Why you definitely don’t need an 8K TV (yet)
8K isn't ready for your living room, no matter what the big brands are saying.
Last year I had the absolute pleasure to review an impressively extra 8k TV in my own home. I was excited to finally see what all the fuss was about but it quickly dawned on me: 8K TVs, at least right now, are utterly pointless for the standard living room. Here are a few reasons why.
Here's a quick look at the resolutions screens have been displaying for the past two decades, the common names for these standards are Full HD (1080p), 4k and now 8k. Full HD 1080p carries 2,073,600 pixels. 8k has 16 times that with over 33 million.
So if you're buying a TV, more resolution equals better. Right? You'll have access to more content and get the best picture quality. Well. Not exactly.
The camera I film my videos with can shoot up to 6k. A newer camera from the same manufacturer takes footage that goes up to 12k. But those pixels aren't necessarily intended for the final product, they're for the filmmakers. Just like cropping a large photo, It allows us to create massive files filled with extra information then use them to crop/reframe shots without losing quality.
So what happens when you do the opposite on a TV with an 8k resolution? Those pixels have to come from somewhere so the TV makes them up using something called "upscaling".
Essentially each empty pixel will look at the nearby ones and guess what it should be. Depending on the make and model, the TV also does some extra computational stuff on top to smooth that all out and make it all a bit easier on the eye. Unfortunately this process varies wildly from TV to TV, and the one I reviewed at least was especially poor at upscaling 1080p images by 16 times.
Watch the video above to see a quick demonstration of how upscaling degrades an image.
Similar to jpeg compression on images, online video needs to be compressed into smaller files so it can quickly travel across the internet and take up less space on hard drives. This is represented by bitrate which is basically the amount of data per second encoded to a video.
- High bitrates = higher quality but bigger files
- Lower bitrates = lower quality small files.
The image above shows how the same footage can have drastically different qualities due to its bitrate.
The actual numbers vary a little but all streaming services use fairly low bitrates. They'd much prefer you get your video instantly and without buffering. That's achieved by lowering the bitrate, thus lowering the size and quality of the file.
So even if you're streaming at 4k you're just not getting an image that is going to make full use of an 8k display.
Lack of content
So where can you get your content? The best place I've found is UHD discs. These can play movies back at high bitrates and without relying on internet speeds. Unfortunately they're also ridiculously expensive with a single 4k movie going for around 35 bucks.
The other option is to look for these files online but as far as I can tell there are no legal movie services that allow high resolution, high bitrate downloads.
Most 4k, high bitrate movies come in around 80GB anyway, so even if you do feel ok breaking the law you'll need a lot of extra hard drive space, a good internet connection and a fair bit of patience. None of this is ideal and we haven't even got to 8k video yet!
I hate to break it to you but besides the files created by cinema cameras (and poorly by some phones) it's virtually non-existent.
Similar to 4k, which launched around 2012, the tech to capture, store and broadcast these enormous files will eventually become more ubiquitous over time but right now it is simply too expensive. There are no discs that can play 8k movies, streaming platforms won't do it, and it also requires so much data that the current internet can barely handle it.
Basically streaming 8k video is off the table for now, and lower resolution streams aren't going to look that great on one either. So, a 4k TV is all you need. They're much better suited to our current distribution models - most of which are still broadcasting in 1080p.
So why are we being sold 8k TVs?
First, well, to sell more stuff. As we get better tech and TVs, hardware companies are wanting to push new stuff. That's inevitable and why Tech Finder will never run out of content!
The tech to display and work on 8k is here but the underlying tech to easily get that content to audiences isn't quite there yet.
You can upload 8k videos to YouTube, so there is infrastructure, and Japan does actually have an 8k TV channel now, but you do need special expensive equipment to actually receive the broadcast. Considering our broadcasters barely do 4k TV here in Australia, something like that is a long way off, if ever.
Second, video games. Unlike video, which is pre-rendered games are being rendered in real time by your computer so it's actually a little easier to output an 8k image. So long as you have a top of the line PC.
I pushed my high specced gaming PC to its limits when trying to output an 8k image, but it did run (barely) and the image was glorious.
If you have the money for an 8k TV and a top of the line PC, you're gonna have a good time, no question about it.
Third, 8k TVs carry more pixels per inch. If you've ever sat fairly close to a large 1080p screen you begin to see the pixels of the screen really well. As TVs get larger those pixels are stretched over a larger canvas. A 100 inch 1080p display may look badly pixelated even at a distance but a similar sized 8k TVs won't have this issue. It's not going to be a factor in most people's homes but this is especially useful for giant commercial screens.
8k TVs are here to stay
Right now, they are simply not worth investing in but I hope the technology advances quick enough to make this video obsolete.
Maybe upscaling AI will be so good that it's imperceptible from the real thing.
We're already seeing great work being done in that space from the big names in TV manufacturing.
Maybe data transfer technology and internet speeds will have a breakthrough.
Or maybe we'll discover a revolutionary compression format that makes 8k video much easier capture, store and stream.
If you're keen to watch my experience with the 8K TCLX925 that inspired this whole article, watch the video below or read the review here.
4K TV deals
Looking to purchase an affordable large-screen TV? eBay has the 65-inch Yokohama 4K UHD webOS Smart LED TV going for just $699 - down from $1,399. It comes with 3 HDMI ports, inbuilt Wi-Fi with all the major streaming apps and a 60Hz refresh rate.
Buy for $699 (was $1,399)
$1,087 off LG C1 4K Smart Self-Lit OLED TV
The LG C1 4K Smart Self-Lit OLED TV uses AI technology to detect and anticipate the perfect picture quality for any setting, creating perfect blacks and rich colours. Catch is selling it for the super low price of $1989.
Experience the ingenious cognitive processor XR featured only in the Sony BRAVIA series, with smart technology that understands how people see and hear. The Good Guys has it down to $1,995 from an original RRP of $2,495. That's better than 20% off!
Buy for $1,995 (was $2,495)
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