We watched the UK's first live 8K broadcast, months before you'll be able to
BT Sport has delivered the UK's first live 8K broadcast, of Arsenal's UFEA Europa League game against Olympiacos at the Emirates Stadium in London.
While it is the country's first, it wasn't actually available for viewers to watch at home. Instead, TechRadar was invited to view the stream – and the technology behind it – live at the stadium.
8K will start to hit homes over the coming years, and TV manufacturers already have a range of (highly priced) 8K sets available on the market for you to buy today.
We sat down for 90 minutes to watch the live 8K broadcast alongside the real thing to see how the next generation of TV viewing compares.
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The 8K viewing experience
BT Sport teamed up with Samsung for the broadcast, and used the latter's flagship 8K set – the Samsung Q950R QLED 8K – to showcase the high definition stream.
8K has four times the resolution of 4K (a resolution which is still only slowly making its way into homes), and the Q950R QLED 8K boasts 33 million pixels, HDR10+ support and a peak brightness of 4,000 nits.
While the 8K resolution is the headline feature, the brightness is another important spec and one which should further enhance the viewing experience.
In comparison, Samsung's highest brightness 4K set is 2,000 nits, and with a greater brightness potential, combined with the higher resolution, 8K sets should result in a picture which is closer than ever to real life.
On the 82-inch Samsung 8K TV we viewed the game on, the visuals were great. Detail was very impressive, with the players, the ball and the people in the crowd crisp and clear.
Viewing the TV up close (we're talking 60cm or so away from the screen) and the benefits of 8K resolution becomes clear. You're able to pick out the people in the crowd on the opposite side of the pitch, identify what kind of scarf they're wearing and easily see their seat as a separate entity to the one next to it.
Sitting back from the screen, at a more natural viewing distance, it still looks great, but it wasn't noticeably that much better than what we've seen at a similar distance from 4K sets – especially when viewing the wide camera angle which shows most of the pitch.
Close-ups of players and coaches did provide hints that we were watching something more than a 4K stream, but the devil really is in the detail.
What we needed was a 4K stream on a TV next to it, to really showcase the difference in quality. While we were impressed with the level of detail provided in the 8K live broadcast, you'll be fine with your 4K set for a few more years yet.
When can you watch 8K live sport?
But who wants to stick with 4K when 8K is available? Well, probably a lot of us, as 8K is still staggeringly expensive and there's currently no live 8K content to consume on the TVs. However, that could change soon.
When quizzed on when BT Sport customers could start enjoying an 8K stream in their own home, Jamie Hindhaugh (COO at BT Sport) said "very soon you'll be able to watch at home" before confirming that they'd have it ready for "next season" – referring to the 2020/21 football season.
That kicks off in mid-August, so we could be just six months away from having an 8K stream available to watch at home, but it could feasibly happen later on in the season – we'll have to wait for more information nearer the time.
However, it'll likely be several years before we see consistent programming available in 8K in the UK. 4K is still slowly rolling out, while some programs – such as BBC Local News – is still not broadcast in Full HD, let alone 4K.
8K is the future of live sport, streaming services and video in general – and it does look great – but we're still a long way off from it being the norm.
This is just the start, BT promises, with BT Sport rolling out additional features to its live sport offerings too, including 8K VR as well as customization options which will allow you to choose camera angles and screen-in-screen viewing for multiple camera angles on screen simultaneously.