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Not all 8K is created equal

Television tech was the talk of IFA, even with precious few new products being announced. Steve May reports

TV technology took centre stage at IFA 2019,

but not through product announcements (which were few and far between). Instead, the Berlin show became a platform for new technologies and innovation, and an intriguing 8K standards squabble. Einstein would have been proud. Panasonic unveiled two displays that it proclaimed pushed the envelope. Crowds gathered around a new studio quality screen and a design-focused transparent OLED. We’ve seen transparent OLEDs before, but what makes Panasonic’s significant is the quality of its black level performance. The screen looks terrific when in use. But when turned off, reveal what lurks behind, which may be valued ornaments or family photos. A joint development with interiors specialist, Vitra, this OLED display is more furniture than AV. Scandinavian-based designer, Daniel Rybakken,

told ERT that he was currently in discussion with the artistic community about innovative ways to use the panel when it’s in its transparent mode. On the Panasonic booth, it showed soothing colour washes, but other uses may include ambient lighting. The transparent OLED doesn’t have any integrated speakers though, which means there’s an opportunity to up-sell a designer sound system when it goes on sale in select territories at the end of the year. Panasonic’s second unveil, codenamed MegaCon (for Mega Contrast), is aimed at professional users in post-production and mastering.

At the heart of the MegaCon is a Panasonic manufactured module that partners a 4K outer panel with a monochrome inner panel, used to modulate the direct LED backlight. Panasonic told ERT that the MegaCon has already been evaluated by Hollywood studios and post-

production houses, for master monitoring duties, and that it’s expected to go into production soon. Of course, Panasonic doesn’t have a monopoly on dual LCD displays. Over on the Hisense booth, the Chinese major previewed its own dual LCD display, comprising a 4K outer panel coupled to a 1080p monochrome panel. Unlike Panasonic’s MegaCon, it is destined for the consumer market.

Dubbed the ULED XD, the use of the secondary panel again enhances black level performance. It looks like this doubling-up of LCD panels could be a trend we’ll see more of in 2020. Market analyst Paul Grey, from IHS Markit, quipped to ERT: “Well at least it helps solve the LCD panel over-supply problem!” A more immediate announcement from Hisense, which is currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, involved TVs with an integrated Roku smart platform.

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