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While many of us are only just getting used to the idea of 4K TV, some brands and broadcasters are already deep into 8K resolution video...

Yes, 8K video looks better set to become a reality than ever. Before the year is out we will see the first 8K displays offered for sale because, from 8K TVs to 8K broadcasts, there has been a huge amount of investigation and investment into how 8K content might make its way into our homes.

It's fair to say 4K TV is now mainstream. That doesn't mean we're all watching it, all of the time - but if you're sizing up a new TV and you care about picture quality, 4K resolution must be on your wish list.

And, thanks to Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, 4K Blu-ray, BT and Sky, there is suddenly ample 4K content to watch. With what looks set to be the first 4K World Cup just around the corner, it really is a great time to get involved.

But, as ever in consumer electronics, there is always something new on the horizon. The prospect of 8K certainly shouldn't affect your eagerness to go 4K - but to be informed is to be empowered, so we thought we'd round up the 8K state of play for the future-gazers among us. So, who's working on 8K? And when could we be watching it? Read on.

What is 8K?

First, let's take it back to basics. What we're talking about here is resolution. This means the number of horizontal and vertical pixels. Pixels equal information, so more pixels should mean a better quality image. That's the theory, at least.

In the case of 8K, this means a horizontal resolution of 7680 pixels and a vertical resolution of 4320 pixels, or 4320 resolution video.

By comparison, 4K video has half the number of horizontal lines and half the number of vertical lines (3840 x 2160), for a resolution of 2160. Full HD is 1920 x 1080, or 1080.

All this combines to mean 8K has four times as many pixels as 4K, and 16 times the number of Full HD.

More after the break

Who is making 8K content?

8K video developments to date have largely been driven by filmmakers and TV broadcasters. 

From a video-editing point of view, the higher resolution can be useful. While filmmakers may not ultimately deliver an 8K film, shooting in the higher resolution gives editors room to manoeuvre, allowing for cropping and zooming while still retaining a high-resolution image. That said, 6K cameras are currently far more prevalent in Hollywood.

Meanwhile in Japan, broadcasters have been experimenting with 8K TV for some time. Back in 2015 the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation, NHK, ran a series of 8K trials, and in 2016 the company announced it was successfully demoing 8K broadcasts. So successful were they, NHK is going to launch the world's first 8K television channel on 1st December 2018. With Japan aiming to deliver 8K broadcasts in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, it looks like a plan is surely coming together.

The Korean Broadcasting Corporation (KBS) is also researching 8K broadcasts, working with LG on content, possible broadcasts and displays - there was 8K experimentation at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The likes of Netflix and YouTube were, of course, quick out of the blocks when it came to 4K content, and now streaming site Vimeo has jumped aboard with 8K. A recent update adds support for HDR and 8K resolution videos. Naturally, you will need an 8K screen to really take advantage...

MORE: What is HDMI 2.1? Everything you need to know

What about 8K TVs?

Sharp's 70-inch 8K TV

So if we can see the fledgling shoots of 8K content, what about the compatible devices on which to play 8K video?

Trade shows such as CES and IFA are the perfect place for TV manufacturers to showcase their latest and often craziest new tech, so it's perhaps no surprise we've been seeing the odd 8K screen for a few years now.

LG and Samsung both showed off 8K TV prototypes at CES 2015, and Sharp went a step further by offering an 85in 8K TV for sale in Japan later that year.

Perhaps choosing to ignore that, and in search of some headlines, LG claimed the world's first production 8K TV in 2016.

But that's for the Asian market. Customers in Europe will have to settle for something more, er, modest. The Sharp LV-70X500E (an 8K LCD monitor) is due to go on sale for a measly - well, comparatively - €11,999 in April 2018. It has no TV tuner, but it supports HDR10 and HLG, will upscale any content to 8K, and has four HDMI ports that will deliver native 8K. 

Meanwhile, SiTune became the first brand to release an 8K TV tuner module. The tuner supports the 8K Super Hi-Vision plans of Japan's NHK broadcaster, which aim to be in place by the 2020 Olympics - and the module is ready for TV boxes or Blu-ray players.

The gloves came all the way off at CES 2018. Ahead of the show LG claimed a world's first with its 88in OLED 8K TV - the largest OLED ever made, and the first 8K OLED to boot.

There was no word on pricing, though, and when LG's CES 2018 press conference rolled around the 88in behemoth was conspicuous only by its absence.

Sony, on the other hand, proudly demonstrated an 85in 8K display at CES 2018, powered by the new X1 Ultimate picture processor we hope it's fitting to future ranges of 4K OLED and LCD TVs. In our brief demonstration it looked glorious - and really very bright indeed.   

And Samsung, which never likes to be left out and, equally, always like to go its own way, promised its 8K QLED TV - an 85in Q9SN - due on sale in the latter half of 2018.

MORE: OLED vs QLED - which is the better technology?

When will we be watching 8K?

If you're in the UK, Europe or US, it looks certain 8K displays will be on sale before 2018 is out. 

But while we're always interested in the latest technology, and of course it pays to keep abreast of the latest developments, we don't think 8K TV should be something affecting your buying decision now - or in the near future, for that matter.

As we've seen with 4K, adoption takes time. Even though 4K TV uptake has, by all accounts, happened faster than that of HD, it still remains the exception rather than the norm.

Shop floors may be full of 4K screens, but the vast majority of content is viewed by consumers in HD at best - and even the intrepid BBC has only lately dipped its toe in the 4K water.

Thanks to the football World Cup, 2018 could be a breakthrough year for 4K broadcasts - some five years after the first 4K TVs went on sale. This puts 8K at the back of a pretty long queue of upgraders, no matter what broadcasters and manufacturers might desire. 

In Korea and Japan, however, they're not wasting any time. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is the aggressive target for showcasing 8K TV in Japan, even if the 2018 Winter Olympics came around a little too soon. We'll be interested to see how the NHK's broadcast 8K channel pans out.

But there are plenty of hurdles: content needs to be created, distribution infrastructure needs to be devised, equipment on which to watch it made vaguely affordable. There's also the not inconsiderable issue of storage - 4K is already a serious space-hogger for bang-up-to-date technology.

So, for now, 8K is still far from the mainstream - let alone any time soon. But never say never... 

MORE:

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