8K is on the way - and China will get it first.

The next jump in TV resolution is now expected to go properly mainstream within two years, with the first sets to go on sale this year.

We have seen 8K panels on display at CES both last year and this January, when Samsung, LG and Sony were all showing 7680 × 4320 (8K) TV panels. But until now it hasn’t been clear when they’ll appear in shops for people to buy.

At CES 2018, LG had an 88-inch OLED concept on show, Sony’s concept 8Ker was notable in achieving an astonishing 10,000 nits brightness. Samsung indicated at CES that it would put its 85-inch 8K Q9S model on the market during the second half of 2018, but there was no timing or pricing shared in this week’s full release of details for 2018 models.

Samsung’s promise to release the 85-inch Q9S begs the obvious question of “what can we watch?”. There is next-to-no 8K content available, demos excepted, nor much prospect of any before next year at the earliest. No matter, says Samsung, claiming its' Machine Learning Super Resolution' (MLSR) ensures that “AI technology has all but eliminated this obstacle by enabling the television to transform all pictures into 8K”. Even SD, it says. Brave talk, but here’s a graphic from Samsung which makes it crystal clear how this will be achieved.  

Samsung 8K graphic

Now research gurus IHS Markit have weighed in with a report confirming the imminence of 8K. IHS follows manufacturing information rather than sales trends, so its reports can be significantly ahead of the ball, and its Display Long-term Demand Forecast Tracker is essential reading for those attempting to untangle the TV market.

IHS notes that UHD panels have been estimated to account for more than 98% of 60-inch and larger display sales in 2017, and expects the 8K (7680 x 4320 pixel) resolution displays to make up about 1% of 60-inch and larger display market in 2018, rising to 9% by 2020, and 19% by 2024. It claims that most TV panel suppliers are planning to mass produce 8K displays in 2018.

2018 IHS Markit
60+-inch forecast by resolution: IHS Markit

“As UHD has rapidly replaced full HD in the super large-sized TV display market, panel makers are willing to supply differentiated products with higher resolution and improve profit margin with premium products,” says Ricky Park, director at IHS Markit. “Year 2018 will become the first year of the 8K resolution TV display.”

Sharp TV and Chinese brands will get the very first panels (China led UHD panel consumption, partly because it hugely improved the legibility of Chinese characters on screen), developed by Innolux , which produced its first ever 8K LCD TV display (60Hz, 65-inch) in the fourth quarter of 2017. Sharp began mass production of its first 8K LCD TV (70-inch) in the last quarter of 2017 to support the Sharp TV brand in China.

IHD Markit expects Samsung and Sony to drive the global market initially, and between them at to consume almost all 120Hz 8K panels from Innolux, AUO and Samsung Display, with sizes varying from 65 to 75 and 85 inches.

It indicates that BOE and CEC-Panda are now planning 8K development in the second half of 2018, while LG Display will likely focus on developing OLED 8K, developing the prototype shown at CES 2018.

In terms of panel technology, IHS states that “Based on current plans, panel makers in the early stages of development will mostly develop 60Hz 8K displays based on a-Si technology, and those in the next stages are also likely to develop 120Hz 8K displays based on oxide technology. The latter has advantages, such as better aperture ratio and lower power consumption.”

One last bonus – since most companies have given up differentiating between the terms ‘4K’ and ‘UHD’, we’ll most likely be spared another neologism to describe whatever may be considered higher than Ultra High. C’mon everybody, let’s just call it ‘8K’...

More info: IHS Markit