What is 8K TV? Your guide to 8K vs 4K and the future of TV tech in 2019

Heard the buzz about 8K TVs and wondering what all the fuss is about? We've got all the details you need to know about the next big TV resolution.

No sooner has 4K finally started to make sense – with 4K Blu-rays now commonplace and the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Sky Q and BBC iPlayer streaming hours upon hours of 4K content – than manufacturer’s are starting to look to what’s next. The answer? 8K TVs of course, which are front and centre at CES 2019.

The next-gen resolution is looking like the year’s biggest TV news, with the first 8K displays making it to market at the end of 2018, and pretty much every big manufacturer floating their first 8K wears in 2019 ahead of the first planned in 2020.

But is 8K something that you should care about right now? We’ve broken down everything you need to know about TV’s next big thing.

Related: Best TV deals


What is 8K and why should I care about 8K TVs?

When we talk about 8K, we’re talking about the resolution of the screen we’re looking at, which equates to the number of horizontal and vertical pixels that a screen can display.

The more pixels of an image we see, the better quality the image should be, as you’re getting more of the finer detail that lesser screens gloss over.

With 8K, you get a total resolution of 7680 pixels horizontally and 4320 pixels vertically – four times the pixels you’ll get with 4K (2840 x 2160) and 16 times that of Full HD (1920 x 1080).

4K vs 8K: Isn’t 4K enough?

4K is superb, and if you haven’t upgraded your home TV to 4K yet, you’ll be amazed at the differences between 4K content and the Full HD you’ve been watching. In theory, 8K will offer a similar leap.

The differences might not be quite as stark, but when you’re looking to get the most immersive experience possible, the more detail you can pack into a shot, the better.

In practical terms, it’s the difference between looking at an 8-megapixel picture and a 33-megapixel picture – with an HD picture being just 2 megapixels by comparison. For the naysayers doubting whether those extra pixels will be worth it, we’d argue there’s a good chance they will.

What 8K TVs are there? When will 8K TVs be released?

Manufacturers have been talking about 8K before 4K was even really established, but in 2018 things started to get more serious.

Sharp is already on its second-generation 8K television, producing the £100,000, 85-inch LV-85001 for the Japanese market a few years ago now, it’s familiar household manufacturers like Samsung and LG showcasing more consumer-focused sets that have really got interests piqued.

Unbelievably, the Samsung Q900R came to market at the end of 2018, including in the UK, where it was available in time for Christmas.

LG is setting itself a more leisurely timeline, predicting five million sets will be sold by 2022, but equally it’s offering up its first 8K TV at CES 2019.  Toshiba and Sony have also shown off concept 8K sets at recent shows, but they remain very much in the planning stages for now.

Samsung Q900

How much with an 8K TV cost?

The Samsung Q900R will be available in an 85-inch model to begin with, followed by 82-, 75- and 65-inch versions at a later date.

No prices have been announced for any of them just yet, but we predict you’re going to have to set aside a fairly hefty budget if you want to bring one of these home in time for the holidays – as a rough idea, Sharp’s existing 70-inch 8K TV costs €11,199.

Does 8K need a big screen?

The average size of our TVs has been slowly shifting upwards in recent years. That’s down to a combination of reduced prices, improved design, and higher quality picture resolution.

As screens get larger, pixel density decreases, soo higher resolutions simply make more sense on bigger TVs.

That explains why the majority of  8K demos have been shown on screens of 85 inches and above, although as we’ve mentioned, Samsung has announced its Q900R will eventually be available in a more accessible 65 inches – much more living room friendly, and no doubt much cheaper too.

What can I watch in 8K?

Long story short? There isn’t really any 8K content right now, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t on its way.

Japan (where else?) ran some 8K demo broadcasts on its TV channel NHK back in 2016, and has since announced plans for a dedicated 8K TV channel later this year, where Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games will be broadcast in the format.

Brazil even showed some of the 2018 World Cup in 8K, at Rio de Janeiro’s science museum, though the tech support required to make it happen was far from straightforward, so it’s not exactly ready for mass consumption just yet.

From a film perspective, Hollywood has already dipped its toe in the water with 8K – just as it started with 4K long before that was really a ‘thing’.

Currently, it’s mostly to give editors more options in the editing suite than it is for actually producing an 8K movie, but the equipment is out there to make these kinds of films happen when the time is right.

In fact, the first one is already in the can. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) was the first film to be shot on RED’s 8K Vista Vision camera, and we expect to see plenty more following in its footsteps in the next year or two.

There’s also things like VR to think about. The £4200 GoPro Omni VR might not be in many budgets, but it is capable of shooting at an 8K 30fps spherical resolution for VR. The Insta360 Pro camera offers similar virtual reality shooting, while the oft-rumoured Apple AR/VR headset is thought to be packing dual 8K displays – one for each eye.

Gaming isn’t one for lagging behind the curve, either, with a plethora of YouTube videos showing 8K–- and, whisper it, even 16K – gaming rigs. The Dell Canvas UP3218K gaming monitor is 8K capable, but the hardware to make it happen is slightly more complicated.

A Thirty IR Witcher III playthrough in 8K last year required four Nvidia GTX Titan Xp graphics cards costing $1200 each to achieve – and that’s before you even get to the processor and memory required. Hardly a hobby, for now at least.

What else is happening right now? What is 8K upscaling?

With so little content currently available, 8K right now is really all about upscaling, and from what we’ve seen at recent shows, the results can be pretty impressive.

For example, Samsung’s Q900R uses the company’s new Quantum Processor 8K chip, which uses ‘AI upscaling’ to boost lower-res footage to 8K.

This uses complex algorithms to recognise patterns in images and calculate the extra pixels required to fill in the gaps that 4K (or even HD) is missing. The chip uses a huge image database, which Samsung says will be constantly updated to keep it as accurate as possible.

Sony showed off similarly impressive upscaling at CES 2018 using a concept 8K panel and its forthcoming X1 Ultimate processor, though that remains very much a ‘watch this space’ endeavour for now.

8K vs 4K TVs: Should I buy a 4K TV or wait for 8K?

That’s the big question and, for now at least, the answer is pretty clear cut.

As there’s not really any true 8K content yet, you’d only really be buying an 8K TV for bragging rights and to get a glimpse of its potential via upscaling – we’re still a long way from seeing 8K hit the mainstream. After all, there’s only really one 8K TV you can likely buy!

Remember: 4K is still far from ubiquitous, and given the amount of investment in the technology by major networks, studios and companies, it’s extremely unlikely it will be usurped any time soon in the consumer market.

Those wanting to get the most out of their TV viewing experience right now should therefore buy 4K – whether it’s as an upgrade from Full HD or a ‘good to great’ 4K swap. There are loads of great affordable options out there, like the Panasonic TX-50CX680, and you’re spoilt for choice if you can stretch to a high-end Ultra HD set (the Samsung Q9FN and LG G8 OLED spring to mind).

Related: Best 4K TVs

The 8K vs 4K TV battle may now be nascent, but buying a quality 4K TV will serve you well for some time and comes as our recommendation for most people.

Are you excited for the advent of 8K TV, or is it all just hype? Share your opinion with us on Twitter @TrustedReviews.