? The answer is some slightly different software tweeks, a touch more USB peripheral compatibility and a less powerful camera from 8 megapixels down to 5.
There were so many tablets announced at the last world tech binge in the shape of January's CES 2011 that we very nearly lost count of them. IFA will most likely see plenty-o-launches in the same field but, so far, the headlines haven't been so prominent here. All the same, there's been a couple of sniftners and this is what they say.
Toshiba Tablet Mk.III
Toshiba has not had a good track record with the tablet market so far. The Japanese company's first two efforts have come and gone without even causing a ripple, let alone a stir. So, with rumours in of a super slim device with possible IFA 2011 launch, is it to be third time lucky for Toshiba?
All we have to go on for the moment are some connections in the shape of HDMI, USB and microSD, the fact that, at last, it runs Android Honeycomb and that word is that there's a dual-core 1.5 GHz OMAP4460 lurking inside the chassis. On the other hand, the whole thing might just be a work of fiction. We'll find out soon.
Sony S1 & S2
Technically, we've seen the Sony S1 and S2 tablets before but, given that the weren't actually working models and that they were stuck behind glass, it wasn't what we might call much of an insight. IFA 2011 will fortunately provide that which has been missing unto now and possible the answer to the question of whether anyone actually wants a tablet shaped like a spectacles case anyway.
Both the S1 and S2 are Android Honeycomb machines with DLNA streaming credentials and a promise to both bring you a tablet in a shape that no one else has to also empty your wallet like none other at the same time too.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9
Ignoring the cosmos eclipsing issue that is the ongoing legal battle between Apple and Samsung, there's no reason to believe why IFA 2011 shouldn't see the launch of the hotly anticipated Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9. Unlike with the company's mobile phones, the nomenclature of its tablet range is a little more straight forward - it's a tablet, of the Android/Galaxy range and its an iPad-matching 8.9 inches on the diagonal.
Interestingly, this time we have already held the thing in our highly judgmental clutches over at the CTIA show in Florida but Samsung has announced some very interesting bumps for an improved version in Berlin with a 1.5GHz processor (up from a 1.2) and LTE technology. We're still waiting for an actual UK launch date for this TouchWiz UX-based Android Honeycomb machine, however.
Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
10.1, 8.9 and now 7.7 - all important numbers for Samsung in the tablet space, it seems. No one was really expecting another 7-incher from the Koreans but, in the same splurge as the Wave 3 above came the promise of another smaller sized device.
There's next to nothing to go on expect that it'll obviously run some sort of version of Android and have a screen that measures 7.7 inches on the diagonal, so we'll have to wait till we get to Berlin for the details, if indeed Apple and the EU courts haven't made sure that there's no Galaxy kit on show there at all.
ViewSonic ViewPad 7e
The 7e is described as "amazing value". That's right - it's a budget tab. But we have confirmed with our ViewSonic contact that it will be running Gingerbread.
It packs a 4:3 aspect ratio, has multitouch support and comes all ready for some ebook reading action with a pre-installed Amazon Kindle app. It will also pack Wi-Fi, Bluetoothand HDMI connectivity.
Out in time for Christmas, the price given at the moment is in euros - 169 of them, in fact - so expect a £150 price-tag in the UK.
It's not all post-PC just yet, so we'd be seriously disappointed not see a few laptops on show in Berlin. Fortunately, there's already been a few hard announcements in the space but whether or not this particular pair will make an appearance at IFA 2011 remains to be seen.
Gaming laptops are all the rage if you're into that sort of thing and, if so, the sort of thing you should be paying close attention to is the Razer Blade - the first laptop from gaming peripheral manufacturer Razer. So called because of its 22mm thick profile, this 17.1-inch, 3.1kg machine comes with an 2.8GHz Intel Core i7 2640M processor, Nvidia GeForce GT 555M featuring Optimus and a 2GB dedicated GDDR5 video memory graphics processor.
Probably more interesting though is a new interface called the Switchblade User Interface that is comprised of 10 dynamic adaptive tactile keys for easier access of in-game commands and an LCD capable of two modes: one mode that displays in-game information when a mouse is in use and another mode that functions as an ultra-sensitive, multi-touch panel designed for gaming on the go.
The Razer Blade isn’t due out till Christmas, so it might not turn up at IFA but fingers crossed it’ll make an appearance even if in early pre-production form.
