My favorite gadgets from IFA 2023
From folding phones to ceiling lights to hybrid smartwatches, here are my favorite gadgets from IFA 2023 in Berlin.
You’ve probably heard me talk about CES plenty of times in this newsletter. It’s the biggest technology trade show in the world, and I have the privilege of getting to attend as a journalist in the industry.
But that’s not the only trade show that happens during the year. There are plenty of others you may not have heard of, including IFA, which happens every September in Berlin, Germany. The conference, formally known as “Internationale Funkausstellung”, has been around since the 1920s when its primary focus was detector devices and tube radio receivers. It eventually expanded to other emerging technologies like television broadcasts, including one of the first color TV broadcasts. Over the years, it’s welcomed many visitors, hosts, and speakers, including Albert Einstein.
Nowadays, it’s home to numerous announcements and emerging technologies in the consumer space, generating almost as much hype as CES in the tech space. This year, I once again covered the show from my home in New Jersey, but that didn’t stop me from finding the very best the show had to offer.
So, without further ado, I present to you my 12 favorite gadgets from IFA 2023.
This list originally appeared on Matridox and has been syndicated here.
Best Smartphone: Honor Magic V2
While it originally debuted back in July, Honor hosted the global launch of the Magic V2 at IFA. And it easily stole the show, earning my Best Smartphone award.
The Magic V2 is one of the most interesting foldable phones of the year, if only for how thin it is. When closed, the device is just 9.9mm thick, two millimeters thinner than the thinnest foldable in the United States, the Google Pixel Fold. Speaking of which, the phone isn’t coming to the States, unfortunately, but Honor says it will be sold in parts of Europe and the UK in addition to China.
For the 8,999 yuan (~$1,250) asking price, you’re getting some of the best specs on the market for a folding phone. There’s a big 6.43-inch cover screen, an even bigger 7.92-inch folding screen (with a nearly square 9.78:9 aspect ratio), a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2, triple rear cameras, 16GB of RAM, gobs of storage, a 5,000mAh battery, and 66W SuperCharge fast charging. It’s powered by Magic OS 7.2, based on Android 13, with Google’s full suite of services in tow.
The current state of folding phones is exciting, to say the least, and Honor is responsible for a lot of that hype thanks to the Magic V2. Even though it’s not coming to the US, it’s an example of what folding phones are capable of now and where the rest of the industry could go in the future.
Best Laptop: Lenovo Legion 9i
When I saw the Legion 9i gaming laptop from Lenovo for the first time, I knew instantly it would be taking my Best Laptop award. I’m a sucker for a cool design, and that’s exactly what Lenovo provides here: the lid is made of carbon fiber, there are RGB lights everywhere, and it’s massive thanks to the 16-inch screen.
But another reason why this laptop impressed me so much was the cooling system. Inside, Lenovo built a liquid cooling system that runs right over the VRAM to keep graphics performance steady even as the laptop begins to heat up. Liquid cooling is usually found in external packs that, more often than not, are sold separately from the main laptop. It’s the first time I’d seen a system like that in person, and Lenovo was able to do it while keeping the total weight below six pounds (still heavy, I know, but better than seven or eight).
At $4,399, the Legion 9i doesn’t come cheap. In exchange, you’ll get some very beefy specs with an Intel Core i9-13980HX processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 4090 graphics, up to 64GB of RAM and 2TB of storage, a 99.99Wh battery, and a mini-LED display with a 165Hz refresh rate. Will all of that add up to a gaming laptop worth double the money most people would probably spend? I’m not sure, but I am sure that the Legion 9i is a very cool laptop that’s taking chances with innovative cooling techniques and a unique design.
Best Smartwatch: Withings ScanWatch 2
The best hybrid smartwatch in the world is getting better thanks to the ScanWatch 2 from Withings. At IFA, the company debuted its next-generation high-end wearable with new health-tracking tools, an updated design, and a revamped OLED display. Given how much I love the original ScanWatch, it makes sense to give this new version my Best Smartwatch award.
The ScanWatch 2 doubles down on the fact you can wear it all day long, every day of the week thanks to its 30-day battery life with features that track your health whenever it’s on your wrist. There’s a 24/7 body temperature monitor (the first of its kind in the smartwatch world), menstrual cycle tracking, proactive heart health notifications, and auto workout detection. It’s all powered by new sensors Withings built into the watch that not only bring new capabilities to the table, but also better precision and accuracy when tracking your health metrics.
