If you’ve been following the news cycle around this year’s new fleet of televisions – with many of them announced at CES 2020 – you’ll likely have heard about a lot of new 8K TVs. With a video resolution far surpassing HD, and four times the pixel count of 4K displays, there’s a reason TV manufacturers are increasingly pushing 8K TVs as their flagship sets for 2020.
Do you really need an 8K TV? The answer is still probably no, given the quality and relatively affordability of the 4K TVs currently out there. But for those who are enticed by the ultra-sharp video resolution that 8K promises, the growth of 8K televisions in the market is resulting in some truly top-class sets, pushing the limits of upscaling, video quality, and AI picture processing.
- What is 8K resolution? Here's everything you need to know
There are some downsides to all those pixels and processes, though, given that an 8K TV has to work significantly harder to output at 4K, or even lower-resolution sources like SD or HD.
But the solutions are steadily improving, and if you’re mainly interested in high-resolution content and market-leading processing, an 8K TV could be the right set for you.
With LG announcing three new 8K models (eight if you count all the different model sizes), and Samsung tripling its number of 8K QLEDs this year, there are only going to be more great choices – even if it makes it harder to pick between them. But while there are still relatively few 8K TVs out there, how are we meant to choose the best 8K TV of 2020?
For now, we’ve picked our favorite 8K TV released (and reviewed by us) as of 2020, with two runner ups below that, with some mention of the refreshed 8K ranges that could knock them off their perches in the coming months. So be sure to check back to see what’s changed later in the year.
8K TV FAQ
- What resolution is 8K? 8K resolution measures 7,680 x 4,320 pixels, for a total of 33 million pixels.
- Is 8K better than 4K? 8K displays have four times the number of pixels, making for a huge jump up in detail from 4K displays. However, there's little native 8K content available, and truly low-resolution video needs very capable processing to look, well, normal on an 8K screen.
- What's native 8K? 'Native' 8K is video that's filmed in 8K, and formatted to be watched on an 8K screen.
- Can you get 8K OLED TVs? Yes: the LG OLED Z9.
- Who makes 8K TVs? In 2020, Samsung and LG will both release three 8K models, while Sony, Hisense, TCL, and Panasonic are also in the mix. Everybody's doing it!
- Is 8K expensive? Oh, yes. But they will get cheaper the longer they're on the market.
- How big are 8K TVs? 8K displays aren't really worth it without a screen big enough to see all those pixels at work: the smallest you'll find is the 55-inch Samsung Q950R QLED.
What is the best 8K TV in 2020?
Best 8K TV: Samsung Q950R 8K QLED
The best 8K TV you can buy today
Samsung takes the top prize for its exceptional Q950R 8K QLED. With stunning picture quality, bar-setting HDR performance, and cutting-edge AI processing for all that pesky upscaling, this is a set that shows the true potential for 8K technology – even if its 8K capability feels slightly ahead of its time.
The Q950R also benefits from a host of general improvements that came to the 2019 Samsung TV range, most notably far wider viewing angles that can compete with the best OLED TVs on the market. The sleek and straightforward Tizen smart TV platform doesn't hurt, either – while Samsung's aggressive insistence on bringing the set to a compact 55-inch size shows a TV maker that's determined to get 8K to the mainstream, and you better believe it will happen sooner or later.
Samsung's plans for 2020 already seem set to surpass the Q950R with new advancements, with the recently-unveiled Q950TS featuring enhanced image processing, and a truly fabulous audio system (OTS+, or Object Tracking Sound+) that blows the built-in speakers of most other flagship sets out of the water.
If you're in no rush, we recommend waiting for that model, or one of its two sibling 8K QLEDS due this year. But it's the Q950R that paved the way.
Runner up: Sony Z9G 8K TV
A big, bold 8K panel from Sony
As ever, Sony has put out a truly stylish, well-crafted television – the fact that it's 8K is just a bonus. The Z9G Master Series is seamless in displaying both 8K and 4K content (even if Samsung clips it for displaying and upscaling the latter).
The 3,600 nits brightness of the 85-inch model gives an almost celestial quality to the images, with HDR images that are out of this world. Even when displaying lower-contrast SDR pictures, the Z9G is able to use the X1 Ultimate processor's object-based HDR Remastering system to bring them up to speed and make the most of this brilliant panel.
It's not all sunshine, though, with a bit of backlight blooming to temper our enthusiasm for the dazzlingly bright screen. The inclusion of only one measly HDMI 2.1 port, too, is a disappointment for a dedicated 8K television.
Those two flaws are enough to keep it from the number one spot, while the Samsung set above also retails for a decent amount less than the Z9G.
The OLED option: LG Z9 8K OLED
LG's hesitant step into 8K
8K resolution on an OLED TV? So far, only LG dares to do it.
Bringing these two premium technologies together is nothing short of a marvel, and we can attest to the brilliant picture quality, OLED-level colors and crisp contrast – with a wide soundstage that puts the audio output on an even keel with this exceptional 8K panel.
LG judges its 8K TVs slightly differently from the competition, using a CM (contrast modulation) measurement that stresses the ability of individual pixels to distinguish clearly between each other, and certainly succeeds on that metric (all of its 8K TVs surpass 90% CM, despite only needing a 50% baseline) more than Samsung.
It's a shame that LG doesn't rank higher in this list, but the combination of the massive price tag (£29,999 / $29,999) on this Z9 8K OLED display and its restrictive size options (88-inch only) has made it the least attractive purchase out of these three sets. The SM99 NanoCell TV, too, is only available in a 75-inch size, and doesn't allow for much flexibility in purchase options.
LG is looking to fix these issues in its 2020 lineup, with three 8K models available in various sizes – no doubt at a price point that's slightly easier to swallow – so we'll be looking in interest to see if LG can claw its way back in the rankings.
- Check out the best OLED TVs too