Widescreen, flatscreen, curved, 3D, HD, Full HD, 4K HDR. What's the next thing you'll find appended to this recent list of television evolution? 8K.
That's right, the TV industry is pushing forward with its next big thing, giving manufacturers something new and shiny to sell to you.
But is your 4K TV about to become redundant? Not quite.
Stick with us and we'll explain everything.
What is 8K?
If you've been following the TV story in recent years, you'll already know that 8K is a step forward from 4K. It refers to the resolution of the display. While 4K is 3,840 x 2,160 pixels, 8K moves up to 7,680 x 4,320. That means there are 7,680 pixels on the horizontal axis and 4,320 on the vertical.
You might hear it referred to as 4320p (like Full HD was 1080p), you might hear it referred to as Ultra HD 8K (4K was also branded as Ultra HD), or Super Hi-Vision, but we suspect it's just going to be called 8K.
But don't make the mistake of thinking that this is just about pixels, because this is also about HDR - high dynamic range - too. Going forward, HDR is part of the package of what your TV will deliver.
Who is making 8K TVs?
TV manufacturers don't stand still. You'll remember how quickly 3D came and went, based on the reaction of customers. It was heralded as "the next big thing" at the time and now it's barely supported.
It's no surprise that everyone is working on 8K TVs, but it's really Samsung who you need to pay attention to, as it's launching the Q900 in Europe and the UK, then the US. While it's not the first 8K TV to appear, it’s likely to be the first step in 8K that many hear about, the first that's a complete package for the customer.
LG are also looking at 8K and have been showing off an 8K OLED prototype in 2018, but there's no release date for LG OLED 8K yet.
Sharp is on what's it's calling "second-gen" 8K, i.e., its second 8K panel that you can buy (if you live in the right place) and already has a professional 8K monitor available to buy, the LV-70X500E.
Toshiba has shown off 8K as a concept. Toshiba's TVs are manufactured under licence by Vestel, so it's likely that 8K will appear in brands from across the Vestel group when the time is right - and likely to be more affordable than some of the others.
Sony showed off a 10,000 nit 8K prototype at CES 2018, but there's no talk of market release.
In reality, for the UK market, it's likely to be the Samsung Q900R that you'll see and hear the most about. It will be available to buy from mid-September 2018.
Why do you need an 8K TV?
This is the million-dollar question - or more likely the $10,000 question. With 4K HDR now finding its way into the mainstream, the justification for 8K is pretty tough, especially as those Ultra HD TVs are so good.
The real justification for 8K comes down to growing demand for size. People are buying bigger TVs and are happy to have bigger TVs in their homes. Where 15 years ago you might have had a 28-inch TV, now 55-inch is common; 65-inch and above is where most of the growth in TV sales is expected in the next 5 years.
You can currently get big 4K HDR TVs - up to about 85 inches - but it's in these larger sizes that the 8K benefits will reside. As the screen gets bigger - and you stay sitting in the same place - more pixels means more visible detail.
It's likely that you'll have Full HD up to 40 inches, 4K up to 60 inches and then 8K above that in the future, so 8K only really applies to those bigger sizes - if the TV is too small, the pixels will be too tightly packed for you to be able to see any difference in the image.
But why do people want bigger TVs? It's to increase the sense of immersion.
As detail increases you can sit and marvel in front a huge image that feels like it's engulfing you. It's here that big 8K TVs have a natural advantage, because it increases the angles that light comes into your eyes.
This, in turn can increase the separation between fore and background, creating more of a pop to visuals, and giving you a more immersive viewing experience. Of course, you can't sit too close because you'll have to constantly move your head to see the full image, so minimum viewing distances still apply.
What about 8K content and upscaling?
We'll talk about these two things together, because there is no 8K content. There are some samples, there's support for 8K resolution on Vimeo and the Japanese broadcaster NHK is aiming to film the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in 8K, but otherwise the implementation isn't widespread.
There's no support from optical discs (at the moment), there's no Netflix in 8K and it's not a format that's being widely used for content capture either - cameras are currently few.
So 8K in the now and the foreseeable future is all about upscaling. Samsung, at the launch of its 8K TV at IFA 2018, spent most of the time talking about upscaling because that's what's going to be vital for convincing early adopters that an 8K TV is worth buying over a 4K TV.
So what will 8K upscaling do? It will use AI to analyse images and correct them, boost colour and replace information that might be missing by analysing previous frames. It will sharpen edges, remove jagged edges on things like text and reduce noise in areas where there's not a lot of data - like the block colour of a blue sky for example.
None of this is really new, but it is a new system, according to the information we have from Samsung about its technology.
One of the techniques will be near-neighbour interpolation (analysing neighbouring pixels to make corrections) and with more pixels in an 8K display there's more opportunity to make smooth graduations, because there are more neighbours.
Samsung has confirmed that it's using machine learning and AI in its 8K upscaling solution, but the power demands will also be high, as there will be a lot of processing to do.
So that's the story so far: there's no content, but everything you pump into an 8K TV is going to be upscaled to make it look better.
Is an 8K TV upgrade worth it?
We've seen some demos of 8K upscaling and we've been impressed with the overall performance of the experience. There's definitely an immersive quality to it, detail looks great and all the signs are positive.
But we can't yet state categorically that it's better than the top 4K TVs that we've seen. Yes, big is the message, but we really need to spend more time looking at how effective the technology is at upscaling normal content like Netflix or Ultra HD Blu-ray before we can recommend you buying an 8K TV.
As for the timeline for 8K content, we're still many years away from that being commonplace.
How much will an 8K TV cost?
That's currently unknown. Samsung hasn't yet put a price on its Q900R TV, which is going to be the first complete TV that you'll be able to buy in the UK.
Sharp has its 70-inch 8K display on sale for £10,999, but it's technically a monitor. We suspect that Samsung will come in lower for the 65-inch model, higher for the 85-inch.
We'll update as soon as we know, as well as keep you informed of developments in this latest TV technology.