Of course, it’s still a smartwatch, so you’ll get all of your smartphone’s notifications on your wrist, alarms, a stopwatch, and more, all bundled into a design that’s far more enjoyable to look at than anything with a touchscreen. If you’re tired of fitting in with the crowd and want to stand out with your next smartwatch, the ScanWatch 2 might be the one to get.
Best Speaker: JBL Authentics 200, 300, and 500
There were a lot of speakers at IFA this year, which prompted me to create a Best Speaker category for this year’s award ceremony. It was tough to decide which one would get it, but ultimately, the JBL Authentics series took the crown.
On the outside, the Authentics lineup seems pretty standard in the world of Bluetooth speakers. Dig right below the surface, however, and you’ll find that these speakers support both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa… simultaneously. That’s right, you can use both voice assistants in conjunction with one another on any member of the Authentics series, which is something I’m not sure any of us saw coming. This means you could ask Alexa to play a song and tell the Assistant to pause it, ask the Assistant the weather while Alexa adds toothpaste to your Amazon cart. The joining of forces stems back to Google and Amazon’s need to grow its voice assistant user bases, and having both of them at the ready on a set of speakers is definitely one way to do that.
The JBL Authentics 200 ($329.99) and 500 ($699.99) are designed to be used in your home, while the Authentics 300 ($429.99) is the sole portable model in the lineup with an eight-hour battery. They come with a variety of sub, woofer, and tweeter setups depending on their size, so for those who want the most power, you’ll want the 270W Authentics 500. They’ll go on sale in North America on September 17th and in Europe on the 15th.
Best Mobile Technology: Anker Qi2 MagGo Power Bank
I love the Mobile Technology category because of how all-encompassing it is. Anything that helps you stay mobile can make the list, and this year’s winner is Anker’s new Qi2-equipped MagGo Power Bank.
What’s so special about a power bank, you may ask? For one, it comes with Qi2 support, the new wireless charging standard that requires devices to support a minimum of 15W fast charging and strong magnets to help align the charger when connected. Anker is one of the first manufacturers to release a product of this caliber. It’s here just in time for the iPhone 15, which is rumored to support Qi2 and, in a way, ditch MagSafe.
The new MagGo Power Bank is one of seven new accessories in Anker’s lineup that support Qi2, and it’s my favorite one thanks to its portability and huge 10,000mAh battery. There’s a display on the side that shows you how much charge is left, and when it comes time to juice back up, you can do so via 27W USB-C fast charging. I’m not sure what the price is yet, but expect to find out when it ships later this year.
Best Robot: SwitchBot S10
There were a lot of robotic vacuum cleaners at IFA, and the one that impressed me the most was SwitchBot’s new S10 cleaner, earning my Best Robot award.
The SwitchBot S10 is one of the most capable robotic vacuum cleaners I’ve ever seen. Not only does it vacuum and mop the floors all around your house by itself, but it also disposes of all the muck automatically into a battery-powered water station that hooks right up to your plumbing. It then sources fresh water from your plumbing so you don’t have to worry about filling it back up when you need your floors cleaned.
Beyond the initial setup of the S10 itself, the only thing you’ll need to do is empty its dust bag once every 70 days, making this one of the most autonomous robot cleaners you can get.
It’s an amazing concept, one that seems blatantly obvious yet ignored by most manufacturers up until now. The best part? You’ll be able to actually buy the SwitchBot S10. Granted, you’ll need to do so through Kickstarter when it goes on sale in October, but for $1,199, you’ll get one of the most advanced robot vacuums/mops out there.
Best Smart Home Device: Aqara Ceiling Light T1M
Matter, the new smart home standard, took center stage at IFA as many companies begin to flesh out their smart home lineups with the tech onboard. While product demonstrations of different ecosystems talking to one another were on full display, brand-new products were a bit harder to come by. However, we still got a handful of really cool ones, and my favorite was the Aqara Ceiling Light T1M, earning my Best Smart Home Device award.
What’s so special about a ceiling light, you ask? For one, it’s Matter-over-bridge compatible, so it can work with other Matter-enabled devices. It supports over 16 million different colors so you can get the exact look you want, and–here’s the kicker–it has an independent RGB ring light around its 50-cm diameter. This ring light can be used to alert you of specific notifications, like if a door is unlocked or one of your connected sensors detects a leak. What’s more, the ceiling light includes low idle consumption, so it’s plenty energy-efficient.
