The theme is standard by now: 4K Ultra HD TVs were in sharp focus at CES 2013. Panasonic, Sony, Samsung...you name it, a TV maker announced a screen with 3,840 x 2,160 resolution (or there abouts).
But tucked away on a side wall at its floor space, Sharp showed off something with four times the resolution: an 8K LED TV measuring 85 inches.
The TV is just a prototype but its imagery is spectacular. With a resolution of 7,680 x 4,320, clips of children jumping off a bridge into a river below and a train steaming out of a platform looked so real, they almost looked fake.
And though 4K is as fresh a product as it gets, we might see 8K TVs coming consumers' way in the not too distant future: Mark Viken, vice president of marketing at Sharp, told TechRadar that production for the screen is about four years down the road.
TechRadar bumped into Viken at Sharp's CES area and not only did the VP give us a production timeframe for the screens, he bestowed some insight into the company's thinking around 8K.
"It shows the technology that Sharp is capable of," he said. Sharp, he noted, developed the 8K tech with NHK, the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation.
But are super high-res screens something consumers are clamoring to own?
"I don't know if it's something people are asking for, but when people see it, they're amazed by it."
We heard audible gasps and saw camera flashes aplenty from CES attendees checking out the looped demo clips produced by NHK, so there's a good chance Viken's assessment is spot on.
"When you see it and experience it, that's when you see it's something you might want," he continued.
Content is one of the biggest obstacles in bringing 8K TVs into people's living rooms, which Viken readily acknowledged.
"There are only one or two 8K cameras in the world right now," he said.
That doesn't mean Sharp isn't actively partnering with broadcasters and content providers to get 8K off the ground.
"We've obviously worked with NHK very closely in developing content in Japan. But yes, we are working with others to develop 8K content."
It's pretty sweet
If Sharp is able to get an 8K TV out in the next few years, we'd certainly like to own one. There was a depth to the images that had a transformative quality - it was beyond 2D, though not 3D.
While consumer-destined 8K televisions produced by Sharp and others are sure to be announced during upcoming CESes, the chances are the cost will be prohibitive to most consumers.
4K screens are running in the thousands of dollars, and with more pixels per inch, we'll see more zeros in the price. That doesn't mean the price won't drop at some point, but it could be years before most can afford a super high-res tube.
Until we get a review unit or a raise, TechRadar will post up with some popcorn at the Sharp booth.
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