, with four times the resolution of standard TVs. You can buy one right now, with models available from several companies, including , Sony and LG. Their high pixel counts come at a high prices, however, with most costing significantly more than similar high-end . Should you consider an 8K TV? Are they the out there? Spoiler alert: no.
At least, that is, not right now. One of the biggest reasons, besides price, is that there basically aren’t any 8K TV shows or movies to watch on them. And while thewill eventually do 8K (maybe), 8K games today are basically nonexistent. The best you can get in most cases is , so all those extra pixels of an 8K TV won’t be used to their fullest potential.
But 8K has arrived, so it’s worth taking a closer look at the tech. That’s because the day will come when 4K goes the way ofinto tech history. Does this mean 4K TV is already obsolete? Do you need to rush out and buy an 8K TV or risk being unable to watch your favorite shows? Do you need an 8K TV for the or ?
Once again, the answer to all of these questions is no. Here’s why.
Is it worth buying an 8K TV?
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, here’s a quick summary of our current thinking regarding 8K TVs.
- Unless you have money to burn, don’t even consider buying one right now.
- From what we’ve seen, there’s little image quality improvement over 4K TVs.
- Any image quality improvement we’ve seen required sitting very close to a .
- To get the most out of any 8K TV, you need actual 8K content.
- There’s basically no 8K content available right now and little prospect of any coming soon.
- promise 8K resolution, but that’s .
- In the next few years 8K TVs will get cheaper and perhaps actually be worth considering.
Now that you’ve slid your wallet back into your pocket, sit back and soak in everything there is to know about 8K TVs today.
What is 8K, and is it better than a 4K TV?
A traditional HDTV from a few years ago is 1080p, which means it has 1,920 pixels horizontally and 1,080 vertically. Many digital cinema projectors — the ones in movie theaters — have a resolution of 2,048×1,080. Because it’s common in Hollywood-speak to only refer to the horizontal resolution, they call that “2K,” but it’s basically the same as the HDTV 1080p you have at home.
comes from the digital cinema side, too, with a horizontal resolution of 4,096, hence “4K.” However, on the TV side, manufacturing efficiencies meant we got double the horizontal and vertical resolutions of 1080p HDTV, so 3,840×2,160 pixels. Everyone colloquially calls this “4K,” though the technical term is Ultra HD. This has four times as many pixels as 1080p HD.
Which brings us to 8K. You guessed it: twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 4K, for a whopping 7,680×4,320 and 33,177,600 total pixels. Not only is that four times the resolution of 4K, that’s an incredible 16 times more pixels than 1080p. Or to put that differently, you could put 16 full-resolution 1080p videos on an 8K screen at the same time with no loss of quality. I’m not sure why you’d want to do this, but hey, why not?
TV and PJ resolutions
|Resolution name||Horizontal x vertical pixels||Total pixels||Other names||Found on|
|8K||7,680×4,320||33,177,600||8K Ultra HD, Ultra High-Definition (UHD), Super Hi-Vision, UHD-2||High-end TVs|
|4K||3,840×2,160||8,294,400||Ultra High-Definition (UHD)||Most modern TVs, some PJs|
|1080p||1,920×1,080||2,073,600||High-Definition (HD)||Smaller, less-expensive, and older TVs, most PJs|
|720p||1,280×720||921,600||High-Definition (HD)||Even smaller, and older, TVs|
One thing to look for in new 8K TVs: It will feature the official logo and “spec” on new 8K TVs. This goes beyond raw pixel count to help you find TVs that perform to at least a certain standard. This is partly to avoid the mess from the early days of HD and 4K, where some of the first TVs couldn’t accept a full HD or later, a 4K signal. The Consumer Technology Association lays out the following minimums a TV is required to have to wear the 8K Ultra HD logo:
- At least 7,680 pixels horizontally and 4,320 vertically.
- At least one HDMI input capable of accepting that resolution, at 50 or 60 fps (depending on region), with HDR.
- The ability to to 8K.
- The ability to receive and display 10-bit content.
Can the human eye even see 8K?
Technically yes it can, but the difference will be very subtle at best.
As we’ve, there’s a point of diminishing returns when it comes to resolution. The human eye can see only so much detail, and extra pixels beyond what you can discern are basically wasted. To get anything out of higher resolutions and their proportionally tinier pixels, you need to sit closer, get a bigger TV, or both.
It’s rare that anyone gets a large enough TV — or sits close enough to one — to justify the need for even 4K resolutions. 8K is excessive overkill… at least for a TV. If you’re talking about massive theater-size screens like, 8K would be amazing. But since 4K is hard to discern when comparing to a 1080p TV, 4K to 8K from 10 feet away will be pretty much impossible.
That said, because 8K TVs are currently the most expensive offerings from a company, they often also have features that help it produce some stunning images that have nothing to do with resolution. So 8K TVs likely look great, regardless of their pixel count.
8K content: Can I actually watch anything in 8K?
Without 8K content, an 8K TV is just a 4K TV with a few thousand dollars stuck to it with duct tape. Samsung talks up fancyon its TVs, designed to improve the look of mere 4K and 1080p sources on an 8K screen. And other TV makers like Sony and LG have touted their own 8K special sauces. But to get the most out of all those 33 million-plus pixels, the incoming source needs to be 8K too.
There are three main aspects to getting any new format, like 8K, into your home:
1. Content recorded in the new format.
2. Transmission of the new format (broadcast, streaming, etc.).
3. Playback of the new format.
An 8K TV represents the last part: playback. That’s the easy part. Any TV manufacturer can design and produce a TV with any resolution it wants. It’s just up to the company and its resources.
