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Digital Trends Top Tech of IFA 2015 Award Winners

Over the last few years, Berlin’s annual IFA trade show has mushroomed from a Euro-centric blip on the tech radar to an international, can’t-miss tech extravaganza. Each year it seems to get bigger, and in 2015, it lived up to the hype. With tens of thousands in attendance, and more than 25 halls packed with the latest gadgetry, IFA is a sight to behold. And behold it we have!

Digital Trends’s team of 10 writers and editors in Berlin spent the last three days slaving over hot laptops and attending more press conferences than we care to admit. After taking it all in, we’re celebrating the absolute best products and technologies showcased in Berlin this week.

Below are our picks for the best audio, video, mobile, computing, wearable, fitness, smart home, and home appliance tech, as well as our favorite product to grace the halls of the Messedamm in Berlin.

We’ll continue to report and see new devices all Labor Day weekend, so be sure to bookmark our IFA 2015 page for all the latest features, news, and hands-on coverage from the show.

Best of Show
Panasonic CZ950 OLED 4K

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After abandoning its iconic plasma TVs, Panasonic seemed to be losing steam until it came raging back at IFA 2015 with this 4K UHD OLED. What makes its new TV so special is the processing under the hood. Panasonic’s Studio Master Drive technology has always delivered outstanding picture quality, but its implementation in this new OLED TV unleashes the tech’s true potential.

Ask anyone who saw the CZ950 at IFA 2015, and they’ll probably tell you it is the most gorgeous TV they’ve ever seen. And it’s not just the picture quality, either. The TV’s design is sleek and modern … even the back of the panel is sexy, shrouded in luxurious alcantara fabric.

But there’s another reason the CZ950 walks away with our Best in Show award: Panasonic’s entry into the OLED market will hasten the pace at which OLED TVs become mainstream. With Panasonic’s strong brand recognition and premium product entering the mix, more capital will go toward improving OLED manufacturing processes, and growing competition in the OLED space will ultimately mean a more affordable product.

It’s safe to say that the LCD panel’s days are surely numbered. It may be a while before OLED takes over entirely, but it looks more certain than ever that it will, and Panasonic has everything to do with that. We call that a true game changer.

– Caleb Denison, A/V Editor

Yamaha YSP-5600

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Don’t confuse Yamaha’s sound projectors with a sound bar. A product of years of development and brilliant engineering, Yamaha’s sound projectors manage to deliver convincing surround sound from a singular package placed just below a television — and the YSP-5600 is the best one yet.

The new hotness in surround sound is Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, both of which add a new dimension to surround effects – literally – by placing sound objects above the listener. The problem is, the only way to get these effects from a standard 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system is to add more speakers. For those who can’t strew speakers all over their room, the YSP-5600 delivers engaging, thrilling surround sound using a blend of tricky sound processing and good old-fashioned acoustic theory. By bouncing sound off of walls and back at the listener, Yamaha’s sound projectors deliver something ordinary sound bars can’t.

Bringing Dolby Atmos into the living rooms of those who will never own full-blown home theater systems is an impressive feat.

– Caleb Denison, A/V Editor

Samsung UBD-K8500 4K UHD Blu-ray player

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Industry insiders knew 4K UHD Blu-ray players were coming soon, but Samsung is the first company to show one, and its coming in early 2016. Finally, someone is answering the question that has been asked since 4K UHD TVs were first introduced: Where’s the 4K content?

With its UBD-K8500 (the model number may change) Samsung will allow 4K UHD TV owners to finally enjoy the very best picture quality their TVs can produce -– and we’re not just talking about higher resolution; we’re talking about more color expression and high dynamic range (HDR), the likes of which can’t be matched by any modern streaming service. With backing by major movie studios, the flow of 4K content will soon transform from a trickle to a roar.

– Caleb Denison, A/V Editor

Samsung Gear S2

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We absolutely love the Gear S2, and if we’re being honest, there was some talk of it being our DT pick for best of show.

Samsung is known for making great products, but rarely does it push an entire category of devices to a new level. Thanks to a gorgeous circular interface and an innovative rotating bezel that lets you navigate the watch menu as easy as you turn up the volume on a stereo, Samsung has changed the game for smartwatches

The Gear S2 is leagues ahead of every Android watch we’ve used, and the first major step forward for wrists since the Apple Watch. In fact, a lot of us at DT already like the Gear S2 more than Apple’s flagship. The Gear S2 is Samsung’s seventh smartwatch since 2013, but the first to come out since 2014. It’s amazing what difference a year can make. This watch is fantastic.

Read our hands-on impressions

– Jeffrey Van Camp, Deputy Editor

Sony Xperia Z5 series

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We struggled to pick the best smartphone of IFA this year, but oddly, the debate was which Sony Xperia Z5 we should award. And so, we’re awarding all three!

