If you're buying an elite TV in 20201, the best 8K TVs should absolutely be on your list. The technology isn't just pie-in-the-sky stuff – though 8K TV broadcasts might not be a thing, these sets are designed to make 4K look better than any 4K TV can manage.
The best 8K TVs use the most advanced image technology from the likes of Samsung, LG and Sony, which basically means it's most high-end TV tech on the planet. So even when you ignore the resolution, they're still delivering better contrast, colours and brightness than anything else.
And they're much more realistic to buy these days than you might think. Okay, don't expect any of them to appear in our lists of the best TVs under £1000 or best TVs under $1000, but there are models that are more in line with high-end 4K TVs.
And though 8K TVs are still in their infancy, they're already taking top spots in our list of the best TVs of all kinds. That's getting them a lot of attention, deservedly, but we know it means lots of people have questions ranging from what 8K really means, what you can watch on an 8K TV, and (of course) which are the best 8K TVs that are really worth getting over their 4K equivalents.
So we'll tackle all these questions, and help you get to grips with everything you need to know about 8K TV so far…
8K TV: what resolution is it?
A normal 8K TV will have a resolution of 7680x4320. Just as 4K Ultra HD TVs packed in four times the amount of pixels as Full HD 1080p TVs, 8K quadruples the resolution of Ultra HD.
This is a massive 33 million pixels total, meaning that most people's still cameras aren't even able to fill it natively with a single image – it's that big and detailed.
What exactly does 8K mean in this context? It refers to screens that are approximately 8,000 pixels across, just like 4K refers to screens of around 4,000 pixels. It's not a very precise categorisation, but 99% of the time, when we're talking about 8K, we're talking about the resolutions mentioned above.
All 8K TVs will have advanced upscaling abilities to make sure that 4K or HD content looks good when the resolution is increased to fill the screen. 4K content is relatively easy to upscale for it, but given that only a limited amount of stuff on streaming services and even less on broadcast is available in 4K, upscaling HD will be what really sorts the 8K TVs worth buying from the also-rans.
What does 8K mean in terms of visual quality? Traditional 35mm film is often said to be roughly equivalent to about 6K, so we're beyond the level of detail that the most common film for movies is capable of. IMAX 70mm film is estimated to be more like 12K, but actually the digital effects for IMAX scenes tend to be created in 8K, and if that's good enough for Christopher Nolan, it's good enough for us. If you want a headline description of 8K, it's like having the IMAX experience at home.
8K: HDR explained
8K TVs are compatible with the current HDR formats, including HDR10 (the basic standard form), the dynamic HDR10+ upgrade to that, the more broadcast-friendly HLG, Dolby Vision (a more advanced version of HDR that's used on Blu-rays, Netflix and Apple TV), and HDR10+ (a competitor to Dolby Vision used by Amazon Prime Video and some Blu-rays).
Not all TVs will support both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ – most of the best 8K TVs tend to go for one or the other, sadly.
In fact, a lot of 8K TVs will have top-class HDR performance, but this isn't anything to do with the resolution upgrade: it's just that the manufacturers are putting all their best tech into them, which means you get added benefits such as fantastic HDR.
Our list of the best 8K TVs
• Read our full Samsung Q950TS review
Available in 65-inch, 75-inch and 85-inch models, this is a truly mind-blowing TV – so much so that it won award for being the Best TV of all kinds at the T3 Awards 2020. Its ability to produce dazzling HDR is unmatched – it can go far brighter than not only OLED screens, but also just about any other QLED or LCD screen. And thanks to a whopping 480 dimming zones in its backlight array, it can go extremely dark in precise areas when it needs to, overcoming the main weakness LCD sets have.
The result is truly astounding HDR performance, both in contrast and colours, thanks to the QLED screen. The range it's capable of has to been to be believed – some may find it a bit shock-and-awe compared to the nuanced deep black levels of the OLED LG Z9 below, but in a normal living room with bright lights and sunlight, that's exactly what you want.
Just as important as the pixel quality is the processing, and particularly the upscaling, since you'll mostly be watching upscaled 4K or HD video. While upscaled 4K can't quite match the splendour of full 8K, it is noticeably improved over regular 4K at the same size, with no obvious artefacts from the upscaling at all – this level of quality of only achievable on an 8K screen. It is, simply, the best way to watch TV on the planet.
