4K vs. 8K: Is the Upgrade To 8K Worth It?

Are you getting a new TV this year? If so, you may be wondering if switching from 4K to 8 K is worth it. An 8K TV has more rows and columns of pixels than a 4K TV. You may want to upgrade to an 8K TV if you want the latest technology or sit super close to your TV, but this might not be the best decision yet. What do you need to know about switching from a 4K to an 8K TV? Take a look at the results of our research, and decide for yourself whether an 8K TV is the right move.

8K vs. 4K TV: The Differences

There are a few notable differences between 4K TVs and 8K TVs. These include:

  • A 4K TV has 2160 rows of pixels while an 8K TV has 4320 rows of pixels.
  • A 4K TV has 3840 columns of pixels while an 8K TV has 7680 columns of pixels.
  • Pixels directly relate to the resolution of the TV, so an 8K TV will have four times the resolution of a 4K TV.

On the surface, this sounds like a great upgrade; however, an 8K TV will likely be more expensive, so is it worth the money? 

Buying an 8K TV: The Factors To Consider

The bottom line is that an 8K TV provides much better resolution than a 4K TV; however, there are several considerations to think about. These include:

Is There 8K Content Out There?

Clearly, purchasing an 8K TV gives you a better product than a 4K TV because the resolution is better; however, that only matters if you are watching 8K material.

If you take material that has been broadcast in 2K and 4K and throw it on an 8K TV, you won’t necessarily see much of a difference. 

Sadly, the days of 8K content being everywhere are still pretty far off. Most of the 8K content resides on YouTube, and the footage is relatively limited to travel videos and pretty landscapes. There are some films that are shot in 8K, but most are finished in 2K because the standard cinema screen is 2K. Many movie theaters do not broadcast their films in 8K, so there isn’t much point for production crews to finish films in 8K.

Streaming platforms such as Disney+ and Netflix are still in the process of upgrading their content to 4K, so it will be a while before the streaming platforms are broadcasting in 8K. Because 8K content is not yet readily available, there will not be much of a difference in the quality of the picture when moving from a 4K TV to an 8K TV. It might not be worth it. 

What About Gaming on an 8K TV?

If you like to play video games, then you might be thinking about upgrading to an 8K TV. Many computers have been capable of handling 8K footage since DisplayPort 1.4 became standard, but the biggest rate-limiting step has been bandwidth. It takes a lot of bandwidth to stream 8K footage from the internet. Now, bandwidth is catching up. 

Newer consoles, such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X can handle 8K resolution, so you might see some benefit if you upgrade from the 4K TV to an 8K TV; however, there will still be a tradeoff. If you upgrade your resolution, you might lower your framerate. This can put you at a disadvantage when playing real-time strategy games online.

The potential is there to play video games in 8K, but if you want to optimize your performance with the fastest possible framerate, 4K is probably still the way to go.

How Big Is an 8K TV?

Another factor you have to consider is size. If you purchase an 8K TV, you will be purchasing one of the largest screens available. Having a higher resolution makes sense if you can display the image on a larger screen. If you upgrade the resolution on a smaller screen, it makes it harder to see the difference. If the TV screen is smaller than 75 in, it might be difficult to tell the difference between 4K and 8K TVs even if you are broadcasting the footage in 8K.

Even though it sounds great to have a large TV with an incredible resolution, you need to have enough space to fit the TV in the room. Furthermore, if the TV screen is larger, you need to sit further away. This takes up even more space in the room.

The bottom line is that an 8K TV has to be large enough to tell the difference. You need to have enough space to fit an 8K TV in the room comfortably.

A Study: Can You Tell the Difference Between a 4K and an 8K TV?

Having an upgraded 8K TV only makes sense if you can tell the difference. So, can you tell the difference between a 4K TV and an 8K TV? We uncovered a double-blind study produced by Warner Brothers that showed the vast majority of consumers cannot tell the difference between a 4K TV and an 8K TV. 

A few key points to keep in mind include:

  • The participants had their visual acuity tested prior to the study to make sure their vision was sharp.
  • During the test, the participants were shown clips from both types of TVs, labeled A and B.
  • The participants did not know which clip was coming from which TV. 
  • The participants were asked to rate which version, A or B, was better.
  • The results of the study showed that videos from the 8K TV were rated as “slightly better,” but the difference was greatest for those sitting closest to the screen.
  • Once you got more than a few feet away from the screen, it was difficult for those even with sharp visual acuity to tell the difference between the TVs.

The bottom line is that the ability to tell the difference between an 8K TV and a 4K TV depends on your visual acuity and how far away you sit from the screen. For most people, it won’t make much of a difference.

What About HDR?

If you have been paying attention to TV technology, you have probably heard about 4K, 8K, and HDR. How does HDR relate to 4K and 8K?

HDR stands for high dynamic range. Resolution, such as 4K and 8K, refers to the number of pixels on the screen. In contrast, HDR refers to what the pixels show. Every pixel is assigned values that determine what colors the pixels show. This is usually quantified in terms of hue and luminance. 

HDR represents a major upgrade over SDR, which stands for standard dynamic range. HDR technology takes advantage of OLED and LCD screens, widening the range of light levels to produce a better picture with the same number of pixels. 

The bottom line is that HDR TVs have more values available for pixel colors than SDR TVs. Resolution refers to the number of pixels while dynamic range refers to what those pixels do. While nearly all HDR content is displayed in 4K, not all 4K content is displayed in HDR. 

What About Dolby Vision 8K?

Dolby Vision has been a major player in the TV industry, mostly as it relates to HDR technology. Dolby Vision gives sharper contrasts, better details, and brighter colors. Dolby Vision optimizes TVs to give HDR pictures using unique metadata that might not be paralleled elsewhere in the industry. The metadata carries instructions for each scene that allow display systems that are compatible with Dolby Vision to portray the content accurately. Brightness, contrast, and color performance change based on the instructions in the metadata.

There are some 8K TVs that are compatible with Dolby Vision, while others are not. Importantly, Dolby Vision is directly tied to HDR technology but is not necessarily tied to resolution capabilities. The TV still has the same number of pixels regardless of whether it is compatible with Dolby Vision; however, if the 8K TV is compatible with Dolby Vision, then the picture might look even better thanks to the metadata from Dolby Vision. Again, if the content is not produced in 8K, then it won’t matter if the TV is 8K. Dolby Vision does not control whether the content is displayed in 8K or not, but it does control the quality of the HDR.

An 8K TV Makes the Most Impact Beyond the Living Room

There is a lot of potential for 8K TVs; however, because of the size of the screen, you’ll have to sit so far away from it that the TV might be too large for the living room. According to one article, if you have 20/20 vision and sit 10 feet away, you’ll need a 280-inch 8K TV to spot the difference between that and a 4K TV. Other locations, such as home theaters and commercial locations (such as stadiums and planetariums) aren’t as constrained by size, so an 8K TV might make more sense here.

About S. Santos

👋 I'm a technology columnist and tech blogger, with a love for video games, gadgets, home entertainment and personal technology. I've been writing about the industry now for over 10 years - first as an editor of various magazines before branching out to work on my own blog. I like to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, I can be found playing tennis or padel. This blog is my space to explore new topics related to these hobbies; as well as share some thoughts about life in general (sometimes you need a break from electronics!). 😎

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