(July 31, 2022) Day two of the Value Electronics 2022 TV Shootout featured three drop-dead gorgeous 8K televisions from Samsung, Sony, and LG. Sized at 85” (Samsung QN85QN900B QLED and Sony 85Z9K mini LED) and 88” (LG OLED88Z2PUA OLED), each of these cutting-edge 8K models took full advantage of their large panel surface areas, displaying images that nearly looked more real than reality itself.
Robert Zohn and his Shootout team were able to source reference-grade 8K demo material for judging purposes, which the TVs devoured and regurgitated with confidence. And, to add a dose of tech irony, some of that ultra-high test 8K content was delivered via USB input, which eliminated the ability of the event’s content operator (Jason Dustal, Murideo) to perform a simple old-school task like rewinding within a video clip.
The shootout began in a dark room setting for HDR Reference Mode evaluation, where black levels/shadow detail, peak lumens and high APL, color accuracy/skin tones, color accuracy/saturation, motion resolution, and UHD detail/sharpness were scrutinized by judges. Not surprisingly, the typical performance differentiators between OLED and LCD technologies were immediately evident (to my eyes, at least). LG’s OLED had superior color volume and accuracy, better blacks, better shadow detail, significantly better off-axis viewing, and lacked any hint of blooming or light bleed around bright objects over a dark background. The LCD TVs excelled in peak luminance and high APL, though the LG’s color during extremely bright content had a richness that was striking and noticeable.
During an extended intermission, a panel consisting of Sony’s Robert Brennan, LG’s Samuel Ahn, Robert Zohn (Value Electronics), Caleb Denison (Digital Trends), and calibration experts David Mackenzie (Fidelity in Motion) and Jason Dustal, convened to discuss 8K technology’s relevance and present-day importance. I need not mention that the topic of 8K can stoke passionate conversation in home theater forums and social media platforms, where many enthusiasts assert that 8K is a sales gimmick that’s unnecessary. So, I was curious to hear how the conversation would unfold.
In full disclosure, I left the halls of CES 2019 and wrote a blistering piece questioning the need for manufacturers to push an 8K narrative. Granted, that was nearly three and a half years ago, but at the time I felt that 4K’s market presence hadn’t been fully realized, with new gear getting phased out before it had properly matured. I feel less passionate about that stance these days, primarily because 4K has continued to be improved (as witnessed during yesterday’s event) but also because 4K hasn’t been kicked to the curb. The fact is, 4K does and will continue to have strong legs for quite some time.
One of the most obvious stumbling blocks to 8K’s real-world relevancy is content availability. But, the reality is some content is out there, you just need to look hard to find it. Robert Zohn stressed that quality 8K content exists on YouTube, adding that some consumer smartphones and prosumer cameras can capture native 8K video that looks stunning on current 8K TVs. And the panel also suggested that more 8K content is coming faster than one might think. Not only are the HDMI 2.1 and ATSC 3.0 standards designed to accommodate 8K, but major content entities (like Amazon Prime) are actively involved with the 8K Association.
Rob Brenan pointed out that 8K displays are also an excellent platform for displaying upconverted 4K content. The latest processors used in this year’s 8K TVs are incredibly powerful, allowing them to fill all of their extra pixels with detail that 4K TVs can’t display. That detail, Zohn added, results in radically improved gradients on various rounded shapes (such as the letter “S” or an oval), eliminating visually apparent “stair-stepping.”
The conversation also highlighted the existence of currently available 8K video game titles, with every member of the panel agreeing that 8K gaming content is here and an undeniable part of the format’s future. The panel eventually ended with Caleb Denison discussing the importance of pushing the display technology envelope, noting that enthusiasts have resisted change every time new resolution advancements have been released. He argued that 8K is an inevitability, concluding that one segment (in this case, manufacturers) had to move forward and lead the charge.
I asked each of the panelists to pick one aspect of TV performance, be it size, resolution, processing, color, etc., that they would like to see improved. Interestingly, peak luminance output was a top priority, which would ultimately allow for better color and contrast. And, with advancements in components like heat sinks, the industry might not be that far off from achieving more nits from current display technologies.
The second half of the shootout found judges evaluating SDR Day Mode and SDR Reference Mode performance parameters, ultimately leading to a final vote tally that found LG’s 88” flagship model winning the competition. Sony won the SDR Day Mode segment, and LG won the SDR and HDR Reference Mode segments. Overall scoring found LG receiving an 8.2 out of 10, Sony garnered a 7.8, and Samsung received a 7.5.
Much like the 4K TV Shootout, this year’s 8K event was extremely close across the board, setting the stage for an even more exciting and competitive TV Shootout in 2023.