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We just tested the cheapest 8K TV yet — and we have bad news

TCL Roku TV 6-Series 8K (R648)
(Image credit: TCL)

TCL has finally launched its first 8K TV, seen in our TCL Roku TV 6-Series 8K (R648) review. It's a lot of things – a beautiful  TV, a great gaming set, and a capable Roku smart TV – but the biggest draw is the price. It's the most affordable 8K TV to ever come to market, selling for under $3,000, beating out even the most affordable 8K sets from Samsung and LG and undercutting some of the more premium 4K TVs as well.

The age of  relatively cheap 8K TVs is officially here. With the 65- and 75-inch models selling for $2,199 and $2,999, the TCL 6-Series 8K set is the most affordable we expect 8K TVs to get for 2021. And even with the cheapest 8K set ever sold, I'm having a hard time telling anyone they should buy it.

It's not that the TCL is a bad TV, far from it. It's not perfect – we were a little bummed out by the set's limited viewing angles and you definitely want to pair the TV with a soundbar for better sound – but the jump to 8K is an undeniable improvement over 4K. Or it would be, if there were anything you'd want to watch available in 8K. 

It all goes to prove my existing opinion that people don't need 8K TVs right now, and it may be years before they do. Let's briefly run down the many, many problems with buying an 8K TV today.

Firstly, there's not much an 8K TV can give you that a great 4K TV can't provide. The big difference is resolution, everything else is pretty much the same. Smart functions, audio quality, connectivity, are all a match for current 4K models. The only instances where 8K TVs have something that 4K TVs don't is where the manufacturer has intentionally downgraded its 4K smart TVs to make 8K sets more attractive.

The other issue is screen size. While 65-inch 8K sets are available (the TCL is a great example of this), the real benefits of 8K resolution are hard to see in that size, simply because it's not big enough to make the most of an 8K display's 33 million pixels. For that, you'll want a 75-inch or larger TV, and ideally something in the 85-100-inch range. Most homes simply don't have the physical space to accommodate a TV that large.

But the biggest issue, by far, is the lack of 8K content. There are no shows offered in 8K. There are some current movies shooting in that resolution, but they're being cropped and mastered for 4K displays. It's possible that 8K Blu-ray discs will prove too data-dense for the limits of physical media formats, and streaming in 8K is still a daunting task that will bump up against the limits of the broadband available to most households. (For more detail, check out our article 8K TVs: What can you actually watch in 8K?)

The Olympics were initially being hyped as a chance for 8K to finally get some broad exposure, with NHK offering more than 200 hours of the games shot in stunning 7680 x 4320 Ultra HD. But now that we're partway through the games, it doesn't look like viewers in the United States will get to enjoy any of that. You can't even find any 8K clips from the games on YouTube, currently the world's most accessible source of 8K footage.

And gaming is just as much of a bust. The latest consoles – despite having hardware that could theoretically handle 8K resolution – are decidedly 4K gaming machines. And the 8K-capable graphics cards that could let PC gamers use the 8K displays to full advantage are both scarce and far more expensive than most people are ready to pay.

That's all to say that we aren't recommending any 8K TVs to shoppers, not even the best 8K TVs. The TCL Roku TV 6-Series 8K (R648) is a gorgeous TV, and the most affordable entry-point for 8K TV yet, but it's just one of many 8K sets that have arrived ahead of any mainstream (or even much niche) 8K content. The TV is great, but 8K just isn't ready yet 

Brian Westover
Brian Westover is an Editor at Tom's Guide, covering everything from TVs to the latest PCs. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he wrote for TopTenReviews and PCMag.
  • pbergonzi
    admin said:
    TCL's first 8K TVs are here, and they're the most affordable 8K sets to . But that changes nothing about the state of 8K.

    The cheapest 8K TV yet is here — and it’s not worth it : Read more
    "If you buy them, they will create content."
    Reply
  • someguy122
    Was this the entire review? Obviously there is no 8K content but how does it handle 4K relative to other sets in its price range like the QN90A. I feel like I missed a big chuck of the review.
    Reply