IFA: Jabra’s Solemate and the Kanex MySpot

We spend a lot of time at shows like IFA ‘pounding the beat’ and visiting as many booths as possible to find hidden gems – from both the industry’s big names as well as the lesser known players.

Jabra Solemate

One category of devices that seems to be ever-present at these tech shows is the portable Bluetooth speaker. More often that not, you end up with a strong feeling of déjà-vu from seeing booth after booth with similar looking devices. You can therefore imagine how the Jabra Solemate caught our eye at ShowStoppers earlier this week. The Solemate has a distinctive shoe-like style, with a thick rubber sole designed to reduce reverberations, along with a tab on it’s ‘heel’ for the imaginary task of pulling it on to your foot (don’t try that at home!).

The Solemate is billed as ‘go-anywhere, do anything’ portable speaker with up to 8 hours of continuous play. It has 3 front-facing speakers which will go up to 120 dB SPL (at 0.5m) and supports Bluetooth, 3.5mm audio cable and USB connectivity. Coming from Jabra, it might not surprise you to hear that the Solemate also doubles up as a speakerphone complete with a noise filtering omni-directional microphone with mute feature.

We were told that the Solemate’s RRP is 179.99 euros (approx £140-145). For further product information, visit http://www.jabra.com

Kanex MySpot

Generally speaking, we found the quality of exhibitors at this year’s iLounge (the area for Apple related products) to be quite poor. It never fails to amaze us how many new companies want to enter the already crowded market of supplying iPad and iPhone cases! Nevertheless, there were a few hidden gems amongst the clutter, such as the Kanex MySpot.

This compact device, from the Californian-based firm, enables you to turn a wired (ethernet) connection in to a wi-fi (802.11b/g) hotspot. This is ideal for those situations, such as in a hotel room, where wi-fi coverage might be patchy or unavailable. It also means you and your colleague could pay for a single ethernet connection and then share it, wirelessly, between multiple devices.

Kanex were keen to point out that their MySpot is much lighter and smaller than Apple’s Airport Express and also, as it’s USB-powered, doesn’t require you to carry around a power cable. MySpot will be available towards the end of September 2012 with an expected retail price of £59.99. More info at http://www.kanexlive.com/

IFA: Sony’s VAIO Tap 20, VAIO Duo 11 and Xperia Tablet S

As ever, Sony had a huge range of new products and product revisions at this year’s IFA. However, the standout products for us were the Xperia Tablet S, the VAIO Duo 11 and the VAIO Tap 20 ‘tabletop’ PC.

In size descending order, first up is the VAIO Tap 20. This supersized tablet sits between an all in one and a more conventionally sized tablet. Appearing to defy physics, the product’s relatively hefty (5.2kg) body is supported by a stunningly small pop up stand. The angle of the Tap 20 can be altered by applying a small amount of pressure to the top of the screen.

Once detached from the mains, the Tap 20 has a 3 hour battery life and its fold-flat stand allows it to be used as a large tablet. The 20” display offers a wide angle of view and the 10-point multi-touch allows multiple people to join in simultaneously with multi-player games and apps. The Tap 20 comes with a Mobile Bravia Engine 2 display and 2.1ch speakers with ClearAudio+ mode. The Tap 20 will be shipped with a wireless keyboard and mouse and will come with a choice of the i3, i5 and i7 processor. In terms of memory, the device can handle between 4 to 8GB of RAM and a 750GB or 1TB 5400rpm hard drive.

Next up is the VAIO Duo 11, a sliding laptop-cum-tablet, not dissimilar to the Toshiba 920t that we reported on yesterday. Sony’s 11″ device combines a full featured ultrabook with the convenience of a tablet and comes with a precise writing stylus. The 11.6” (29.4cm) OptiContrast panel provides full HD (1920×1080) resolution.

