What is 8K TV? Is it the future of TV tech in 2020?

Heard the buzz about 8K TV and wondering what all the fuss is about? We’ve got all the details you need to know about the next big step in TV technology.

The first 8K displays made it to market at the end of 2018, and the number of 8K TVs on the market has increased as more manufacturers get involved.

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

Related: Should you buy an 8K TV?

What is 8K TV?

When we talk about 8K, we’re talking about the resolution of the screen, 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 TV, you get a total resolution of 7680 pixels horizontally and 4320 pixels vertically – four times the pixels you get with 4K (3840 x 2160) and 16 times that of Full HD (1920 x 1080). That’s a jump from the 8 million of pixels in 4K to around 33 million pixels.

Related: Best TV

What is the point of 8K?

4K is superb, and if you haven’t upgraded your home TV yet, you’ll be amazed at the differences between 4K HDR content and Full HD. In theory, 8K will offer a similar leap in terms of detail and clarity.

The differences might not be quite as stark, but the more detail you can pack into a shot, the more immersive experience can be.

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’ve seen it on multiple TVs and it makes a dramatic difference to the quality of the picture.

Related: Best 4K TVs

What 8K TVs have launched?

Manufacturers and broadcasters were talking about 8K before 4K was even really established. Japanese public broadcaster NHK has been researching it since 1995 – but things started to heat up in 2018.

Sharp produced an 8K TV in 2015 in the £100,000, 85-inch LV-85001 for the Japanese market, and for a few years that was the only 8K TV on the market.

It was only when familiar household manufacturers like LG, Samsung and Sony began showcasing consumer-facing sets that interest was piqued. Phillips has a prototype OLED which we’ve seen in action twice. They’ve said its ready to come to market, but they’re waiting on more content to be made available first.

Here’s a selection of 8K TVs we’ve reviewed on Trusted Reviews:

Expect that list to grow over the course of 2020.

How much does an 8K TV cost?

For the 85-inch model, Samsung’s Q900R was initially available for £15,000. That wasn’t unexpected, considering how new the technology is.

The expectation is that 8K TVs will become cheaper over time, similar to how 4K TVs have become affordable. Samsung’s 2nd-gen Q950R has followed that logic with a £10,000 RRP on release, dropping down to £8,999 in recent months.

The 75-, 65- and 55-inch versions sell for £4,499 and £2,999 and £2,499 respectively. Those prices are within the range of the top-end 4K sets.

Sony KD-85ZG9

Sony KD-85ZG9

LG’s 88Z9 8K OLED costs £30,000. Despite that, it offers the best performance of all 8K TVs released. There is a much cheaper 8K TV from LG in the 75SM9900 at £5,999, but the performance is rather more average.

In 2019, Sony launched two 8K TVs in the KD-98XG9 and KD-85ZG9 8K TV. The former went on sale for an eye-watering £84,999.

The 85-inch ZG9 initially sold at £13,999, but can be found for less than £10k now. The ZG9 range is set to continue on for 2020, with the new ZH8 sitting below.

Does 8K need a big screen?

The average size of TVs has been 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, so higher resolutions make more sense on bigger TVs.

That explains why the majority of  8K demos have been shown on screens of 80-inches and above, although as we’ve mentioned, Samsung has 8K TVs available in a more accessible 55 inches – which are much more living room friendly.

What can I watch in 8K?

There’s very little, if any, native 8K content right now.

Japan (where else?) ran 8K demo broadcasts on its public TV channel NHK back in 2016 and subsequently launched a dedicated 8K TV channel in late 2018. This will be where Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games will be broadcasted.

The public broadcaster also has showrooms to show off the format, presenting a native 8K version Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey scanned by Warner Bros.

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

Rakuten promised to launch an 8K service before the end of 2019, though that hasn’t manifested as yet.

Guardians 2 was shot on 8K digital cameras. Credit @Disney

From a film perspective, Hollywood has already gotten to grips with 8K – just as it started with 4K long before it was a ‘thing’.

The first 8K shoot is already in the can. 2017’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was the first feature film to be shot on RED’s 8K Vista Vision camera, but was inevitably downscaled to 2K for its cinema release.

Films shot in 15/70mm IMAX are thought to have a resolution of 12K. We’ve heard of behind the scenes presentations of Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk in 8K. Kenneth Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express was scanned at 8K before being delivered as a 4K DI (digital intermediate).

So in terms of content, it’s more a question of building the infrastructure to support transmission of 8K content, and in turn make it a viable proposition for consumers.

Murder on the Orient Express was scanned at 8K. Credit: @20th Century Fox

There’s also formats 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 30 fps spherical resolution for VR. The Insta360 Pro camera offers similar virtual reality shooting, while the long-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 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 in 2017 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.

Xbox Series X

In 2020 the expectation is the next generation of home gaming consoles will feature support for 8K video.

Sony’s Mark Cerny, the lead system architect on the PS4, confirmed that the PS5 will support 8K graphics. We assume that won’t mean native 8K content, rather the upscaling of content to 8K

Microsoft has implied that the Xbox Series X will have some form of 8K compatibility, as well as play content at 120fps, but we don’t believe it’ll be able to show content at native 8K, 120fps. More likely it can upscale to that resolution, and that it can support gaming frame-rates up to 120fps.

Whatever the case, this support will help open the gates for adoption of 8K.

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

With so little content currently available, 8K is currently about upscaling. From what we’ve seen, the results are impressive.

Samsung’s Q950R uses the company’s new Quantum Processor 8K chip, which uses ‘AI upscaling’ to boost lower-res footage to 8K.

It 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 is constantly updated to keep it as accurate as possible.

Sony uses its vast experience in the upscaling arena to bring non-8K pictures up to standard. Searching its 8K database for reference images, it can also call upon native 8K content from its Sony Pictures film studio, and information from its Sony CineAlta cameras to inform what 8K content should look like.

So there you have it. You may not feel as if you need 8K TV right now, but the technology is coming, slowly but surely.

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