Sharp will begin limited sales of 8K televisions next month—an important step towards planned trial broadcasts of the format in Japan next year.
8K, also called Super Hi-Vision, packs a resolution of 7,680 pixels by 4,320 pixels — equivalent to 16 times that of today’s high-definition TVs, and the picture has to be seen to be believed. It’s better than most movie theaters and four times the resolution of 4K, which is only just starting to come onto the market in high-end TVs.
The new TVs will be offered first to broadcasters and video production companies and go on sale on Oct. 30. Sharp didn’t announce a price, but the Nikkei newspaper says the 85-inch monitor will cost around ¥15 million ($125,000).
Still, the company has already received orders for dozens of the TVs from Japanese public broadcaster NHK, according to the Nikkei. NHK plans to begin test broadcasts in 8K next year with regular service in time for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
NHK has been the main force in the development of 8K. Work on the format can be traced back to as early as 1995—several years after regular HD broadcasting began in Japan but long before most homes had HD TV sets.
Collaborating with equipment makers and IT companies, the broadcaster has been making steady progress on the system year after year.
To realize 8K, every element of the production chain has had to be developed, from the cameras that shoot images to studio equipment that has to deal with the massive bandwidth required by uncompressed 8K video to transmission systems and, finally, TV sets.
Sharp will produce the sets at its state-of-the-art factory in Kameyama, Japan. That should help the company start realizing savings through scale of production. The first consumer 8K televisions are expected sometime in 2018.
Sharp plans to show the TV set at the Ceatec expo in Japan in early October. In addition to Sharp, both Samsung and LG showed off prototype 8K displays at this year’s CES in Las Vegas in January.
Martyn Williams produces technology news and product reviews in text and video for PC World, Macworld, and TechHive from his home outside Washington D.C.. He previously worked for IDG News Service as a correspondent in San Francisco and Tokyo and has reported on technology news from across Asia and Europe.