8K TV explained: The script on television’s next big upgrade

I wandered passed hundreds of TVs earlier this year during CES, and came away impressed with what we, the TV-owning and -viewing public, have to look forward to. Let me tell you, it ain’t 8K.

While higher-resolution television sets are certainly on their way, technologies beyond the pixel count will have a broader impact on picture quality and the overall experience of kicking back to watch a game or movie. Most importantly, the 8K story needs a few more edits before it’s ready for viewing.

What is 8K TV?

The TV industry is chock full of alphabet soup, with meaty morsels like 1080p, Ultra HD, and 8K floating around. For those who aren’t tech savvy, these acronyms can make your head spin once a sales person starts rattling through them. Here’s a primer.

When DVDs first arrived about 20 years ago, most content and TV sets were capable of producing 480p resolution. The “480” here refers to the number of pixels from the top of the screen to the bottom. The term most commonly used to describe 480p is SD or Standard Definition.

Resolution Measurements (In pixels) Pixel Count
480p (SD) 640 x 480 307,000
720p (HD) 1,280 x 720 921,600
1080p (Full HD) 1,920 x 1,080 2,073,600
4K (Ultra HD) 3,840 x 2,160 8,294,400
8K (Ultra HD) 7,680 x 4,320 33,177,600

Then 720p arrived, not long after DVDs took off. With 1,280 by 720 pixels, 720p was the first High Definition or HD standard.

Full HD, or 1080p, quickly replaced 720p as the resolution used for television sets. Full HD includes 1,920 pixels from side to side and 1,080 up and down, or 2,073,600 total pixels. By way of comparison, 720p HD has just 921,600 total pixels, or fewer than half as many as Full HD. The majority of Blu-Ray discs sold between 2006 and 2015 were Full HD.

The next jump was from Full HD to Ultra HD, or what is often called 4K. Ultra HD resolution contains 3,840 horizontal and 2,160 vertical pixels. Why 4K? Because 3.8K would be annoying and movie cameras at the time shot in 4,096 pixels. The industry blended the name of the two for sanity’s sake. Since Ultra HD / 4K doubles the number of pixels both horizontally and vertically, it contains four times as many pixels as Full HD / 1080p, at an amazing 8,294,400.

This is where we are today. Most television sets larger than 40 inches are sold with 4K resolution. Inexpensive TV sets, or sets with screens smaller than 40 inches, are typically kept at 1080p. Only the smallest and cheapest TVs still ship at 720p. Ultra HD Blu-Ray discs on sale today offer movies in 4K resolution to match the majority of TVs.

1080p vs 8k

Leawo The move from 1080p to 4K, HDR, and even 8K content requires more and more data, increasing the necessity for compression to shrink file sizes.

Leaping to 8K represents another quadrupling of the total number of pixels.

An 8K screen has 7,680 pixels across and 4,320 pixels up and down, making for a staggering total of 33,177,600 pixels. That’s 16 times the amount of information of a 1080p screen and four times the data of a 4K screen. It’s a lot of pixels.

Can we see those 33 million pixels?

It depends on how close you sit to your TV. The human eye can only perceive so much detail, and after a while, you reach a point of diminishing returns.

Let’s look at some numbers based on a 65-inch TV. At 480p, you can see all the available detail on the screen from as far away as 19 feet. The distance drops to 13 feet from a 720p TV and 8 feet from a 1080p TV. This means people who sit 8 feet from their 1080p HDTV (or closer!) can see all the detail created by the TV’s 2,073,600 pixels.

If you upgrade to 4K, then you’d have to sit 4 feet from the set (or closer!) to perceive all the available detail on the screen.

For 8K, shuffle 2 feet or closer to see all the detail. The numbers don’t change all that much if you go with a bigger screen. A 100-inch TV, for example, would still require you to sit 6 feet or closer to see all the detail at 4K, and 3 feet or closer to see all the detail at 8K resolution.

Most people can’t see the difference between 1080p and 4K, let alone between 4K and 8K.

I don’t know about you, but I like to watch TV from my couch a comfortable distance from the TV. Sitting on the floor with my face pressed against the screen? Not so much.

The bottom line here is that from a normal viewing distance most people can barely tell the visual difference in resolution between 1080p and 4K, to say nothing of the difference between 4K and 8K.

Is 8K content available?

The answer is pretty much no. Hell, there’s hardly enough 4K content available. It will be years before 8K content is plentiful enough to warrant seeking out an 8K TV. Here’s why.

Three core requirements must be met to get 8K content to your eyeballs. First, the original movie, show, or game itself needs to be recorded in 8K; second, that content must be transmitted or transported in 8K; finally, it must be replayed in 8K on a capable set.

Few cameras are able to capture 8K content.

