IFA is Europe’s largest dedicated technology show, which saw more than 2000 exhibitors gather in Berlin in early September. In 2023, more than 150,000 people attended from over 140 countries Andrew Williams took a tour of the emerging AV tech on display.
A walk through the many halls of Messe Berlin where the show is held can tell a lot about where technology is headed over the next year and beyond. That’s just what we did.
Products on show ranged from robot vacuum cleaners to air conditioning units to projectors, and the stands also act as an opportunity for the biggest tech brands to talk a little more about their approach to environmental concerns.
While there was far too much on display to delve into it all here, we’re going take a look at what some of the biggest tech brands are up to — including new devices that will determine how audiences consume content in 2024 and into the future.
LG: The briefcase TV
South Korean electronics giant LG constructed an entire eco cottage at the IFA 2023 tech show, as a way to demonstrate the breadth and interconnectivity of its energy efficient lifestyle devices. These range from fridges, ovens and dishwashers to air conditioning, and an EV charger.
The cottage was not restricted to LG tech either. There were smart security cameras and a video doorbell, a 4kW solar panel on the roof to help power the appliances within, lower bills and generally reduce the home’s carbon footprint. It’s a vision of a tech house of the near-future, and one that could largely be recreated outside of an expo hall today.
All of this tech is brought together under the company’s ThinQ platform, used to control LG connected and Internet of Things devices, among others.
During the show, LG and Samsung also made a joint announcement. Their respective platforms, LG ThingQ and Samsung SmartThings, will soon be able to control each other’s devices. This is part of the Home Connectivity Alliance’s plan, a consortium of manufacturers that also includes Grundig, Electric and AEG.
The aim is to do what cross-manufacturer smart home control standard Matter is yet to achieve, making the use of multiple smart home brands’ smart home gadgets a non-issue for the average consumer.
From the resolutely sensible to a piece of tech that could have been ripped straight from a movie, LG showed the LG StandbyME Go at IFA 2023. It’s a briefcase that holds a 27-inch TV, or computer monitor.
The display is mounted on arm that glides out of the suitcase, acting like a TV stand even if the person using it is in the middle of a field. It can even rotate the display by 90 degrees, turning it into a giant touchscreen social media-ready interface.
LG’s StandbyME Go runs webOS, just like the company’s popular OLED TVs, granting access to VOD apps like Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+. As long as it has internet access it can operate independently, thanks to its built-in 20W speakers and three-hour battery. This unusual display costs $999 and was confirmed for a US release around the time of the IFA 2023 show.
Dolby: Atmos FlexConnect
Atmos is typically thought of as a high-end cinema and home cinema tech. Dolby Atmos FlexConnect aims to let people get better sound from their TV, without needing to use a bespoke soundbar or surround sound speaker system.
It tunes and calibrates wireless speakers connected to the TV, to compensate for speakers with different abilities and tonalities. For example, if a TV’s own speakers have very little bass, more of the low-end from these front channels may be passed to the other speaker.
FlexConnect can also, crucially, compensate for speakers place awkwardly and non-symmetrically. This happens using a tone-based calibration stage, in which microphones in the TV listen for a speaker’s position and sound.
It should let people who don’t mold their living rooms around their home entertainment setups still achieve great audio quality.
Dolby Atmos FlexConnect will come to TCL TVs in 2024, although at this point Dolby has not announced the technical requirements for connected speakers, and whether this will require a new embedded wireless standard.
Hisense: Teasing 2024 TV technologies
Hisense announced its 2023 TV range in January at the CES tech show, which demonstrated its major focus on mini-LED technology over OLED. However, the company did show a preview of one area of focus for next year’s 2024 line-up: the anti-reflective layer.
Next-generation Hisense TVs will further seek to reduce the effect of reflections and light sources, widening the situations in which Hisense’s mini-LED TVs can shine. This style of TV already excels in areas of high ambient light, thanks to unusually high peak brightness, and this change should make 2024’s sets all the more compelling.
Alongside Hisense’s already-announced mini-LEDs, the show was also used to demo the company’s cutting-edge laser “TV”. The most high-end of these are the Hisense 100LX and 120LX, which are effectively ultra short throw 8K laser projectors paired with a large 100-inch or 120-inch screen.
Hisense has been marketing the concept of the “laser TV” since 2017, as a way for more folks to get big-screen entertainment in their homes without remodelling. Or remortgaging.
TCL: Ultra-bright TVs, eye-calming phone displays
Chinese manufacturer TCL is pushing at the extremes of consumer-grade display technology with a pair of products it showed at IFA 2023, the TCL X955 TV and the TCL 40 NXTPAPER 5G.