Almost as impressive as the picture quality is the design, which effectively removes the top and side bezels (a 99% screen-to-body ratio), which looks beautiful. It also has speakers in all sides to create and wide and tall sound-stage, which actually moves different sounds the speakers for a 3D effect, even if the video doesn't have a 3D audio soundtrack.
It comes in two versions – the Q950TS is ultra-thin, because it has a separate box where all the connections and processing are, connected to the TV by a single slim cable. The Q900TS is the exact same set, but with the connections built into the body, so it's thicker, and also cheaper. Both give you the elite TV quality you crave!
The Sony ZH8 (UK) / Z8H (US) brings a lot of the key advantages of the ZG9 (below) to a much lower price. This directly competes with the Samsung above for price, and it's a very tempting alternative. The image quality is simply astounding, and when it comes to making SDR sources look like HDR, or making motion looking clearer without the 'soap opera' effect, this is the best in the business.
The upscaling to 8K is truly impressive, though not really any better than the Samsung above. It still really makes the most of the huge screen though. Also impressive is the built-in sound system, which is so much meatier and bigger than just about anything else we've heard, which is a nice bonus.
The support for Dolby Vision is a bonus over the Samsung above, but it lacks HDR10+ support, and does offer support for Variable Refresh Rate, which is a great feature of the PS5 and Xbox Series X. However, it does support 4K at 120Hz.
• Read our full Sony ZH8 review here
An incredible TV, making use of every inch of Sony's screen know-how… and boy does Sony have a lot of screen know-how. It comes in 75-inch or 85-inch sizes, which will really make the most of the giant resolution.
It's an LCD screen, and uses Sony's Full Array Backlight Master Drive tech, which means there's a full panel of LEDs behind the screen (rather than strips around the edge). This makes it thick for a modern TV, but has two big advantages: it means it can go very bright, but can also turn off in individual sections so that it can go very dark, too. Basically, it gives you close-to-OLED levels of depth, but with brighter highlights than OLED can manage.
And it's got Sony's most advanced upscaling and motion handling technology so that everything looks perfectly clear. It's one of the best TVs we've ever seen, but like other 8K TVs, it costs – £5,999/$6,999 for the 75-inch, £8,999/$9,999 for the 85-inch.
A new version, the Sony ZH9, has been announced to replace it – probably in late 2020. It adds a clever new audio system that uses the frame of the TV itself to act as a speaker, plus it automatically optimises the TV's image based on the room it's placed in, changing brightness when the room gets lighter, for example.
LG introduced the world's first OLED 8K TV last year, and this is the 2020 version, with improved processing. Available in 77-inch or 88-inch models, it's a bit of a design wonder: the screen itself is ultra thin despite being massive, which means the 88-inch model actually has a stand (with built-in speakers) that you can't detach it from – the structure is crucial to keeping the thing in one piece. The 77-inch model can be wall mounted, though.
It's equally a wonder to watch anything on. All the advantages of OLED are here – perfect per-pixel colour accuracy and incredible contrast – but in a huge beautiful screen that washes over you.
LG's image processing for upscaling and dealing with motion blur is excellent too – this deserves to be the centrepiece of any room. And since it costs from £25k for the 77-inch version, you'd hope so, wouldn't you?
• Order the 55-inch LG 55NANO956NA from PRC Direct for £1,999
• Order the 65-inch LG 65NANO956NA from PRC Direct for £2,999
• Order the 55-inch LG 55NANO956NA from Hughes for £2,499
• Order the 65-inch LG 65NANO996NA from Hughes for £2,999
LG's entry-level 8K TV range features the same Alpha 9 Gen 3 processor as its extravagant OLED 8K TVs, and the more expensive LCD 8K sets below, but with slightly less advanced panel tech for brightness, and it comes in smaller sizes.
The result is that you get all the detail of 8K, but in a TV that's easier on the budget, and is suitable for smaller rooms.
This is great choice for gaming too – it's packed with features ready for the PS5 and Xbox Series X, including HDMI 2.1 support, which means you can play 4K games at 120Hz, but both consoles have also claimed 8K support, so if you want an affordable way to play whatever 8K games may be available, here you go.
LG's equivalent to the Samsung screens above, this is LG's flagship LCD TV for 2020. There are 65-inch and 75-inch models, so while it's premium priced, LG is sticking with models that are more likely to fit in someone's house in real life.
