Where do you go to see the latest electronic inventions in the world? The answer has to be the IFA.
This year, the spectators were in for a great surprise. The world has not yet settled down to the 4K TV when the IFA 2018 unveiled a new technology, namely 8K TV.
The TV manufacturing giants LG and Samsung displaying their 8K marvels within one day of each other.
On 29th August 2018, LG unveiled the world’s first 88-inch 8K LED TV at the IFA Electronics Show in Berlin. One day later, Samsung showed off its 85-inch 8K wonder named Q900. This TV will be the first 8K TV to grace the US markets in October.
Of course, no one has spoken about the price of this large TV. Samsung and LG have a competitor as well in this field with Sharp, launching the 70-inch 8K monitor, LV-70X500E in 2017.
Now, is 8K the new standard in TV screen resolution? Time alone will tell. In the meanwhile, let us understand what 8K TV is all about.
What is 8K?
If you use pure mathematics, 8K should be twice as big as 4K. Is it so? Surprisingly, it is not.
The TV mathematics work in a unique way. 8K is four times 4K. When we speak about TV screen resolutions, we refer to the horizontal and vertical lines.
By that logic, 8K is 7680 X 4320 pixels. Therefore, 8K is 16 times the pixels of HD and four times that of 4K. Imagine, if you have four 4K TVs placed in a 4 X 4 grid. That is an awesome lot of pixels (33,117,600 pixels).
We marvel at the clarity of HD TV. Imagine what the clarity would be if the images were to be 16 times sharper. You will not be able to do unless you experience the magnificent sight. Also, you have technologies like HDR and HDR10 to make a visible difference.
One can state that 8K is perfectly noticeable on larger displays especially from extremely close quarters.
The History of 8K
When did 8K make its initial appearance? Surprisingly, 8K made its debut just when the 4K TVs started becoming popular.
Sharp has the distinction of displaying the first 8K TV set at CES 2013 (Consumer Electronics Show) as it exhibited an impressive 85-inch model. At that time, content providers were struggling to provide 4K content.
The Japanese broadcaster NHK was the first to transmit 8K satellite broadcasts in 2016. Later that year, NHK shot and broadcast part of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics in 8K. Of course, no one could view it in their homes as this screen resolution was available only at select theatres.
When will 8K TV become a reality in homes all over the world?
It can take some time because of a lot of constraints. We shall dwell on these points later on in this article. However, one should know that 8K TVs have been a constant part of every CES since 2013.
In 2018, you have the major players like LG, Sony, and Samsung displaying their 8K products simultaneously.
As of now, no one knows the pricing of the 8K TVs. However, you can expect them to be expensive in the early days. The same was the case when the 4K TVs made their initial forays.
Nowadays, you have 4K TVs in the budget range. The same will be the case with 8K TVs. Today, you have the LG 85-inch 4K TVs under ₹ 350,000 ($5000).
Do you know what the price of the first LG 4K 84-inch TV was in 2012? Yes, the launch price of the 84LM9600 was $20,000 and that too in 2012.
If you wish to be one of the early birds to lay your hands on the 8K TVs as they hit the market, you should be ready to spend a bomb. Sharp fixed the price of their first 8K TV at $133,000 when it went on sale for “professional use” in Japan in 2015.
They had announced the price of the 70-inch 8K TV as $73,000 when they started shipping these models in 2018. Therefore, one can expect LG or Samsung to launch their first 8K TVs in the range of $20,000. If it happens, it can be a significant coup. Nevertheless, no one knows what the price will be.
Is 8K content available at present?
Assume you purchase your 8K TV in 2018. Will you be able to watch 8K content on this TV? No, you would not because there is not much 8K content available today.
However, the positive aspect of the 8K TVs is that they will be able to upscale the existing 4K content to 8K. Yes, you will be able to experience the difference in the clarity straightaway. Samsung has proved this by placing two 85-inches 8K TVs side by side. One TV displayed 4K content in 4K whereas the other TV up-scaled the content to 8K.
The difference in clarity was immediately recognisable with the up-scaled content looking decidedly superior. Samsung claims that its 8K TV has an AI system designed to upscale 4K content frame-by-frame in real time.
In December 2017, NHK launched a test channel exclusively for showing 8K content. However, it was available for viewing at special theatres very much similar to the 2016 Summer Olympics footage. However, things can be different in 2020 as the Tokyo Olympics will be a significant showcase for 8K broadcast.
The world is getting there now. You have 8K cameras available today. Hence, the day is not very far away when you would have 8K content for broadcasting on a regular basis. The same was the case at the time of the launching of the 4K content.
See where it is now with a lot of streaming services like Amazon and Netflix offering regular 4K streaming. You have the 4K UHD Blu-ray discs as well. Nevertheless, it will take time for 8K content to be available. It is a long road but not an impossible journey.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has approved the ATSC 3.0 digital broadcasting standard in November 2017. It will lead to 4K broadcasting through cable and satellite TVs. As on date, 8K is compatible with ATSC 3.0, but content providers are concentrating on providing 4K content for the time being.
