This story is part of our Summer Preview, a collection of features, guides and reviews to help you navigate warmer months ahead.
Like 4K and HD before it, 8K resolution is poised to bring a new standard for pixel-packing to your television. But an 8K screen is only as good as what you can put on it. After years of hype and prototypes, 8K TVs are finally starting to come to market. Here’s what you need to know before you consider buying one.
So what is 8K, exactly?
The term 8K has long been fuzzy, but thanks to the Consumer Technology Association, which sets the rules manufacturers abide by, we now have an official definition: an 8K Ultra HD Display has a resolution of at least 7680 x 4320 pixels for 33 million active pixels total. In other words, 8K has four times the resolution of 4K, and 16 times the resolution of the HDTV.
What can I buy?
A whole crop of 8K TVs showed up at the 2020 Consumer Electronics show, and unlike earlier proofs of concept, these models will hit the market … for a price. Samsung sells some of the most affordable 8K TVs sets as part of its Q900 line, but a 65-inch model still costs upward of $3,500. That’s just the beginning. LG’s jaw-dropping 8K OLED TVs come with an equally impressive price tag — they’ll set you back about 30 Gs.
Is there anything I can watch?
There’s not a lot! If you were to buy an 8K TV right now, you wouldn’t be able to buy an 8K cable box. Popular streaming apps — like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu — are still plugging away at 4K, in part because 8K files are enormous. And the prospects for an 8K disc format are also fairly grim. However, some broadcasters, specifically those in Italy and Japan, are pushing to capture the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in 8K, and YouTube has had 8K content since 2015.
Is it good for gaming?
Gaming in 4K, much less 8K, is a tricky proposition at the moment, especially as consoles are concerned. Right now, the base versions of Sony’s PS4 and Microsoft’s Xbox One don’t have the horsepower for 4K. But by the end of 2020, if all goes as planned, we’ll see the new PS5 and Xbox Series X both of which will support 8K. Hopefully, they’ll spur on a generation of new console games that make use of that power.
Do I need it?
No, not yet. Right now, an 8K TV is an upgrade over what you already have; 8K TVs can upscale HD and 4K, giving them an extra boost. But this is bleeding-edge tech, and you’d be paying a huge premium for an experience that’s yet to arrive. The only real reason to hop on board now is if you are fixing for a flex.
A version of this story originally appeared in a print issue of Gear Patrol Magazine. Subscribe today.
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