Are 8K TVs Dead in Water? Why consumers are not convinced

Would you pay thousands for the Samsung QLED 8K Smart TV Q950TS?  (SAMSUNG)

Would you pay thousands for the Samsung QLED 8K Smart TV Q950TS? (SAMSUNG)

At CES 2023 in Las Vegas, you could see a lot of strange and wonderful technology. As usual, TVs lit up the dance floor, and companies tried to convince consumers that their panels provide the best possible home cinema experience.

When it comes to 8K – TVs with four times as many pixels as 4K, producing an incredibly sharp picture – they are not letting up, despite a real sense of apathy from the public.

According to IDC Europe’s vice president of data and analytics, Francisco Jeronimo, sales of 8K sets reached 620,000 units worldwide in the first three quarters of 2022. That sounds like a lot until you realize it’s just 0.4 percent of all TVs sold worldwide.

In the UK, it is slightly more positive, with 100,000 units over the same period, representing around 2.3 per cent. But that’s still not a particularly inspiring number.

So what’s holding back 8K, and can it be reversed? Or why not opt ​​for a high-quality 4K TV instead?

The trouble with 8K

The problems of 8K basically fall into three baskets: price, screen size, and content.

While prices will undoubtedly come down over time, it’s not a problem that can be magically removed. Higher resolution screens require more pixels, and it’s worth considering how many pixels there are in an 8K TV. With a resolution of 7680 x 4320 – twice the resolution of 4K – an 8K screen contains over 33 million pixels. For comparison, 4K screens need close to 8.3 million, while HD panels need about two million.

This is reflected in how much you will pay. The cheapest 8K TV on the Currys website is £1,999 – and that includes £500 off the pre-Christmas price. By comparison, the cheapest 4K set we’ve found costs £229 – not exactly a fair comparison for a variety of reasons, but it’s pretty clear that consumers need a compelling reason to pay extra, aside from vague promises that this could be the future.

The price issue is compounded by the fact that you need a large screen to actually see the difference – assuming you can at all (Warner Bros research suggests most consumers can’t). Unless you’re sitting impractically close, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to tell the difference between 8K and 4K content on a smaller panel: the human eye just isn’t good enough.

How big a screen are we talking about? Probably 75 inches or more, and that’s just not a common size in the UK or anywhere else.

The most popular size worldwide remains 55-inches, Jeronimo told Standard, with 43-, 50-, 55- and 65-inch TVs making up 72.7 per cent of the UK market.

Price and screen size are, of course, no problem for very wealthy moviegoers with plenty of space for a home theater, but the ultimate problem is a deal breaker for many. By far the biggest problem 8K TVs face is content – or rather the lack of it.

While videos shot in 8K can be found on YouTube and Vimeo, you won’t find any commercial 8K content on cable, satellite or terrestrial television – which is not surprising for the latter, considering most of the channels on Freeview have yet to hit. HD quality.

Even streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney Plus max out at 4K. And while movies are increasingly being shot in 8K, there’s no appetite to share them with home viewers in that format.

Ultimately, it’s a chicken and egg problem where content creators won’t broadcast 8K due to lack of 8K TVs and consumers won’t buy 8K TVs due to lack of content.

Reasons for optimism

The good news is that, for now, manufacturers show no signs of backing down from their role in the hen-egg equation.

While the share of 8K sales remains a small fraction of the total market, it is still growing at a decent pace: a 48 percent year-on-year increase over 2021 figures, Jeronimo points out.

Even if growth were more anemic, there are other reasons why companies like Samsung and Sony might want to keep pushing for 8K. The former’s Galaxy S phones are just a handful of phones that record in 8K, while some of Sony’s professional video cameras can record 8K as well.

If you can’t watch the recordings anywhere, buyers rightly feel that this is a feature they don’t need, and that’s not good for business.

Verdict?

It’s still very possible that 8K will end up being something discussed in one go, like 3D or curved TVs – a technology pushed hard by manufacturers but ultimately ignored by consumers.

At the time of writing, there’s still a chance this could be the default for years to come, but for now, it’s better to prioritize picture quality in 4K over the theoretical advantages of 8K.

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