Let the 8K war begin!

South Korean TV manufacturing rivals Samsung and LG are using the IFA electronics show in Berlin, Germany this week and presumably CEDIA Expo 2018 next week in San Diego to kick off the next chapter in the high-resolution video wars by unveiling 8K displays from their respective QLED and OLED technology camps, respectively.

Although both companies have previously showed prototypes and mentioned plans to roll out 8K this year, LG initiated the latest chatter by issuing a press statement early Wednesday saying it will begin production of an 88-inch 8K OLED television for the consumer market this year.

“LG’s first 8K OLED TV is the pinnacle of technological achievement and the next evolutionary step in display technology,” Brian Kwon, president of LG’s home entertainment business, said through the company’s press statement. “4K OLED played a major role in reshaping the TV industry, and LG is confident that 8K OLED will do the same.”

The formal press statement was a little sketchy on details like when it would arrive, what design style it will have or how much it will cost.

Samsung quickly followed that by releasing a global statement later that evening saying it will introduce an 85-inch 8K QLED LED-LCD TV, called the 85Q900FN, using quantum dots with a slightly denser alignment of full-array LED local dimming zones than its current top-of-the-line 4K Q9FN series models. The set is also expected to be the first commercially available product for the home market capable of up to 4,000 nits of peak brightness – a benchmark advocated by Dolby and others for high dynamic range (HDR). That level is currently well beyond the range for OLED sets, which are self-emissive displays made of organic (carbon-based) compounds that can age faster and leave image retention when static images are too bright/hot and left on screen for sustained periods of time.

Earlier this summer, Samsung sponsored an Insight Media Advanced Display seminar in Los Angeles where experts from both the hardware and content industries testified that 8K is indeed on the way and will offer legitimate big-screen picture quality benefits over 4K Ultra HD televisions.

In addition to having four times greater pixel resolution (7680×4320 pixels) than 4K displays, the new resolution screens will be able to pack those extra pixels with more visible color and brightness attributes, compared to today’s 3840x2160p systems. This should deliver images with greater dimensionality, textures, wider shades of color and sharper gray scale detail for things like text and digital image enlargements when viewed up close.

Importantly, it will also enable sharp and vibrant images on screen sizes 65-inches and larger, something both companies clearly had in mind by releasing premiere models exceeding 80 inches.

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In fact, Samsung, which plans to make the Q900 series screen sizes available in a wider assortment of smaller SKUs outside of the United States, will only sell the 85-inch version here, citing American consumers’ preferences for the largest screen sizes available. Pricing will be disclosed on the model closer to launch, company executives told members of the U.S. tech press in a conference call Wednesday.

Samsung said the 85Q900 8K TV will be available in October through authorized Samsung QLED TV dealers around the country. The set will not launch with the new HDMI 2.1 digital interface, since that standard has not been released yet.

Among the capabilities built into the HDMI 2.1 specification is 8K video with frame rates up to 60 Hz and 4K frame rates up to 120 Hz. It will also fully support the latest high dynamic range profiles with dynamic metadata without needing workarounds. However, company executives hinted that future announcements regarding HDMI 2.1 capability might be made following the specification’s formal release and successful completion of product testing, presumably meaning the set might include the necessary hardware to enable a firmware update, but that was not formally promised at this time.

Not known at this time, is whether Hollywood will require a new more advanced encryption system than HDCP 2.2 to protect 8K video from illicit copying and distribution.

For this reason and others, it might take some time before native 8K video is readily available in the United States and some other parts of the world, although Japan’s NHK broadcasting concern already has plans to produce and distribute in its native country 8K coverage of the 2020 Summer Olympics from Japan.

Cognizant that native 8K will be sparse and needing to present the sharpest images possible on a large-format screen from existing material, Samsung said it is using its advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) server technology tied to the set’s imaging processing system and powered a new “8K Quantum Processor.” There will draw upon hundreds of thousands of samples to better upscale and enhance lower-resolution using advanced algorithms to produce natural-looking levels of sharpness and detail with minimal artifacts or color inaccuracies.

This, combined with 4,000 nits of peak brightness, will also help the set’s “high dynamic range capabilities,” Scott Cohen, Samsung’s national training manager, said in a conference call with the press.

He said the AI upscaling will draw upon a massive database of samples from a wide range of resolution levels to produce algorithms that match up to 33 million pixels on screen with the most lifelike image possible.

“When we get into screen sizes of 80-inches and above, we feel that 8K is really the proper resolution,” said Cohen. “Why 8K? It’s all about the picture. Customers continue to list picture quality as the No. 1 factor in their buying decision.”

Cohen emphasized that as customers move up in screen size preference, 8K becomes necessary. He cited figures showing 40% of Samsung U.S. TV purchases in 2017 were of screen sizes 40-inches and larger, and for 2018 50% of Samsung’s television sales are forecast to be in screen sizes of 65-inches and larger.

The Samsung 85Q900FN 8K QLED TV will also include a number of features found in Samsung’s top-of-the-line 4K Q9FN series televisions, including: the ability to recognize and analyze a number of connected entertainment devices with the One Remote, then automatically switch the TV’s image source and audio output for an optimized viewing experience.

Lifestyle features, such as Ambient Mode, have been enhanced to blend the TV in the surrounding space and by showcasing beautiful images, weather, news and more on the screen.

Also included is the One Invisible Connection, which uses a five or optional 15-meter optical cable to connect the screen almost invisibly to the outboard One Connect box that houses the display’s circuitry and inputs. Also included are Smart enhancements, such as SmartThings, to further simplify the connected living experience, while using the TV’s Universal Guide, that is equipped to make personalized recommendations to easily find live and OTT content on TV.

LG, too, is bullish on the prospects for 8K. It’s statement on the 88-inch 8K OLED set issued a forecast for the global 8K TV market growing from around 60,000 units this year to over 5 million units per year by 2022. It also estimates that the OLED TV market will grow from 2.5 million units this year to over 9 million units a year in 2022.

Not coincidentally, both companies are also expected to show at IFA large-format displays based on new MicroLED self-emissive panel technology, with Samsung having already announced plans for the consumer commercial release of a 146-inch modular concept screen with 4K resolution for the custom installation market.

LG is expected to one up that with a MicroLED display intended for the commercial market having a screen size exceeding 150-inches and a thinner form factor than Samsung’s prototype set showed at CES 2018 last January. That set was made from tile-like modular panels knitted together to form one full-resolution 4K screen.

Like OLED displays, MicroLED is a self-emissive technology that will enable precise pixel-level control of brightness to achieve virtually pure black levels. But unlike OLED, because it is comprised of inorganic materials, it should be able to achieve far greater brightness levels, like the 4,000 nits (and higher) promised in Samsung’s newly announced 8K 85Q900 QLED set.


By Greg Tarr


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