What is 8K Super Hi-Vision television, and what are the benefits compared with 4K Ultra HD and standard HD visuals? Is it basically just sharper images? Do I really need 8K and if so, can I get an 8K TV right now? We answer all of these questions in our guide to 8K television.
To ask the question ‘what is 8K’ might seem more than a little premature, when 4K Ultra HD television still isn’t being broadcast over the air. However, the 8K resolution future of television might not actually be that far off.
Developed by Japanese broadcaster NHK and also know as Super Hi-Vision, 8K is the future of high-quality television. But it’s more than just a simple boost of resolution, as 8K offers up plenty of other viewing advantages – as well as proving sharp and smooth enough to trick the human eye into believing you’re watching real life.
So what do you need to know about 8K right now? Should you ignore 4K Quad HD and hold out for an 8K TV instead? And when can we expect 8K resolution shows and films to arrive? Read on to find out everything you need to know about 8K Super Hi-Vision.
8K Super Hi-Vision has enough pixels to trick the human eye
When it comes to sheer pixel count, 8K is the best around. The 8K Super Hi-Vision format has a hefty 16 times more pixels on the screen than 1080p Full HD, and over four times more than 4K Ultra HD.
A 4K TV display gives you a 3840 x 2160 pixel resolution, while 8K offers 7680 x 4320 pixels. In simpler terms, the latest 4K televisions cram a mighty 8 million pixels on the screen, while 8K can pump out a frankly ridiculous 33 million pixels in all.
All of this means that on a Super Hi-Vision display, the human eye can’t actually detect the pixels, which makes images seem more real. It’s a bit like what Apple used to claim its Retina Displays could manage, except at a seriously staggering level. Of course, this tech is designed for huge screens and means you can get as close as you like without seeing individual pixels.
The end result should be a picture that is more immersive than ever before – as if you were gazing through a window rather than at a screen.
8K Super Hi-Vision uses faster frame rates for more realistic video
Unlike traditional 4K television feeds that run at 50 frames per second (fps) or top out at 60 fps in some cases, 8K goes even further; 8K resolution supports a rather bloody impressive 120fps. High frame rate video is something which has been done at up to 48fps in cinema before and is tipped to be the future of hyper-real video, to again trick your brain and make everything seem one hundred percent real.
That should mean a far more immersive viewing experience, where you can really get lost in what you’re watching. Did you see The Hobbit in 48fps? It looked odd at first, but once your eyes adapted it was, theoretically, more engaging.
By pushing this to 120fps, you get less blur in images and fewer motion artifacts. Thankfully that doesn’t mean you need to keeping pushing bitrates up either, as the difference between 250 Mbps and 500 Mbps is negligible. This also means that you can downscale to 60fps, 50fps, 48fps, 24fps or whatever you like.
8K TVs have better viewing angles
Just when you thought 8K couldn’t get any better, it turns out the viewing angles are better than 4K too. Of course the degree of this varies from screen to screen, with OLED proving better than LCD.
Traditional 4K screens offer a viewing angle of about 60 degrees, although this can be higher for newer sets that have been enhanced over the years. Meanwhile 8K TVs, which are still very much in their infancy, tend to boast a super-wide 100 degree viewing angle.
That said, an 8K offering from Sharp (see the final section) offers even more, with a whopping 176-degree viewing angle. Great news if you cram a lot of heads in front of the telly.
According to DisplayMate Technologies: “At 30 degrees viewing angle, LCDs typically show a 60 percent decrease in brightness, a 50 percent decrease in contrast ratio, a significant change in the intensity scale and gamma. Plasmas and IPS LCDs show small color shifts with viewing angle but many other LCD technologies show large color shifts of 10 JNCD or more at 30 degrees.”
8K television offers better audio quality as well as sharper visuals
Yup, even sound has been enhanced for 8K feeds. While 4K is set at 5.1 surround, 8K has gone the whole hog and offers an amazing 22.2 channel surround sound experience.
Of course you’ll need the sound system to back this up, as it’s no good relying on crappy built-in telly speakers. Check out our guide to the best TV soundbars right now for some inspiration.
So when are 8K TV shows and movies going to be available?
The Japanese broadcaster behind 8K Super Hi-Vision, NHK, has always said that if Japan won the Olympic bid it would be airing 8K video at the 2020 event. So now the pressure is on to deliver. NHK has already begun testing the 8K signal by sending it over satellite in preparation for the public roll-out in 2020.
If this can be done, it paves the way for more broadcasters to follow in the future. The BBC work closely with NHK and most recently developed the UHD HGL standard. Here’s hoping they buddy up for 8K too, so we can see the iPlayer with plenty of good 8K content soon. Planet Earth 3 in 8K anyone?
Read next: UHD HLG vs HDR-10 vs Dolby Vision
Can I buy an 8K TV right now?
Until recently, 8K televisions were hidden away as one-off screens to show off the future at tech trade shows. Now Sharp has managed to create one that anyone can buy. Well, anyone with lots of spare cash that doesn’t mind having virtually no content to watch on it for a few years.
The Sharp 8K TV dubbed Aquos LC-80XU930X is the beast in question, and can be yours for a modest £11,000 asking price.
LG also has an 8K TV in its UH9800 model, which it said would begin selling in 2016. Samsung also said the same for its 8K UN98S9 television. But as it’s already mid-December and pricing and release dates have still not appeared, we reckon that’s unlikely to happen.