You thought your new 4K TV was impressive? Maybe you should think again. 8K technology is the next big thing coming to home theaters — in fact, it’s already here.
In fall 2018, Samsung brought the first 8K TVs to the States and since then both LG and Sony have announced they’re getting in on the action; Sony’s first 8K TVs will be available this June, while LG’s first 8K TVs are expected sometime later this year.
8K TVs promise the ultimate picture quality. An 8K TV has 33 million pixels, which is four times as many pixels as a 4K TV, meaning an 8K TV can deliver four times the resolution: 7,680×4,320 (8K) versus 3,840×2,160 (4K). Going a step further if you haven’t made the 4K upgrade, an 8K TV has 16 times the pixels as a traditional HDTV and can deliver 16 times the resolution. Plain and simple, 8K TVs are capable of blowing the image quality of your current TV out of the water.
Yet that doesn’t necessarily mean it will right now.
8K is a new technology and there isn’t a lot of 8K-ready content that can take advantage of it. It doesn’t seem like that is likely to change in the near future, either. RED cameras, which are very expensive, are the only cameras currently capable of filming 8K content. There are directors using these cameras to shoot in 8K — Peter Jackson with Mortal Engines and James Gunn with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 are two recent examples — but for a lot of other directors the incentive isn’t there right now.
For starters, very few people actually own an 8K TV and won’t be able to watch that 8K content than a filmmaker shoots in all its glory. It’s not likely that most of the popular streaming apps like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Hulu are going to support 8K anytime soon, either. There’s also the fact that, strictly from a monetary perspective, 8K content is expensive to shoot. Not only the equipment but because 8K files are so big, it’s really expensive to store.
You don’t have to own an 8K TV to get the benefits of 8K technology. The same way a 4K TV can upscale 1080p content to look better, 8K TVs promise to be able to upscale 4K. Samsung claims that its QLED 8K TVs use AI upscaling technology so that non-8K content appears in near-8K resolution, for example. So watching 4K content on an 8K will look better (and certainly not worse), but it might not look that much better; especially considering the cost of 8K TVs compared to 4K TVs.
8K TVs are predictably expensive. The Samsung Q900 is one of the only 8K TVs you can buy right now and it’s available in three sizes: 65-inch ($5,000), 75-inch ($7,000) and 85-inch ($15,000). While $5,000 doesn’t seem like that farfetched for really good TV — many 4K OLED TVs aren’t that much more expensive — Samsung’s 8K TVs seem to be the exception. Not only will LG’s and Sony’s 8K TVs be more expensive, but they’ll also only be available in larger sizes — think 75-inch and 88-inch models — meaning they’ll be too big for a lot of living rooms anyway.
For all those reasons, it’s probably not the best time to buy an 8K TV — but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a reason. Considering the buying cycle for TVs (it’s not that frequent), purchasing an 8K TV is a kind of way to future-proof your home theater setup. It’s probably only a matter of time that 8K-ready content becomes more wildly available, after all, and if you can afford one and have the wall space for it, an 8K TV is a surefire way of knowing that you’ll have the best TV of all your friends.
But if you’re on the fence, it’s best to wait on 8K. Future 8K TVs will undoubtedly get better and better (and probably a little bit cheaper), and in the meantime, the current crop of 4K TVs are more than fine.