8K TVs – the story so far
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.