IFA – instant guide

IFA news

So IFA is over for another two years and fortunately there’s no more barging past mullet-haired, frankfurter-toting, red-sports jacket-wearing types (and that’s just our fellow UK tech journalists) to grab the scoops.

And if you can’t be bothered to wade through all those news IFA news stories, here’s your easily digestible quickie guide to the world’s biggest consumer electronics show.

IFA top products

We asked several of the UK’s leading consumer electronics journalists to pick what they believe will prove to be IFA’s key products.

1 Broadband Box – The Swedish company has taken a fully specced Windows XP PC, shoehorned it into a DVD style box and grafted on a second very consumer electronics style interface. Journalists were knocked out not only by the way this box literally does everything (TV, DVD, music, Internet) but also boast some neat features like seamless music and video on demand. How many they shift when it arrives in the UK for around £1500 is another matter

2 Sharp’s Japanese phones – While most Germans were ogling the GX20 (the latest version of the Becks phone) UK journalists were getting very excited about Sharp’s collection of Japanese phones. With fantastic screen resolution, one-mega pixel cameras, SD card storage and even a mini integrated scanner they take the camera phone to yet another level. A version of one of the pair should be hot footing to the UK in the spring.

3 Metz hard disk TV with Internet control – Although Metz is little known in the UK the German CE manufacturer certainly gained a few fans with its widescreen set with integrated hard disk recorder. Its most impressive feature was the way in which its electronic programming guide can be controlled via the Internet. Can’t be too long before setting your PVR via a PC/mobile phone is a standard feature on sets.

4 Bluetooth personal CD player – A wireless personal CD player that plays tunes even while it sits metres away in your bag sounds like a great idea to us. Not entirely convinced by the company, Naf Naf Electronique’s demo though.

5 Philips Hdd100 – The Dutch company’s hard disk personal MP3 player is growing on us, especially now that it appears it will rival the 15gig iPod in price at £300.

Also rated

Perstel’s DAB video player – Great idea, not sure it’ll catch on in the UK though.

Nokia’s satellite hard disk recorder – With an 80Gig hard disk this really gives Pace something to think about

LG’s 3G mobile phone – So much smaller and neater than its rivals. We want one.

XDA 2 – Excellent screen resolution and an integrated camera make the second incarnation of the XDA Pocket PC PDA/phone a much stronger proposition than its predecessor.

Aitpek DV4 – Now selling via the Firebox site. This SD-based camera/camcorder has much of the functionality of rivals like the Panasonic SV-AV100 yet at a fraction of the price.

The jury’s out

Panasonic SV-AV100 – The first camcorder to record MPEG2 (DV standard images) on to an SD. Yet it is hideously expensive and only stores twenty minutes of video on its accompanying 512MB SD card.

Philips video streaming devices – Not entirely convinced families will want to watch video streamed from their PC on their main living room screen.

Sharps’ wireless TV – Neat idea, but let down by a battery life of just two hours and a prohibitive price tag.

LG’s ultra large plasma screens – Look superficially impressive, but needs work to improve image quality.

Philips hdd60 – Tiny MP3 player with a 1.5gigayte hard disk. Sounds great in theory, and 1.5 Gig is enough storage for most people. However, its price tag of £250 is at least £100 off target.

Key trends

Hard disk video recorders – Everyone had them, coupled with DVD recorders (Panasonic, Pioneer, Sharp) or built into TVs (Philips, Metz). Storage capacity is up too with almost all models boasting at least 80Gigabytes.

Hard disk/flash memory based camcorders – Who need DV tape or mîcroMV? The new breed of camcorders is small and gadget-packed. They can’t yet store enough MPEG2 quality video though.

High-end AV – Back with a vengeance from Sony’s Qulia SACD player to top-end beauties from Meridian Audio and Denon. Someone has obviously got some money to spend.

PC/Internet content in your living room – Philips now has a whole range of products that deliver MP3, JPEG and MPEG4 video files wirelessly to your living room’s home entertainment system. KiSS has a good selection too and most manufacturers were displaying prototypes of wireless broadband-connected devices.

Hard disk MP3 players – With launches from Philips, Samsung and Thomson, the CE giants have decided they are not going to leave the MP3 personal market to Apple.

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