Review: IFA 2016 product highlights include 8K UHD and cutting-edge appliances

posted on Friday, 16th September 2016 by Geny Caloisi

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The Inside CI team were amongst the 245,000 visitors to IFA in Berlin this year. Offering a comprehensive overview of the consumer eletronics market globally, top consumer brands as well as a few smaller ones, took to the stage to showcase their latest products and innovations. From vacumn cleaners and hair driers, all types os kitchen appliances and coffee machines, to robots and drones, IFA has something for everyone.

After CES at the start of the year, IFA is Europe‘s most important tradeshow for the consumer electronics and home appliances industry. A total of IFA’s 1,645 exhibitors occupied the whole of Messe Berlin exhibition centre making it the largest IFA thus far, including having some of its green areas occupied with some temporary pavilions.

A few things seemed to prevail across the halls: a big push to OLED TV and 4K projectors, medical monitoring solutions and the lunch of various smart watches as the integrated wearable per excellence. We won’t talk about smart watches or medical monitoring here, but about the amazingly sharp images we saw on 4K projectors, OLED - and even 8K ULED, we must.

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Lets start with largest we’ve seen, the Hisense 98-inch Ultra LED (ULED) TV. This is an 8K flat screen with 7680x4320 resolution and 800 nits at peak brightness. There's no 8Kcontent to watch yet, but if you want to order one, ask for the LED98MU9900V. 

LG put a big show on welcoming visitors to its stand (that occupied a hall) with a huge OLED tunnel. The tunnel was 5m tall, 7.4m wide and 15m in length. A total of 216 separate 55-inch curved OLED signage displays were assembled to create the structure creating all together nearly half a billion pixels. The inimitable beauty of nature inspired the images displayed including: Iceland’s Aurora Borealis, underwater scenes and space footage. LG reportedly captured footage of Iceland’s Northern Lights using 14 separate 8K cameras to record every detail and movement as accurately as possible.

Brian Kwon, president of LG Home Entertainment Company pointed out that this year marked the 50th anniversary of LG producing its first TV. “Our OLED Tunnel at IFA 2016 is designed to celebrate this milestone with another milestone – the coming of OLED TV,” he said and added “We offer visitors to our booth at IFA the opportunity to experience OLED’s revolutionary image rendering capability complete with perfect black, infinite contrast ratio and realistic colours from any angle.”

Although most flat screen manufacturers are leaving behind the idea of curved screens LG isn’t. LG says that its customers like the curved shape and it is keeping it for its computer/gaming monitors all the way up to it’s biggest 77-inch OLED TV.

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LG also unveiled two new 21:9 ultra-wide monitors for the gaming sector, which appears to be a fast growing market for the company. At the stand visitors could play live on a football game using an Xbox and the LG monitors. The two curved models are the 38-inch Ultra Wide 38UC99 and 34-inch 144Hz IPS Curved Ultra Wide 34UC79G respectively, which also boosts a fast refresh rate.

To complete its offering, LG used IFA to announce that all its Signature products including the TVs, refrigerator with a giant 29-inch, Windows 10 tablet in the door and washing machine are coming to Europe. To mark the occasion the company build a pavilion with an art installation, Titled The Art of Essence, that made clever use of orchestrated music and LED lighting, to the delight its visitors.

Loewe (1)

German manufacturer Loewe exhibited its first ‘bild 7’ OLED TV, which is available in Europe now. The company also exhibited ‘bild 9’, an OLED TV design concept that will mark the beginning of a new 360 degrees design at Loewe. Bild 9 will launch in 2017. Both models feature UHD, HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

Panasonic was introducing a new 4K OLED TV prototype at IFA. The company launched its the CZ950 curved OLED in 2015 and said that the next OLED will be flat screen. However, what was most note worthy was Panasonic’s new Ultra HD Blu-ray 4K player, the DMP-UB700, which was described by Panasonic Senior Trainer Walter Maeker as the DMP-UB900’s younger brother.

Other manufacturers such as Philips, Chinese Skyworth, German Metz and Turkish manufacturers Vestel and Arçelik demonstrated their first OLED TVs (in general between 55”-65”). 

Philips  (2)

 

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On the projectors front, Epson demonstrated three new mid-range home theatre projectors: EH-TW6700, EH-TW6700W and EH-TW6800 with additional functionality and higher specifications. I had the chance to take a closer look and, although the image quality was good, it has to be observed that the user interface look quite dated and it includes features that are not yet available (so why have it on the menu?).

In comparison, the demo we saw of Sony’s Home Cinema projectors was very impressive. The VPL-VW550ES is the company’s new, compact native 4K Home Cinema projector launched at IFA 2016. This is the third model in Sony’s existing portfolio to support 4K HDR. Some interesting features included the contrast HDR option, where you can change the gamma curve and the HDR detection, so that the projector can notify the user what type of content it’s receiving. Sony’s UHD algorithm adds the details missing from the image, increasing its sharpness. The new projector will be compatible with Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG) - used for future broadcasting services.

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Smart homes and even smart cities were a recurring theme amongst big manufacturers. Voice commands, with Amazon’s Alexia leading the way is being embraced by companies such as T-Mobile and LG, which introduced its LG ‘Smart ThinQ’ IoT solution where ordinary appliances can become smart by adding a tag.

IFA 2016 was blessed with hot sunny weather that meant that its ‘green areas’ were constantly packed with people networking - i.e. drinking beer and eating sausages. The trade show halls seemed to be endless and they were packed not only with trade folk but also with end users, young and old, wanting to try out the technology. This fact gave the show a more exciting feel, with the lovely wide eyed-jaw-dropping expressions on visitors’ faces.

Geny Caloisi

Geny Caloisi is an accomplished technology journalist who has worked in a variety of AV industry publications. 

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