Sony 8K TV graphic

8K: The Future of Television

news – July 2020


8K: The Future of Television


Here are a few things you should know about this new high-end television format.


By George McClure

 

IT SEEMS HARD TO BELIEVE, but the first 4K TVs were released way back in 2012. As is the case with most new technologies, they were pretty expensive for the first couple years, but when prices dropped they became mainstream. Today, the majority of TVs manufactured are 4K, sometimes also known as 4K Ultra HD. Technology marches on, though, and now there’s a new, even higher performance format — 8K TV. Without getting too technical, here’s some information about the past, present and future of TV technology.

 

what do all the numbers mean?

Before 4K there was HDTV, which in its highest form had a resolution described as 1080p — 1,920 pixels horizontally, and 1,080 vertically. The term “4K” comes from digital cinema projectors, which have a horizontal resolution of 4,096, hence “4K.” On the TV side, to improve efficiencies in the manufacturing process, the resolution is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, but it is still referred to as 4K. (Note: “1080p” refers to vertical resolution, and “4K” refers to horizontal resolution.)

Which brings us to 8K, which has a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320 for a whopping 33,177,600 total pixels. That’s four times the resolution of 4K, and 16 times more pixels than 1080p.

what are the benefits?

This is the $30,000 question. With four times the resolution of 4K, 8K can create a smoother more realistic picture — but you need a really large screen to see the difference. Of course, the trend is already for folks to have bigger and bigger TVs in their homes. Where 15 years ago you might have had a 32-inch TV, now 55- and 65-inch sets are common, and TVs even bigger than that are projected to have meteoric growth over the next five years. So some folks (for whom cost is no object) will likely want to take the jump up to 8K if they’re getting a bigger screen, anyway.

A couple other things to remember. First, for an 8K TV to operate at its peak potential, it needs 8K content, of which there is currently only a miniscule amount available. That being said, because 8K TVs boast much more powerful processors than even 4K TVs, their images look better immediately out of the box. This matters especially when you’re upscaling content. An 8K TV will upscale 1080p content better than a 4K TV will, and will also upscale 4K content to 8K. So, in general, images will simply look better on an 8K display than on a 4K.

 

Second, resolution is just one aspect of picture quality. Other technologies such as high dynamic range (HDR) can sometimes make a more visible difference, since TVs show a brighter and more colorful picture with HDR. Today, a lot of (but not all) 4K TVs offer HDR in various forms; all current 8K models have very advanced implementations of HDR, which look particularly stunning on larger screens.

the bottom line

For most people, a 4K TV with 4K content provides a stellar viewing experience. But there are always high-end clients who want to have the latest and greatest and are willing to pay a premium for it. For them, 8K TV is a viable option right now.