The Duo 11 weighs in at around 1.3kg and is 17.85mm thin. The standard Vaio Duo 11 is expected to ship with an Intel i5 processor for around £1,000 while the Pro version will come with an i7 at around £1,500. The device will come with WiFi, Bluetooth, USB 3.0, two full HD web cameras and stereo speakers with XLOUD.

The ‘baby’ of the group (from a size point of view) was the Xperia Tablet S – a revision/upgrade to Sony’s existing tablet. It maintains the tactile wedge shape of its predecessor while having a slimmer and lighter form. The tablet’s aluminium body is now splash proof, which is ideal for those using it in the kitchen or with small children.

The Tablet S features a 9.4″ (1280 x 800) IPS OpitContrast display, 16-64GB of storage, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, 2 cameras and a 6000 mAh battery providing up to 10 hours of internet browsing or 12 hours of video playback. The device weighs in a t 570g for the Wi-Fi model or 585g for the 3G model.

The Tablet S also comes with ‘guest mode’ which lets you create individual profiles for your family and friends. In addition to customizing things like the icons, apps and wallpaper – it also allow you to limit access to features such as internet browsing, which could be ideal for those with children. The tablet can work as a universal infrared remote control (with new macro functionality) and also supports broadcasting, or ‘throwing’, of your pictures or video to a DLNA compatible TV.

IFA: Toshiba launch Satellite U920t, aka ‘the slide-top’

Judging by the product announcements so far at IFA, it seems to be the year of the laptop-cum-tablet. We’ve got the XPS Duo 12 with a swivelling screen, the XPS 10 and HP ENVY x2 with detachable screens and now the Toshiba Satellite U920t with a slide ‘n fold screen.

The U920t comes with a 12.5” TruBrite IPS HD display with 5-finger support, up to 256GB SSD hard disk and up to 8GB DDR RAM. In terms of connectivity you’re looking at HDMI, SD slot, 2 x USB 3.0 ports as well as Intel’s Wireless Display (WiDi) capability. The device measures 326.5mm x 213mm by 19.9mm thick and weight starts from 1.45kg.

The Satellite U920T also features two integrated cameras: a 1MP front-facing camera with an Ambient Light Sensor, and a 3MP rear-facing camera with Auto Focus. In addition to the scratch-resistant Corning Gorilla glass, the U920t also includes Intel Sensor Solution, allowing users to take advantage of games and applications by making use of a 3D acceleration sensor, magnetometer, gyroscope and ambient light sensor.

The Satellite U920T will be available in Q4 2012.

Update: Here is a hands-on video of the U920T filmed at IFA:

IFA: The Philips ‘HomeCooker’ from Jamie Oliver

Following a morning spent with Dell, we headed to the Philips booth for their midday press conference. While there was plenty of fanfare relating to the company’s new series 9000 and 6000 series TVs (produced in conjunction with TPV Technology of Taiwan), the thing that caught our eye was none other than Jamie Oliver – wearing one of his trademark checkered shirts.

Jamie came on stage to promote his new range of Jamie Oliver cooking products, including items like a 1000W food processor and hand blender. However, his headline product was the Jamie Oliver HomeCooker. Billed as a new way to cook healthily in a busy home, the HomeCooker both cooks and stirs for you.

It comes in a choice of black or white, with a companion chopping tower to help speed up the preparation process. The chopping tower comes with a selection of five blades, to chop, grate or slice a required for each individual ingredient.

Click image to enlarge

In the demonstration we saw a variety of meals were prepared, including a quick 10 minute South Indian prawn curry, chilli con carne and vanilla rice pudding.

It can cook and stir a main meal in the base while steaming an upper layer- ideal for cooking rice or vegetables above a main course. The device also includes a timer feature to shut off the heat once the cooking time is up and it can be dissembled easily, with dishwasher friendly components.

We were informed that the product is out now (or will be very shortly) in the UK and the price for the full package (i.e. including the chopping tower) would be around £350.

