Now in its 49th year, the IFA consumer electronics exhibition in Germany was the biggest show yet, drawing in a crowd of 228,600 visitors – an 8% increase on the previous year’s turnout. The halls of the Berlin-based exhibition venue were filled with products from 1,164 exhibitors over an area of 121,000 square metres.
As in previous years, innovations in television technology dominated the news, in particular the arrival of 3D TV as showcased by several manufacturers, along with a flurry of new LED TVs and OLED panels.
Although a steady selection of plasma and LCD panels were announced, the majority of new TVs were of the LED backlit variety which benefit from strong contrast and deep black levels.
LG debuted its new Borderless LED panels, sporting a slimline minimalist design with a single sheet of glass running to the edges of the screen for a seamless finish. The flagship SL9000 series of edge LED panels is available as 42 and 47in models. Measuring just 29mm thick, the TVs boast a 3,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 100Hz processing and Bluetooth capability as well as DivX HD playback. Also new from LG was the LH9000 series of direct LED TVs, which comes in 42 and 47in versions.
Toshiba unveiled its first range of LED backlit LCDs – the REGZA SV series. The TVs benefit from local dimming technology and feature a dynamic contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1. Available in 46 and 55in screen sizes, the TVs boast the maker’s Resolution+ upscaling circuitry along with Active Vision 200Hz. The TVs are also among the first to feature Dolby Vision, which controls sound levels between programmes and particularly during ad breaks.
Philips displayed the latest model in its Aurea lineup – the 40PFL9904H – boasting the brand’s Ambilight Active Frame that projects ambient lighting to match what’s happening onscreen. The edge-lit LED TVs sport a slimmed-down bezel and Philips’ Perfect Pixel HD Engine. The brand also debuted its 46in 9000 Series direct LED panel with contrast twice has high as on the previous model.
Sharp introduced its latest Aquos screens, with the introduction of the LE700E and LE600E full LED backlit TVs. Available in screen sizes ranging from 32 to 52in, the new models boast a claimed dynamic contrast ratio of 2,000,000:1 along with the maker’s proprietary full HD X-Gen panels.
Sony launched a new range of full HD Bravia LCD panels with built-in Freesat tuners. The W5810 and Z5800 series boast Bravia Engine 3 processing along with Motionflow 200Hz on the Z5800.
A handful of companies also displayed razor-thin AMOLED TV panels, including a 15in screen from LG. The Korean brand intends to launch 30 and 40in screens by 2012. Samsung also displayed a prototype 15in AMOLED panel.
3D becomes reality
The big story from the show was the introduction of 3D TV, with several companies, including JVC, demonstrating their own version of the technology. Panasonic announced that it will introduce 3D TVs and Blu-ray players in 2010 and used the show to demo its 3D technology by showing clips of James Cameron’s much-anticipated 3D movie, Avatar, which is set to hit cinemas later this year.
Sony also announced that it will introduce 3D-compatible Bravia LCD TVs in 2010 and showed demos of the technology at work. The company intends to develop 3D capability on other products such as its Blu-ray decks, Vaio computers and its PlayStation 3 games console.
Philips also joined the 3D party, showing off an impressive concept model that combines 3D technology with the Dutch brand’s extra-wide ‘cinemascope’ 21:9 TV.
The 3D message was also backed up by the Blu-ray Disc Association’s announcement that it will be incorporating 3D into the hi-def disc format. No timings were given, but 3D Blu-ray discs are widely expected to be in shops by the end of 2011.
Toshiba caused a storm at the show when it unveiled its very first Blu-ray player after ditching its HD DVD format last year and finally joining the Blu-ray camp. The product announcement came hot on the heels of the news that the manufacturer had applied to join the Blu-ray Disc Association. The Japanese manufacturer’s BDX2000 Blu-ray deck will be in shops by Christmas and offers full Profile 2.0 support for BD-Live functionality. Along with support for Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio sound, the player will also play back DivX HD and AVCHD.
Toshiba also introduced a Blu-ray drive-equipped notebook PC that will be on sale from October, along with the Journe Touch, a multimedia device with a 7in LED touch screen that enables users to browse the internet.
Several other companies, including Philips, also previewed their latest Blu-ray decks, with Samsung pledging to include YouTube internet connectivity on all of its future players, while Sony introduced the Wi-Fi enabled BDP-S560 and BDP-S760 Blu-ray players and LG launched its first player with advanced DLNA and integrated Wi-Fi. A number of brands, including LG and Philips also displayed Blu-ray sound bar speakers systems.
Other show highlights included the first in-ear digital noise-cancelling headphones from Sony and the Magic Motion remote control from LG, which works in a similar way to a Wii controller, in order to operate TV functions.
Although still primarily a consumer electronics show, IFA is also now home to white goods, with a number of major manufacturers such as LG, Electrolux, Dyson, Haier and Gorenje taking stands in the home appliances halls. The highlight was the unveiling of LG’s new large-capacity 11kg washing machine, designed to fit into a standard footprint of 60cm. Among LG’s other notable products was the Steam SolarCube oven, designed for speedy and healthy cooking.
A number of small kitchen appliance manufacturers also displayed their latest products including Philips’ Robust Collection, made from highly durable materials.