The Editor’s Choice This Time – Recent 8K Developments – Part 2
In the first part of our review of recent developments in the 8K Ecosystem, we looked at developments in cameras, editing and the encoding of 8K. In part two, we’ll look at interfaces, gaming and the display end of the journey from lens to screen.
Interfaces & Cables
It can be very confusing to watch the development of new interfaces. Interface specifications are finalized and announced, but then it often takes a couple of years for products to appear that support the interfaces and, of course, you need source devices (like disk players, STBs, consoles and PCs) and sink devices (TVs, monitors, projectors) at the other side of the interface. You may also want or need some control in between, such as a receiver. Chip makers have to develop the circuits, then product makers have to integrate those circuits into other chips and finished systems and all of that takes a lot of time.
DisplayPort V2.0 was released in June 2019 and supported 8K in single (uncompressed) and multiple (compressed) modes. However, the first V2.0 devices did not arrive until May 2022 – after an even longer wait than usual because of delays caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. DisplayPort 2.1, which was a relatively minor change to V2.0 to improve the compatibility with USB, was released in October last year and the recently released Samsung 57″ ‘8K’ (well ‘dual UltraHD’ would be a more accurate description) gaming monitor is the first display product to support it. Version 2.1 replaced Version 2.0 and VESA stopped certifying V2.0 products – and confirmed that V2.0 products already released would be compliant with 2.1.
Back in November, AMD announced support for DisplayPort 2.1 in its new RX7900 GPUs, bringing the possibility of 8K at up to 165Hz and in the announcement, it said that it expected to see monitors from Dell, Acer and LG as well as the Samsung unit. At the time of publishing, Nvidia had still not confirmed when its graphics cards will support the DisplayPort 2.1 interface and even its flagship RTX4090 GPU is limited to DP1.4a (although it can support 8K via that interface at up to 60fps).
HDMI support for 8K is well established and in February of this year Apple added support for 8K displays to its Mac Mini and Mini Pro models as well as the MacBook Pro over the HDMI output. . That’s really helpful as the video processing hardware in Apple’s M series chips really makes its machines a good platform for 8K editing and production. There are also a wide range of receivers that now support HDMI 2.1 to allow the distribution and control of 8K signals. In June last year, HDMI added amendment 2.1a which allows HDMI interfaces to provide more power to support active interfaces for longer distance transmission of 8K signals.
The 8K Association now has a long list of 8K certified cables and on our Discover8K website we summarized the certifications for the different standards of 8K cable.
Gaming in 8K
Over recent months, we have seen more and more interest in 8K gaming with modders working on improved textures to take advantage of the latest and greatest 8K TVs. The relentless progress in chip performance and declining memory costs make it more and more feasible to support 8K and the release of specifications such as DisplayPort 2.1 show a path to the higher frame rates that gamers like. Of course, with some ‘twitch’ games, higher frame rates are more of an advantage than the stunning visuals from 8K play, but in other genres, the extra quality of 8K makes a real difference to the immersion of play.
Samsung, in particular, has worked hard to develop improved technology for upscaling games to 8K and in a lot of cases, it can be hard to tell the difference between upscaled 4K and native 8K content. Keeping the interface between the host system and the TV does mean that higher refresh rates can be supported using, for example, the Variable Refresh Rates in HDMI 2.1. Our conclusion after looking at this topic was that an 8K TV is quite likely to be the optimum 4K 120Hz TV if VRR is supported.
At Gamescon in August 2023, Samsung announced that its cloud-based Gaming Hub for 8K TVs would become available on TVs that were sold from 2020 onwards. As with the development of optimised upscaling, Samsung has developed special technology in its TVs that minimizes latency when they are used for cloud gaming, while maintaining the optimum image quality.
Recently, there have been widespread reports of rumours that Sony may be preparing a new version of the PlayStation 5 that can support 8K but at the time of writing, that was still just a rumour.
Support for Higher Frame Rates
An interesting aspect of the new Samsung Neo G9 57″ ‘8K’ monitor is that it can support 240Hz operation in the 7680 x 2160 mode. That means that the same interfacing and internal control systems should be able to support ‘true’ 8K at 120Hz using the same technology. That would be great for the development of 8K gaming TVs.
We recently reported on work by the part of AMD that used to be Xilinx, that is supporting up to 8K content that is being delivered in the Cloud to support low latency multi-user cloud applications including gaming.
Despite the development of ‘Over-The-Top’ streaming services, there are still TV services globally that rely on set-top boxes to distribute protected content to TVs and development is continuing to support 8K with Xiaomi and ZTE now providing STBs with 8K support. There are also embedded computing systems for industrial and digital signage use that can support 8K output. In digital signage, this kind of 8K player can support multiple 4K displays in video wall applications. In the summer of 2022, market leader Brightsign announced that it had added 8K media players to its range for signage and retail applications. (Brightsign 8K media players are behind some of the retail 8K demonstrations that you might see in TV stores).
At SID in 2022, LCD panel makers told us that there was no real problem in making 120Hz 8K LCDs, and there were prototypes on display, as there were this year from TCL/CSOT. OLED is more of a challenge to reach the higher resolutions, but that is a long term challenge for OLED TV makers. As we have written, 8K is much harder to make with OLED technologies. Similar challenges in driving the pixels will mean that 8K microLED TVs will continue to be very hard to make in the future. Having said that, at Display Week, TCL CSOT showed a 65″ 8K folding OLED TV that was made using inkjet printing of the OLED materials. LG Display also won an award for an 8K OLED panel that uses the latest MLA technology to boost brightness.
At the time of writing, LCD panels remain in oversupply, so there is no problem for TV brands to buy 8K TV panels. However, there is still a cost barrier caused by the extra cost of control circuitry. 8K LCDs also tend to have a lower aperture ratio, meaning that more powerful backlights are needed, which adds more cost. However, panel makers and interface developers have been working hard to push the costs of the electronics down and improve the efficiency of the LCDs. Improving miniLED backlight efficiency will also help with cost reduction.
Demonstrating that 8K is by no means the ‘end of the road’ for resolution, at Display Week in May 2023, BOE showed a 110″ panel with 16K resolution – that is four times the number of pixels as 8K and 64 times the number in 1080p ‘FullHD’! Although the set was just a prototype, it was getting some interest as the pixels were small enough that you could be very very close to the screen without seeing the individual pixels. There are specialist applications where this would be very valuable.
8K Projectors Coming Too
Of course, the larger the image size, the more you need 8K and at CES 2023, Samsung announced a new 8K DLP projector to add to the JVC/Kenwood model and the professional 8K projector from Digital Projection. Like 8K OLEDs, it’s hard to make an 8K projector, but the result can be stunning. Although the cinema industry has not yet adopted 8K for use in its encrypted workflow, Amazon opened its 8K LED-based facility in Culver City, California and that has a stunning 8K LED display showing the potential in very large screens. Our editor made the most of his Display Week trip to LA to see the stunning display for himself and we still hope to bring you an article about the visit.