Go into any store selling electronics and you can easily get overwhelmed with all of the television options available now. 4K, 8K, OLED, LED, HD, QLED. The 8K TV is often pitched as the highest resolution television in the marketplace, but what is it and is it right for you?
8K televisions are the highest resolution TVs available to consumers. What does that mean? It means they have the greatest pixel density (compared to HD, 4K and other options) and can therefore produce more accurate and detailed images. To put it in perspective, a 4K TV has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels, whereas an 8K TV has 7680 x 4320 pixels. This increase in pixels means that 8K televisions can produce a sharper image. But before you rush out to buy one, there are some other factors to consider like how those pixels determine what information to show and how those pixels are lit.
High Dynamic Range, or HDR, determines what color information is displayed by a pixel. Dynamic range refers to the gamut of possible color and light combinations that subpixels will display. Television displays utilize additive color to display images, meaning encoded information to the pixel determines the range of color and light it displays in red, green, and blue (with white being included at times). These combinations of color and light produce the displayed images luminosity and hue.
Standard Definition (SD) had a much more limited range of color and light output because televisions of that time were not capable of displaying a wider range of colors. HDR can produce significantly more subpixel combinations than SDR, creating more rich, varied, and vibrant colors.
While the technicalities of this can be much more complicated, essentially resolution tells you how many pixels are present, and dynamic range tells you the color and light range needed to display the imagery of a given output. Most HDR content is 4K, but some 4K content can be SDR. The same goes for 8K, while HDR content can be 8K, not much HDR content is produced with 8K display in mind. Basically this means that a lot of HDR content is produced with the intention of being displayed on 4K TVs, rather than 8K – but that could change as 8K televisions become more widespread.
A final consideration for purchasing an 8K television should be the display technology. QLED (used by brands like TCL and Samsung) uses a backlight to shine through red, green, and blue pixels. The background light is produced by LEDs, and the color display is produced from light passing through quantum dots. These tiny dots allow a wide-range of colors to be produced, and give QLED its name.
OLED (used by brands like Panasonic, Philips, Sony and LG) uses LED technology where each pixel emits light in the color needed to be produced, rather than being backlit. These televisions use organic elements, giving the technology the name Organic Light-Emitting Diodes.
QLED are much brighter than OLED, because of the backlight, and because they use the backlight to produce color by passing through the quantum dots, they can also produce much more saturated colors.
The backlit nature of the QLED also means they cannot produce rich blacks, which is a hallmark quality of the OLED. Because the OLED directs each individual pixel to emit color, it can produce stunning contrast, producing incredible detail in even the darkest of scenes. OLED can be viewed clearly from all angles, while QLED tends to have image fade when viewed from angles off of center.
Not a deal breaker, but if your TV setup means someone could be watching from across the room, or a chair situated far to one side, their viewing could be limited or non-existent with a QLED. OLED can be susceptible to screen burn (for all those news channel junkies and gamers), while QLED is insusceptible.
OLED TVs can be quite thin and lightweight, while QLEDs tend to be more substantial (but still easily mounted). Pros and cons for each technology that should be weighed when making a decision that best suits your tastes and setup.
If you can find it, the content you can view in 8K is stunning, but that’s “if”. Most TV producers are barely producing new content in 4K, let alone 8K, and if your content is not produced in 8K, it’s not going to look as good on that 8K screen. You can usually find a few demo videos on YouTube, but after that, then what? While this technology is great, its practicality and usefulness is probably a few years off, meaning it might be okay to wait.
The 8K television is perfect for those that want to remain on the cutting edge of technology. If you’re someone that needs to have the highest resolution viewing experience, and you have cash to spare, the 8K TV can be a nice option. But with so little content produced specifically for 8K, 4K televisions are still the best option for almost everyone.