Samsung, Sony, and Panasonic are competing with 4K Ultra HD advances at IFA 2013, while LG, Philips and Toshiba play catch-up.
UPDATE: We spoke too soon – LG surprised everyone on the opening day and trumped Samsung with a 77in curved OLED Ultra HD 3D display.
Europe’s largest consumer technology show doesn’t open to the public until tomorrow (Friday, September 6), but the big brands shot their newsgasms to excited press well in advance.
So what if there’s nothing to watch in 4K yet, broadcasters aren’t sure what to do about it, and you’ll need deep pockets to afford even the 55in screens? They are the future.
LG: Euro unveiling for smaller 4K screens and built-in HEVC decoder
UPDATE: LG’s 77in curved 4K OLED surprised everyone on the opening morning of IFA 2013, and introduced a new screen size between 65in and 84in.
It was a highlight to a low-key IFA for LG TV. LG’s lower-priced 55in and 65in LA9650 Ultra HD screens were announced to the world in August, but got their European public debut in Berlin.
On sale imminently in the UK, the screens come in from just over £3,000, and are the world’s first to feature a built-in High Efficiency Video Coding H.265 decoder.
That’s a crucial piece of future-proofing, since H.265 will be the weapon of choice to squirt 4K across the internet, even if these TVs don’t support HDMI 2.0.
Samsung: 4K OLED has the best of all worlds
Read Recombu Digital’s guide to Super Hi-Vision, Ultra HD, 4K and 8K TVSamsung teased a press conference crowd with talk of its 4K Organic LED screen before revealing it on the IFA show-floor a day later.
The curved 55in screen combines Ultra HD resolution with the rich colours, smooth motion, deep blacks, bright whites, low power and lightness of OLED.
It’s a show-stealer for Samsung and a victory for OLED, which has staged an incredible comeback after taking so long to develop that many thought it an impossible dream.
The Korean TV giant also unveiled both 110in and 98in 4K flat LCD displays (because 84in just wasn’t enough), aiming at the huge commercial display market.
With screen tech leaping ahead of standards for connectivity and TV tuners, Samsung also promised a 4K upgrade for the One Connect media box which now replaces TV tuners and other connections built into its high-end TVs.
Finally, Samsung gave a closer look at its current flagship 4K TV, the UEF9000 models, in 55in, 65in and 85in versions, now on sale in the UK from around £3,000.
Sony: 4K projectors and upgrade promises
Sony put its 4K efforts into a new home cinema projector and promised to upgrade existing TVs as Ultra HD connection standards continue to evolve.
The VPL-VW500ES has a 4096×2160-pixel resolution, as used for 4K cinema, and supports 50/60Hz content through the new HDMI 2.0 standard.
Prices weren’t revealed, but it’s expected to bring them into a more affordable range, while there’s a range of upscaling tools for making the most of Full HD content.
There was reassurance for owners of the current Bravia X9 Sony 4K LED TV, which will get an online firmware download to HDMI 2.0 so it can show 50/60Hz 4K video.
Panasonic: 4K OLED prototype and first HDMI 2.0 TV
Panasonic confirmed Organic LED’s destiny to replace plasma, LCD and LED, although it’s admittedly-gorgeous prototype wasn’t so advanced as Samsung’s.
More interesting is the RGB all-printing production method for the screens, which could deliver OLEDs at mass market volumes and prices.
A more practical first for Panasonic was the Smart Viera TX-WT600, a 4K TV range with a 50/60Hz input, using both HDMI 2.0 and DisplayPort 1.2a specifications, which makes it compatible with both the PC and home entertainment markets.
It’s a 65in LED-lit LCD screen with a 2MHz scanning backlight for increased sharpness, and a built-in 4K H.264 decoder to play back UHD video from the internet or USB and SD cards.
Philips TP Vision: 4K better late than never
TP Vision launched the Philips 9000 Series Ultra HD TV in both 65in and 84in, completing the line-up of major TV brands to join the 4K party.
They’ve also promised to have them in the shops now rather the months which usually pass between product launch and retail arrival in the world of TV.
With a Euro price of €4,999 for the 65in set, the UK price will probably be above £4,000 but in line with competitors’ models, and heading for £13k for the 84in flagship.
One unique Philips feature is three-sided Ambilight, the multi-coloured LED lights which illuminate behind your TV to complement what’s on screen, and can sync with Philips Hue smart LED lights around your living room.
Toshiba: Ultra HD now on sale from £4K
With a 50in 4K prototype its only new display, IFA gives a European public viewing to Toshiba’s 9 Series Ultra HD screens, announced in March, as they go on sale in the UK.
The 50in screen points the way to a more accessible format for Ultra HD, not only in price but in size, although it’s close to the limit where 4K’s extra detail will be invisible to the naked eye.
On sale now, the Series 9 4K TVs also feature passive Full HD 3D, which looks good because the 4K screen can offer 1080p to each eye for every frame, improving brightness and smoothing motion.
Prices start at £3k for the 58in model, up to £14k for the 84in, although there’s no HDMI 2.0 support for 50/60Hz formats.