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But are we really ready for 8k TVs?

First there was HD, followed by Full HD, then Ultra HD and now prepare yourself for whatever those marketing geniuses come up with to describe 8K TVs that look to be coming our way.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas the big TV manufacturers showed off a range of so-called 8K TVs, which offer four times the resolution of 4K TVs that have been invading our homes in the last few years.

While TVs have definitely been getting smarter, it’s the rising number of pixels that are pushing the quality of our picture and driving sales.

Paul Gray, research director at analyst firm IHS Markit, says we are in the midst of a transition from the HD world into the ultra HD world of 4K televisions.

Speaking from CES, he said: “The expectations for that to happen fast were highly unrealistic.”

How close are we to 8K TVs?

He also cautioned against any sense that the 8K revolution was imminent.

“No broadcasters outside of Japan have any interest at this stage in producing 8K video,” he said.

Samsung's modular television The Wall.
Samsung’s modular television The Wall at CES (John Locher/AP)

8K televisions have a horizontal resolution of 7680 pixels and a vertical resolution of 4320 pixels – that means such screens have 16 times the number of pixels as FullHD, or 1080 screens.

But here’s the catch – you need video filmed in 8K to be able to show 8K and there’s not much content around aside from demo content shown on manufacturers’ screens.

That didn’t stop TV companies showing off such TVs at CES.

Samsung announced an 8K QLED display available from the end of 2018 for the consumer market, while LG too showed off an 8K television.

You’ll need a big room

But you’ll need a pretty big living room – both screens are 88 inches.

Samsung also showed off a modular TV – called The Wall – which could be expanded in size up to 146 inches.

However, size is becoming less of a selling point as we start to slow down how quickly we are upgrading our screens, said Mr Gray.

LG Oled Canyon.
Alongside its 8K TVs, LG’s Oled Canyon also proved to be a big hit at CES (LG)

“The replacement cycle has already slowed down and is trending down to seven to 10 years that we saw historically,” he added.

“The crunch question is also about size growth – we are approaching the point, and it will happen country by country, that people will say ‘I don’t want a bigger TV as I can’t fit it into my living room’.

“Up until now people have been willing to move furniture.”

But the big changes coming to TV shown off at CES are less about resolution and more about features – manufacturers are adding more voice commands.

In the case of Samsung, Bixby, its own variant on Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa, is being baked in to screens. Sony and LG are backing Google and Amazon’s voice platforms.

Time to throw out the remote?

Premium TVs on the market this year will be controlled by voice, marking the biggest existential threat to the ubiquitous remote control that has been our go-to tool for more than 60 years.

Mr Gray said it was likely the transition from 4K to 8K would take longer even than the shift from FullHD, or 1080p screens, to UltraHD.

Sony's 8K prototype televisions
Sony’s 8K prototype televisions on display at CES (John Locher/AP)

He said: “One of things that worries me is assuming it is just as easy to do the next step each time.

“I suspect that actually doing 8K is much, much more difficult than 4K. It’s hard to justify why people would want to buy 8K.

“The real risk is that it creates the perception of premature obsolescence of 4K which may devalue the market just as it is establishing itself.”

But just how many more pixels do we need before our screens look like reality?

For someone with perfect, or 20/20 eyesight, it depends on the distance from the screen and the field of view.

To put it bluntly – dynamic range, colour range, resolution, eyesight, distance from the screen and field of view are all complex variables.

In truth, the answer is much more complicated than simply adding resolution.

Samsung's modular television The Wall.
Samsung’s TVs are expected to be voice controlled (Samsung)

For at least the next few years, 4K televisions are the new standard for the premium end of the television market.

And the battle for our living room is definitely on.

So which TV should you buy? For Mr Gray, it’s a question of personal taste.

He said: “These products have to sell themselves. If you can see the difference between different screen types and resolutions, then it’s worth buying.

“If you can’t experience the difference, you are wasting your money.”

That’s good advice, whether you are buying a Full HD screen, an Ultra HD screen or even have deep enough pockets for 8K TVs.

Just don’t expect anything good to watch on that crazy high-resolution screen for some years yet.

* Prices correct at time of posting.

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Token old guy in the office and lifelong Hull City fan with all the psychological issues that brings. To relax I enjoy walking my two Labradors, as well as running and cycling.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Back of a fag packet time.

    Let’s use Steve Jobs’ definition of a retina display: few people can make out individual pixels on a 300 pixels-per-inch screen from a 10-12 inch viewing distance.

    Translate that into TV land and say an 8ft viewing distance in a smallish living room: the same angular resolution is 1080p on a 32″ screen. 4K gives you a Retina screen up to 66″. In a larger room – say 12ft viewing distance – 4K is good for screens up to about 100″.

    In theory, then, 8K is enough to have a Retina screen in a small living room that basically covers the entire wall: 20 FEET diagonal at 8ft viewing distance. Actually quite difficult to watch, like being in the front row at the cinema.

    So it’s over the limit of human visual acuity at any watchable size. It’ll do, I reckon.

  2. As great as that sounds, TV companies in the UK have not even upgraded to HD yet, with HD channels spilt into a separate channel instead of the norm. They need to drop SD and any channel that can’t afford it will
    have to go, maybe it means less channels, but at least it will be a level playing field.

  3. Well,

    Alan Moore’s comment pretty well covers the question of why even buy an 8K anyway when 4K covers majority of people’s needs.

    The other BIG ‘error’ in the manufacturers and sellers brain is that they for some reason think that EVERYONE wants to control their devices via Voice…. Absolutely NOT!

    I don’t want Voice Control! Full stop. The REAL BIG ISSUE here is the so-called ‘Ease-Dropping’ T&Cs in the Manufacturers TVs. WE now know that the likes of Samsung etc can ‘Store’/’Archive’ Voice Streams as they call it for so-called Marketing analysis…… which is basically just another eay of saying….. We’re Wire-tapping your TV.

    I don’t care if they provide Voice Control… just DON’T take away the ability to FULLY Disable it AND have full Remote Control availability…. IF they don’t then I and I suspect many others will simply BLACKLIST Manufacturers products.

    I’m already considering banning Samsung for their blatant ‘Wire-Tapping’ T&Cs. And the fact that we now hear ‘rumours’ that disabling the Voice mechanisms doesn’t actually disable Manufacturers from capturing Voice Streams is deeply disconcerting.

    Yes it sounds so-called ‘Conspiracy theory’ but…… Look at Samsung’s T&Cs on Voice facilities. Manufacturers are freely admitting it but ‘claim’ that no-one in their company would do anything suspiciously illegal with such data….. see yeah

  4. It doesn’t take much to see what data is going where on a home network, then simply block the IP address/port which is used for voice commands or eaves dropping TV’s.

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