A reader offers a helpful guide to the next generation of TVs and monitors, and when to expect video games that run at 8K.
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Over the last decade, TV manufacturers have been seeing bumper profits due to a large percentage of the planet en masse buying brand new high definition televisions. Millions of units where sold, but their success presented a problem: how do we keep up these level of sales? The answer: new formats and 3D. 4K and HDR followed, each designed to cajole the money from your pocket, but the latest buzz-initials are 8K.
As someone who follows the tech industry quiet closely, and have previously written a feature on my trials and tribulations of 4K gaming I thought I’d write this quick guide about 8K; what the state of play is with the resolution, and the problems that need to be overcome before 7680×4320 becomes the standard and goes mainstream.
Though 8K has been discussed for a few years now, and sample TVs have been seen at consumer shows like CES in Las Vegas for the last couple of years, the reality is we’re a long time before one takes pride of place in your home entertainment system. The biggest issue is these television are difficult to make and the manufacturers are experiencing poor yields, this has driven the price way beyond what an everyday person can afford.
Because they are so prohibitively expensive, sales are currently aimed at the commercial sector, think airport departure boards, other transport hubs, and advertising hordings. Things that contain a lot of information or will be viewed at a distance – places like Piccadilly circus and Times square may already use them. My prediction for 8K televisions adoption would be 2020-2021 for a retail model costing £15,000+, 2023 to drop below £3,000, and 2026-2027 before prices hit £500.
With TVs so far away, what about content? Well, let’s start with games. It’s only in the last 12 months there has been a single card capable of running 4K at 60fps, so to produce four times the pixels is going to require huge computing power. it’s worth noting no games currently support the format and the highest resolution monitor is currently 5K (5120×2880).
But as a technical excise, it is possible to run at 8K, however it would need the latest i9 processor 20+ cores, possibly 64 GBs of DDR4 RAM, and an extreme top end motherboard to run the four GPUs with a combined 44GB of GDDR RAM crunching 45 teraflops bandwidth. And unless you want it to sound like a jumbo jet taking off, a closed loop liquid cooler would be recommended. If you wanted this system building, I wouldn’t expect much change from £10,000. Any takers?
Unlike GC, the majority of us are able to use our TVs for more than just games, so what about broadcast TV? Isn’t the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games being filmed in 8K? Yes, but the live feed is only for fan zones around the country, using some of the huge screens I mention earlier, and is essentially a large beta test/advert of the technology – sample footage which will most likely be used for in-store demonstrations in the future. British broadcasters only truly embraced 4K in the last 12 to 24 months, so I’d predict 2024 before content is available here.
What about the film industry? I have read that movie studio are remastering films into 8K? Again, yes this is true but the reality is that it’s just a cost saving measure. Remaster in 8K and downscale to 4K, forgoing on a second remastering later. What might surprise you to know is that you’ve watched 4K for years, the name in fact refers to Sony’s 4K 4096×2160 (slightly wider than UHD) cinema projectors. When 4K entered the zeitgeist, it brought with it a safe comfort zone between Hollywood and the large theatre chains. If filmmakers are to start shooting in 8K it would require cinemas to upgrade their equipment, a costly endeavour they’re unlikely to rush into and is the biggest roadblock for 8K to overcome.
The story doesn’t get much better when it comes to physical media either, 4K UHD Blu-rays were very late to market compared to the televisions, and with still only a handful of players available. For 8K a whole new type of disc will need to be developed to fit the file sizes required for so many pixels. A 1080p Blu-ray file is between 25 to 40GBs, a UHD film around 50 to 85GBs, 8K around 100 to 170 GBs. 8K Blu-ray coming to you by 2025, if you’re lucky.
TV, Blu-rays, they’re old hat, it’s all about streaming. Since games and on-demand streaming services where first to adopt 4K, I think it’s safe to say they’ll be the first again, streaming is the easiest to set up logistically and the cheapest. But still it has complications. The most obvious are the download speeds needed to watch such huge files. Netflix requires 5Mbps for HD, 25Mbps for UHD, and after some simple maths likely 125Mbps for 8K. Of course, there are a lucky few who can achieve this speed, but would it be reliable enough for buffer free viewing of a two and a half hour film at peak time?