Best 8K TV Buying Guide: Welcome to What Hi-Fi?'s round-up of the best 8K TVs you can buy in 2020.
One day, 8K TVs will drive 4K TVs into extinction. It won't be for a while yet, but with the likes of Sony, Samsung and LG already selling 8K TV sets (and others such as Panasonic and Philips set to join them in the coming months), it looks like next-generation TVs with a whole heap more pixels will one day be in living rooms across the land.
They're expensive (at least right now), but 8K TVs offer four times the pixel density of their 4K TV siblings. That makes for a stunningly lifelike picture that represents a massive step up from 4K.
Sadly, there's essentially no 8K content available at the moment. In the meantime, 8K TVs make themselves useful by upscaling 4K, HD and even standard-def content. That means you can expect a gloriously cinematic experience right now, even though 8K content is far from mainstream.
So what should you look for when buying an 8K TV? Good upscaling is absolutely critical - you want all of the content you watch now to look great, and that involves the TV doing lots of clever processing. It's also worth looking for HDMI 2.1 ports, too, as they have baked-in support for higher resolutions and frame rates.
Beyond that, you're looking for broadly the same qualities you'd seek in a 4K TV: great colours, contrast, sharpness and detail; a user-friendly and app-packed operating system; good sound and a smart design.
What is 8K?
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 (7680 x 4320), resulting in a display that consists of just under 33 million pixels.
By comparison, 4K video has half the number of horizontal lines and half the number of vertical lines (3840 x 2160), equating to a total pixel count of around 8.3 million.
So, yes, 8K has four times as many pixels as 4K (and 16 times the number of Full HD, for what it's worth).
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 the trials, NHK has now launched the world's first 8K television channel. Since 1st December 2018, it has broadcast 8K TV shows on a daily basis, 12 hours a day, and even broadcast the 2019 Rugby World Cup in 8K. Next up is the Tokyo Olympics, which is now scheduled to take place in the summer of 2021.
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. And if you were in Brazil at the time, you could have watched the 2018 World Cup in 8K.
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 take advantage, and you might be hard-pushed to find anything truly worth watching.
Rakuten TV wants to become a true global alternative to Amazon Video and Netflix, and has ambitious plans to help that become a reality. Along with a rapid expansion into new countries, it seems 8K content is also part of the strategy - the company announced plans to have 8K films on its service by the end of 2019, although all has since gone rather quiet on that front.
How do we choose the best 8K TVs?
Here at What Hi-Fi? we review hundreds of products every year – and that includes plenty of TVs. So how do we come to our review verdicts? And why can you trust them?
We have state-of-the-art testing facilities in London and Bath, where our team of expert reviewers do all of our testing. This gives us complete control over the testing process, ensuring consistency.
All products are tested in comparison with rival products in the same price category, and all review verdicts are agreed upon by the team as a whole rather than an individual reviewer, again helping to ensure consistency and avoiding any personal preference.
The What Hi-Fi? team has more than 100 years experience of reviewing, testing and writing about consumer electronics.
From all of our reviews, we choose the products to feature in our Best Buys. That's why if you take the plunge and buy one of the products recommended below, or on any other Best Buy page, you can be assured you're getting a What Hi-Fi? approved product.
The best 8K TVs right now
This 85-inch Sony 8K TV, known as the ZG9 in the UK and Z9G in the US, offers an astonishingly-lifelike image and almost no downsides in terms of performance. Convincing blacks, superb motion control, outstanding upscaling – this TV excels in every area.
Sony's X1 Ultimate chip and 8K X-Reality Pro tech do a superb job of upscaling, adding detail that looks completely natural, ensuring an incredibly immersive performance with HD and 4K content.
Sound is equally spectacular. Four sets of three forward-firing speakers and four woofers help deliver dramatic sound that outshines the average soundbar.
There's plenty of support for streaming apps, including Netflix and Amazon Video (in 4K and Dolby Vision), and Google Play TV and Movies. Sony's Android-powered user interface isn't quite as good as Samsung's but the ZG9 comes with Google Assistant and is ‘Works with Alexa’-certified, so it's responsive to voice commands.
You'll need seriously deep pockets, but for the bleeding edge of 8K TV tech, look no further than the Sony KD-85ZG9 – the finest 8K TV we've reviewed.
Read the full Sony KD-85ZG9 8K TV review
Samsung's current 8K TV, the Q950R, is available in a whole range of sizes, from a relatively compact (by 8K standards) 55in to a bewilderingly huge 98in. The company's also being extremely aggressive on pricing, with the smallest model currently available with only a 50 per cent premium over its flagship 4K sibling.
The Q950R is actually Samsung's second-generation 8K model, but the updates over its Q900R predecessor are relatively minor, more or less boiling down to wider viewing angles. In many countries, this update isn’t even considered worthy of a new model number, so what we call a Q950R in the UK is still known as the Q900R in the US and Australia.
Still, the original Q900R was a very good TV and the Q950R continues the fine form. This is an exceptionally bright and punchy TV with supremely sharp edges and great three-dimensionality. 8K content is predictably astonishing, but the superb upscaling also ensures that 4K, HD and even standard-def is just as good here as it is when viewed on the company's best 4K models - and that's no mean feat.
The only downsides to the Q950R (other than the lack of native 8K content, of course) are a sightly inconsistent colour performance and weaker motion processing than the best in class. Still, those looking to go 8K at a smaller size and lower price than Sony offers should absolutely consider the Samsung Q950R.
Read the full Samsung QE75Q950R review