The 9 most fascinating gadgets at IFA 2015

BERLIN — In the technology trade show calendar, IFA is the most misunderstood. And for good reason. The massive and long-running event in Germany’s capital is open to the public, it has a red-wigged mascot (Miss IFA) straight out of “Run Lola Run” and it casts a very wide net in what it defines as tech. It’s as if CES, Mobile World Congress and an appliance convention all got together and had a child.

With so much to see, from smartphones to TVs, to laptops, to smart home sensors, it’s a confusing mess to navigate that’s best represented by the labyrinthine Berlin Messe (the city’s exhibition center) where IFA takes place. But, fueled by currywurst, we powered through to chronicle the most interesting tech of the show. Here’s what we found.

Better Blu-ray
Though Samsung broke form tradition by expanding its Note line before IFA this year, it was hardly a wallflower with two events that opened and closed yesterday. There wasn’t a new phone in sight, but the company did show the word’s first ultra-high-definition Blu-ray player. The UBD-K8500 promises 4 times the resolution and 64 times higher color expression compared to standard Blu-ray (and you thought that was top-notch). It also can upscale content to deliver UHD resolution for any disc and support UHD streaming services.

UHD Blu-ray players have been due for a while, so Samsung’s announcement was not unexpected. More surprising, though, is that Samsung is the only company at IFA to announce such a player (so far, at least), and the K8500 won’t be on sale until next year, thus missing the holiday buying season. The company promised a price of “less than $500” (roughly £350 or AU$700) and said the device will launch in the US and Europe first. How the improved image and sound quality of Ultra HD Blu-ray will compete with widely available 4K streaming services remains to be seen, but Samsung has never had a problem throwing the latest tech against the wall just to see if it sticks.

And better TV
If the sharpest picture is your thing you’ll also need a TV — and LG’s EF9500 might be just the screen for you. The company’s first 4K OLED TV, its first appeared way back at CES in January, but LG brought it back to IFA just as we learned some pricing details. The 65-inch 65EF9500 costs $6,999 and the 55-inch 55EF9600 $5,499. Expect them in US stores by the middle of this month. Pricing and availability for other regions wasn’t immediately available.

As CNET’s TV guru David Katzmaier wrote in his EF9500 preview, OLED delivers significantly better images than other display technologies such as the still-dominate LED LCD and the now-discontinued plasma, with both a perfectly dark shade of black and a very bright white on the same screen simultaneously. Add in 4K resolution and you should get a pretty sharp picture. As OLED is also difficult to manufacture, though, only large companies like LG (and Panasonic) are really able to do it.

A 4K phone? (Yes, really.)
Speaking of 4K, Sony wants to bring it from your TV to your phone (or maybe one day merge those two devices completely). I speak of the Xperia Z5 Premium, one of a trio of new phones that Sony showed in Berlin. It goes a step further than handsets like the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Sony Xperia Z3+ that just shoot 4K video by sporting an actual 4K display. That means you’ll be be able to shoot 4K video and watch it back at full resolution on the same device.

Of course, the big questions are whether a 4K phone is just too much and just how such a sharp picture will impact battery life. You’ll have to wait for our full review before we can answer those questions, but the Z5 is more than respectable even if the screen is a bust. It comes in a shiny and solid mirrored glass case and has features like a fingerprint scanner, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, Android Lollipop and a whopping 23-megapixel camera.

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