IFA 2017: latest trends from Europe’s biggest tech show
The latest trends from Europe’s biggest technology show “The two tech trends emerging at the show were clearer than Sharp’s 8K telly on display: voice-activated speakers and OLED televisions”
Another year, another IFA. And at Europe’s biggest technology show, held in Berlin, there were more OLED TVS and voice-controlled smart speakers inside the exhibition than bratwursts consumed outside of it.
The two tech trends emerging at the show were clearer than Sharp’s 8K telly on display, but doing their best to be heard above the voice-activated speakers and grabbing the spotlight from those lights-off blacks, were a range of exciting products, from Dali’s upcoming multiroom speaker system to the first globally available Mqa-enabled smartphone. But OLED TVS had an emphatic presence at IFA 2017. And some screens in particular were hard to ignore.
Riding the latest trend for ‘bigger is better’ were Sony, Panasonic and LG. All three showed off 77in 4K OLED TVS – all supporting HDR and carrying their own wow factor, as you might expect from TVS with five-figure price tags. While Panasonic hasn’t revealed the price of its EZ1002, we expect it will be more or less as bank-breaking as Sony’s £20,000 A1 and LG’S £25,000 W7.
So 77in may be the new 65in, but there were plenty of TVS in the traditional big screen size. Philips unveiled its flagship 65in OLED 9 series 4K OLED with three-sided Ambilight, support for HDR 10 (though not Dolby Vision HDR), and a new P5 picture-processing engine that aims to make the most of the OLED panel. UHD Premium certification is another tick in the box, and it comes with a 60W soundbase.
Thanks to a partnership with LG, B&O has entered the 4K OLED market with its Beovision Eclipse TVS – available in 55in (£8300) and 65in (£11,600). We can see why the Danish company was keen to show them off, with their own threechannel soundbar-like speaker, HDR10 and Dolby Vision HDR support, and LG’S WEBOS smart platform onboard – not to mention that iconic motorised stand.
Marking the anniversary of the announcement that it was re-entering the European market with Vestel,
Toshiba aimed its sights at the ‘budget’ 4K OLED market, with two new models: a 55in (€1700) and 65in (€3500), both complete with HDR 10, Dolby Vision and Hybrid Log Gamma (HLG).
Perhaps the most intriguing OLED set on display, however, was the latest prototype of Panasonic’s transparent model, which uses ‘intelligent glass’. It’s certainly one to keep an eye on in the coming months.
LCD TVS got a look in too, of course. Philips announced its first quantum dot 4K TV, while Sharp showed off its first consumer-ready 8K TV, which will be sold in Japan and China next March for what we guess will be a huge amount. A shout-out to Sharp for its 120in 4K telly and ‘world’s first’ roll-up LCD, too.
Also featuring in Toshiba’s line-up was a new 77in 4K model and an affordable Alexa-enabled TV range with screens ranging from 43in to 75in. The less we say about Toshiba’s 24in HD Ready Star Wars-themed TV the better.
Apple’s Siri, Samsung’s Bixby, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google’s Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa are all competing to be on the receiving end of your voice commands, but it’s the last two that stood out on the trade show floor.
Sony, Panasonic and JBL all announced wireless speakers with Google Assistant built-in, while Pioneer, Libratone and Medion will have speakers powered by Amazon Alexa. Rather democratically, both Onkyo and Harmon Kardon launched a wireless speaker with both.
Most will cost around the £150 250 mark and are expected to hit shelves at the end of the year – Apple’s Homepod rival has a December release – so they should be fighting it out for that top spot on your Christmas list.
True wireless ear buds continue to gain momentum – B&O and Philips announced in-ears without wires – while Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) confirmed yet more hardware support for lossless hi-res streaming.
IFA saw the line-up of Mqa-supported portable music players expand to Sony’s two new Walkmans – the WM ZX300 and WM A40 – and LG’S V30 flagship was announced as the first globally available smartphone with MQA compatibility. That’s certainly good news for the synergy of sound quality and portability.
Hardcore hi-fi isn’t exactly IFA’S strongest hand, but two products in particular stood out above the gathered OLED TVS and smart speakers.
Following Technics’ recent reimagining of its iconic SL 1200 turntable, the company has delved even further back into its history and announced the Reference Class SP 10R – the brand’s most premium deck yet.
Technics claims the SP 10R has the world’s-best signal-to-noise ratio and rotational stability, courtesy of the 7kg brass, rubber and aluminium platter. Elsewhere, there’s a brand new coreless direct-drive motor (upgraded from that used in the recent SL 1200GR) and an ultra low-noise power supply, which is separated from the platter to further reduce noise and vibration.
Dali’s Callisto multi-room speaker system was teased just before making a debut at IFA in pre-production form. The Callisto 2 standmounts and Callisto 6 floorstanders use Lenbrook’s BLUOS hi-res multi-room platform.
The speakers connect to a desktopsized Sound Hub over a 24-bit/96khz connection, and can accept sources over Bluetooth or directly through the Sound Hub’s twin optical, analogue, USB and coaxial inputs. From our first sighting at IFA, the Dalis seem promising. But it could be a while before we get to see the finished product. As for everything else, we hope to get our hands on them soon.
Technics announced the Reference Class SP-10R at IFA 2017 – the company’s most premium deck yet
Philips unveiled a flagship 65in OLED 9 series 4K TV at the show, with Ambilight and a 60W soundbase