The majority of cable and broadcast television content today is shown in Full HD / 1080p resolution. Some 4K TVs will upcovert that signal from Full HD to Ultra HD to improve the experience, but the source signal is still just Full HD. The upconverting process on modern TVs is fairly good and can make 1080p content look sharp on a 4K TV set. Some TV makers point to upconverting as a stop-gap as 4K content plays catch-up.

Upscaling will apply to 8K, too. Sony’s 8K TV set can upscale 720p signals to 8K using raw processing power and machine learning. Sony claims its set can make most any source content look good when upscaled to 8K. Whether or not it can has yet to be proven. This is something all 8K TV sets will need to be good at from the get-go.

A quick check of cable providers in the U.S., including Comcast/Xfinity, AT&T/Spectrum, and Verizon FiOS, shows that each offers minimal 4K content. If you read the fine print, you’ll learn that 4K content is limited to programming via Netflix, YouTube UHD, and select sporting/live events. That’s it, at least from your TV service provider. A handful of online streaming video services do have movies and shows in 4K, including Apple and Google.

Apple tvOS

Today, very few cameras are able to capture 8K content. Red, the company behind the Hydrogen One phone, and several other camera makers including Astrodesign, Hitachi, and Panasonic do have a few in the market, but they cost tens of thousands of dollars. These are strictly for movie and TV studios. Even with source 8K content, however, you’d run into real roadblocks transmitting it.

The primary issue is size. An 8K camera captures a 33MP picture for every frame, and records at 60 frames per second. That’s a lot of data. Consider the size of movie file. A Full HD movie generally falls between 3GB and 6GB, depending on the running time. A 4K movie has about four times the visual information as a Full HD movie, and an 8K movie would have four times the visual information of a 4K flick. An 8K movie file won’t necessarily be 16 times the size of a Full HD movie file, but it will be significantly bigger.

Most U.S. households don’t have the broadband speed or capacity to support the necessary bit rate for streaming 8K, and there are currently no 8K cable boxes

How much do 8K TVs cost?

Too much.

Samsung made an 8K TV set available to U.S. consumers in late 2018. The 65-inch Samsung Q900 8K TV set starts at $5,000. The 85-inch model costs $15,000.

Samsung TV

More sets are on the way from the likes of LG and Sony, but prices haven’t been announced and the TVs won’t arrive until later this year. Don’t expect them to be cheap.

The Samsung is more or less the only legit option right now and isn’t what I’d call affordable for most people.

HDR is where it’s at

Up at the top of this article I mentioned that plenty of TVs at CES impressed me. They were all 4K HDR TVs. The human eye may not be able to resolve 33 million pixels at 10 feet, but it can see the difference in color accuracy and contrast that HDR brings to the table.

HDR stands for high dynamic range and refers to the delta between the blackest blacks and the brightest whites produced by a display. The higher the contrast ratio, the more detail is defined in very dark and very bright regions of the picture.

Brightness is measured in nits. Modern TVs generally produce between 300 and 500 nits of brightness. HDR TVs produce a minimum of 1,000 nits, and high-end HDR TVs can manage up to 2,000 nits. Pure black is 0.0 nits and is something only LED and OLED TVs can achieve. Contrast is often expressed as a ratio, such as 1,000:1. The higher the ratio, the better the contrast.

Contrast is only half the HDR picture. The other is color. In order to earn the HDR rating, a TV set has to reproduce 10-bit color. This is huge. Most TVs are capable of 8-bit color, which supports up to 16.8 million color variations. Advancing to 10-bit improves the number of colors by a factor of four, or to more than one billion color variations. That’s quite a jump. This makes for far smoother transitions between light and dark regions of the picture.

In terms of marketing, you’ll probably see Dolby Vision or HDR10 on TV spec sheets. Where Dolby Vision is proprietary and dynamic, HDR10 is an open standard and static. (Yes, there’s already HDR10+, but we’ll ignore that for now.) For all intents and purposes, Dolby Vision and HDR10 lead to about the same experience for your eyes, even if they come at it from different angles.

All the best TVs I’ve seen were 4K HDR TVs.

What do I buy?

If you’re in the market for a TV set right now, get a 4K model. Don’t spend $5,000 or more on an 8K TV. There’s no content, the TV sets cost way too much, you can’t see the difference visually, and the transmission standards may change between now and when 8K TV’s truly take off.

Electronics retailers have a wide range of 4K TVs on their shelves and a surprising number of them cost less than $500. Adding HDR to the mix bumps up the price less than you’d think.

Find a 4K TV that is the size you want and fits your budget. It will be good for years to come.

New Samsung UHD OLED 15.6-inch laptop display looks awesome (and expensive)

A photo of a prototype laptop featuring the new Samsung UHD OLED 15.6-inch display. Samsung

Today, Samsung Display announced the launch of a new UHD OLED 15.6-inch display for laptops. Samsung refers to the display as a “world’s first,” due to there being no 15.6-inch laptops yet on the market with UHD OLED panels.

