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8k vs 4k and Upscaling
Is 8k Worth the Upgrade?

Differences between 8k, Ultra HD (4k), 1080p, 720p and 480p resolutions

On paper, the benefits of 8k over 4k are clear. But unlike the transition between 4k and 1080p, in practice, the difference isn't as noticeable. 8k TVs have 4 times as many pixels as their 4k counterparts and a shocking 16 times as many pixels as a 1080p TV. These extra pixels should make a significant difference in picture quality, but they only do so if you are watching native 8k content and are sitting close enough to notice the difference.

Test results

Why does it matter?

Simply-put, the resolution is the number of pixels used to make up the image of your TV. Higher resolution displays make it easier to see more fine details in your favorite games, movies, and TV shows. Upgrading to a higher resolution TV might sound like a no-brainer, but it isn't always necessary. Although the majority of current TVs have a 4k resolution, the first 8k TVs have started hitting the market. So, if you're looking for a new TV, should you get a 4k TV or an 8k TV?

8k TV

What it is: A TV with 4320 rows and 7680 columns of pixels.

Who should buy it: Those who want the latest tech, and sit close to their TV.

 

4k TV

Sony X950G (4k TV)

What it is: A TV with 2160 rows and 3840 columns of pixels.

Who should buy it: Almost anyone buying a new TV.

See the best 4k TVs we reviewed

  8k 4k
Sizes available Good Great
TV Sizes Available 55" to 100"+ 40" to 100"+
Height in pixels 4320 2160
Width in pixels 7680 3840
Availability Okay Excellent
Content Availability Extremely limited Excellent

Content

  8k 4k
UHD Blu-Ray No Yes
Netflix No Yes
Amazon Video No Yes
Vudu No Yes
YouTube Yes Yes
Game Consoles No* Yes
PC Games Yes Yes

There is almost no 8k content currently available. There are a few demo clips currently available on YouTube, as well as a few tech demonstration videos available for download. On the only 8k TV we've tested so far, the Samsung Q900R, the few 8k files available on YouTube are limited to 4k playback, as the TV doesn't currently support YouTube's 8k file format.

Some current PCs can output at 8k, but they are limited to a maximum refresh rate of 30Hz and there are a few other limitations. This is due to the bandwidth limitations of HDMI 2.0, and this situation will change drastically once the first graphics cards with HDMI 2.1 have been released.

One of the main reasons there is barely any content available is that the vast majority of film content is still filmed in 4k or lower. A few recent movies have been at least partially filmed in 8k, including Disney/Marvel's Captain Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but even these were only partially filmed in 8k, and the final movies were mastered in 4k. 8k movies are likely at least 3-5 away.

Winner: 4k. This will likely take a while to change, but eventually, the availability of 8k content will improve.

Gaming

Gaming is a bit different. As video games render most of their content only when it's needed, relatively little work is required to support higher resolutions. As long as the hardware running the game is powerful enough to render the frames fast enough, most games can easily be updated to support the highest resolutions available, and some games already support up to 8k resolutions, or even higher.

The highest resolution most games and gaming hardware currently support is 4k. That is about to change, though, as the next generation of gaming consoles have been announced by Microsoft and Sony, and they've both confirmed that their new consoles will support 8k resolutions, although they will still target 4k at 120Hz. It's also expected that AMD and NVIDIA will release new graphics cards soon that support HDMI 2.1 and can run games at resolutions as high as 8k, or maybe even higher.

Winner: 8k. Although 8k gaming is currently nearly non-existent, this will change very quickly once new graphics cards and consoles have been released.

Native 8k vs Native 4k

Samsung Q900R 8k resolutionSamsung Q900R (8k TV)
Input: 8k Resolution
Sony X950G 4k resolution Sony X950G (4k TV)
Input: 4k Resolution

The two photos above illustrate an identical image at different native resolutions. The first image is a native 8k image, displayed on a native 8k TV, the Samsung Q900R. The second image is a native 4k image, displayed on a native 4k TV, the Sony X950G.

The Samsung delivers a sharper image, but in reality, this is only noticeable from extremely close-up. From a comfortable viewing distance, the two images appear nearly identical.

It’s important to note that this comparison uses a real 8k image. 8k content is almost non-existent at this point, so most of what you watch will probably be lower-resolution content upscaled to 8k, which will look different from native 8k and 4k.

Winner: 8k. The higher resolution results in a slightly more detailed image, but the benefits are limited.

4k Upscaled to 8k vs Native 4k

Samsung Q900R 4k resolutionSamsung Q900R (8k TV)
Input: 4k Resolution
Sony X950G 4k resolutionSony X950G (4k TV)
Input: 4k Resolution

To present lower-resolution material on an 8k TV, the TV has to perform a process called upscaling. This process increases the pixel count of a lower-resolution image, allowing a picture meant for a screen with fewer pixels to fit a screen with many more. It’s important to remember that since the amount of information in the signal doesn’t change, there won’t be more detail present.

The first image is a 4k picture upscaled to 8k on the Samsung Q900R, and the second is the same native 4k image on the Sony X950G.

The Samsung Q900R’s upscaling resulted in a bit of added smoothness, but overall the two images look very similar. There isn’t any more detail in the upscaled picture than you can see in the native 4k picture, so whether or not it looks better is entirely subjective.

With 8k TVs, upscaling performance is even more important than ever before. As the majority of broadcast content is still 1080p or even lower, an 8k TV has to interpolate ~94% of the pixels when displaying 1080p content.

Winner: 4k, but barely. 4k on a native 4k TV will always look slightly better than an upscaled image.

Viewing Distance

Having an 8k TV and genuine 8k content isn’t enough. There are limits to what your eyes can see, and if you are too far away from the TV, you won't see any advantage with an 8k display over a 4k display.

This chart illustrates the dividing line for normal 20/20 vision. To use the chart, check your viewing distance on the vertical axis and the size of the TV on the horizontal one. If the resulting position is above the line, you probably won't see a major difference between a 4k TV and an 8k TV.

As you can see, 8k TVs are most beneficial when sitting extremely close to the TV - far closer, in fact, than most people are comfortable sitting.

That doesn’t mean you won’t see any difference at all – it just means it won’t be significant. It also depends on the quality of the content you are watching. Even the highest resolution TV can't make poor quality content look good.

Learn more about the relationship between the size of a TV and the viewing distance.

Winner: 4k. 8k TVs allow you to sit closer to the TV, but this is too close for most people.

Conclusion

8k TVs represent an impressive step-up in TV capabilities. Offering 4x the number of pixels of a 4k TV and 16x the number of pixels of a 1080p TV, these new displays offer stunning levels of detail. Unfortunately, as great as these TVs are, there is almost no content available for them. This will likely change in the coming years as more 8k content is available, but it will likely be at least 3-5 years for 8k movies, so for now, it probably isn't worth getting an 8k TV.

Winner: 4k, for now.

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