Report: Apple TV is getting 8K, but do you need it?
With news that the Apple TV may be trending towards 8K, is ultra-high resolution content worth the price tag?
4K is more prevalent than ever, which of course means it's time to look towards even higher levels of resolution. 8K is still an emerging technology but it is slowly becoming more accessible to consumers. History tells us that before long we'll be looking at 4K screens with the same derision we view 720p and 1080p screens.
So with news that the Apple TV 4K digital media player may soon be offering 8K functionality, how excited should you really be? Let's take a look.
Report: Apple TV to upgrade to 8K
Apple is looking to roll out some major software updates across several platforms, and analysis of the relevant code has yielded a pretty major find. AV1, a next-generation video format, will likely be coming to Apple TV 4K. This may occur for the current generation, or might stay in Apple's pocket for a successor.
AV1 is significant because it allows users to stream content at a high resolution without using a ridiculous amount of data. That would be very important for a country ranked 59th in average broadband speeds. (Hint: that's Australia.)
There are some other technical matters to consider, but in essence, this discovery opens the door for Apple TV 4K to become the first major digital streamer to offer 8K functionality.
Are 8K TVs worth it?
I hope you're sitting down for this one: Apple TV isn't actually a TV. It also shouldn't be confused with the streaming service Apple TV+, though we'll get into how that factors into matters later.
So you'll need a TV that can handle 8K resolution in order to enjoy this functionality. Thankfully, there are plenty of 8K TVs on offer from the likes of Samsung, LG and TCL.
As you might imagine, these TVs are mighty expensive. One of the cheaper offerings on the market, TCL's X925 Mini LED TV has a RRP of $4,499. Put that money towards a 4K TV and you'll get a much larger screen and a device with more bells and whistles.
Beyond cost, there's another big reason to be very hesitant about picking up an 8K TV.
Barely any 8K content exists
When it comes to 8K, none of the big streamers are on board. Your best hope of finding something to watch (other than returning to the dark ages of physical discs) is on websites like YouTube and Vimeo.
There, you can find some landscape videos and other kinds of stock footage to view on your high-resolution TV. There's some interesting stuff, but it's not exactly the latest season of Stranger Things.
So why aren't Netflix and Amazon interested? One major issue is Internet speeds. Netflix says that in order to stream 4K UHD content, you need download speeds of 25 Mbps.
8K will push things much further than that, and considering Australia's shockingly poor broadband speeds, it could be quite a while before it becomes the norm Down Under. Apple's application of AV1 should hopefully mitigate these concerns.
Of course, Apple TV getting 8K functionality would likely indicate Apple TV+ offering at least a couple of titles to show it off, if it can figure out the logistical barriers. As the producer of a streaming service and a media player, Apple could be in a prime position to bring 8K into our homes sooner rather than later.
Okay, so maybe there isn't much actual 8K content around. But surely 1080p and 4K video looks pretty good on an 8K screen, right? The short answer is: No.
8K screens have 4 times as many pixels as 4K screens and 16 times as many as 1080p screens. So when you blow up 4K video to appear on an 8K screen, there are 3 empty pixels for every actual pixel.
What happens next is very complicated, but in simple terms, the screen analyses the pixels around each empty pixel and approximates what colour the blank pixels will be.
The results are generally unimpressive, as you can see in the image above of upscaled 1080p video. You can refer to our in-depth review of the TCL X925 for a hands-on look at how this all works. In short, don't buy an 8K TV expecting lower resolution video to blow you away.
Apple TV supporting 8K functionality is only a small piece of the puzzle when it comes to the world fully embracing 8K, and that's okay. 8K TVs are available and are getting cheaper. If major digital media players get on board, all we'll be missing is some actual content to enjoy on them.
Best deals on 4K TVs
8K might not be worth your money yet, but screen technology is still in a great place in 2022. Explore some deals on 4K TVs below.
Check out our guide to the best TVs in Australia.