IFA Berlin 2013: Analysis and Photo Gallery

posted on Sunday, 29th September 2013 by Steve May

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No one could ever accuse the Berlin IFA tech fair of being dull. This year's show maintained a proud traditional of disorientating excess, sprawling across more than two dozen gigantic halls and accommodating some 1,500 exhibitors. While the event disgorged a bewildering amount of new gadgets and gizmos, it was Ultra High Definition televisions and High Resolution Audio that really stole the show.

OLED TV on the rise
You certainly didn't have to prowl far to find new panels. Both LG and Samsung seemed intent on elevating OLED to hero status. Long dogged by poor production yields, OLED technology finally appears to be coming of age. First generation Full HD panels from both camps may now curl like day old sandwiches, a design affectation designed to draw glances from high street shoppers, but image quality looked superb with perfect blacks and vivid hues. In addition to Full HD large screens, both brands unveiled 4K OLED prototypes. The most spectacular hailed from LG - a 77-inch curved UHD monster that looked undeniably cinematic. While there's no news of a possible launch, we fully expect to see more of the same at CES 2014.

Samsung differentiated its SC9 OLED offering with Multi View. The fast response time of the screen allows two people to watch two different programmes at the same time in Full HD 2D and 3D when wearing shuttering glasses. Demonstrations were impressive, with no image bleed whatsoever. It's difficult to imagine that people will actually choose to wear glances simply to avoid a programming clash though. Afterall, that's what PVRs and catch-up is for.

IFA 4K UHD TV news
Other TV vendors concentrated on 4K LED UHD. Panasonic stole a march on competitors with the first 4K UHD screen to sport HDMI 2.0 connectivity, the 65-inch TX-L65WT600. This futureproof set is ready for 4K at 50/60Hz when it eventually arrives, and also features DisplayPort 1.2a connectivity. Hooked up to a PC with a 4K graphics card, it takes gaming visuals to a new level. It's also 4K THX certified. Samsung super-sized it's 4K fleet with new 98- and 110-inch panels. The size seems a perfect fit for the Ultra High-Definition format. The brand also announced a partnership with German channel RTL and satellite operator Eutelsat that would see the world's first UHD broadcast direct to Samsung TVs, taking advantage of their integrated UHD tuner.

While Samsung chased the top one per cent, Toshiba seemed intent on bringing 4K to the rest of the population, confirming a £3,000 price point for its 58-inch L9 model and even teasing a 50-inch cheapie.

Move over Oculus Rift
Elsewhere, Sony rolled out the third generation of its OLED headset. The new HMZ-T3W Head Mounted Display is not only lighter and more comfortable than its predessors, it's also the first to offer WirelessHD connectivity and battery power, removing the tethers that restricted the use of earlier models. A virtual wireless 7.1 sound system contributes to the sense of immersion. In many ways, Sony's headset visor has been a product without purpose, but with the launch of the PlayStation 4, the company could be close to a Eureka moment. It can only be a matter of time before this intriguing technology morphs into a virtual reality headset for Sony's next gen game system. While the games industry has been looking longing at the VR potential of Oculus Rift, Sony may actually have perfected a commercial alternative.

Sony backs High Res Audio
Sony also use IFA to galvanize its often disparate hi-fi technologies, under a new High Res Audio marketing banner. Comprising the UDA-1 USB DAC amplifier, SS-HA1 and SS-HA3 loudspeakers, HAP-Z1ES hard drive network player with 10.9cm front panel LCD, TA-A1ES integrated stereo amp, high performance headphones and HAP-S1 all-in-one music system, it seems the company finally has a coherent message when it comes to next generation audio. Demonstrations of a system built around a 1TB hard drive music player were nothing less than sensational. The player can be controlled via a smartphone app and is compatible with a broad range of audio file formats.

For a closer look at all these product highlights and more, check out our photo gallery below…

Also read:
IFA Berlin 2013: The installer's viewpoint
Interview: Arcam and the art of high fidelity audio
ISE 21013: photo Gallery

 

 

Steve May

Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.

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