LG recently announced the arrival of its first OLED 8K television in Australia.
As we learned from the likes of Samsung and Sony this year, 8K tellies are pricey. But even we weren't prepared for LG's 'hold my beer' price tag.
If your Game of Thrones experience was the same as mine this week, you would have been treated to unwatchable 720p blotches of black, grey and brown, stretched across a cinema-sized screen. It wasn't cute. So when I was offered the chance to try out Samsung's brand new 8K TV, I knew what I was morally obliged to shove in my eyeballs. What do we say to the God of bad picture quality? Not today.
The 88Z9 is the world's first 8K OLED TV. Being 8K, it has a 7,680 x 4,320 resolution and 33 million pixels, which is sixteen-times those found in Full HD and four-times more than 4K.
Of course, there still isn't any 8K content out in the wild besides test videos, so like other 8K manufacturers, LG is pushing the upscaling narrative. This means that lower quality content such as 4K, HD and even 720p should still look good on an 8K television.
This is largely due to the processor. In the case of the 88Z9, it has an Alpha 9 Gen 2 Intelligent Processor which LG says has a six-step upscaling process to help sharpen the image and reduce noise. AI has also been applied to the source material as when as the room you're watching in to optimise your viewing experience. LG confirmed its upscaling will work on SD, Full HD and 4K content.
Similar to other LG OLEDs, the 88Z9 uses a combination of Dolby Vision, HDR10 PRO and Advanced HDR by Technicolor in conjunction with the on-board processor. Together, they tweak the image tone mapping of the content to make the resulting picture more lifelike. It also works to optimise the sound settings in order to make the viewing experience more immersive.
This all sounds excellent. And from what we briefly saw of LG 8K's on the show floor of CES earlier this year, they're beautiful TVs. But so are the 8Ks that competitors are selling locally. So why is it $60,000, or roughly triple the price of its closest competitors in Australia?
Comparatively, Samsung's 82-inch QLED offering has an RRP of $17,499 and Sony's 85-inch Z9G is $21,995. Sony's original RRP for the Z9G was $26,399 at the end of August. One month later, it's already dropped by $5000. This is certainly telling on the adoption rate of 8K TVs and how the high prices probably aren't panning out.
It also explains why Samsung doesn't advertise the price or sell its 98-inch 8K on its website (it also isn't stocked by many retailers) as it is an eye-bulging $99,999.
Sony just announced its first ever consumer 8K TV, and it's truly a thing of beauty. Unfortunately for us peasants, it also comes with an eye-bulging price tag. Being professionals, we were morally obliged to show off its capabilities with something else that bulges.
Both of the above televisions fantastic sound, stunning picture quality, are voice-assistant enabled, have easy-to-use Android TV UI and handle upscaling impeccably.
We haven't tried the 88Z9 yet but will hazard a guess that it will also handle the above well enough to please any customer fortunate enough to have one.
The most glaring difference is its OLED panel, which are expensive and difficult to manufacture. In addition to being thinner and more flexible than LED screens, it also eliminates the need for a backlight. Each pixel can turn on and off depending on the specific light needs of the time, which can result in more vivid images and deeper blacks.
Samsung's QLED screens add a quantum dot film to a LED LCD panel. When the backlight hits them, they give off their own different coloured light, travel through the layers of the screen and then create an image.
From a surface level perspective, the biggest advantages to QLED are that the screens tend to be brighter, as well as cheaper to manufacture.
But while OLED screens are generally considered to be superior, dropping three times the amount of cash on ones is questionable.
Even when you take the cost of OLED production into account, $60K seems like a stretch. Even LG's brand new 77-inch 4K W9 OLED comes in at $19,999. Is 8K and eleven extra inches really worth so much more?
Similarly, LG's own LED/LCD 75-inch NanoCell 8K comes in at only $11,849. While this does offer options, the almost-$50K price gap between the two models seems a bit odd.
LG's justification for the pricing is future proofing. In an email to Gizmodo Australia the company stated,
"For users who want the best technology and looking to future proof their decision the LG OLED 8K TV this is the ultimate package available currently. However for those looking for high-quality technology at reasonable price points, our LG 4K OLED TV range boasts a variety of form factors, OLED TV and premium cinema technology and the Alpha 9 Gen 2 Intelligent Processor offering an enhanced picture and sound experience through Artificial Intelligence.
"The LG OLED 8K TV will prepare users for the future of content technology and external 8K devices with high-quality picture options. LG has future-proofed its 8K TVs by providing four ports that support HDMI 2.1 specifications, which will allow viewers to enjoy 8K content at 60 frames per second through high frame rate (HFR); as well as smooth and clear 4K content at up to 120 frames per second. Both LG 8K TVs are the only current models available on the market with four HDMI 2.1 specification ports."
It also pointed to its wide range of 4K televisions as an alternative to its 8K lineup.
"The LG OLED 8K TV is not for everyone, but we do offer LG 4K OLED TVs in a variety of form factors, sizes and at different price points. We are making this premium technology more available to the masses."
But this just makes one question the $60K price point further.
The 88Z9 probably offers an absolutely beautiful viewing experience, but you have to wonder whether Aussies interested in 8K in 2019 will be willing to shell out so much more when the majority of 8K televisions on the market aren't that different from one another. Even LG itself offers something vastly more affordable. OLED panels are gorgeous and all, but we're not sure that's enough to justify the exorbitant cost.
This article has been updated with additional information regarding LG's 8K range, as well as comment from the company. The original article also referred to the OLED model as the 88ZR which was incorrect. We regret this mistake.