Be the Expert: 8K TV

8K TV

Everything your sales force needs to know about 8K TV

Now that 4K UHD prices have dropped, customers are ready to upgrade from their 1080p TVs. There’s certainly more 4K content and hardware now than just a few years ago, even if widespread 4K over-the-air broadcasts are still a number of years out—surely a disappointment to today’s cord cutters! And when a station finally makes the switch to 4K broadcasting, they are mandated by the FCC to maintain HD digital broadcasts for an additional 5 years, keeping owners of 1080p TVs happy.

Now there’s 8K resolution to muddy the waters. What do you tell your customers when they come in the door ready to buy a new TV and they ask your opinion on 4K vs 8K?

When it comes to 4K vs 8K, it all boils down to:

  • Picture quality vs. room size
  • How much OTA and streaming content is available
  • Availability of matching peripherals and accessories

Picture quality vs. room size: 4K vs 8K

There’s no doubt that 8K is stunning. It has 4 times the pixels as 4K, just like 4K has 4 times the pixels of 1080p HD.

8K TV comparison chart

But lots of pixels doesn’t necessarily mean that your customer’s eyes will notice the difference when comfortably seated in his or her favorite chair.

One of the keys to figuring out if 8K is a logical jump is called optimal viewing distance.

According to Forbes.com, “The optimal viewing distance is the distance at which the eye can resolve all the detail in the image without being able to see the pixels on the screen. Knowing the resolving power of the human eye, we can calculate optimal distances for viewing screens of different sizes with different resolutions.”

Take a look at the chart below.

seating distance chart
Courtesy Forbes

According to the chart, the optimal distance for a 65 in. 8K TV screen is 2 ft. It’s 4.3 ft. for 4K. Who’s going to sit that close to a screen? You can’t even see the whole display at that distance!

Most people sit 9 ft. away from their TV. It would take a massive 275 in. to 280 in. 8K screen to push the optimal viewing distance out to 9 ft! At the prime 7 ft. to 9 ft. distance, 55 in. to 75 in. 1080p TVs remain the most logical choice. However, improvements in 4K imaging, such as HDR, make the jump to 4K worthwhile—or at least justifiable.

However, if someone is looking at 8K for wall-sized displays, a screen that shows images with fine detail because of text and graphics or needs a screen that enables close-up viewing to examine details, 8K resolution is certainly the logical choice.

Here’s a screen calculator that allows you to calculate distances based on any screen size. The numbers may not exactly match up with the above chart, but it’s a great resource to have on hand.

Available OTA and streaming content: 4K vs. 8K

The next thing to consider is if there’s anything to watch on 8K. As far as over-the-air (OTA) broadcasts in the US, no, there isn’t. In fact, 4K is still struggling to launch. The good news is that OTA standards that support 4K will also support 8K. The bad news it’s going to be years and years before 8K broadcasting in the US is widespread.

Japan’s NHK hopes to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in 8K resolution. What will happen when those feeds hit the US is anyone’s guess.

Surprisingly, streaming services like YouTube and Vimeo already provide 8K video upload and streaming options. Netflix and Vudu currently offer 4K, so it’s logical to assume that, once they have content, they will offer 8K, too.

With so little 8K content out there, one thing 8K TVs is offering is upscaling. Typical upscaling technologies used for 1080p and 4K content won’t do. It takes smart, dedicated processing units to make the image worth viewing. Samsung’s QLED 8K TVs use a Quantum Processor 8K plus AI to optimize both sound and picture. Sony has developed the 8K X-Reality PRO to accomplish the same thing.

Peripherals: 4K vs. 8K

To go along with an 8K TV, there needs to be 8K Blu-ray players and discs, media streamers, game systems, incredibly fast Internet/WiFi speeds and upgraded HDMI cables.

4K is just now making inroads when it comes to hardware, so 8K is certainly several years out. And 8K streaming standards have yet to be developed. That said, the advent of 5G will certainly help streaming. Reports vary, but it looks like home broadband will require between 50 Mbps and 1 Gbps speeds in order to handle 8K.

When it comes to cabling, the HDMI Forum has developed a new HDMI 2.1 cable standard that supports 8K resolution at 60 frames per second—and 4K at 120 frames per second, making gamers everywhere happy. Compliant 8K HDMI cables bear the label Ultra High Speed.

HDMI 2.1 cables are beginning to filter into the marketplace. They support a 48 Gbps bandwidth and variable refresh rates—also ideal for gaming. VR experiences should be more immediate and immersive and Dynamic HDR content more nuanced. The Audio Return Channel is enhanced to keep pace with new audio codecs.

Note that 8K-compliant HDMI cables won’t upconvert anything. So even using Ultra High-Speed HDMI 2.1 cables, older devices will still pass along their native formats to an 8K TV. Users can only hope the upconverter on their 8K TV will do a decent enough job till the rest of those 8K peripherals come along.

So, is 8K worth it yet?

Looking over the aspects of seating distance, content and peripherals, it’s too early to jump on the 8K bandwagon. But, there will always be early adopters for new tech—whether it’s practical or not—and nothing you can say will dissuade them. The best you can do is prepare them for the reality of limited 8K content and virtually no peripherals.

For everyone else worrying about 4K vs. 8K, you can assure your customers that 4K UHD is an excellent choice—and will be for years to come.

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