The prices of 4K televisions, or Ultra HD TVs, have dropped dramatically over the last few years. You've probably either bought one, or are thinking about buying one. Indeed, according to Strategy Analytics, it's expected that 48% of North American households will own a 4K TV by 2020.
But perhaps you've heard about all the 8K TVs on display at CES this year and thought that maybe you should just hold out for a set with this new technology. Sadly, our research says you'll be waiting a long time for a decent price.
Here's why you probably shouldn't skip 4K TVs in order to wait for 8K.
8K TVs Exist, But Only Kind Of
Measuring 7680x4320 pixels, 8K TVs have a total of 33,177,600 pixels — four times the amount of a 4K. But while companies have been showcasing 8K demos at CES since 2012, they haven't really brought them to market. Admittedly, Sharp is selling an 85" set in Japan for $133,000 and Changhong has a 98" set for the bargain price of $55,000, but these sets aren't being produced in large numbers.
With Japanese broadcaster NHK having announced its intention to broadcast the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics in 8K, Samsung and Panasonic have pledged to bring 8K sets to market in the country in time for the games. That is probably a more realistic timeframe for when we'll see the first mass-market 8K TVs.
8K Price Tags Will Be Massive Until at Least 2025
When the first sets arrive, they'll probably be closer to the $25,000 price tag we saw on Sony's original 4K TV from November 2012.
But don't expect to see any remotely reasonable prices until a year or so later. UHD TV prices didn't start decreasing until 2013, when Sony's set dropped by half. While that was still out of the price range of most shoppers, we did see our first deal that year on an off-brand 4K set — Seiki's 50" UHD TV at $1,300.
It wasn't until April 2014 that we spied our first name-brand 4K deal: a 65" Sony hit $3,498. During the Black Friday season that year, we saw a name-brand 50" 4K TV drop under $1,000 for the first time.
Using that timeline as a guide, any consumer-level 8K release that debuts in 2020 could take another two to three years to drop to somewhat palatable prices — and probably another two years or more to become as cheap as 4K is now, compared to 1080p. That means it could be another seven years from now until 8K pricing is no longer at a premium price.
Judging From the 4K Rollout, 8K Content Could Take Even Longer to Debut
Even if you're able to afford an 8K TV by 2020, you probably won't have anything to watch on it. The transition from standard TV to high-def took many years, and the transition from 1080p to 4K is taking just as long. If you do buy an 8K TV when the prices finally drop, history indicates that you might still be wanting for content that can actually take advantage of that higher resolution.
For example, 4K TVs right now are almost as cheap as 1080p, but you still can't get 4K content on broadcast or cable television, while DirecTV offers only one 4K channel via satellite. As far as streaming goes, you need to have an internet connection of at least 25mps, and even then it's slim pickings. Amazon and Netflix offer only a small selection of 4K content (most of it original programming). And while Vudu offers a slightly better selection of 4K movies, there's not as many as are available on Blu-ray — which is only about 100.
The one notable exception to the content rule is gaming: There's actually a ton of 4K content available for current-generation consoles. Both the PS4 Pro and the Xbox One X were designed with an eye towards gaming in 4K. So even if the long timeline for available sets and affordable prices hasn't deterred you from waiting for 8K, then perhaps the state of gaming should; while you wait for the next generation of TVs, you could miss out on a generation of great games.
Bottom Line: There's No Reason to Skip 4K Just to Wait for 8K
All this is to say that, Tokyo Olympics or no, by 2020 your 4K TV will actually be more relevant. The reason for this is it's far cheaper for manufacturers to produce 4K TVs than for a television network to overhaul its equipment and make shows in a higher resolution. As such, 8K isn't something you need to worry about anytime soon.
What do you think readers? Have you made the 4K plunge, are you eager for 8K, or are you going to stick with 1080p for awhile? Let us know in the comments.