The Xperia Z5 range is a smart, three-pronged approach that delivers something for everyone. The Z5 Compact is a bold move given how large most phones are getting; the Z5 Premium boasts the world’s first 4K display in a smartphone; and the middle child, the Z5, pitches everything just right.

But the real star here is Sony’s fingerprint sensor in the lozenge–shaped power button. Instead of awkwardly placing it at the bottom of the phone, Sony has put it on the right edge, making the process of fingerprint unlocking a smooth, natural proposition that only requires one hand. The snappy, 23-megapixel camera on each, and the fact that all three are waterproof only cements our decision. The Xperia Z5 is a design that Sony has refined over the last few years, and it offers everything you could hope for in a flagship smartphone.

Read our hands-on impressions of the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Compact

– Simon Hill, Contributing Editor

moov now
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Sports & Fitness
Moov Now

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Sports fitness wearables should help drive you toward your goals like a personal trainer, not sit around like a passive companion. The Moov Now is a multi-sport wearable (it covers running, walking, cycling, swimming, boxing, and more) that coaches you as you workout, providing everything from rep counts and advice on form, to specially made workout plans — all through audio piped to a set of headphones from your smartphone.

The Moov Now greatly improves over the original Moov. The simple, futuristic webbed band design looks superb, especially matched with the red core module. It’s waterproof, light, comfortable, and can be worn on your wrist or ankle. The addition of a magnetometer means the Moov Now can check your reach in boxing, and heel impact when running, plus the battery is good for six months of use. Wearables so often don’t know what to do with the collected data. The Moov Now puts it to good use.

– Andy Boxall, Contributing Editor

Haier Duo washing machine
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Home Appliance
Haier Duo washing machine

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With its Duo washing machine, Haier removes any excuse to throw an unsorted heap of laundry into the machine. It has two drums, so you can separate lights and darks, cottons and finer fabrics, and so on, then wash them at the same time.

The drums are unequal size, with the bottom holding around 17 pounds of clothes and the top almost 9. It has a nice-looking, 7-inch LCD screen that allows you to scroll through a variety of cycles, including one for silks, one for allergen reduction, and one for baby clothes. It might not save you time if you’re one of those people who toss everything in the wash at once, but the smaller drum also lets you wash a smaller load using less water and energy. Your gym bag will probably thank you.

– Jenny McGrath, Home Editor

Neato Botvac Connected
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Smart Home
Neato Botvac Connected

ifa-top-tech-awards-smart-homeQuite a few robot vacuums have remote controls that help you drive them around and spot clean the floor (or annoy your cat). Neato’s new Botvac Connected puts that functionality on a smartphone app. With the app, you can also start it from wherever, even when you’re not home.

Neato’s other vacuums could always be scheduled to run every Tuesday, for example, but by connecting the new version to your home Wi-Fi, you can initiate an emergency cleaning session while you’re still at the office. Neato also switched to lithium-ion batteries and added some new modes that take advantage of the change. Eco Mode saves energy by running quieter and longer, while Turbo Mode amps up the pick-up power but drains the battery faster. We’re hoping the next version will have a built-in camera so you can remotely steer it.

– Jenny McGrath, Home Editor

Acer Predator 15 & 17

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Convertibles are often the stars of computing, enticing passersby with slim design and long battery life, but gaming hardware has advanced just as quickly. Acer’s new Predator notebooks are evidence of that.

The Predators are nearly as quick as a desktop, have the latest NVMe SSDs, and both models have an optional 4K display. They’re built like tanks, have excellent keyboards, and can last up to six hours on a charge — if you stick to less demanding tasks. And they include unique cooling technology, such as a third fan that fits in the optical drive bay.

There are competitors that challenge Acer’s brutes. Asus showed its G752 at IFA 2015, and Lenovo debuted new Y-Series and Erazer laptops. The Predator defeats them all. It’s absurdly quick, yet completely sensible.

Read our hands-on impressions of the Predator 17

– Matt Smith, Computing Editor

LG OLED Flexible displays
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Cool Tech
LG OLED Flexible displays

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The flexible OLED displays that LG showed off at IFA still have a tangible whiff of science fiction about them. They’re breath-takingly svelte and mesmerizing to behold. You can peel the flexible wallpaper with magnetic backing right off the wall and bend it any which way without picture degradation.

The 55-inch double-sided OLED display is just 5.3mm thick, and it looks lush and vibrant. This is about more than perfect blacks and realistic color, though. Consider that OLED displays can also be transparent and you begin to understand that the potential applications are endless.

Windows, furniture, walls, and even clothing could be made from OLED displays in the future, giving us endless creative possibilities. LG Display CEO, Dr. Sang-Beom Han, suggested the perfect display of the future should combine reality and dynamic form. Having laid eyes on its latest OLED displays, we are inclined to believe the hype.

– Simon Hill, Contributing Editor

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