Update: Check out the video of the HomeCooker that we shot at IFA 2012:

Park life: Dell announce XPS One 27, XPS Duo 12 and XPS 10

Not long after breakfast this morning, we headed to Dell’s ‘TechnologyPark’ in IFA to discover what announcements they had in store. Having found all the deck chairs occupied and not much space available on the ‘grass’ – we propped ourselves up next to a couple of neglected Vostro desktops.

After a brief introduction by Dell EMEA President Aongus Hegarty, the job of unveiling the latest XPS products fell to Sam Burd, the firm’s Global VP of Personal Computing. The first revelation of the morning was that the “XPS comes in S, M, L… and now XL” – which referred to the launch of the XPS One 27 – a large all-in-one (AIO) PC with a large 27-inch wide quad-HD touchscreen display. It also comes with Infinity Premium speakers and Waves MaxxAudio 4 audio technology.

Next up, under the headline of ‘convertibles have always been more fun’ (presumably not said by someone who lived through this year’s rainy summer), was the XPS Duo 12, a tablet-cum-notebook complete with a full HD touchscreen which rotates on a flip-hinge to swap between the two modes – pretty similar to the Inspiron Duo which won a design & engineering award back at CES 2011. The Duo 12 is made from premium materials including machined aluminium and carbon fibre, as well as Corning Gorilla glass for durability.

The final announcement was the XPS 10 – which on first impressions appeared to be a 10-inch version of the company’s existing XPS laptop range. That was until, in a slightly corny way, Aongus jumped back on to the stage to reveal that it was in fact a laptop/tablet combo (a laptab? or laplet?). The ARM-processor based XPS 10 will use the Windows RT operating system.

All of these three new XPS products will be made available for sale following the launch of Windows 8 and therefore are expected towards the end of October. Pricing has not been released at this stage.

Update: Here is our video showing a quick 360 of the Dell Duo 12:

Samsung Ativ Smart PC, Ativ Tab & Ativ S phone

After a couple of ‘that’s all folks’ teasers, the final presentation from the Samsung Unpacked event was the UK’s Damian Cusick. It was his job to announce the new range of Windows 8 (and RT) friendly products – known as ‘Ativ’.

First up we had the Ativ Smart PC and Smart PC Pro which are billed as having the portability of a tablet with the performance of a PC. Their headline grabbing feature, which isn’t overly original, is the ability to detached the screen from the keyboard – thus giving you either a tablet or a more traditional laptop.

The Pro version was the one that caught our eye and comes with an Intel Core i5 processor, 11.6” full HD (1920×1080) display as well as a USB 3.0, mHDMI and miniSD port. The Pro was shown as coming with 4GB RAM, 256GB SSD hard drive and up to 8 hours of battery life. In terms of size, the Pro comes in at 11.89mm thin and weighs 884g. The Ativ Smart PCs are also geared up to work with the aforementioned ‘S Pen’ enabling you to write on the screen as well as to access other S Pen related functionality.

Next up was the Samsung Ativ Tab which promises to give you a PC experience on a tablet. It achieves this through its Windows operating system and the fact it comes with Microsoft Office pre-installed. In terms of dimensions, the Ativ Tab is 8.9mm thick and weighs 570g – over 300g lighter than the Ativ Smart Pro. Samsung showed the product as coming with a 8200 mAh battery but, interestingly, didn’t specify a maximum battery life. Other features of the ‘tab’ include support for SkyDrive as well as a USB and uHDMI port.

If you ignore a small update to the Series 9 laptop, the final product launch of the evening was the Samsung Ativ S smartphone. As you’ve probably gathered by now – this combines the experience of a PC (i.e. Windows and MS Office pre-installed) with that of a Samsung phone. The device itself will come with a 4.8” Super AMOLED HD display. It’s 8.7mm thick, 137.2mm long/high and 70.5mm wide.

