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There’s a good chance you don’t yet have a 4K monitor, but 8K displays are already in the works. YouTube is already supporting the format even though you could probably count the number of people streaming content at that high a resolution on one hand.
Yet one thing is clear even if you don’t have a fancy new monitor — 8K is coming. But what does that mean?
What Is 8K Video?
8K video is a screen resolution of 7680 x 4320, which you can round up to a screen width of 8,000 pixels. This adds up to 33 million pixels. For comparision, 4K video — at least as far as Ultra HD TVs are concerned — is 3840 x 2160 (or 8.3 million pixels). 8K may only be twice as wide as 4K, but it has four times the number of pixels.
If you’re like me and are still interacting with the web in 1080p, then 8K has sixteen times more pixels than you’re used to. An image designed for 8K will be four times wider than one sized at 1920 x 1080.
The HDMI Forum’s Technical Working Group, which manages HDMI, already has 8K in mind. The industry body announced earlier this year that version 2.1 would support 8K video.
HDMI 2.1 will be able to transmit 7680 x 4320 content at a 60 Hz refresh rate. 4K content is going up to 120 Hz. The specification will also support a bandwidth up to 48 Gbps. For comparison, 2.0 can handle up to 18 Gbps.
Technically, HDMI 2.1 will be able to handle all the way up to 10K, though it’s not yet clear what that even means.
The specification is making its way out to the people who make HDMI devices, though it may be years before we start to feel the impact. Once the time comes to start replacing our hardware, both input and output have to be on version 2.1 for the benefits to take place. This means your TV or monitor and your media box or console all need to support HDMI 2.1.
The demand isn’t actually high for devices that can better manage 8K content, but it’s not non-existant either. There are a few 8K products available online, even if they aren’t exactly lining store shelves.
8K Gadgets You Can Buy Today
That’s right. Many of us are only just thinking about making the leap to 4K, and there are already 8K products out there. But before you get too excited (or upset), none of these items are aimed at consumers. You need a fair degree of cash to experience 8K in 2017.
1. Dell UltraSharp 32 8K Monitor UP3218K
Want a monitor that’s bigger and packs more pixels than you probably need? Dell has just the thing. The UP3218K showed up at this year’s CES, and now it’s available for sale at the low price of $4,999.99. In addition to a resolution of 7680 x 4320, the monitor supports 100 percent AdobeRGB and 100 percent sRGB.
As for the downside (aside from the price), operating systems aren’t yet built with that kind of scaling in mind. Try to find the Windows 10 taskbar in the video below.
2. RED Weapon Dragon 6K Camera
Think that monitor is pricey? The RED Weapon Dragon 6K camera costs a staggering $50. To record 8K video, you need a sensor upgrade that will set you back another $10,000.
Clearly this camera is intended for professionals. Even then, this probably isn’t one you will want to strap to the bottom of a drone.
3. Sharp 85-Inch TV
In case your bank account isn’t empty yet, you can order a 85-inch 8K TV from Sharp. This model has actually been around since 2015, and it’s aimed at business clients. In that context, the $133,000 asking price is a little less obscene.
While Sharp’s TV was the first to market, it wasn’t alone. Samsung showed off a larger, 98-inch 8K TV at CES three years ago.
Is 8K Usable?
That depends on what you want to do. The mere act of pushing that many pixels is taxing. It’s not enough to have a next-generation monitor. You also need a very beefy machine. At this year’s CES, Dell showed off the UP3218K monitor using an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Normally this graphics card can chew up the latest games and spit them out, but it gags at this resolution.
Don’t get a monitor expecting to binge on 8K content either. YouTube supports that resolution, but that doesn’t mean your favorite channels do. We’re still waiting on content providers to transfer over to 4K. Part of that wait depends on people getting internet plans that can handle that much bandwidth.
Even if your cable connection can stream 4K with no problem, that doesn’t matter much if you do most of your watching on a smartphone. There, at least here in the US, things are moving in the opposite direction. Carriers are introducing plans that throttle video content down to 480p in order to reduce the strain on their networks.
So if gaming is a no-go, and there’s nothing to watch, why invest in an 8K monitor? Doing so helps you get a jumpstart on producing 8K content. It can also have benefits in fields that require great visual precision. But really, the use-cases are so niche that the vast majority of professionals have no reason to consider making such a purchase anytime soon.
Seriously, that 4K monitor you just bought is fine.
8K’s Grand Arrival Is Still Far Off
YouTube added support for 4K in 2010, but we’re only now beginning to see the standard go mainstream. We’re similarly far off from 8K being widely advertised in big box stores. Whether you can’t have enough pixels or you’re stick of replacing perfectly good monitors, you still have quite a ways to go before 8K has any noticeable impact on your life.
Are you excited for 8K? If so, tell us why! And if you think there isn’t a point to cram even more pixels onto your monitor, share your opinion too!
Image Credit: REDPIXEL.PL and blambca via Shutterstock.com