Are 8K TVs Worth It in 2024?

Are 8K TVs Worth It in 2024?

Buying a television is an overwhelming experience: the sheer number of models combined with the various ways companies describe similar technologies (OLED versus QLED, microLED versus miniLED) is enough to make your head spin. One of the most important decisions you’ll likely make regarding a television is the image quality. Right now, that means choosing between 4K and 8K. So, is it worth it to get an 8K television in 2024? For some people, yes—but it’s not for everyone just yet.

When you can get it, 8K content is truly stunning

When I first set up an 8K TV in my home (a 65-inch model loaned to me by Samsung for a review coming later this week), I spent a solid week acting like a 5-year-old at Disneyland; I was absolutely awestruck by the detail and dimension of that many pixels shoved into such a small space. (It’s about 33 million pixels, by the way, compared to the roughly 8.3 million pixels on 4K TVs.)

Once the initial excitement wore off, I was desperate to see whether there was any real difference between 4K and 8K content. To test, I flipped between different resolutions of the same YouTube videos. The library of 8K content on YouTube is limited, but a decent curated collection of cityscapes, wildlife, and fireplaces at 8K resolution are available. When I started watching footage of a fireplace in 8K, I was shocked by how three-dimensional it looked. I could see that the higher resolution had an extra richness and depth to the colours when compared to 4K.

There’s no doubt that 8K content looks amazing, but there’s just not a ton of it yet.

8K content is trickling out

For a while, most of the content you watch will max out at 4K. There are some early signs that more 8K content will be increasingly common soon, though.

Samsung and Warner Brothers Discovery recently announced that it will pair with movie studios to make 8K movie trailers, which makes sense given their investment in 8K TVs. Japan has a dedicated 8K sports channel. TCL TVs have a dedicated high definition channel with 4K and 8K videos called The Explorers, and RED has an entire site dedicated to finding movies shot at this high resolution. Even smartphones are starting to support 8K video recording, Samsung perhaps most notably. The point is, although slow, there’s investment in the creation of this content. But we’re still in the early days.

8K TVs make older stuff look surprisingly good

The good news is that 8K TVs don’t need 8K content to shine, thanks to upscaling, which works surprisingly well.

When you watch content with a lower resolution than your TV (say a 720p, 1080p, or 4K movie on an 8K TV), your TV needs to blow up the image to actually fill the screen. If it displayed the video in its native resolution, you’d see a tiny version of the video surrounding by black, since your TV has so many more pixels than the video. To do this, your TV “adds” additional pixels based on the video, inferring what data the new pixels should use to fill the screen—thus, “upscaling.”

8K televisions, in particular, are armed with processors that use machine learning to determine how to backfill those pixels for smooth results that defy pixelation. The AI models were trained to understand how TV shows should look and can apply that logic to older properties. In my experience, it works pretty well.

Recently, I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve been using the 8K TV to binge-watch the ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss—and it looks fantastic. It looks like it was filmed at a far higher resolution on far more modern equipment than what was used at the time. The same processor has made TV shows and movies from the ’90s, the aughts, and more recent years all look completely watchable, despite never being filmed in 8K to begin with.

Obviously, the fewer pixels that have to be compensated for, the better it will look in the end. Don’t expect native 720p and 1080p content to look like it was shot in 4K or 8K. But what was so surprising to me was how completely normal they looked on the 8K TV, with a lot more detail than was probably there in the source video. Of course, not all 8K televisions are created equal, either. They’ll each have different brightness, contrast ratios, and algorithms to handle the upscaling. But since 8K TVs represent the higher end of at-home TV technology, you’re usually getting the latest and best versions of the upscaling technologies, too.

8K TVs aren’t that new anymore

You may have heard that you shouldn’t buy the newest or most expensive model of anything, and that you should instead opt for a slightly older model that’s been well tested and has a lower price tag.

While there’s some truth to that, the good news is there are more 8K TVs every year, and prices are already coming down. Plus, they’re not dramatically more expensive than high-end 4K TVs. Samsung’s 65-inch 8K television is currently $2,599, versus the 4K model at $1,599. It’s also worth noting that some 4K TVs are actually more expensive than the 8K models. Televisions are like major appliances, in my opinion: You should plan to hang onto them for several years. (Research shows the average is 6.6 years.) So, by purchasing a 4K TV, you’re essentially making a bet that 4K will still be the standard a few years from now.

Of course, you might simply not value an ultra-high resolution in the same way that I do, and that’s okay, too. A ton of factors go into making a big purchase like this, but my point is that it would be a mistake to paint with a broad brush and assume that all 8K TVs are going to be prohibitively expensive.

Bottom line: 8K is a perk, but there’s no rush to grab one

In my experience, watching 8K content is absolutely mesmerizing, but there’s just not enough of it to make me tell you to rush out and grab one ASAP. If you’re not desperate to upgrade, you’re safe to wait until the end of 2024 to see how it all plays out. In the meanwhile, a high-end 4K TV is going to give you all the smart functionality, brightness, contrast, and brilliant native 4K resolution for the content that’s available now.


The Cheapest NBN 50 Plans

Here are the cheapest plans available for Australia’s most popular NBN speed tier.

At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.

Comments


Leave a Reply