The cutting edge of technology is an exciting (and expensive) place to be, and right now 8k televisions are tipped to become the next big thing. Should you buy in now, or wait for a while before you upgrade? Let’s take a look!
What are 8k TVs?
As the name suggests, 8k televisions have a resolution with a width of approximately 8,000 pixels. To be more specific, they have a resolution of 7680 × 4320 - that is, 7680 pixels wide and 4320 pixels deep. This is double the resolution of a top-range 4k TV (3840 x 2160) - 8k TVs have a whopping 33 *million* pixels, while 4k only has 8 million.
That’s a lot of pixels - in theory this should allow 8K TVs to display extremely high levels of detail in movies and television, with films 16x sharper and clearer than an HD television, even when on a giant screen (65” or more).
8K native media
Unfortunately there is a problem - in normal cases, TVs are only as good as the media they play. For your television to display a film or video in high definition, it’ll need a matching high definition version of that content. This means that to display 8K movies and television natively, you’ll need 8K-compatible content. Now because 8K is still so cutting edge and niche, this is very rare.
Right now, there is a lack of native 8K content available, though Japan has been trialing 8K channels ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, and BT Sport recently held an 8K broadcast test of a Europa League football match. More immediately, video streaming sites such as YouTube and Vimeo have added 8K compatibility to their sites. While limited, the selection of native 8K videos has grown over recent years, and hopefully interest (and content) will begin to take off in 2020 and 2021!
It’s not just movies and videos getting excited about 8K: Sony and Microsoft have both announced that their newest games consoles - the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X will support 8K video games. These cutting-edge consoles and games may still be a long way off, but an 8K television will allow you to get the best out of them when they arrive.
At this point, you’d be forgiven for wondering why anyone would buy an 8K TV right now. The answer is ‘upscaling’. This is the act of taking a video or image in one resolution, and converting it into a higher resolution. HowToGeek has a very comprehensive explanation, but effectively the TV makes the image ‘bigger’, turning a 4K video into a pseudo-8K video. This means that even though there is a lack of native 8K content right now, you will still notice the difference - movies and video games will look significantly sharper and cleaner than on a 4K box, even though they are not ‘true’ 8K.
Manufacturers have different approaches to upscaling - Samsung prides itself on the quality of their upscaling tech, so it’s unsurprising that they have been leading the charge on 8K televisions, with the Q900 leading the charge.
Here’s the real kicker: the cost. As you might expect, 8K televisions are expensive. Prices range from £2,500 all the way up to an eye-watering £12,000. Unfortunately this is the bleeding edge of tech design, so high prices are to be expected, but it’s still a hefty price tag for a consumer product.
The good news is that now 8K televisions are starting to appear properly on the market, prices will soon start to fall. This may not happen for a year or two, but as with any new tech the components will become cheaper to mass-produce, manufacturers will start undercutting each other to pick up customers, and new competition will spur lower price points. The same cycle have been seen with 4K TVs, or more recently with OLED - there was a point where you would have to shell out £10,000 for an OLED television, now you can find one for under £1000!
However, it’s important to note this fall won’t happen overnight - and will most likely mirror that takeup of 8K content. It may be a year or two before we see 8K televisions falling to a reasonable price, however by that point there will be a wealth of 8K native content to enjoy on your new TV!
Conclusion: Expensive Futureproofing
So, are 8K televisions worth the investment? As of the first half of 2020… it’s hard to justify. They are so expensive, and there is little real native content to enjoy. With the Tokyo Olympics being postponed to 2021, the first major broadcast in 8K probably won’t happen until next year, and the promised 8K gaming of the XboX and Playstation 5 won’t arrive until the very end of 2020. This means that upscaled 4k television, film and games will be the main use of 8K TVs for at least the rest of 2020.
Another consideration - as with all immature technology, 8K TVs are changing at a rapid pace. Much like how electric cars were rapidly iterated to improve battery life (from 60 miles per charge in 2013 to 330 in 2019), 8K will see a similar push, which may leave this year’s models quickly outdated.
That doesn’t mean 8K TVs are useless - upscaled 4K movies are a substantial improvement, and if you buy one you will be ready for when shiny 8K content does start to appear. If you want the absolute top-shelf visuals from your TV right now, and are prepared to pay for it, 8K is the way to go. You can find a list of our current 8K TVs here.
For everyone else, we would recommend investing the money in a really high-end 4K television for a fraction of the cost, and spend the rest on the Lego Millenium Falcon!