Samsung has clocked up a couple of firsts.
It's become the first TV maker to release 8K models for the NZ market, priced from $11,000 to $80,000.
And it's poised to be the first to support Spark Sport across its smart TV range, with models going back to 2016 getting the app in May [update: now June].
At a demo last night, 8K looked stunning. On an 82-inch Q900 QLED TV, specially shot footage of dogs and humans frolicking in Central Park looked stunning - whether I sitting a couple of metres back or peering a couple of inches from the screen, details like hair and eyes were mesmerisingly lifelike.
The detail is so fine that you get a greater sense of depth. It leans toward 3D without the 3D.
But just what is 8K and is it worth $11K+? A quick recap of recent TV history is in order.
When flat-screen tellies first hit the market, the big deal was that most could support a high definition (HD) display made from 1920 x 1080 pixels or the lesser 1280 x 720) - a step up in picture quality from standard definition or SD (704×576).
Then from 2013, the first 4K or ultra high definition TVs started to creep into the market, offering a display made from at least 3840 x 2160 pixels - meaning the picture on your screen is made from more than eight million dots.
Today, 4K is standard with even modestly priced TVs (as is another breakthrough technology, high dynamic range or HDR, which improves tone and contrast).
Now come the first 8K models, which offer 7680 x 4320 pixel resolution - or a picture made up of more than 33 million pixels or four times the quality of 4K.
For wannabe early adopters, there are two questions.
One is: can the human eye even notice the difference between 4K and 8K?
The consensus is: not on a "smaller" screen. Hence Samsung's 8K range begins with a 65-inch model ($11,000).
There's also a 75-inch $16,000) and an 82-inch ($20,000) plus the ultimate to make sure the Joneses never keep up with you: a 98-inch 8K model for $80,000.
They're all going to be in-store (including the 98-inch monster at a couple of Harvey Norman outlets) and ultimately it's in the eye of the beholder, so see if you can spot the difference between 4K and 8K.
Then, of course, there's only so much 8K demo footage of frolicking dogs you can watch. Are there any 8K broadcasts or steams or Blu-ray players or gaming consoles today? The short answer is nope, but they're on their way.
Samsung (and I'm sure shortly Sony and LG and Panasonic) uses the future-proofing argument. Assuming you want your new telly to last years, make sure you have 8K. A couple of years ago, 4K seemed exotic. Now - at least for streaming and games - it's mainstream. The counter-argument: if you buy a 4K TV now then an 8K TV in a few years time (when 8K pricing will have drastically dropped), it will probably work out cheaper than "future-proofing" by buying an 8K TV today.
There's been some talk that host broadcaster NHK will shoot some 2019 Rugby World Cup games in 8K, but Samsung says it expects the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to be the first event shot in the new standard (NHK also experimented with 8K at the Rio Olympics in 2016, but with no 8K tellies had to run its footage in theatres).
But that's all by-the-the-by since Spark has already said Spark Sport won't offer the World Cup in 4K (let alone 8K) as it takes - quite sensibly - takes a safety-first approach and restricts itself to HD.
Netflix positioning for 8K
Samsung points out that Netflix now has 8K cameras in its approved list for shooting original series. So while it's not clear when the streaming giant will flip the switch and offer an 8K option, it's already building a library of 8K content (one of the biggest barriers in many countries will probably be that 8K streaming requires high spec - broadband. NZ, with our UFB fibre and most households now on unlimited data plans, should be an attractive early market).
Look for Amazon's Prime Video - also a big 4K pusher - to follow suit.
Still, as things stand today, there's no 8K Netflix or Prime Video, and most broadcasters have yet to embrace any 4K content. Kordia, which handles terrestrial broadcast for Sky and Freeview. carried out its first trial 4K broadcast late last year, while Chorus trialled a 4K live broadcast over fibre at around the same time. Sky and Freeview both supported the trials but for now have no plans for 4K broadcasts. 8K is not even on their radar.
In fact, a lot of Sky channels are still on standard definition - whose deficiencies become glaring on a big screen.
And there are no 8K game consoles, although the higher resolution could be supported by the next generation Xbox and PlayStation, which could both be released for this year's Christmas season, though nothing is confirmed at this point.
Like 4K, 8K prices will come down - so if you can sweat your current telly for a little while longer, you could be rewarded.
For the got-to-have-it-now crowd - and I admit, I've got that itch - Samsung's new 8K models offer an upscaling option, or enhancing 4K or even HD or SD content to make it look closer to 8K.
Upscaling by various TV makers has had mixed reviews in the past - after all, there's only so much magic you can apply if the source video is inferior.
But Samsung's 8K range have more processing power than any of its TVs that have come before, which helps. And it says it can apply software updates over the internet that add more upscaling smarts.
The crew at early Samsung 8K reviewer Gearbrain say, "We watched an episode of Planet Earth 2 on Ultra HD Blu-ray and were impressed by how the TV upscales without blurring the image or introducing artefacts or grainy noise. It isn't a night-and-day improvement over normal 4K just yet, but with those regular AI updates the Q900R should, in theory, get better - and your 4K content will look better - as time goes by."
In The Frame
Samsung also showed off the latest models in its The Frame series last night.
These 4K tellies are designed to mimic works of art on your wall - the better to address the partner objection factor (known as the wife objection factor or "WOF" in more primitive times) to a big screen TV dominating your living room.
Models in The Frame range come with optional wooden frames, and display works of art when on standby.
You can achieve a similar effect with most other modern sets is you mess around with a USB stick and screen saver options, but The Frame makes it user-friendly and the wooden bezel and One Box Connector (which allows for flush wall mounting) really set it off.
A sensor allows your art to dim or switch off at night, or when no one's in the house.
The Frame was launched in 55-inch ($3095) and 65-inch ($4095) models.
There are now more modest 43-inch ($2019) and 49-inch options ($2625).
And there's now some local flavour through a selection of New Zealand art available through a partnership with Te Papa.