The buzz was loud at tech shows all over the world this year; 8K TV is coming. This news, exciting as it is, induced groans from tech fans though. Why? Why in the world do we need 8K when it feels like 4K just became a thing? And is there even such a thing as 8K content to watch on these new generation TVs anyway?
The fact is that 8K TV – for the average American anyway – is still a ways off. But in the interests of remaining current here’s a look at this next-gen tech and an explanation of why there is no need to consider retiring your 4K TV just yet.
Just What is 8K Anyway?
Based on the name alone it would be logical to assume that 8K will offer twice everything that 4K does. But that is not the case. Getting a little mathematical for a moment the fact is that because two dimensions need to be considered – horizontal lines and vertical lines — it’s actually a whopping 16 times the pixels of HD and four times the pixels of 4K: 8K resolution equates to 7,680 × 4,320, or 33 million pixels (33,117,600, to be exact), instead of 3,840 × 2,160 (8,294,400 pixels). To more easily visualize it, imagine four 4K TVs placed in a 4×4 grid. Which all adds up to a LOT of pixels.
8K TVs – How They Got Here
Even before 4K TVs were really starting to take off a few years ago work was underway to bring 8K to the market. In fact, Sharp showed off their first effort – a behemoth 85-inch model – at CES in 2013.
The first broadcasts in 8K were put out by the Japanese TV station NSK during the 2016 Olympics, however, they could only be watched in select movie theaters, rather than anywhere on a TV.
Since 2013 all the big players in the TV game have brought at least one prototype 8K TV to the major tech shows. But as 2018 draws to a close these pixel-packed screens are finally hitting the market. The 85-inch Sharp Q900 is already available for a shock-inducing $15,000, and LG plans to make its 88-inch 8K OLED TV available sometime in the first half of 2019.
Obviously, 8Ks will debut with some huge price stickers, but then again, so did 4K. Back in 2012, LG’s first 4K TV, the 84-inch 84LM9600, launched for $20,000. It’s now easy to find a good 85-inch version from any of the major players – LG, Sharp, Samsung – for under $5,000 and if you shopped carefully this past Black Friday some were going for under $3,000. So you can expect that once 8K starts to take off – and it will, because there will always be that subset of the population who has to have the latest TV ASAP – similar price drops will follow
But What About 8K Content?
Even if you were to invest the 15K to get an 8K TV into your living room or office right now there is very little in the way of content available created specifically for it. In November 2017, video-streaming site Vimeo added support for 8K, along with a handful of videos. NHK launched a test channel dedicated to showing 8K content in December 2017, but like the 2016 Olympics footage, viewers can only watch this channel at specially dedicated viewing stations throughout Japan. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be a major showcase for 8K broadcast, at least in Japan, but how much of the games will be broadcast in that resolution in the United States or Europe remains to be seen.
Content, however, is not the only reason to go 8K, as Samsung demonstrated at this year’s CES. The 8K TVs of the future will upscale 4K content to 8K, and the difference in clarity will be stark.
To prove this point, Samsung put two 85-inch TVs side by side, one playing 4K content in 4K, the other upscaling 4K content to 8K. The difference was apparent, with the upscaled 4K video playing on the 8K TV looking significantly visibly superior. Samsung’s new 8K TV is also said to boast an artificial intelligence system designed to upscale 4K content frame-by-frame in real time.
This having been said though for now 4K is far from obsolete and yours should still serve you brilliantly for a number of years to come. Still, an 8K TV might be something to consider adding to your letter to Santa by, say, 2021.
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