Here are some additional photos showing the Ativ Smart PC Pro and Ativ S:

Check out our other coverage of Samsung @ IFA:

IFA 2012: Samsung Galaxy camera

Having warmed up the crowd with their announcement of the Galaxy Note II, the next product to be ‘unpacked’ by Samsung was the Galaxy Camera – a product that the firm hopes will redefine the digital camera category.

On first impressions it’s unlikely to redefine anything in terms of design as it looks very much like any other camera. The basic camera ‘stats’ include a 21x optical super long zoom with image stabilization and a 16 megapixel BSI CMOS sensor. However, things became a little more interesting when they announced that it will run on the Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean) operating system and will come with 3G, 4G and WiFi connectivity. Furthermore, the back of the Galaxy camera is almost entirely taken up with a 4.8” Super Clear HD LCD touch display.

In terms of software features, the camera comes with a number of easy point-and-shoot modes. These include things like ‘Action Freeze Mode’ for those fast moving situations, ‘Light Trace’ for making cool draw-with-your-torch effect photos and ‘Blue Sky’ mode for, well… taking nice sky photos of course!

In terms of the camera’s video capability, the one feature that stood out for us was the slow motion video mode. This enables you to catch slow motion video at 120 frames per second at a resolution of 720×480 – ideal for filming water balloons being burst if nothing else.

Another ‘cool’ feature (presuming it can hear you over the noise of your friends/family) is the camera’s voice activated functionality. This, as you’ve probably guessed, allows you to say things like “zoom in” and “take photo” which would be ideal for when you want to be in the photo rather than behind the lens.

After the presentation we had the opportunity to get ‘hands on’ with the Galaxy camera. Our initial reaction is that it’s pretty big and heavy – at least in comparison to your average point-and-shoot camera. The screen on the back is beautiful and the shooting modes seemed to work well. However we did struggle a little in terms of navigating between the camera’s ‘desktop’, the camera mode and the video mode. It will no doubt appeal to those want all the bells and whistles, but we’re not sure how well it will sit with your average digital camera consumer.

Check out our other coverage from Samsung @ IFA 2012:

Video: Samsung Galaxy Note II ‘unpacked’ at IFA 2012

Our live coverage of IFA 2012 kicked off with the much anticipated Samsung Unpacked event, held at the circus tent shaped Tempodrom in Berlin. Having heeded the warning that the event was at capacity, we arrived early and joined the thronging mass of ‘media’ who were already patiently queuing for entry.

Media throng

After a rather warm and crowded wait, we were eventually allowed in to the huge theatre to find out what tricks (it was a magic themed evening) Samsung had up their sleeves.

First up was Samsung’s JK Shin who announced the unsurprising (given the leaks) news that the Galaxy Note II ‘padphone’ is going to be released this October. As a quick reminder, the 9.4mm thick, 180g, Galaxy Note II will come with a Super Amoled HD screen, a 1.6GHz quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, 3G/4G connectivity, Android 4.1 Jelly Bean and a 3,100 mAh battery. Technical specs aside, the presentation focused largely on the functionality of the new taller and narrower ‘S Pen’ stylus.

Trumpeted features of the ‘S Pen’ include ‘Air View’ which enables you to put your pen over events in your planner to view more details in a little pop-up window. The theme of an intelligent pop-up extends to the gallery (where you can use it to preview images within a sub-gallery) and within videos for visually browsing the timeline.

Perhaps borrowing from the popularity of pin-board sites such as Pinterest, another feature of the ‘S Pen’ is Easy Clip. This enables you to draw (or ‘lasso’) around something, such as item within a photograph, and then use this clipping elsewhere on your phone, such as in a note, SMS, email etc.

Other examples of using the S Pen include the ability to jot notes on the back of photos within your gallery and to quickly make a hand written note during a phone call.

The Galaxy Note II will be available from October in marble white or platinum grey.

Check out the video we shot from the Galaxy Note II launch party and hands-on demo:

Want to know what else Samsung ‘unpacked’? Check out our other coverage here: