Your 1080p HDTV is a piece of crap. So says the consumer electronics industry, which wants very badly to get you to upgrade to higher resolution screens, whether you really need them or not. As many manufacturers begin the push for 4k “UHD” displays, here comes an 8k format right on its heels. Just how many Ks do we really need?
Just recently, a very optimistic study predicted that the adoption rate for 4k TVs will move even swifter than the current 1080p standard did, and should be ubiquitous in 10-12 years. (1080p took about 15 years.) I find that claim a little dubious, personally, but a lot of powerhouse companies are already banking on it.
Meanwhile, Japan’s national broadcaster NHK believes that even 4k is a pile of garbage. The firm has been developing an 8k format called “UHDTV” and promises to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at an astounding 7680×4320 resolution.
With any digital product, a game of specsmanship inevitably sets in, as companies compete to provide some specification or measurement with a higher number than its rivals, regardless of whether that number is actually relevant to the end user’s needs. Sometimes, especially if the price difference is not too significant, these numbers alone are enough to sway consumers toward the supposedly better specs. “Your cell phone camera is 4 Megapixels? What a joke, mine is 8 Megapixels!” Never mind that the tiny lens in the camera is incapable resolving more than 3 Megapixels of actual picture information, and that cramming more and smaller pixels onto the digital sensor can actually increase noise in the image and make the results look worse. 8 is a higher number than 4, and therefore must be better!
1080p emerged as our current HDTV standard because it hits a sweet spot in displaying high-frequency detail that the human eye can resolve without visible pixel structure, even on large screen sizes. I’m not saying that 4k is useless for home theater , but the additional detail it provides will likely not be discernable except on the largest of projection screens, and even then only if viewers sit within a fairly close distance to the screen. I’m sure that it won’t be very long before we see 4k TVs of sizes down to 32″ or smaller in stores, and I fail to see the point of that.
As for 8k, I’m skeptical that there will be any practical use for it at all.
I reserve the right to change my mind when these products hit the market at a price I can afford, but at the moment, I’m in no hurry to replace my entire home theater system from top to bottom (disc players or other video sources, cables, video processors, A/V receiver and projectors) to accommodate all these additional Ks.