Analysis: TV tech taken to extremes at IFA 2015, as HDR, OLED and 8K fight for eyeballs

posted on Thursday, 10th September 2015 by Steve May

4K  HDR  IFA 2015 


Next generation TV displays provided much of the excitement at the IFA 2015 tech fest. 4K has become commonplace, so now its HDR (High Dynamic Range) technology which is generating all the buzz, not to mention the long anticipated rise of OLED.

Panasonic launched its first OLED screen at the show. The 65-inch TX65CX950 comes with flagship trimmings and is HDR compatible. The set has been colour tuned by Hollywood colourist Michael Sowa. Early impressions are that it’s a class leader.

While Panasonic had one screen, LG had many. Its latest sets are just 4.8mm at their slimmest point, and a number of them will support HDR. The company is also offering both flat 4K and curved 4K panels, which will be a relief to wall-mounters. LG’s booth was dominated with examples of HDR content from a variety of providers, including the BBC and Netflix. The screen looked wonderfully dynamic.

This year, the trade association behind  IFA, which has been setting the tech agenda in Europe since 1924, changed its name. Now known under the snappy mmonicker GFU consumer and home electronics, , it painted an upbeat picture during its opening keynote. The industry is expected to grow by 14 per cent this year, from 783billiuon euros to 891. Interestingly, the biggest growth is predicted to be in the Middle East and Africa, followed byNorth America. European growth is expected to be a modest 4 per cent.Of course, the lion's share of the business (41 per cent) is down to smartphones.

In the consumer electronics field, it's 4K screens which are making all the running, up 178 per cent this year to 28.4m units.

“We're already at the tipping point where all large screen sets will transition to 4K,” Panasonic Marketing director David Preece told Inside CI.

There were plenty of HDR demos running across the standards. Philips new 9600 Series UHD set is capable of 1000nits peak brightness. The manufacturer’s technology guru Danny Tack dismissed concerns that some viewers may find such brightness uncomfortable. He pointed out that the BBC is an enthusiastic supporter of HDR.

Personally, I'm finding peak whites of a 1000nits uncomfortable to watch. Bright highlights, be they glinting reflections or a full-on sunrise, can look startlingly realistic, but not always in a good way. OLED, by comparison, is nowhere near as bright. The new Panasonic CZ950 HDR OLED has a peak brightness of 400nits, but it actually looks more contrasty because it delivers 100 per cent black. The viewing experience is less about brightness and more about increased colour range.

 Not all the TV excitement was about HDR though. Philips Ambilux had everyone talking. The new technology is an upgrade on Ambilight, and uses nine LED projectors on the rear of the set to simulcast the TV picture onto the wall behind the screen. The result is a huge light show. While not your traditional home cinema solution, it’s certainly eye-catching and is likely to appeal to gamers and LED lighting enthusiasts.

The company also introduced its 8600 Series, with four-sided traditional Ambilight and  detachable stereo speakers. Held in place by magnets, they’ve easily removed and can be placed on optional stands for a wider stereo sound spread. 

Pixel counters were also treated to a number of 8K panels from the likes of LG, Skyworth and Hisense – and they looked sensational with native content. Although there’s no practical use as yet, the advent of  the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is likely to drive development.

Closer to home, OEM TV giant Vestel offrered a first glimpse at its new titled Smart TV platform. Expect to see it crop up on numerous brands over the next 12 months.

Inside CI also enjoyed an early look at Sony’s new VLP-VW5200ES. The new model is brighter than its processor, as well as HDR compatible. The latter makes this step-up model particularly interesting. Sony ran HDR UHD footage from The Blacklist and The Amazing-Spider-Man 2, then compared it with non-HDR. Ostensibly there’s only subtle differences, but when you start to notice the richness of colour, the peaky highlights which offer even more contrast, it really does look fabulous. 

Finally, Samsung used to show to unveil its debut 4K UHD player, the UBD-K8500. Although not tuning – adjacent content was sourced from a media player, the design looks fairly final. It’ll be officially launched in the spring of 2016. The Blu-ray Disc Association is promising more news about the format at the 2016 CES. 

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Steve May

Inside CI Editor Steve May is a freelance technology specialist who also writes for T3TechRadarHome Cinema Choice, Trusted Reviews and The Luxe Review.

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