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Tech Matters: The state of 8K TVs – Pros and cons of buying today

By Leslie Meredith - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Feb 7, 2024
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The LG OLED 8K TV is shown at the LG booth at the CES tech show Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Las Vegas.
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Leslie Meredith

The next generation of TVs is here, featuring 8K displays — twice the resolution of mainstream 4K TVs. And with the big game just a few days away, you can bet there are a lot of people out there wondering if they should just go ahead and get that 8K.

If money is no object, then I say, “Sure, go ahead.” But if you’re a prudent shopper, you’ll wait. (And for those who buy now, you’ll probably buy an upgraded model by the time others are buying their first 8K TV.) So let’s dive into what qualifies as an 8K TV, the benefits of double the resolution and some buying guidelines to get the most out of your purchase, whether that’s today or sometime in the future.

8K displays have 33 million pixels, which is four times the number of pixels found on 4K displays. Each pixel is a single color and when seen together as a picture on your screen, the number of pixels determines how sharp and realistic the image looks. A TV screen can only display the number of pixels it was designed for, so an HD TV (2K) will only ever be able to show a movie at its native resolution regardless of higher-resolution content.

While there isn’t much 8K content available, these TVs, like their predecessors, rely on a process called upscaling. Whether a TV is 2K, 4K or 8K, the ratio of pixels, the horizontal and vertical pixels, are the same. Using powerful processors to fill in the missing pixels, an 8K TV can simulate the look of the higher resolution content, so 4K and even high-definition media looks better than it originally did.

There are two versions of 8K. One is for standard content or we could say “made for TV,” which is 7680 pixels by 4320, where the 7680 is rounded up to 8K. At this time, you’ll find this 8K only on YouTube and limited to a small selection of travelogue videos and nature documentaries. The second type of 8K is known as 8K DCI with a wider format at 8192 pixels. DCI stands for digital cinema initiatives and, like the name implies, is a film standard developed by movie studios to set their 8K content apart from content produced for home viewing. 8K DCI will fit full screen in a movie theater but will be letterboxed on a TV, meaning black bands at the top and bottom of the image.

Today, you can buy 8K TVs from Samsung, LG and Sony, and they are all big. Samsung offers the only 65-inch model, while the others begin their lineups at 75- to 77-inch displays and move up to 85-inch screens. Remember, like any display, the measurement is made on the diagonal from corner to corner. Experts say you should buy the biggest screen that fits in your space and your budget. They also say that to see the difference between an 8K and a 4K TV, you would sit 2.1 feet from a 65-inch model and just under 3 feet away from an 85-inch one. However, for an immersive and comfortable experience, allow about 12 feet from an 85-inch TV.

If you have that kind of space for a TV, you’ll also need the budget. Here are some current prices from BestBuy for popular models. Samsung’s QN900C at 85 inches runs $5,500, while its less expensive QN800B costs $4,000 for the same size. Sony’s Z9K comes in at $7,000 for the 85-inch model. The LG Z2 is the most expensive of the group. The 77-inch model runs $10,000 and is the only one with an OLED display that offers deeper blacks compared to the LED-powered screens of its competitors. To help put these costs into perspective, LG’s OLED 77-inch 4K TV is priced at $2,300 and there are plenty of 75-inch or bigger LED 4K TVs under $1,000 from Samsung and other top manufacturers. Prices will drop as more 8K TVs come to market later this year and will continue to do so in the future as happens with all next-gen TVs over time.

But a more affordable 8K TV doesn’t solve the problem of a lack of content, and it’s not just a matter of studios catching up with available technology. Streaming 8K video consumes an enormous amount of bandwidth — between 50 megabits per second (Mbps) and 100 Mbps for a single stream of video — and many households don’t have the capacity. And you will likely pay more to stream 8K content on services like Netflix when it becomes available. Today, Netflix subscribers pay $23 a month to access 4K movies and shows while a standard plan with ads is just $7. No matter how you look at it, 8K is a pricey proposition, but there’s no need to invest in it now.

Leslie Meredith has been writing about technology for more than a decade. As a mom of four, value, usefulness and online safety take priority. Have a question? Email Leslie at asklesliemeredith@gmail.com.


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