Analysis: Is it too soon for 8K?

Is it too soon for 8K?


8K TV was one of the big trends at this year’s IFA with brands including Samsung, LG, Toshiba and Sharp unveiling 8K models. Samsung’s 8K Q900R QLED range will hit UK stores in mid-October. ERT spoke exclusively to TV and CE analyst Paul Gray of IHS Markit, to find out if it’s too soon for 8K…


Q: Why have some brands debuted 8K TVs despite there being no content? Has the consumer electronics industry not learnt its lessons from 3D and the early days of 4K?

Paul Gray: I think it reflects the serious pressure that is ongoing in the display and TV businesses – there is a need to be seen to be ahead and innovative, and it’s a very mature business.

In many respects, it’s much easier to do resolution than things like High Dynamic Range (HDR) and deep colour – those cost an awful lot of money and they are much more difficult to market to consumers because they are things that need to be experienced. When you’ve seen HDR done well, you go ‘wow!’

With 8K, everybody gets the idea of more pixels. It’s also a value proposition – it’s numbers marketing – but the danger is that we’re still very far removed from the reality of content. 4K is only just coming. A lot of that is down to an infrastructure problem – be it broadband speed and radio spectrum.

'The danger with 8K is we’re very far removed from the reality of content. 8K is ahead of its time for most of us'

You could see how bad that problem was when people in Australia tried to watch the World Cup in 4K – Optus’s network fell over.

Samsung 8K QLED TV
Samsung 8K QLED TV

People also complained that Amazon’s live streaming of tennis was very poor because of the amount of stress being put on the network.

Arguably, 8K is ahead of its time for most of us, but it’s worth remembering that NHK [Japanese broadcaster] switches on its 8K satellite service on December 1, 2018. The 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will be the showcase for Japan – that’s why 8K happened when it did. For everybody else in the world, the content is a way off.

Panel makers have had 8K panels for three or four years – competitive pressure means that brands now feel it’s the right time.

Q: One of the other big tech trends at IFA was voice-enabled products, including TV, audio devices and smart-home appliances. Some new TVs will have voice control, such as Alexa, built-in, rather than just being compatible with smart speakers…

PG: Yes, that’s right. It’s interesting – you’re seeing brands putting a microphone in the remote control. You press a button and speak to the remote. A couple of brands have put microphones into the TV. It will be interesting to see how consumers react to that because cameras in TVs got a very bad reaction – nowadays people are even more sensitive to privacy issues than they were five years ago. The living room is a very sacred space.