There’s no word on a launch date just yet, but I’ll be curious to see how much attention it can garner. The extra ring light seems like a great feature to have in an office or living room so you can keep tabs on what’s going on around your home without the need to rely solely on your phone.
Best TV: LG StandbyME Go
Yes, I’m giving my Best TV award to LG. It’s not every day you see a television stuffed inside a briefcase, but that’s just what they brought to IFA.
Called the StandbyME Go, the TV is a 27-inch 1080p LCD panel that runs webOS, supports AirPlay and screen mirroring, has Dolby Vision, and is completely portable thanks to its carrying case. That case bundles a three-hour battery, stereo speakers, and a stand that can prop the TV up either horizontally or vertically. LG sees this as something you can take camping, tailgating, or outdoors at a barbecue or by the pool. And with its $999.99 price tag, it’s not wildly expensive.
It’s up for preorder now if you want to buy one. I’ll be honest, I’m kinda tempted to get one myself in time for football season.
Best New Innovation: XGIMI Horizon Ultra
For my Best New Innovation award, I’ve got to hand it to XGIMI. The Horizon Ultra, the company’s newest high-end projector, looks like nothing more than a fancy 4K projector with a few neat color correction tricks up it sleeve. But dive a little deeper and you’ll realize it’s much more than that.
XGIMI engineered an incredibly complex projection system called Laser-LED Dual Light technology. The system combines laser and LED light into a single unit, allowing the Horizon Ultra to utilize the varying strengths and weaknesses of both technologies to deliver the most accurate color reproduction, brightness, and picture quality possible. It can reach up to 2,300 lumens bright (which is brighter than most high-end projectors on the market), it supports over 95.5 percent of the DCI-P3 color gamut, there are a bunch of automatic color and brightness correction tools, it supports Dolby Vision, and it’s powered by Android TV.
For $1,699, the Horizon Ultra is one impressive feat of engineering.
Best Concept: Honor V Purse
The Honor Magic V2 is taking home two awards this year, with the second being for Best Concept. No, you’re not mistaken, the Magic V2 will be shipping to customers and isn’t a concept itself. But the Honor V Purse? Well, that’s the epitome of a concept.
The Honor V Purse is another attempt at blending fashion with tech, and Honor definitely has something interesting here. It’s a Magic V2 folding phone with hooks on the side to connect a strap, turning it into a “purse” of sorts. You can then use the outward-facing display to show a wallpaper that emulates the stylings of a clutch or handbag, with various different pre-loaded options to get the look you want. It also comes with an extra clip to keep the two halves of the display folded while you carry it around.
Will this be a success among those who want a more fashion-focused smartphone? I don’t know, and it doesn’t help that Honor doesn’t seem to want to evolve it beyond a concept stage. However, it’s interesting nonetheless that Honor seems to see a market that something like this could do well in.
Okay, time for a couple quick editor’s picks.
JBL PartyBox Ultimate
Who doesn’t love a party speaker? Another member of JBL’s latest swath of Bluetooth speakers is the PartyBox Ultimate, a $1,699.95 unit with two high-sensitivity mid-range drivers, dual tweeters, and dual 9-inch subwoofers that JBL says can “rock the size of two basketball courts.” It has Dolby Atmos, it has Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.3 for streaming, it has RGB lights, it has IPX4 splash resistance, and it has all the EQ settings you could want through JBL’s companion app.
Yes, I will be asking for a review unit. Did you really think I wouldn’t?
CASETiFY Ultra Bounce Case
CASETiFY, one of my favorite phone case brands (if only because they made Spider-Man cases once), was at IFA where they unveiled the Ultra Bounce Case. It’s another case designed to protect your iPhone at all costs, with a very unique design that can withstand drops of up to 10 meters (32 feet), which is kind of nuts. The case uses a 6-Layered Rugged Protection System with Ultra Bounce Corners that absorb the shock from falls and tumbles using compression ribs with air cavities. The result is one of the most durable cases you’ll find. You also get integrated camera protection.
In classic CASETiFY fashion, you’ll be able to customize the Ultra Bounce Case with your own text, fonts, and colors. It’s launching later this month. Pricing has yet to be announced.