Analysis

Special Report: All Eyes on 4K

Beyond 4K: To 5K And Beyond

While 4K is the beginning of a push into the land of ultra-high resolution, it is far from the end of the journey.

Recently, Apple released its refreshed iMac with a 5K display. Dell also has a 5K screen on the market this quarter as of September. Earlier this year, China’s Beijing Oriental Electronics unveiled its mammoth 98-inch 8K television set. Though many might think that a TV with such a grand resolution would be without a use case, the fact is Japan’s national broadcaster, NHK, has been filming sport matches in 8K for nearly a half-decade and broadcast this year’s World Cup in the format. NHK plans to begin formal testing of 8K broadcasts in 2016, with an aim to launch them commercially in 2020.

While all these plans for beyond 4K sound grand, the fact is the price tag for television sets that are at these resolutions are too high to make them commercially viable. LG’s 5K television set, which it launched at CES and shipped this summer, has a price tag of $117,000 — far from affordable. 5K is clearly not yet at the maturity point where it can get the Xiaomi treatment and become priced at something mainstream consumers can afford.

In order for companies like Xiaomi to make the effort to get to this price point, there has to be a compelling commercial case. It must be more than just one broadcaster offering sports broadcasts in a beyond-4K resolution. There must be an entire ecosystem and delivery network available for consumers. 4K is only getting to this point, thus anything beyond that is eons away. Screens with a resolution above 4K have their use cases for professional film and photo editors, but are not yet viable for the consumer market.

Resolutions beyond 4K hold exciting potential as content producers will be able to reproduce imagery that pushes the limits of what the eye can physically detect. The move to 4K and beyond means television and display manufacturers will adopt the International Telecommunications Union’s 2020 recommendations (also known as the ITU-R BT.2020) which outline a set of uniform standards for 4K and 8K. Part of these set of standards are new, higher requirements for color conversion and bit depth which will result in more accurate color reproduction — another way to improve image quality outside of resolution.

Though 4K and beyond offer monumental increases in picture quality with increased resolution and color depth before the push beyond 4K occurs prices have to come down so mainstream consumers can afford to purchase a capable screen, and an ecosystem of content has to be available in order for anyone to justify such a purchase. Otherwise adoption will simply be limited to enthusiasts and professionals.