Samsung Display says the new laptop panel will go into mass production beginning sometime in February 2019.

The panels will have a resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, a brightness level ranging from 0.0005 to 600 nits, and a dynamic contrast ratio of 120,000:1. When you compare an OLED panel to that of an LCD, you can see blacks that are 200 times darker and whites that are twice as bright.

The new display provides a spectrum of 3.4 million colors which is double that of similarly-sized LCD panels. However, OLED panels notoriously require more power than a comparable LCD panel, so all those colors and that high contrast ratio is going to likely come at a cost of shorter battery life.

Editor’s Pick

Samsung Display, though, is only really concerned about making great displays, so the power consumption is likely an afterthought. It will be up to third-party companies to figure out how to get the most power efficiency out of the unit.

Speaking of which, this UHD OLED panel is obviously geared to the ultra-premium laptop market, and Samsung Display says it will focus on selling the panel “for use in premium notebooks produced by leading manufacturers.” I guess that means we can assume we won’t see this panel in a Samsung laptop at first — and we can expect the laptops it does appear in to be quite pricey.

Samsung isn’t the only company prepping ultra-premium laptop displays for 2019 models. Dell is expected to launch the 2019 edition of the Dell XPS 15 with a 4K OLED panel in March. Being that the Dell XPS 13 and 15 are some of the highest-rated laptops on the market, this Samsung display might give Dell a run for its money.

NEXT: Folding Samsung phone tipped for two batteries to power its two displays

Android Authority’s CES Top Picks 2019 Awards: Our favorite products from the show

We’ve spent the last week meeting with companies and roaming around the halls of the Las Vegas Convention Center to find the very best of CES 2019. From laptops, to smart home devices, to drones, there’s certainly a lot to take in — that’s why we’ve created a list of the best products announced at CES 2019.

Here are Android Authority’s CES Top Picks 2019 Awards.

The best smartphone: Alcatel 1X

The Alcatel 1X is proof that you don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a decent smartphone. For around 130 Euros, Alcatel’s new budget-friendly phone offers a 5.5-inch display, Android 8.1 Oreo, a 3,000mAh battery, and support for 4G connectivity. It also comes with this beautiful sandstone texture on the back that will instill nostalgia in any OnePlus One fan out there.

What’s more, it packs a dual 16MP and 2MP rear-camera setup, which actually turned out to be quite impressive during our hands-on time with the device. Portrait mode is surprisingly good too.

The best laptop: Dell Alienware Area-51m

Dell’s Alienware went back to the drawing board to overhaul its popular gaming laptop design. Called Alienware Legend, the move marks a significant change in the overall Alienware brand. That includes a reimagined shape and new color options: Lunar Light and Dark Side of the Moon. The underlying sci-fi theme fans love still remains highly relevant.

The first product based on this new Alienware Legend identity is the Area-51m. In addition to the new outward appearance, Alienware revised the internal design to provide better overclocking and a thinner form factor. All this plays host to the latest Intel Core processors and GeForce RTX 20 Series graphics. The Area-51m initiates a new era for Alienware and its fans.

The best smartwatch: Kate Spade Scallop Smartwatch 2

A ton of smartwatches were announced at the trade show this year, and the best one came from Kate Spade. We’re giving the Kate Spade Scallop Smartwatch 2 an award this year because it was clear the team listened to user feedback. With an on-board GPS and heart rate sensor, the Scallop Smartwatch 2 is now a capable fitness companion — not just a pretty watch.

Watch: The best smartwatches from CES 2019

Let’s be honest, this is still a pretty watch, though. The flower-like design surrounding the bezel adds to the classy aesthetic, backed up by the understated silicone strap and stainless steel case. Of course, the iconic spade icon is scattered throughout, adorning the rotatable crown and on the top of each Kate Spade watch face.

A pretty, feature-packed smartwatch. What more could you ask for?

The best fitness product: Withings Move ECG

Don’t miss

The Withings team is back in full force after its brief time at Nokia, and it just announced two new fitness watches called the Withings Move and Withings Move ECG. The Move ECG won Android Authority’s Best Fitness Product Award due to the overall quality of product and benefit users will get out of the electrocardiogram.

ECGs can be literal life savers for some people, and the fact that it’s packed into an attractive, affordable, and customizable fitness watch should not be overlooked. At $130, the Withings Move ECG is a no-brainer if you frequent the doctor for heart problems.

The best smart home product: Google Assistant Connect

For years Google has been trying to become the one-stop shop for smart home products, and the Google Assistant Connect is its next big push to bring even more Assistant-connected products to your life.

Assistant Connect is a set of capabilities that product manufacturers can use to connect their own products to Google Assistant-powered devices like the Google Home or Home Hub. If a product was developed with Assistant Connect, it’s able to talk to nearby Assistant devices and display your personal information (i.e. calendar events/weather) on the screen.

