8K TVs stymied by EU regulations
December 15, 2022
Would-be viewers to high-end televisions are always impressed by 8K Ultra High-Definition images. Indeed, even 8K (from sources such as YouTube) when viewed on a decent 4K set with high dynamic range installed, cannot help but be amazed at the image quality. These images are similar in concept to those when 4K was embryonic. They show beautiful shots of cities, animals, and some travelogues.
But the prospects for true 8K transmissions are looking ever-more unlikely.
The problem is that strict new EU rules on electrical consumption will soon forbid 8K sets from importation into member states on the grounds of energy efficiency. The UK, no longer a member of the EU could still be an importer of 8K sets, but whether Japanese or Korean manufacturers would want to bother with a single European sales outlet is doubtful.
According to the 8K Association the EU Commission has no intention of revising a planned change to the strengthened EU regulations on TV power consumption. The new EU power consumption regulations will come into effect in its 27 member states from March 2023. The power consumption limits on 8K TVs and micro-LED TVs are set so low that these products cannot be sold in the EU unless TV makers take action to meet the new rules.
Under the current regulations introduced in 2019, there was no Energy Efficiency Index (EEI) for 8K TVs and MicroLED TVs (the 8K sets were extremely few in number and cost so much that only well-paid football stars and perhaps Russian oligarchs could afford the devices).
But the new regulations set the EEI for 8K TVs and MicroLED TVs at 0.9, the same level of electrical consumption as required for HD TVs and UHD-4K TVs. The 0.9 level allows 116 W for a 65” set and down from the previously permitted 142 W for 4K displays.
8K TVs are more demanding 4K TVs because they supply a four times clearer resolution by doubling horizontal and vertical pixels. Indeed some existing high-performance ‘ordinary’ 4K TVs do not meet the EEI now set for them. Consequently, this might be a terrific opportunity for savvy buyers to pick in a discounted high-end 4K set in the January sales.
Acknowledged expert Bob Raikes, writing for the 8K Association at the start of December, explained the full picture, saying: “The previous TV regulations came into force in 2019, and there was an exemption for 8K sets. One of the key reasons is that squeezing more pixels into the same screen area means that more of the display surface is taken up with a black mask that separates and defines each pixel. Further, four times more transistors are in the back of the panel to control the display, and the combination of the mask and transistors blocks more of the light. Display engineers talk about the ‘aperture ratio’ of a display panel, which is the area where light comes through (LCD) or is emitted (OLED or microLED). 8K sets have much smaller aperture ratios than 4K sets, so they need a brighter (more power-hungry) backlight to obtain the same front-of-screen luminance as an equivalent 4K TV. 8K TVs also have four times more video data to process, so the control and processing electronics take more power than lower resolutions.”
Meanwhile, and according to the 8K Association, the new EU regulations require that the Commission should “review this Regulation in the light of technological progress and present the results of this review, including, if appropriate, a draft revision proposal, to the Consultation Forum no later than Dec. 25, 2022.” But this is not a ‘Merry Christmas’ statement, given that the Commission has said that it has no intention of reviewing the planned change.
According to market research firm Display Supply Chain Consultants (DSCC), 8K TV shipments in Western Europe in 2021 totalled 114,000 units, accounting for 31 percent of the world 8K TV market.
But the trade gossip is that the likes of LG, Samsung, Sony and others are hard at work looking to resolve the problem. One solution – and seemingly used by Sony – is to supply 8K units with lower brightness settings and thus satisfy the new rules. Then consumers could adjust brightness and
optimise viewing experience themselves in the privacy of their own homes! Buyers will be cautioned that power consumption will rise, but the rules allow this.
Bob Raikes also suggests that some manufacturers could ship their units as ‘Monitors’ (and without built-in tuners) and not dependent on conventional transmissions, but require broadband connections.
We should also expect some announcements from January’s CES. Otherwise, the prospects for 8K transmissions look dim.