October 2021

Miss IFA IFA has seen more than its fair share of

transparent screens over the years. These digital signage offshoots look exceptionally cool, in both OLED and LED guise, but the chances of seeing one in your local Euronics store have always been slim to none. A Panasonic partnership with interiors

Today, there’s no aspect of new technology that

the show doesn’t cover, and now with the help of a curiously ageless Miss IFA, it routinely pulls in around 240,000 visitors from around the globe. We know how much you appreciate your

annual IFA fix, so in lieu of our usual show report we’re looking back over the past decade, at launches that went on to revitalise the electrical retail trade, and others that fell short... Little did I realise when pounding the halls

back in 2019 that it would be my last familiar IFA for the foreseeable. Back then, the hustle and bustle spoke only of exciting new developments to come. Of course, not everything shown at IFA

makes it to the real world. Much cast under its spotlight is designed to pull attention away from rivals. Not that we mind, the industry loves bravura bluster.

Prototypes galore! When Panasonic rolled out the MegaCon (for Mega Contrast) prototype display in 2019, few seriously thought it would migrate to the average living room. Even production studios would have baulked at the cost. MegaCon used a dual LCD layer to deliver a

black level performance able to rival OLED, with similar levels of deep and near black detail, it could sustain 1,000 nits of HDR high brightness indefinitely. With a claimed contrast ratio of 1,000,000:1, it looked spectacular, with inky blacks and beaming highlights. Hisense also previewed a dual LCD display

(4K outer panel coupled to a 1080p monochrome sheet) at the same show. This ULED XD used the secondary panel again enhancing black level performance. Will it turn up at some point in the future? It’s entirely possible. Back in 2018, visitors to the Hisense stand

would have seen its first concentrated push for Laser TV (seen right). This has since blossomed into quite a convincing range for the brand. Back then, its 100-inch H100LDA had just

shipped into the UK via Richer Sounds. Sold with a fixed screen, it boasted a ‘dual colour X-Fusion’ laser light engine, was HDR compatible, and had a built-in JBL audio system with wireless subwoofer. Quite the package! Meanwhile, also in 2018, Sharp partnered with

Italian design house Pininfarina, showing off a rather natty line of TVs, soundbar and Hi-Fi. Didn’t any come to market? Possibly, but if so they passed me by.

specialist Vitra in 2018, at least put a transparent OLED into a fancy wooden frame, and in some way foreshadowed the shift to lifestyle TVs, so successfully cornered today by Samsung. But it never really had the whiff of real production about it – not least because the designers forgot to include any speakers in their fancy design. IFA was also an early shop window for 8K.

Both LG and Samsung pushed hard for this, with ever more expensive superscreens, while Chinese brands covered cheaper 8K ground. In reality, few buyers choose between them as

8K failed to ignite mass consumer interest. There might not have been any programmes to watch, but it was at least entertaining enough to watch the rival brands squabble about compliance with various standards bodies. Turns out few consumers actually cared about Contrast Modulation (CM) and mosquito artifacting...

Picture perfect screens Back in 2018, if you had managed to get backstage on the LG stand, you might have chanced upon its nascent Micro LED technology. Presented in a show-box viewing room and proved impossible to get near, the 4K display featured dramatic, oversaturated colours and glowed like the sun. This appears to have been the progenitor to DV LED, announced by KG Display this year. Back in 2017, the HDR picture (ironically) got a

little less clear, with the arrival of HDR10+, complete with the apparent backing of Samsung, Panasonic and Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox. HDR10+ clearly hoped to derail Dolby’s plans

to dominate the premium HDR space with Dolby Vision, and with the promise of royalty-free use, it was assumed other consumer electronics brands and content providers would quickly jump on board. They didn’t. Only Amazon remains committed to the standard, for its Prime Video streaming offering. IMAX Enhanced also made its debut at IFA in

2017, and impressed all who experienced it (low picture grain, gut-wobbling bass). But again, despite some pick-up from hardware companies, real world applications remain limited. One technology that did resonate early at IFA

is immersive audio. The tech has since gone on to reshape the streaming landscape, although not exactly as planned. Sony made a big noise about its 360 Reality

Audio back in 2019, priming the 3D audio tech pump with a variety of Sony Music artists. As it happens, Dolby Atmos is where the music industry pivoted too, but Sony was clearly on the right path.

>> IFA 2009. Above: The show back in 1981


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