At the beginning of this year’s CES show, I posted a podcast about 8K televisions. I basically said, don’t buy one. I stand behind that, even though I’ve now seen the televisions and I have to admit, they look gorgeous. The reasons I gave are good ones: there’s no content and there isn’t likely to be. The price-to-value equation isn’t there. But, since you’re likely to see a lot more discussion about 8K, it might be time to go into some more detail.
What is 8K television?
8K television has a resolution of 7680×4320, which is four times the number of dots as 4K. This graphic from Wikipedia shows the relative number of pixels between current TV formats:
This picture and others like it have been around for years to show people how much more detail is possible with different kinds of TVs. However what it doesn’t account for is the actual content itself.
There is no 8K content right now other than a few test broadcasts. Just like the way that HDTVs make SD content look its best, you can use an 8K television to get the best possible quality out of lesser resolutions. The TV can even create smooth lines where none exist, giving you an impression that the image looks better.
However, none of that makes up for the fact that there just isn’t any detail there. If you were to stand right up against an 8K television you’d see that there simply isn’t any detail other than what you get in the 4K or HD signal. In true 8K, you would be able to read tiny letters and see tiny details like you can with your phone. Phones use ultra-high definition screens so that everything looks smooth. Of course it’s the tiny letters where you can really see the difference.
Where will 8K even be used?
I think that you’ll see 8K for digital signage. This was one of the first markets to really embrace HD and 4K when it came out. With 8K you can have larger and larger signs which still look highly realistic. Although the video playback may be HD or even worse, the letters on fixed signage will be nice and clear. This will help you out in airports, restaurants and shops where it really makes a difference. You’ll be able to see fine letters and read the sign with less eyestrain.
I also suppose that you’ll see 8K in gaming but it’s going to be a few years before you see consumer level devices that can really render in 8K. In fact it’s just been a few years since you started to see game boxes that put out 4K.
Even if you have the money…
I said this in the podcast and I’ll say it again. We are at a very early stage with 8K. I guarantee there will be changes and you’ll find that today’s 8K TVs become obsolete quickly. They same thing happened with HD and 4K when they came out.
If you literally have nothing else to spend the money on, that’s fine but just don’t expect a return on your investment. Today’s 8K TVs will give way to “whatever’s next” very quickly.