By Adama Brown,
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So you’re buying a new TV, but you aren’t sure whether or not to spring for a big shiny 8K model or something more modest? Here’s two good reasons to buy an 8K TV, and three reasons not to, to help you decide.
Reason one in favor: An 8K TV is future-proofed
Sometimes, the best reason to buy the cutting edge of technology is simply because it stays up to date longer. The best that’s out there today is likely to still be very good in five or even ten years time, whereas a budget-friendly option might be showing its age.
With an 8K TV, not only will you have bragging rights, but you’ll also have something that will be guaranteed to be at the high end of the spectrum for many, many years to come. In fact, given advances in technology it’s not likely that 8K will be less than high end for the forseeable future, as higher resolution displays currently exist only for commercial purposes.
Reason two in favor: More pixels are generally better
Simply put, when it comes to displays, sharper is usually better. An 8K TV has over 33 million pixels on it, compared to 8.3 million for 4K, and just over 2 million for 1080P. In purely numerical terms, that’s a big leap right there.
It’s not just about being able to show smaller details; it’s also about pixel density, which gives a sense of increased image quality even when the source hasn’t changed. Have you ever watched an old DVD on a 1080P screen, or an HD program on a 4K TV, and thought that it looked better than you remembered? You weren’t imagining it, it really does.
As TV sizes increase, pixels get farther apart at the same resolution. That means more blank space in between, whether you can perceive it or not.
A 75 inch 8K TV is going to have 117 pixels per inch, which is actually more dense than a 40 inch 4K TV–and only slightly behind a 17 inch laptop screen at 1080P. Conversely, a 65-inch 4K TV is going to have 68 pixels per inch, which makes it comparable to a 32 inch 1080P screen.
Reason one against: it’s better, but it’s not revolutionary
Here’s where I turn around and undermine everything I just said.
Although the numbers show how big a difference there is between 4K and 8K from a technical perspective, it’s not quite so simple on the user’s level. As you boost the resolution, there’s a level of diminishing returns, where each increase nets you less perceived improvement than the last.
Part of this is because the human eye can only distinguish a certain level of detail per unit of distance. Looking at a TV from across the room, you’re going to perceive less of the resolution than you would up close. (This, incidentally, is also why phone, tablet, and laptop displays put so much emphasis on having higher pixel densities, relative to TVs. Being closer to you, you can more easily perceive the difference.)
Another part is simply subjectivity. Going from “okay picture” to “great picture” is a bigger leap than going from “great picture” to “really great picture.” It’s like comparing the difference between a bad movie and a good movie, versus a good movie and a great one.
Sure, the difference is there, but even going from HD to 4K is a much less noticeable step. And it’s exacerbated by something we’ll talk about in a minute, which is that even on an 8K TV, you can’t really get any 8K content.
Reason two against: It’s expensive
Any new technology has a premium attached to it, and 8K is no different. While prices are sure to come down eventually, they’re still fairly expensive right now, which presents an argument for waiting.
Comparing prices on Amazon, many of the high end 8K TVs, like Samsung’s QN800A, run anywhere from two to four times the price of comparable 4K TVs–even from the same manufacturer, including Samsung’s own Q80B.
For the price that you would pay for a 65 inch 8K TV right now, you could easily get a much larger OLED or QLED model–like the 77 inch LG B2–that will serve you just as well if not better for many years to come.
Then, there’s the issue of what you’re actually getting for your money.
Reason three against: There’s still very little 8K content out there
Possibly the most compelling reason not to bother buying an 8K TV right now is that there isn’t much you can do to take advantage of it. No current streaming service offers any kind of 8K content; many still have a very limited library of 4K, with the majority of programs still being in regular old 1080P.
In fact, effectively the only source for 8K content in any quantity is YouTube… and that’s for a very limited definition of quantity. Mostly what’s available are short clips demonstrating stunning landscapes and beautiful animals that will seem cool when you first set up your TV, but get stale very fast unless you’re stoned.
Moreover, there’s no indication that anyone is going to be jumping on the 8K bandwagon in the near term. The relatively small increase in perceived quality has to be measured, for content producers and streamers alike, against a big added expense in production and bandwidth. Even TV manufacturers are pumping the brakes, focusing on 4K options that are selling better.
Nor do current gaming consoles really support 8K: the XBox Series X and Playstation 5 are both software-limited to 4K video output, even if there were any games that took advantage of the resolution. So when it comes right down to it most people who invest in an 8K TV right now are really just going to be watching upscaled HD and 4K content, and likely will for a long while to come.
While 8K is a cool technology and certainly offers bragging rights, there’s a lot of pros and cons that come into play in deciding whether to make that kind of upgrade. While there’s no one right answer, hopefully this has been helpful to you hashing out your own personal usage needs.