CES 2019 will be marked as the true debut of 8K television.
In Las Vegas, four TV makers — LG, Samsung, Sony and TCL — announced they’d be shipping 8K big screen models to North American retailers this year, like it or not, ready or not. Other brands, including Changhong, Hisense, Sharp and Skyworth, fronted their LVCC booths with 8K prototypes, likely waiting to gauge sales by the top tier brands before announcing their own U.S. 8K product plans.
While there was boastful excitement amongst the 8K TV vendors in Las Vegas — several banded together at CES to form the 8K Alliance — excitement among retailers, the industry and consumers at large is questionable.
This lack of excitement is reflected by 8K sales forecasts. CTA projects than 200,000 8K TVs would be sold in the U.S. this year compared to projected sales of 22.2 million 4K sets, growing to a mere 1.5 million 8K units in 2022. But there are those who believe these and other similar 8K forecasts are optimistic. A couple of months ago, Samsung forecast North America 8K sales of just 100,000 units in 2019, and only 759,000 sets in 2022.
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“8K [is] just another distraction encouraging customers to second guess that aspirational 4K purchase,” opined Robert Cole, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based World Wide Stereo. “My guys on the floor learned quickly not to lead with the 8K story. The presentation was more about it being future-proof with the best technology available. As more 8K TVs are released, the story will evolve.”
“Considering there is no content for 8K at the moment and the technology hasn’t been standardized, making the leap isn’t for everyone,” agreed Jon Abt, co-president of Glenview, Ill.-based Abt Electronics, which has sold around a dozen of the first Samsung 8K model. “It’s certainly at a very early adopter stage at the moment, but the upscaling from 4K is promising for today’s buyers. There will be an influx of sets in 2019 at lower price points, which should open the market up.”
“We were one of two retailers in Texas to receive Samsung’s first 8K TV,” said Kris Dybdahl, VP of Bjorn’s Audio Video. “We have sold one or two already to our early adopters. It looks great with the internal 8K demo content, as well as the up-converted content that we play on it on a daily basis.
“However, in a perfect world I wish the manufacturers would have held off a little while longer before trotting out 8K,” Dybdahl continued. “By bringing 8K out so quickly after 4K, when most people still don’t have a 4K set yet, I think causes confusion in the customers mind — even the possibility of should I wait to see if there will be 16K?”
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Here’s a rundown of the 8K sets announced at CES and scheduled to go on sale this year:
LG: Five 8K models are coming from LG in the second half of 2019, with pricing likely coming in June: the OLED 88-inch Z9 OLED, and four LCD-based NanoCell models — SM80, SM85, SM90 and SM95. All five LG 8K sets will be imbued with the company’s ThinQ smart home platform and Google Assistant, DolbyVision HDR and LG’s next-gen Alpha 9 processor designed to enhance up-conversion.
Samsung: First to market with 8K last fall, Samsung has already started pre-sales on four new QLED 8K models, all equipped with HDR10+, adaptive brightness and sound technologies, as well as Apple AirPlay 2 and iTunes support: a 65-inch ($4,999), 75-inch ($6,999), 82-inch ($9,999) and 85-inch ($14,999). Samsung also displayed a 98-inch QLED model, but with no word on when or how much.
Sony: The company silently debuted 85- and 98-inch versions of its XBR Master Series Z9G 8K Android TV LCD models. While both sets are already listed on the company’s web site, there is no word on when or how much.
TCL: As its CES press event, TCL announced two models — a 75-inch Roku-enabled 8-Series set equipped with QLED and quantum contrast technologies and a Roku hardware reference design that TCL is the first to license, as well as the Q10 QLED Android TV. Only the Roku 8K model is scheduled to be sold in the U.S., however, but in what potential additional sizes, when and at what price TCL hasn’t said.