But the 8K TV isn’t only the consequence of wanting to cram in more pixels or to add bigger numbers to specifications. That sort of thing is largely pointless anyway because at a certain point those numbers fail to matter: once you have enough pixels in a small enough screen, the eye can’t actually see anymore and so the extra ones aren’t visible anyway.
In fact, it is at least partly the result of a growing trend among consumers: buying much bigger televisions. As the screens expand, so must the number of pixels, if companies want to keep a consistently good look – and so the 8K TV starts at 65″, going all the way up to 85″. (That vast screen, big enough to fill the wall of a small living room, will set you back £15,000.)
And so expanding TVs has left companies like Samsung racing not only against the latest spec numbers and pixel counts, but to ensure that their displays are high quality enough to cater for the vast sizes that people are buying them in.
“We’re seeing a trend towards larger screen technologies,” says Stuart Mayo, Samsung’s director of TV and AV, speaking at the launch of the new displays. “People have moved from 32 inches to 55 inches as the average screen size now.”
Part of the reason that people are embracing bigger TVs is that while the screen has grown, the rest has gradually fallen away – the big bezels and backs that often came attached to the display itself have disappeared. That means that people can fit much more screen in the same amount of space and that the TVs themselves aren’t quite so ugly, meaning that the average display size has quickly shot up.
And so you are convinced, encouraged to drop £15,000 on a television roughly the size of a single bed. But then you start to worry that all of those huge numbers might mean nothing if you only end up watching broadcasts of the same 4K – or, most likely, 1080p at best – content that you have been viewing all along.
There’s no reason to be concerned, says Samsung: the TV is smart and beautiful enough to analyze that video and make sure it looks its glorious best on your vast new television. The arrayed computing power in the 8K TV allows it to upscale whatever content it is given and fill in the quality gaps to make it look right at home on the vast new displays.
“Yes, we have 8K coming out before we have a huge volume of 8K content,” says Mayo. “But you’ll be able to enjoy everything at the world’s best quality.
“It upscales any of the content you love watching today. So Netflix box sets, the rugby world cup, the Olympics – our TV allows you to upscale any of that content and it will be superior.”
Hidden behind all TVs is what is perhaps the really important part: a processor that is the engine room of the TV and delivers the picture experience that appears on the display itself. Making the 8K TV has largely been made possible by advances in that kind of technology that allows the whole set to be doing far more work, and more smartly: inside of the television is artificial intelligence that can analyse the huge images, take them apart, and then use its technology to work out how best to show them.
However beautiful and lush the TVs look when they’re doing their thing, there is one ugly fact that remains true no matter how smart they are: that they are an unfortunate obelisk of black when they’re turned off. That gets even more of a problem as the TVs get bigger and take up more space, swallowing up rooms with their big black void.
Samsung thinks it has a fix for that, too, with its ambient mode. As well as allowing the television to be helpful even when you’re not watching anything – by showing news headlines or other updates, for instance – it has something that Mayo refers to as its “chameleon feature”. Users take a picture of the wall behind the TV and the display then replicates that, allowing the television to effectively disappear. As TVs get bigger and more beautiful, Samsung is also working to make sure they can be a little more invisible, too.