We barely started the transition to 4K, and now 8K TVs are already on the market. Are they worth it? Should you be interested? Here's everything you need to know.
What is 8k? How can it be compared to 4K and HD?
You may think that an 8K TV has twice the resolution of a 4K TV, but due to the complicated method of measuring the resolution, this is not the case. The term 8K refers to the horizontal resolution of the TV, i. H. How many pixels run from left to right across the display. 8K TVs have twice as many horizontal pixels, but four times as many pixels as 4K and 16 times more than 1080p when you look at the entire surface. There are many pixels.
The different terms can be confusing:
A 720p TV (or HD) is measured at 1280 pixels wide and 720 pixels high.
A 1080p television (also Full HD or FHD) is measured at 1920 × 1080 pixels.
A 4K TV (also called Ultra HD or UHD) is measured at 3840 × 2160 pixels.
An 8K TV is measured at 7680 × 4320 pixels.
What's easy to see in these resolutions is that after 720p each new standard doubles both the horizontal and vertical pixels. This doubling in both directions leads to a huge leap in the total number of pixels. 8K televisions are simply full of pixels.
Should I buy an 8K TV?
Short answer: No.
4K televisions are finally starting to establish themselves at affordable prices. HDR may still be in standard warfare, but more and more TVs offer both options. And HDR remains a separate factor from the resolution, so it will continue to be left to the manufacturer to implement. If you buy a new TV, it should be a 4K HDR TV. You do not have to wait for 8K for a variety of reasons.
Let's break it down.
There is no 8K content, unless you are in Japan
Just like 4K TVs when they were first released (and to a degree still), very little is done on creating 8K content. While some films were filmed in 8K, Netflix and Amazon continue to focus on their ongoing efforts to introduce 4K content. Currently no standard has been agreed for the provision of 8K content to televisions.
Japan has introduced a broadcasting channel for 8K content, which gives us a first look at the complicated requirements. To enjoy one of the 8K media, you'll need an 8K TV, a dedicated satellite to receive the broadcast, and in some cases a replacement for amplifiers and distribution boxes. All this is a big investment for the average person. Japan is pioneering this technology and plans to broadcast the 2020 Olympics in 8K.
Upscaling helps, but not enough
It's worth noting that the best 8K TVs can enhance lower resolution content, which will make a big difference. Many 4K televisions already do that, so 1080p content looks better than it deserves. Upscaling compensates for the lack of 4K content and makes sure you do not have to watch 1080p movies with a big black border.
The best way to describe it is to imagine the terms of smartphone screens. When large, high-resolution phones hit the market, it was almost shocking how good the screen looked. Apps that were dull on a smaller phone suddenly looked great. Even websites felt redesigned when the site itself had not changed. If you're used to an iPhone 6 and now own an iPhone XS, you'll love the difference.
And that's what 8K televisions offer, provided they have a neat upscaling algorithm. In particular, Samsung has been working on 8K upscaling, and early reviews are extremely promising. However, this is a feature that can already be found on high-quality 4K televisions. So it's not the only reason to buy an 8K TV.
Streaming 8K will be problematic
Streaming 4K is already difficult. Usually you want at least a 20 Mbps connection for 4K streaming. In most US countries, this is still not an option or prohibitively expensive. Since 8K is four times the pixels, the requirement will be even higher.
Early testing has shown that a single 8K stream requires a minimum of 50Mbps, a speed that is not an option for many people in the United States. When you start considering multiple concurrent streams, even the limits of a Gigabit connection are checked.
Even if you are lucky enough to have a gigabit connection, you may need to worry about an upper data limit. One hour of 8K streaming will blow through 75.2 GB of data (depending on the compression and other factors). If your cap is only 1TB, you can easily blow it out in a week, if not on a long weekend.
Given the fact that Netflix, Amazon and the other streaming providers only need to provide 4K content, the concept of offering 8K streams seems very far away. But when they come, they will introduce their own hurdles, the technology necessary to reach the limits of the ISP. Japan's current solution does not even work on a terrestrial setup, but requires a complicated satellite infrastructure.
8K TVs start very expensive
In such an old story, the new TV technology always starts very expensive and falls in price over time. When 4K TVs hit the market for the first time, they were usually in the $ 20,000 range. The mildly good news is that 8K TVs are debuting this time at a lower cost. The bad news is that they are still in the range of $ 15,000. If you have $ 15,000 available for a TV, you may still be better off buying a much cheaper 4K (or two) TV and a nice sound system.
The huge effort is a necessity. All new technologies are initially difficult to scale, and over time, production will improve and costs will decrease. In the near future, televisions will remember smartphones because the absolute best screen technology is what you want on your wall and in your pocket. But we are still at the point where you can work perfectly with the second best technology, especially if you have a limited budget.
Is there any benefit to an 8K TV?
Ironically, people who benefit the most from an 8K TV are probably not the obvious first guess. These are people who live in apartments or in older houses with a narrower living room. The advantage of higher resolutions is that you can sit closer to the screen, especially as the size of the screen increases.
A very large 1080p screen (for example, 70 inches) looks awful when you are in the vicinity. You have to sit pretty far away so as not to notice the pixels. A 4K TV will improve this, but if you have a 70-inch TV, you should still sit about three feet away for the best results.
If you are in an older house with a traditional living room or in a smaller apartment this can be a problem. However, with a 70-inch 8-inch TV, you can sit much closer to the TV and still see detailed details. This close proximity will be suitable for a more intense, cinema-like experience. And if you have a small or tight living room, you do not have to worry about the couch being so far from the TV that you make the most of it.
But in this scenario, there's even a chance you'll buy a smaller 4K HDR TV instead. It will cost a lot less and you will see benefits much earlier. If you can spend more, you'll find a TV that supports both HDR standards and offers very good upscaling processing. Consider OLED for the best dark colors. If you are in the market for a new TV today, there are not enough compelling reasons to wait for 8K TVs.
8K TVs also offer the best screen technology. Sony is currently showing an 8K television that can reach a whopping 10,000 nits. Nits are a measure of brightness, and for a quick comparison, the brightest televisions currently commercially available are surpassed at around 4,000 nits. At the same time, this TV is OLED-capable, so that it can reach the brightest brightness, but also the darkest darknesses. This wide range will affect colors and provide a more vibrant and lifelike experience.
Samsung offers similar benefits to its 8K TVs and also incorporates the new upscaling techniques mentioned above. It includes additional features such as an ambient mode that adjusts the screen to the local room lighting or adjusts it to the wall when not in use. This is similar to a Google Home Hub feature, but scaled to 85 inches.
Each 8K TV is enhanced in terms of features, capabilities and even components of any 4K TV currently available on the market. In a literal sense, no other television can hold a candle to these next-generation televisions.
8K TVs offer the best, despite their high cost, even if you do not see 8K video. But for the average consumer, the benefits are unlikely to be seen at home in the next few years.
Picture credits: S. Gvozd / Shutterstock, Grzegorz Czapski / Shutterstock, Cagkan Sayin / Shutterstock