Samsung Series 7 Gamer
Not content with stealing the show before its even opened as far as tablets and phones are concerned, Samsung sent us over some info on its very own gaming laptop known as the Samsung Series 7 Gamer, funnily enough.
Boasting a hardware spec sheet that would burn through an Excel document faster than a hot knife through butter, it’s powered by an Intel i7 quad core chip, packs an absolute minimum of 8GB of RAM (up to 16GB) and floats an AMD Radeon HD 6970M 2GB GDDR5 graphics card to use as you will.
Visually, you're dealing with Full HD and 3D playback on a 17.3-inch display, and there's also 3D surround sound tech on board too with Dolby Home Theater. Not surprisingly, the Series 7 Gamer doesn't come cheap. It's available now, and prices start from £1,499. You will get some 3D specs in the box though.
Acer Aspire 3951
Having been pretty clear that Acer wasn't going to bother with the ultrabook space, the company boss, Stan Shih, looks to have made quite the u-turn. Looking to rival the MacBook Air, the apparently named Acer Aspire 3951 is just 13mm thick and weighs under 1.4kg.
With an October release, rumours are of a Sandy Bridge Intel chip, a speedy boot up time of 1.7 seconds, a 6-hour battery life, 160GB SSD and also Bluetooth 4.0. Impressive stuff.
IFA isn't normally noted as the top time for companies to chuck out their top optical imaging gadgets what with both the specialist camera trade shows as well as specific events that the major manufacturers often hold. However, that doesn't mean that we won't get to play with a few models here or there that have yet to be seen.
We've already sent one of our roving reporters out to Greece for the launch of the latest wave of increasingly popular Sony cameras but while the Alpha A77 and the NEX-5N were on show, there wasn't a NEX-7 anywhere to be seen which is a shame because the NEX-7 has gotten us a little bit more excited about Sony's NEX range. It appears to bear all the features of the new Alpha cameras but wrapped up in a tiny NEX body.
It uses the same Bionz and Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor found in the new Alpha cameras. All the shutter response times have been retained but the ISO does take slight a drop against the other NEX cameras. On top of all this the NEX-7 has a custom built accessory shoe and improved in-camera flash. Available for £1000 for a body only option or £1100 with a special black 18-55mm lens, the NEX-7 should land in November and hopefully at IFA 2011 for us to get a proper look.
Not much is known about the NX200 aside from that it will continue in the lines of previous NX cameras from Samsung, oh and that it will sport a 20 megapixel APS-C sensor.
Images taken with the camera have started turning up on Samsung fan clubs, presumably by those testing the new model, a mock-up has appeared, and Samsung has even managed to leak a holding page for the camera on its own website. Doh.
The bread and butter of the show has always been the AV side of things, so it's of little surprise that we already know what to expect from at least one manufacturer. Take it as a given that there'll be a whole lot more.
LG E91 & D237IPS
Bezels will soon be hitting the endangered species list after LG teased a couple of its IFA launch displays, indicating that it is going down the Samsung route of bezel-squashing. The E91 and D237IPS models, which will make their official bow at the Berlin show, have bezels measuring juts 4.35mm and are super skinny too at 7.2mm.
The E91 is a 23-inch model, with a 1080p resolution, 16.7 million colours, a 10,000,000:1 contrast ratio and a response time of 5ms. The brightness is 250 nits and the viewing angle is 170/60. The D237IPS halves the contrast ratio, but offers 3D viewing (with a 130/12 viewing angle and 100-nit brightness) and boasts the Flicker Free certificate.
The Amazon Kindle has proved that there's a price point at which tablets and eBook readers can co-exist, at least when there's no HP TouchPad firesale. We're not expecting to see the online retail giant at IFA 2011 but their biggest competitor will definitely be on the case.
Sony Reader PRS-T1
It's not just Sony tablets that we're expecting to crash land at IFA. The follow up to the Sony Reader PRS-650 has been leaked online, the Sony Reader PRS-T1. The T1 improves upon the original by adding Wi-Fi, a microSD slot, 2GB of on-board storage and multitouch support. There's also a stylus option for note-taking on the 6-inch E-Ink Pearl display and you can do a bit of surfing too - Google and Wikipedia are on board, along with 12 built-in dictionaries.
Weighing in at just 168g, the T1 is a much more slimline option than the 650 as well. Nothing official from Sony yet bu the T1 was leaked by a Dutch e-retailer. So, with IFA 2011 around the corner, we shouldn't have too long to wait. And who knows, the much touted Sony Android eBook reader might make a Berlin appearance too.