IFA show round-up: Tablets and 3DTVs

Sony and Samsung wheel out new tablets, and Toshiba unveils first glasses-free 3DTV
Darren Allan

September 9, 2011
Philips Cinema 219

The IFA show took place over the last week in Berlin, as you’ve probably noticed from the flurry of TechWatch news stories relating to the event.

But for those of you who’ve missed some (or all) of our coverage, or indeed the articles splashed liberally around other tech sites, here’s a quick round-up of the hot topics at this year’s IFA.

Namely, 3DTVs and tablets, and naturally many of the latter were built on Android.

One of the biggest reveals came from Sony in the form of twin slates. Both Tegra 2 powered affairs, the Tablet S is the iPad rival with a 9.4 inch display.

Sony made a fuss about its lightweight ergonomic design making it easy to hold, but we’re not convinced the device does enough to make it leap off the shelves at this stage in the game.

The Tablet P is more innovative, combining twin 5.5 inch screens in a folding clamshell design, much like a slate version of the 3DS on steroids. The idea is the two screens can be used for, say, composing an email on one, while typing using a virtual keyboard on the other.

Sony also pitched on the usage of the tablets doubling as remote controls, although we’re not exactly getting excited about that prospect.

A lot depends on pricing, but where Sony is concerned, that’s rarely an easy to swallow pill. As a result, we certainly have reservations about whether the S&P models can kick-start Sony’s entry to the tablet arena.

Samsung continued to refine its Galaxy Tab line with a 7.7 inch version featuring a slightly larger screen and higher resolution than the original. However, the device had to be pulled from the show due to legal action from Apple.

Samsung also introduced the Note smartphone, with an expansive 5.3 inch Dell Streak style display which makes this more of a mini-tablet. It comes with a stylus, so you can hand write emails, a nifty touch.

Whether that’ll be enough to save it from the fate of the Streak, which was recently canned by Dell, we’ll have to wait and see.

3DTVs, the current tech fad of the moment – or the next-generation viewing experience, depending on your perspective – were also a major feature of IFA.

Since the previous year, 3DTVs have certainly got larger in terms of screen real estate, but innovation went beyond simply making stuff bigger.

The foremost new 3D tech is what everyone has been waiting for according to consumer surveys – the glasses-free 3DTV set, the first of which was unveiled courtesy of Toshiba.

The 55ZL2 certainly turned heads, a 55 inch 3DTV with a resolution of 3840×2160 that enables it to deliver an offset 3D picture with no need for goofy specs. The set works for multiple viewers too, so unlike the 3DS, you don’t have to be sat right in front of it to get the proper three dimensional effect.

It’s extremely clever technology indeed, but the downside is the price tag. Not many people will be able to splash out seven odd grand for a new television. It’ll be a while before this sort of technology is mainstream.

Another new 3D technology – new for passive glasses anyway, as Sony has already accomplished it with active 3D glasses – is LG’s Dual Play which has been brought to its Cinema 3D sets.

This uses the 3DTV to display two separate images simultaneously for split-screen two player gaming where both players get to use the whole screen.

Essentially, both players’ points of view are simultaneously displayed on the screen, instead of the usual slightly offset image required to create the 3D effect. One player wears a set of glasses with two left eye lenses, and one with right eye lenses, so they can each only see their own viewpoint.

Of course, it’s a 2D image they see, not a 3D one. It’s a very clever use of the technology which other companies are also adopting, such as Philips with its refreshed Cinema 21:9 3DTVs.

The new Cinema 21:9 Platinum and Gold TVs were shown off at IFA with internet TV capabilities being introduced, too. Net connected or smart TVs were again a prominent theme, as more folks look to enjoy the likes of YouTube and iPlayer on bigger displays.

We still remain on the fence when it comes to 3DTV, although if IFA is anything to go by, it’s certainly making a major play to cement itself into our living rooms.

Glasses-free sets, when they eventually come down to mainstream price levels, will likely be a massive boost to the 3DTV industry. But meanwhile, broadcast 3D content remains an issue that needs to be addressed to provide a more compelling case for adoption.


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