The TCL X955 is a high-end TV that shows one road ahead for how households of the future may consume content. It uses a mini-LED panel, a style that has become increasingly popular.
Mini-LED combines high peak brightness with high contrast, thanks to a display backlight that can be finely controlled in many zones. It offers a good balance of the benefits of OLED TVs and more conventional LCDs.
However, this is among the most high-spec mini-LED announced for general sale to date. It can reach brightness of up to 5000 nits, a boon for HDR content, or for any content when a set has to deal with high levels of ambient light.
The TCL X955 also has 5184 local dimming zones. This is more than 10 times the amount found in some of today’s top mini-LED TVs. More dimming zones means less of the “halo” effect, where a ring of light appears to appear bright objects. Subtitles can bring out this effect very noticeably.
TCL’s 40 NXTPAPER 5G sits at the other end of the spectrum. It’s a phone that costs just £179.99, but has a screen that is entirely out of the ordinary.
The focus here is on eye comfort. To that end the TCL 40 NXTPAPER 5G has a low blue light output display, to reduce eyestrain and the chances of late night use disturbing the user’s sleep patterns.
This is also a matt finish screen, all but unheard-of in mainstream phones. This scatters reflections, at the cost of a little image and colour pop. TCL calls it a “paper-like” finish, but it does use a backlit panel, making it technically closer to a classic LCD phone display than the E-Ink display of a Kindle Paperwhite.
Honor: Betting on foldable
Are foldable phones the future for a mainstream audience who wants bigger-screen entertainment and apps on-the-go? Honor seems to think so.
It announced two foldable phones during IFA 2023. The first is the European version of the Honor Magic V2, the thinnest foldable phone released to date. Under 10mm thick, aside from the raised camera housing, it is the thinnest foldable far, and one that aims to feel similar in bulk to a regular “bar” shape phone when closed.
This is the second of Honor’s major European foldable releases of 2023, having announced the predecessor Magic Vs at February’s MWC 2023 tech show. The message is clear: it is no longer just Samsung pushing the boundaries of foldable tech.
The second of Honor’s foldables was more eye-catching, if less practical. The Honor V Purse is a foldable inspired by the clutch bag, using a single screen that bends around one side of the exterior of the phone and an ornate, removable straps. Just like a fashion handbag. Honor has also partnered with multiple designers to concoct handbag-like and arty graphics that can be displayed on the screen.
It may not function as an actual purse or handbag but is a counter to the idea that clamshell foldables, rather than these larger-screen book style designs, are the only ones that can be considered a fashion statement. The Honor V Purse is a concept design so may, or may not, be released as a mass-produced device.
Lenovo: 3D monitors, video glasses
While Lenovo did not have a big presence at IFA itself, it did hold events around the show with some of the most eye-caching tech of the moment.
First, the Lenovo Legion Glasses offer a new spin on video glasses, which are more commonly seen from specialist brands like Vuzix and Xreal (formerly nreal).
These reasonably normal-looking sunglasses put the equivalent of an 86-inch display in the wearer’s vision, with 1080p resolution per eye. The concept is the glasses will pair perfectly with Lenovo’s new Legion Go, a Windows-based gaming handheld with detachable wireless controllers much like the Nintendo Switch.
Lenovo also looked to the XR future with the ThinkVision 27 3D, a glasses-free 3D and 2D monitor that could prove to be an ideal tool for professionals working in AR and VR. 3D assets can be seen fully fleshed out without the discomfort or inconvenience of glasses or a headset.
The Legion ThinkVision 27 3D Monitor is strong in other technical respects too. Lenovo promises 99% coverage of the DCI-P3 and Abode RGB colour gamuts, and the panel is of 4K resolution.
Lenovo’s Legion Go video glasses will be available from October, for £399.99. The ThinkVIsion 27 3D monitor will be released in select markets in early 2024 for 2999 Euro.
Samsung: A focus on energy use
Tech behemoth Samsung does not have as grand a presence at tech shows as it once did, tending to reserve its biggest announcements and demos for its own events. However, it did unveil a couple of interesting products at IFA 2023 that show one of the company’s priorities: energy use reduction.
The Samsung A-40% is a washing machine that aims to reduce the energy consumption of a wash cycle to 40% below the standard required to achieve an “A” class energy rating.
Samsung says the washer’s AI Energy Mode can reduce energy use by up to 70%, by using colder water and assessing the weight of the items being washed.
Samsung also announced the EHS Mono R290, from a category likely to pop up in energy saving conversations much more than washing machines over the next few years: heat pumps.
This model can, according to Samsung, deliver optimal heating performance in temperatures as low as -10 degrees centigrade. It can provide hot water of up to 75 degree centigrade.
“Solutions for a sustainable future” was Samsung’s tagline for its IFA updates.
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