By the time the 8K TVs become famous, you will have sufficient 8K content as well. However, as of now, the 4K TVs have a lot of life left in them.
Constraints to face
Yes, 8K is a great technology, but there are many constraints.
1. The most significant constraint is the cost. There is a 70-inch 8K TV model out there in the market costing over $13,000. The big players like Sony, LG, and Samsung have not yet announced the prices, but it could be in the range of $20,000 considering that these manufacturers have introduced 8K TVs in size range of 85 to 88 inches.
2. There is another significant roadblock in the form of 8K content. You have the odd 8K content available, but it can take years before you see 8K content on a regular basis. The same was the case with 4K. Initially, the content was not available in 4K. It was because not many TVs were compatible with 4K services.
3. Major content creators like Amazon and Netflix might come up with quality 8K content. However, customers would not be able to access it because the broadband speeds are not enough to enable 8K streaming. You need enormous amounts of bandwidth. It can put a significant burden on your broadband or cable provider. It is expensive, but they have to catch up one day.
Do you need 8K TVs?
Yes, you do not have 8K content. The pricing is also a significant factor. Under such circumstances do you need 8K TVs?
Yes, people want larger screens today. The only thing that limits the TV size is the resolution. The pixel density is an important factor. The pixel density of the 64-inch 4K TV is the same as a 32-inch Full HD TV.
Similarly, you might need a 120-inch 8K TV to have the same pixel density. Samsung has already introduced an 85-inch 8K TV. LG has displayed its 88-inches OLED TV at the IFA 2018 in Berlin. Sony has also come up with their version of 8K TVs. You can call these TVs as appetisers. The main course is yet to come.
The demand for large screens
When you have TV screens in the range of 120 to 150 inches, it can inspire broadcasters to capture an entire football pitch in a single frame. You will be able to sit close to the 150-inch screen and enjoy the game as if you were present in the stadium. When you have the technology, you should go ahead with it.
Research shows that the demand for larger and better screens comes from China followed by the US, Europe, and Japan. As on date, the average size of a TV in China is 54 inches.
However, the TVs in the size range of 55 to 59 inches are the most popular in Europe. The minimum size of an 8K TV today is 70 inches. Hence, it will take time for the 8K to gain a strong foothold in the market.
How big should an 8K TV be?
The norm for a 4K TV is a minimum size of 40 inches. You do not have 4K TVs below this size. Applying the same yardstick, the minimum size for an 8K TV should be 80 inches. Hence, the 70-inch Sharp TV is a bit on the smaller side.
What should be the ideal frame rate for an 8K TV?
The frame per second (fps) ratio is a critical one in TV transmission technology. The more you have per second, the smoother is the image. There is no internationally accepted frame rate as such. Hence, you PAL and SECAM in Europe and China whereas there is the NTSC in Japan and the US.
Sharp’s 8K TV has a maximum of 50 to 60 fps. It is perfect for 4K but falls short of 8K standards. The ideal fps for the HD TV is about 24 to 25. Similarly, it should go up to 50 or 60 for the 4K TV.
Therefore, the ideal frame rate for the 8K TV should be in the range of 100 to 120 fps. Watching 8K without having a frame rate of 100 to 120 is of no use.
At present, no technology can get high frame rates into any TV. The upcoming HDMI 2.1 standard will also not be enough to change that in spite of the fact it supports 8K resolutions.
The LC-70X500E model has eight HDMI ports. Therefore, you might need to use four of them simultaneously to get the 8K signal in it. Yes, the Sharp LC-70X500E can upscale 4K content to 8K. However, if you want to watch a live 8K broadcast, you have to go to Japan and tune in to the NHK’s satellite TV.
Will 8K go the same way as other dead technologies?
The TV technology is improving almost on a daily basis. Just as people were getting used to the 4K technology, you have 8K knocking on their doors. Will it go the same way as other dead technologies like 3D and curved TVs?
It is too early to comment on this aspect because 8K is in its nascent stage now. The consumers have accepted and taken to the 4K technology. Therefore, there are chances that people will adopt the 8K technology as well.
With 3D TVs, the issue was not the technology but the fact that people needed to wear special glasses to watch the content. The chances of losing the glasses or breaking them were always high. The comfort factor was also a significant reason for the failure of the 3D televisions.
Similarly, the curved TVs were not successful because it was uncomfortable for people to watch the action from any angle. You had to sit in front of the TV to get the best view.
However, there is a lot of enthusiasm among people regarding 8K. Research analysts predict that 8K will be the mainstream technology in the future. LG estimates the sale of the number of 8K TVs to go up to 5 million units by 2022. Nevertheless, as of now, 4K still rules the market.
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Srinivasa is Vsbytes’s Editor-In-Chief. He Is A Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert And Has Been Interested In Computer Hardware, Software, And Gaming Right Since The Time He Was A Child.