Like both the Sony and Samsung, you get a full array backlight with local dimming, though this screen hasn't garnered quite the plaudits those have. You'll also have LG's latest-gen image processing – the same as you'll find in the OLED flagship sets.
8K TV: what can I watch?
In native, pure, 8K? Effectively nothing. Even recently, Hollywood has tended to use 6K cameras even when working digitally (and, as we suggested earlier, old films can only really be re-scanned to 6K, though they can then be upscaled, which can be highly effective), so content isn't exactly about to explode, either.
Japan was due to trial the first 8K public broadcasts this year for the Olympic Games, but that's obviously not going to happen any more. Similarly, BT Sport has shown off a live 8K broadcast of a football match in the UK, and announced that it expected to be able to show the 2020/2021 football season in 8K on dedicated channels, but everything's up in the air there due to the pandemic disruption, too.
There are no plans for an 8K disc format currently. Vimeo does now have 8K support for videos, though, and YouTube likes to be at the forefront of these things, so 8K streaming looks to be the future, assuming your internet can handle it.
Samsung is developing a technology called ScaleNet that's designed to make 8K easier to transmit over limited connection speeds, and is especially interesting. It works by using an 'AI' at the transmission end to downscale the image to 4K, then a matching 'AI' that knows exactly how the first one works to upscale it back to 8K – this should preserve more detail than a regular compression algorithm.
We should say that it increasingly looks like the industry may move away from worrying about native resolution, now that upscaling from lower resolutions is becoming so advanced thanks to machine learning. As long as an 8K screen is good enough, it will still offer an advantage no matter whether you throw it HD, 4K 6K or full 8K.
All of the above only solves getting the image to you, not recording it in the first place! We're seeing the first consumer cameras with 8K recording in arriving now: the Samsung S20 Ultra includes it, as does the LG V60 ThinQ phone, and the Canon EOS R5 mirrorless camera.
8K gaming: PS5, Xbox, PC
Gaming in 8K is sort of possible, if you have a ridiculously powerful PC – you'll need two (at least) of the highest-end graphics cards running in tandem, and the games you play will have to have solid support for it.
Both of the next-gen consoles – Sony's PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X – have promised to support 8K, but don't expect that to mean that every game will have a true 8K output. That level of power just isn't possible in small boxes right now.
But they will definitely have 8K HDMI support, and may use smart upscaling techniques (similar to what's used now by the PS4 Pro for some demanding 4K games) to create something that looks impressively close to 8K. Time will tell.
So, really, you'll mostly be upscaling existing content. But with a really good upscaler from a 4K video, you actually can still make the most of those extra pixels, especially on a really big screen. It won't look as good as native 8K, but it will look better than 4K, and on a big screen size, that's an improvement worth having.
8K TV: what HDMI cable do I need?
Now this is an important – and sexy – question. You can't use the one that came free with your DVD player in 2011, but there is a new HDMI standard that's capable of pushing the number of pixels required for 8K over a single cable. It's called HDMI 2.1, and it has three times the bandwidth of previous HDMI connections.
HDMI 2.1 is backwards compatible with previous HDMI connections, so it's all good for 4K or Full HD using your existing cables, but if you want to connect an 8K source to it, you may need a new higher-speed cable. Cables that are certified to use the full bandwidth of the new connection type are labelled Ultra High Speed HDMI. Whoah.
8K TV: is it worth upgrading?
It really could be, but not for the reason you'd assume. Normally, a big resolution jump comes, and we recommend upgrading so you can see beautiful videos in the new resolution… but we've already said that's not the case here.
No, the reason you should buy the one of the best 8K TVs (ie the ones listed above) is because they represent the pinnacle of TV tech – buy them because you want the finest motion processing, HDR performance and colour reproduction known to man. Buy them if you want the best TV available, regardless of resolution.
That's not to totally discount that the higher resolution could be a benefit for you, though. There's a good reason 8K TVs often come in bigger-than-65-inch sizes – that's where you'll see the biggest improvement over buying a 4K TV.
If you live in an average-sized home, with a 50- to 65-inch TV maximum, it's not going to be worth it just for the number of pixels, unless you want to sit really close to the screen and pick on every drop of detail.
But if you've got a bigger space, and are looking at 70-inch+ TVs (or even projectors, since there are 98-inch 8K TVs available), or simply if you want the best TV tech going, then an 8K TV is seriously worth considering.