That8217;s right, the TV industry is pushing forward with its next big thing, giving manufacturers something new and shiny to sell to you.
But is your 4K TV about to become redundant? Not quite.
If you8217;ve been following the TV story in recent years, you8217;ll already know that 8K is a step forward from 4K. It refers to the resolution of the display. While 4K is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, 8K moves up to 7,680 x 4,320. That means there are 7,680 pixels on the horizontal axis and 4,320 on the vertical.
You might hear it referred to as 4320p (like Full HD was 1080p), you might hear it referred to as Ultra HD 8K (4K was also branded as Ultra HD), or Super Hi-Vision, but we suspect it8217;s just going to be called 8K.
But don8217;t make the mistake of thinking that this is just about pixels, because this is also about HDR 8211; high dynamic range 8211; too. Going forward, HDR is part of the package of what your TV will deliver.
TV manufacturers don8217;t stand still. You8217;ll remember how quickly 3D came and went, based on the reaction of customers. It was heralded as 8220;the next big thing8221; at the time and now it8217;s barely supported.
It8217;s no surprise that everyone is working on 8K TVs, but it8217;s really Samsung who you need to pay attention to, as it8217;s launching the Q900 in Europe and the UK, then the US. While it8217;s not the first 8K TV to appear, it’s likely to be the first step in 8K that many hear about, the first that8217;s a complete package for the customer.
Sharp is on what8217;s it8217;s calling 8220;second-gen8221; 8K, i.e., its second 8K panel that you can buy (if you live in the right place) and already has a professional 8K monitor available to buy, the LV-70X500E.
Toshiba has shown off 8K as a concept. Toshiba8217;s TVs are manufactured under licence by Vestel, so it8217;s likely that 8K will appear in brands from across the Vestel group when the time is right 8211; and likely to be more affordable than some of the others.
Sony showed off a 10,000 nit 8K prototype at CES 2018, but there8217;s no talk of market release.
In reality, for the UK market, it8217;s likely to be the Samsung Q900R that you8217;ll see and hear the most about. It will be available to buy from mid-September 2018.
Why do you need an 8K TV?
This is the million-dollar question 8211; or more likely the $10,000 question. With 4K HDR now finding its way into the mainstream, the justification for 8K is pretty tough, especially as those Ultra HD TVs are so good.
The real justification for 8K comes down to growing demand for size. People are buying bigger TVs and are happy to have bigger TVs in their homes. Where 15 years ago you might have had a 28-inch TV, now 55-inch is common; 65-inch and above is where most of the growth in TV sales is expected in the next 5 years.
You can currently get big 4K HDR TVs 8211; up to about 85 inches 8211; but it8217;s in these larger sizes that the 8K benefits will reside. As the screen gets bigger 8211; and you stay sitting in the same place 8211; more pixels means more visible detail.
It8217;s likely that you8217;ll have Full HD up to 40 inches, 4K up to 60 inches and then 8K above that in the future, so 8K only really applies to those bigger sizes 8211; if the TV is too small, the pixels will be too tightly packed for you to be able to see any difference in the image.
As detail increases you can sit and marvel in front a huge image that feels like it8217;s engulfing you. It8217;s here that big 8K TVs have a natural advantage, because it increases the angles that light comes into your eyes.
This, in turn can increase the separation between fore and background, creating more of a pop to visuals, and giving you a more immersive viewing experience. Of course, you can8217;t sit too close because you8217;ll have to constantly move your head to see the full image, so minimum viewing distances still apply.
We8217;ll talk about these two things together, because there is no 8K content. There are some samples, there8217;s support for 8K resolution on Vimeo and the Japanese broadcaster NHK is aiming to film the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in 8K, but otherwise the implementation isn8217;t widespread.
There8217;s no support from optical discs (at the moment), there8217;s no Netflix in 8K and it8217;s not a format that8217;s being widely used for content capture either 8211; cameras are currently few.
So 8K in the now and the foreseeable future is all about upscaling. Samsung, at the launch of its 8K TV at IFA 2018, spent most of the time talking about upscaling because that8217;s what8217;s going to be vital for convincing early adopters that an 8K TV is worth buying over a 4K TV.
So what will 8K upscaling do? It will use AI to analyse images and correct them, boost colour and replace information that might be missing by analysing previous frames. It will sharpen edges, remove jagged edges on things like text and reduce noise in areas where there8217;s not a lot of data 8211; like the block colour of a blue sky for example.
One of the techniques will be near-neighbour interpolation (analysing neighbouring pixels to make corrections) and with more pixels in an 8K display there8217;s more opportunity to make smooth graduations, because there are more neighbours.
So that8217;s the story so far: there8217;s no content, but everything you pump into an 8K TV is going to be upscaled to make it look better.
Is an 8K TV upgrade worth it?
We8217;ve seen some demos of 8K upscaling and we8217;ve been impressed with the overall performance of the experience. There8217;s definitely an immersive quality to it, detail looks great and all the signs are positive.
But we can8217;t yet state categorically that it8217;s better than the top 4K TVs that we8217;ve seen. Yes, big is the message, but we really need to spend more time looking at how effective the technology is at upscaling normal content like Netflix or Ultra HD Blu-ray before we can recommend you buying an 8K TV.
How much will an 8K TV cost?
Sharp has its 70-inch 8K display on sale for £10,999, but it8217;s technically a monitor. We suspect that Samsung will come in lower for the 65-inch model, higher for the 85-inch.
We8217;ll update as soon as we know, as well as keep you informed of developments in this latest TV technology.