The first part, content, is a lot tougher. While the number of 8K-capable cameras has dramatically increased in the last few years, they’re still expensive to buy or rent. In most cases, these cameras are used to create 4K content.. The end result, however, is 4K, because of the second part.
Ultra HD 4K transmission takes a lot of data. You need a really fast internet connection to stream it. Streaming 8K is a whole other level, well beyond what many have in their homes. With only a tiny percentage of their audience able to see it, mainstream streaming services are slow to adopt higher resolutions, with the increase in cost of storage, processing and more.
Which is all to say, don’t expect 8K versions of your favorite streaming shows anytime soon. And without 8K content, the main benefit of an 8K TV is at least partially wasted.
Do I need 8K to play Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 games?
Both Sony and Microsoft have announced that their next-generation gaming consoles, theand the , will both be capable of outputting 8K resolution via future updates. Sounds like a great excuse to buy an 8K TV, right? Not so fast.
First, and most important, you will not need an 8K TV to play games on these consoles. They will work just fine on most 1080p and nearly all 4K TVs. If you can connect a PS4 or Xbox One to your current TV, it will work with a PS5 or Xbox Series X.
Secondly, games will need to be specifically written to take advantage of 8K, something that isn’t going to be particularly common. The, for example, has been out for over four years and there still are only a few dozen games that actually render in 4K. That’s a piece of fine print that’s a little hard to understand. The resolution you see on screen might not be what resolution the console is rendering the game. It’s far more common for the console to build the game’s visuals at a lower resolution, 1440p perhaps, and then a separate chip will upconvert that to 4K to send your TV. This is the .
A Sony spokesperson confirmed to CNET that this FAQ, published in the PlayStation blog in November, was still the case: “PS5 is compatible with 8K displays at launch, and after a future system software update will be able to output resolutions up to 8K when content is available, with supported software.”
Long story short, few games will look much different on an 8K TV than they will on a 4K TV. There is limited time and money when you develop a game (well, most games), and few developers will want to invest those limited resources on something only a handful of people will be able to enjoy. Far more likely are games rendered in 4K , something else made possible by the latest version of HDMI and available on the new consoles.
Where can I stream 8K? Do Netflix or YouTube support it?
Getting the 8K onto your new 8K TV is also a bit of a challenge. Ideally, the TV’s internal apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and the rest will be 8K compatible. You’d think that’d be a given, but it wasn’t in the early days of 4K. Further, there’s no 8K content from any major streaming service available yet. The exceptions are YouTube, as you see in the video above, Vimeo. Eventually,, might allow 8K to be broadcast over the air, but we’re a long way from that.
How fast does your internet need to be to stream 8K?
8K also presents another issue for the early adopter: The bandwidth required is severe. Most 4K content streaming companies recommend you have an internet connection in the 20Mbps range. 8K, even with everything else the same, has four times as many pixels.
That doesn’t equate exactly to a 4x increase in data or bandwidth, but, and this is just a ballpark guess, a connection requirement in the 40 to 50Mbps range wouldn’t be unexpected. Maybe you, dear CNET reader, have that kind of speed, but the vast majority of people do not.
What kind of HDMI cable do I need for 8K?
One thing we’ve already got is the physical connection thing sorted in case any 8K media streamers hit the market or they’re needed for the PS5 and Xbox Series X.is capable of 8K resolutions and more. But before you rush out and stock up on HDMI 2.1-compatible cables, keep in mind there will almost certainly be a new standard between now and the wide adoption of 8K. So those cables might be obsolete, despite their current forward-looking appearance.
All of the major 8K TV makers say that their sets have HDMI 2.1 inputs capable of handling the 48Mbps bandwidth required for the highest resolution and frame-rate combinations (8K and 60 frames per second and 4K at 120 fps). We alsoat some new, higher-bandwidth HDMI cables.
To take advantage of higher 4K frame rates on the new consoles, presuming your TV can handle them, you might need new cables.
Is 8K TV a gimmick?
To put on my cynic hat, increasing resolution is one of the easiest ways to offer the appearance of higher performance. This is likely what TV makers are smoking, coming out with 8K TVs when there’s essentially no content and no 8K infrastructure.
Given how easy it was to market 4K as “better looking than 1080p,” TV makers are claiming the same thing with 8K. But resolution is just one aspect of overall picture quality, and not one of the most important ones. Improving other aspects, like, , and so on, offer better image improvements but are significantly greater technical challenges. This is especially true for LCD technology, something Samsung is still strongly flogging — all of its QLED TVs are just LCD TVs with .
It’s relatively easy to create a higher-resolution LCD panel, but improving the other aspects of performance for that tech is a greater challenge. Not “more” pixels but “better” pixels. This is why OLED is a thing, and why many companies are researching new technologies like true, , and .
Bottom line: Don’t wait for 8K
If you’re thinking about buying a new TV, does this mean you should hold off? If your current TV works, you should probably hold on to it regardless. New 8K TVs shouldn’t be a factor. As mentioned above, early 8K TVs are expensive. We’re also many, many years away from any sort of widespread 8K content. We arguably don’t have widespread 4K content, and no one is talking about scrapping 4K to go directly to 8K.
The other aspect is a warning that will be seconded by countless 4K early adopters: There’s no guarantee these early 8K TVs will end up being compatible with any future 8K standard. There are tens of thousands of 4K TVs that can’t play any current 4K media content.
Why pay exorbitant amounts of money on a TV that barely has any content now, and might not be able to play any later? Bragging rights, I guess, and if that’s your thing, go for it? Just keep in mind that current 4K HDR TVs look vastly better than every first-gen 4K TV and cost a fraction of the price.
As well as covering TV and other display tech, Geoff Morrison does photo tours of cool museums and locations around the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, airplane graveyards and more.