8K TVs are coming, but don\’t buy the hype

ROME — If the 8,294,400 pixels of resolution on an Ultra High Definition television just don’t seem to convey enough detail, fear not: The electronics industry has heard your cry.

Even as UHD TVs, often called 4K TVs for their nearly 4,000 pixels of horizontal resolution, approach half of display shipments in the U.S., set manufacturers have been stepping up their demos of 8K sets that, with their 7680-by-4320 resolution, pack in a full 33,177,600 pixels.

And Sharp is now expanding its distribution of one such set, the 70-inch LV-70X500E. Following its October debut in China and subsequent arrivals in Japan and Taiwan, this 8K display will go on sale across Europe at the end of April for €11,199 — about $13,800 at current exchange rates. Sharp hasn’t announced anything about U.S. availability, but during a conversation at CES in January, Sharp marketing vice-president Rey Roque said an American price for this set would be in the “low five figures.”

That, apparently, is supposed to be a reasonable price for a set that supports a video format that offers next to nothing to watch, that can’t be streamed on most broadband connections or fit onto Blu-ray discs and which can’t even be properly appreciated unless you get a set too big to fit in many living rooms.

An upsell based on upscaling

Sharp laid out its pitch for 8K TV last week at the IFA Global Press Conference, a spring event hosted by the organizers of the IFA electronics trade show that runs in Berlin each summer. One thing it doesn’t include: Having lots of video to watch in 8K.

Sascha Lange, Sharp’s European vice president for marketing and sales, instead emphasized how this and other 8K sets could electronically upscale 4K content (although even that remains scarce, especially for live programming like sports) and could show still images at their full resolution.

Actual 8K video will be a small part of the picture at first. The Japanese broadcaster NHK has been testing 8K transmission over the air as well as via cable and satellite, but it stands alone in that respect.

Blu-ray discs now support 4K video, but they won’t be able to accommodate 8K, predicted Mark Vena, senior analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy. For that, you’d need “really high-density drives,” he said.

Streaming allowed 4K video to find an audience without the cooperation of cable and satellite firms. But while, for instance, YouTube has offered 8K video since 2015, video at that resolution demands far faster download speeds than 4K streaming.

The highlights reel playing on a demo unit of Sharp’s 8K set required 300 megabits per second of bandwidth to stream, said Adrian Wysocki, group product manager at UMC, the Sharp-owned firm that builds TVs in Poland for the company. He suggested in a conversation Friday that more efficient formats could cut that to 100 Mbps.

Only 23.2% of U.S. fixed-broadband connections hit that speed at the end of 2016</span></a><span style=&quot;font-weight:400;&quot;>, according to to the F

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