Is 8K going the way of 3D TV?

OPINION: It’s around this time of the year when AV journalists do the rounds and get invited to manufacturer’s TV events to see what’s new for the coming year. I’ve seen what Philips has in the bag, as well as Samsung’s play to increase its market dominance, and the next few weeks will see more details spill out from other TV brands.

But one thing you won’t be hearing too much about is 8K TV. Suffice to say that it is suffering from some complications. Consider this article as 8K’s yearly check-up, just like we did in 2021, 2022, and last year.

For whatever and however many reasons, 8K has never particularly had the outright confidence of the TV market. A report from 2023 mentioned that 8K TVs were afflicted by the “high prices of panels” and high inflation “reducing consumers’ disposable income”. That same report mentioned that of the “global annual shipments of about 200 million units, 8K TVs only have a scale of 300,000 units, and the market share is only 0.15%.”

Considering 8K TVs have been a thing since about 2016 and that we reviewed the Samsung Q900R in 2018, that is a small piece of the pie.

The silence from manufacturers about 8K is reaching deafening levels. I saw an OLED from Philips at an event many years ago, but it was a proof of concept and there was never any interest to bring it to market.

Samsung is flying the flag

Sony hasn’t produced a new 8K model since 2022 (the Z9K). Chinese brands such as Hisense and TCL produce 8K TVs but there isn’t the same level of emphasis as there is with 4K models, while it’s looking distinctly likely that LG won’t be launching a Z4 OLED, with the Z3 model carrying over to 2024 (which isn’t available in the US either).

Only Samsung is still flying the 8K flag and it has the market almost to itself. Under other circumstances that’d be great.

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

The focus for TV manufacturers appears to have moved towards bigger and brighter 4K screens. Despite the advantages 8K brings with its sharper, clearer, and the need for more advanced processing to give life to those 33 million pixels; the infrastructure for 8K content hasn’t materialised.

It’s expensive, the availability of native 8K content in mainstream terms hasn’t happened, and more to the point, the means of distributing 8K programming to the masses hasn’t opened up either.

I was invited to a discussion about 8K with Samsung and the 8K Association a few years back and there was optimism about it following the same growth line as 4K did. There was even the thought it’d be faster than 4K adoption and that 8K content would be readily available with the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympics shot at the resolution.

This discussion was in October 2019, and suffice to say no one was expecting what was going to happen in the following months.

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Nevertheless, we’re still struggling to get 4K readily available into households (will ITVX and Channel 4 ever offer 4K content?). There is programming that’s been shot and mastered in 4K but has appeared on screens in HD, so what chance did 8K really have?

The various trials from BT Sport (now TNT Sports) or the Roland Garros tennis trial from 2019 remain exactly that – trials, tests, and nothing more. Despite the development of 200TB optical discs, physical media was never an option for 8K with the majority of consumers moving towards streaming for their content fix over discs, despite the issues that entails.

And yet only Japanese state broadcaster NHK is doing 8K broadcasts. No streamer has offered an 8K tier (Rakuten mentioned they would and then there was no word from them again about it). 8K simply has not progressed in the manner many (perhaps overconfidently) expected it would.

Image Credit (Trusted Reviews)

Call me a believer

And yet, despite 8K being dogged by naysayers since its inception, I remain something of a believer.

Of the two 8K TVs I’ve tested in the last year – the Samsung QN800C and LG Z3 OLED – I’ve been impressed by both. Of all the TVs Samsung makes, I believe the 8K models are its best TVs in terms of performance. They are an improvement on the Mini-LEDs and OLEDs I’ve seen.

The perception is that 8K may slow down in 2024 before ramping (slightly) up but without a crystal ball I’m hesitant to say as to whether sure 8K can ever truly recover its momentum.

Perhaps the most damming aspect about 8K TV is that the situation remains the same, that growth appears to stalling, and as hard as some try, there remains a lack of enthusiasm. A format too far? Perhaps, and while we can give 8K the year off for 2024 and check back in 12 months, will anything have changed or will 8K soon go the way of 3D TV into the AV graveyard?

It’ll be a shame if it does.

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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