We Don’t Need 8K TV’s — But They’re Coming

Last week, a new report from IHS Markit predicted that the 8K TV market will grow from less than 20,000 units this year to more than 430,000 in 2019 and nearly two million units by 2020. “All of this growth will be centered on 60-inch and larger screen sizes, with 65-inch TVs accounting for more than half of the volume,” IHS Markit said.

For context, that 430,000 is a miniscule percentage (just under 0.2% Man. Ed.) of the projected global 2019 TV market of 226 million sets, half of which will be 4K sets and four million of which will be quantum-dot-enhanced LCD sets. OLED-TV sets will not be far behind the QD sets.

Sharp was first to market with an 8K set. Its Aquos LC-70X500 was introduced to the Japan market in late 2017, and a version was introduced in the European market earlier this month. The European set has a 70″, 10-bit IGZO panel that has an HDR peak brightness of 1000 cd/m² and 216 dimming zones. Wait! Only 1000 cd/m² peak luminance? Premium 4K UHD sets routinely offer peak luminance of 1500 to 4000 cd/m² peak luminance. This is a price you pay for all those extra pixels, which are necessarily smaller pixels that have a significantly lower aperture ratio.

At IFA 2018 in Berlin, Samsung, LG, and TCL all anounced 8K sets for 2019 introduction. Samsung promised 65-, 75-, 82-, and 85-inch versions, all available late this year. Despite the small pixels, Samsung is promising 4000 cd/m² peak brightness.

LG has discussed, with few specifics, an 88-inch 8K OLED-TV (that was shown as a technology demo at IFA. Man. Ed.). Small pixels are an even greater problem for OLED than they are for LCD because the greater current density intensifies OLED’s burn-in problem, which recent testing on 4K sets has shown to be more serious than previously believed for modern OLED-TV sets. (How Bad is the OLED-TV Burn-in Problem?)

But the bigger issue is the complete lack of 8K media. Japan’s NHK has been working on 8K programming, and there will be some in Japan on a limited basis in 2019. There may also be NHK-created material available for demos at CES. Given the lack of 8K media, 8K sets will all hype their 2K-to-8K and 4K-to-8K upscalers. It’s worth remembering that the best 2K-to-4K upscalers are remarkably good.

The deeper question is whether consumers will see much difference between 4K and 8K on 65-inch and 75-inch screens? When I have looked at 4K vs 4K-to-8K upscaled media from a distance of a couple of feet, I found the difference to be very, very subtle. The difference between 2k and 4K media was significant under the same conditions.

Do I sound skeptical? 8K makes sense for wall-sized TV displays, but I do have doubts for 65- and 75-inch sets. You should have plenty of opportunities to see for yourself at CES in early January. – Ken Werner

Ken Werner is Principal of Nutmeg Consultants, specializing in the display industry, manufacturing, technology, and applications, including mobile devices, automotive, and television. He consults for attorneys, investment analysts, and companies re-positioning themselves within the display industry or using displays in their products. He is the 2017 recipient of the Society for Information Display’s Lewis and Beatrice Winner Award. You can reach him at [email protected].

Analyst Comment

I have argued, some time ago, that the move to 8K by the display makers has more to do with the economics of the LCD industry and the need it has to compete with OLED. (8K is Closer than You Think )