Should you buy an 8K TV? No, and these are the reasons why


Samsung 8K TVs

Sarah Tew/CNET

Believe it or not, 8K TVs are actually here. They’ve got four times the resolution of standard Ultra HD 4K TVs, and you can even buy one right now. Several companies, including Samsung, Sony, LG and TCL, all have models available. Their high pixel counts come at a high price, however, with most costing significantly more than similar high-end 4K TVs. Should you consider an 8K TV? Are they the best TVs out there?

No. At least, not yet. 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 of all those lower resolutions into 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 PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X

Read on for the answer to all these questions and more.

Read more: PS5 and Xbox Series X can game in 8K resolution. Should you care?

This shows the relative number of pixels in each of the major resolution formats. Not actual size of course; this is a chart not a visual representation (though it is to scale if you click on it). From largest to smallest: 8K (tangerine), 4K Cinema in 1.78:1 aspect ratio (black); Ultra HD (white); 2K Cinema in 1.78:1 aspect ratio (green); Full HD 1080p (red); 720p (blue). For more detail, pun intended, check out 4K vs. 8K vs. 1080p: TV resolutions explained.

Geoffrey Morrison/CNET

Is it worth buying an 8K TV?

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 very large screen.
  • To get the most out of any 8K TV, you need actual 8K content.
  • Both new consoles promise 8K resolution, but that’s potentially misleading.
  • In the next few years 8K TVs will get cheaper and perhaps actually be worth considering.

To reiterate, one of the biggest reasons 8K TVs are not as amazing as you might expect, besides their price, is that there simply aren’t any 8K TV shows or movies to watch on them. And while the latest gaming consoles will eventually do 8K (maybe), 8K games today are basically nonexistent. The best you can get in most cases is 4K, so all those extra pixels of an 8K TV won’t be used to their fullest potential. 

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. 

Read more: Remember when TVs weighed 200 pounds? A look back at TV trends over the years

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.


Mathias Appel/HDMI Licensing

The term “4K” 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?

Read more4K vs 8K vs 1080p: TV resolutions explained

TV and projector 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 projectors
1080p 1,920×1,080 2,073,600 High Definition (HD) Smaller, less expensive and older TVs, most projectors
720p 1,280×720 921,600 High Definition (HD) Even smaller and older TVs

The Consumer Technology Association’s 8K Ultra HD logo.


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 upconvert lower resolution signals 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 explained many times with 4K TVs, 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.

Now playing:
Watch this:

Samsung’s bezelless 8K QLED TV is basically all screen


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 Samsung’s Wall or Sony’s Crystal LED, 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.

Read moreBest 4K projectors for 2021

TCL's 65-inch 8K 6-Series TV

TCL’s 65-inch 8K 6-Series TV. 


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 fancy “AI” upscaling technology on 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 of the system: 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.

Creating content in the new resolution, meanwhile, 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. There are lots of reasons it’s a great idea to capture in 8K. The end result, however, is 4K, because of the second part (transmission).

Read more: How I built my dream 8K-capable video editing PC


The Red Monstro 8K VV “Brain” has a 35.4-megapixel CMOS sensor, can record 8K video at 60 fps, has over 17 stops of dynamic range, and costs — brace yourself — $54,500. 


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, the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X, 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. 

Read more: Sony PS5 vs. Microsoft Xbox Series X: Game on

Secondly, games will need to be specifically written to take advantage of 8K, something that isn’t going to be particularly common. The PS4 Pro, 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 same thing your TV does automatically if you play a DVD.

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.”

“Xbox Series X is fully capable of 8K output. However, as there is not media content or games that currently support 8K resolution, we have not enabled the option within the system settings at this time. Xbox Series X was designed with the next 8 to 10 years of advancements in mind, and as we see signals from creators and 8K becomes a more widely adopted format, we will update console software to support it”, a Microsoft spokesperson confirmed to CNET.

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 with higher frame rates, something else made possible by the latest version of HDMI and available on the new consoles.

Read more: 120Hz gaming: Best TVs for PS5 and Xbox Series X

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 below, and Vimeo. Eventually, ATSC 3.0, also known as Next Gen TV, 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 immense. 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? 


A visual representation of how much more bandwidth the upcoming Ultra High Speed cables can handle.

HDMI Forum

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. HDMI 2.1 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 also got a look at 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 contrast ratios, overall brightness for HDR, more lifelike colors 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 quantum dots

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 direct-view quantum dot displays, MicroLED, mini-LED and other technologies.


Direct-view quantum dot display.


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. 

Lastly, even as prices drop, like they have with the $2,200 TCL 8K 6-series, you’re almost certainly better off with a 4K TV for the same money. It will have better picture quality overall and only lack the bragging rights that you have more pixels than your neighbor. But if that’s your thing, go for it. 

Read moreWhen is the best time to buy a TV?

Note: This article was first published in 2018 and is regularly updated with new info.

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. 

You can follow his exploits on Instagram and his YouTube channel. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-sized submarines, along with a sequel