If you just bought a 4K TV, the news that the manufacturers are already starting to reveal the 8K models might seem a little premature. So, what is 8K and do we really need it?
What is 8K TV?
The first question is really very easy to answer: 8K is simply a very high resolution format that uses 7680 pixels horizontal and 4320 pixels vertical. The horizontal resolution is equivalent to almost 8000 pixels, hence the name 8K. The resulting image is composed of more than 33 million pixels and if this sounds like a lot, this is because it is: 8K has four times 4K resolution and 16 times Full HD resolution.
To slightly confuse things, both 4K and 8K can be called ultra High definition or Ultra HD. By setting the standards for Ultra HD Television, the two resolutions were included to provide a future roadmap that would allow a transition from 4K to 8K Broadcasting. UHD is designed to remain relevant in the coming decades, so it also includes a high dynamic range, a wider range of colors and higher frame rates.
Do we need 8K technology?
When it comes to whether we really need 8K, the answer is a little more complicated. The first obvious question that any new owner of 8K TV is going to ask is, where is the content of 8K? As things are today, there is virtually no content in 8K. Yes, it is true that the Japanese NHK station has started a 8K channel, but outside of that country there is little appetite for 8K when 4K is still being implemented.
There is actually little chance of providing 8K for years, either from TV stations or video streaming services. The amount of data generated by a resolution as big as 8K is huge, so delivering it realistically will require highly efficient compression systems and large amounts of bandwidth. However, the newly announced 8K Association (8KA) is designed to promote 8K for both consumers and professionals alike, and to create an ecosystem of 8K that is effective for the future.
Why do manufacturers make 8K TVs?
So if no actual content of 8K is available, why do manufacturers now push 8K? Well, TV manufacturers are global corporations and that means they’re developing 8K TVs for the world’s regions like Japan, where the 8K broadcast is a reality. Since these televisions are already manufactured for one country, why not offer them in another as a way to dilute the costs of research and development?
TV manufacturers also love making technological statements, although there is no immediate practical reason to launch a particular innovation. The first 4K TVs were back in 2013, but it was years before there were real 4K content to see. Despite the absence of native content, a new 8K TV allows manufacturers to give their line-up an advertising boost. This is exactly what Samsung did when it launched the Q900 towards the end of 2018.
There is a certain degree of herd mentality in the television industry, so once a producer launches a product, the rest will surely follow. At CES we saw new 8K TVs from both LG and Sony, as well as an expansion of Samsung’s 8K range. Often there is also a technological turning point, which in this case is HDMI 2.1. The new version of HDMI is needed to handle the huge amount of data needed for 8K, and only recently became available. However, now that HDMI 2.1 is here, we can expect to see more 8K TVs.
However, an 8K panel offers some advantages, even in the absence of any 8K content. This is because all these additional pixels can be used effectively by today’s sophisticated sizing processors. It was exactly the same in the early days of 4K, when there was no real 4K content to look at on the first televisions to withstand that higher resolution. Instead, manufacturers have promoted the advantages of using a 4K panel for lower-resolution content.
This same topic is now being used to promote the benefits of 8K, with the added advantage that today’s sizing processors are smart enough to really learn from the content you see and thus improve the quality of Improvement of the scale. What really offers the increase in benefits in a panel of 8K is not yet seen, but given the lack of any content, it is the only real feature that manufacturers can highlight.
There is also a tendency to larger screen sizes, although we are a long way from televisions 75 inches becoming the norm. However, an 8K panel offers advantages when it comes to very large screen sizes, both in terms of resolution and resizing.
In the absence of real content there is no immediate need to buy an 8K TV, although it will certainly grow in popularity. However, there is also a danger that your premature arrival will disturb or confuse consumers who have recently purchased a 4K TV. The average life cycle of a TV varies from five to ten years, and since many people are just starting to upgrade to 4K, that means it will be at least another five years before sales of 4K TV reach a saturation point. Once the 4K TVs have reached a consumer saturation level, then we’ll see that the 8K move will get more traction.