8K TVs – the story so far

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So Sharp had its 8K mon­i­tor at IFA 2018, which launched in Europe ear­lier in the year (pic­tured with Miss IFA above). Sam­sung had the Q900R QLED 8K TV range (above and right), promis­ing it will be on sale “within weeks”, in four sizes from 65-inch to 85-inch (and the big­ger the bet­ter with 8K).

Toshiba had an 8K model at IFA as a con­cept, but Tosh Europe is not the same as Tosh Aus­tralia is not the same as Tosh Amer­ica, so we needn’t worry about that one (see p9 for Tosh Aus­tralia’s lat­est model).

TCL is an­other com­pany promis­ing an ac­tual launch, aim­ing for April 2019 with an 8K QLED model branded to the FIBA Bas­ket­ball World Cup 2019. This seems an odd way to break into 8K, un­til you re­alise the World Cup fi­nals are tak­ing place in China, which loves its bas­ket­ball, and guess where pre­dic­tions place the vast bulk of early 8K TV sales! With TCL hav­ing a global part­ner­ship with FIBA, the tie-in makes far more sense. And we gather an 8K TCL is likely for Aus­tralia next year as well.

Be­sides, if you don’t like bas­ket­ball, well, the 75-incher can likely be used for other things... once the con­tent comes along.

LG’s 8K OLED model was an ex­cit­ing prospect, trailed be­fore the show as the only 8K OLED, but it turned out to be a bit of a squib — “Don’t ask us when, don’t ask us how much!” bel­lowed a dis­em­bod­ied pre­sen­ter through a ceil­ing PA. “Don’t bother show­ing it then,” re­marked a wit nearby. But the pic­ture was, ad­mit­tedly, ex­ceed­ingly gor­geous. “It is ready for pro­duc­tion,” con­tin­ued the pre­sen­ter, but LG is still weigh­ing up the sense of launch­ing when the con­tent sit­u­a­tion for 8K is so un­clear.

The con­nec­tions for 8K are prob­lem­atic too — if you did have some 8K con­tent on some source de­vice, there’s no HDMI con­nec­tion yet ca­pa­ble of car­ry­ing it, though the first 8K HDMI sil­i­con to sup­port the new 2.1 spec­i­fi­ca­tion is hoped to be launch­ing im­mi­nently. Mean­while Sharp’s so­lu­tion is to bundle four HDMI ca­bles to­gether to carry the sig­nal — clever, but messy.

Sony doesn’t have any 8K TVs yet, but does have cam­eras, proudly pre­sent­ing at IFA its three-sen­sor 8K cam­era sys­tem for broad­cast, which de­liv­ers deep depth of field, high dy­namic range, and most ex­cit­ingly it can do this at 120 frames per sec­ond. Broad­cast­ers are very keen on 120fps, but we’re a whole gen­er­a­tion of HDMI away from 8K/120 ca­pa­bil­ity, so don’t ex­pect it to beam into your liv­ing room any time soon.

All this makes up­scal­ing the main fo­cus for those putting 8K TVs into the mar­ket, although your photos should look pretty im­pres­sive too, given that many smart­phones, D-SLRs and mir­ror­less cam­eras are push­ing up to these res­o­lu­tions.

We’re not align­ing with the 8K cyn­ics on this one — though we do agree that putting 8K on a 65-inch (as Sam­sung has done) seems al­most en­tirely point­less un­less you plan to have your nose on the screen. We tried this at IFA, and couldn’t see any pixels un­til we were three inches from the panel. With much larger screens the higher res­o­lu­tion will al­low very close seat­ing po­si­tions to de­liver very wide an­gles of view — an ‘IMAX ef­fect’ for TV if you like, even more so than with a pro­jec­tion sys­tem in a home or even real cinema. As with IMAX, wide an­gles of view de­liver real im­mer­sion, fool­ing the brain into ac­cept­ing the image as re­al­ity. With 8K the days of a ‘win­dow onto the world’ may be over, re­placed by a world of re­al­ism in your liv­ing room. One day. At a price.

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