The most obvious example is if a company were to create a simple display without any mics or speakers, including Assistant Connect would allow it to show you content from your linked smart speaker. In this case, the smart speaker would handle all the computing on its own while using Assistant Connect to transfer and display that content on the display.

It’s an inexpensive and easy way for companies to bring Assistant to their products, which is why it’s deserving of our Best Smart Home Product award.

The best audio product: Audio Technica ATH-ANC900BT

Few audio companies have the professional history of Audio-Technica, and when they throw their hat in the ring, we pay attention. Taking aim at the top end of active noise cancelling headphones, the ATH-ANC900BT has the firepower to be a blast.

By using a more energy efficient Bluetooth 5 connection, the ATH-ANC900BT has the specs to outlast the likes of Bose, Sony, and Sennheiser’s top-of-the-line headphones. Additionally, they’re also the most affordable entry into the top-end of ANC headsets, coming in at only $299.

The best concept: Whirlpool Connected Hub Wall Oven

Whirlpool surprised us this year when it showed off its Smart Countertop Oven, produced under its WLabs brand.

The WLabs Smart Countertop Oven automatically detects the type of food you’re cooking. You can then choose from additional cooking options based on your preferences. For example, if you’re cooking pizza, the Smart Countertop will give you a range of crispiness to to choose from.

Related

Whirlpool is also the first on the market with a product that can distinguish between frozen and non-frozen food. Its current cooking algorithm is set to a 95 percent confidence interval too, so cooking times and settings should be very accurate.

What impressed us most, however, is Whirlpool’s planned distribution model for this product. Whirlpool will ship just two thousand units in the coming weeks for $799 each. We’re told the reasoning behind launching under the WLabs brand is so that Whirlpool can better gather user feedback and tweak anything accordingly. That way, it can improve the experience even further before launching a mainstream consumer product.

Overall, we were quite impressed with Whirlpool’s work as is. So, we’re very happy to see a commitment to develop the concept further.

The best mobile accessory: Corning Gorilla Glass Personalized Phone Case

The Corning Gorilla Glass personalized phone case is a surprisingly fun new addition to the mobile protection market. Corning will print any photo you like on the back of its Gorilla Glass 5 which then gets embedded into a rubberized case for your smartphone. The final product is a sturdy case with a smooth, elegant glass back that also has a picture of your spouse, kids, family, pets, or anything, really.

Eventually, Corning will have vending machines that will print you a case in a matter of minutes. Just upload your photo to a web server, tell the machine which phone you own, and a few minutes later your brand new case will pop out. Keeping your phone free of scratches and dents has never been this cool.

Best innovation: LG Signature OLED TV R

LG’s Signature OLED TV R is something we’ve only ever imagined or seen in a movie or TV show. It may shape the future of TVs forever, which is why it wins our Best Innovation Award.

Watch: LG’s rollable OLED TV at CES 2019

A prototype of the TV was shown off at CES 2018, but this year the rollable TV is a real product that consumers will actually be able to buy. The way it beautifully rolls and rises out of the sound bar feels like pure magic. The TV is there when you want it, and disappears when you don’t. It can even be there when you only partially want it. The horizon-line view shows only a fraction of the display for quick access to basic functions. It’s cool, futuristic, and will be a game changer to the TV industry.


Spotlight Awards

It’s easy to focus on the biggest names in technology at trade shows as big as CES. That’s why Android Authority has chosen six of our favorite innovative tech products that may have flown under the radar.

Jabra Elite 85h


Elevating their wireless headphones game, the new Jabra Elite 85h are noise-cancelling cans made for folks on the go.

Equipped with SmartSound, these over-ear headphones adapt automatically to produce the best sound for phone calls, music, and more. Coming in four colors with a rain resistant build, enjoy ANC on the go for up to 32 hours of battery life, even longer with ANC turned off. ANC auto switching turns on and off the service based on your environment. Of course, the Jabra Elite 85h also sound great, and you can adjust the EQ and sound profiles through the Jabra Sound+ app for extra sound clarity.

Insta360 ONE X

Weather you’re skiing down a mountain or hiking up a cliff, the Insta360 ONE X should be just the thing you need to capture great 360-degree video. This 4K-capable camera features Insta360’s FlowState Stabilization, which means smooth footage even in the most

Nuu Mobile G4

Nuu Mobile showed off its brand new G4 smartphone at CES 2019, and it provides some killer value at a cheap price. It comes with a big 6.2-inch display, a 2GHz MediaTek Helio P60 processor, dual 16 + 8MP rear cameras, and it runs Android 9.0 Pie.

The best part? You can get all of that for just $249 in March 2019.

Next: All our favorite CES 2019 announcements in one place