8K monitors are the new screens on the block, with many people opting for 4K monitors due to price and the fact that both 8K and 5K monitors are still a little niche. But with each passing day they become less so, and if you're after a screen that allows you to see your art and design work in all it's glory, 8K monitors are the cream of the crop.
While 5K is a reasonable step - the 27-inch iMac's display is 5K for example - 8K should be seen as the next step from 4K for TVs and video production and will become standard in the computing world, too.
But although we’re starting to see some 8K displays become available, there’s currently little 8K video content out there. That’s not such a problem in the computing world as it simply means you can fit more pixels – and so more desktop and higher resolution content – on your screen. Want to know more? Jump to the what is 8K resolution section.
But it does mean that mass adoption of 8K TVs and monitors are some way off, probably another decade. In terms of monitors, it’s certainly several years from now before they are a serious option in terms of price. If there are more 8K panels out there, the prices will come down.
So if you’re looking for a monitor now it’s still worth taking the plunge. You probably want to check out our guides to the best 4K monitors and the best monitors for video editing and take a look at the 5K options below, too.
The best 5K and 8K monitors available now
The Phillips 499P9H is a great all-round 5K monitor. A whopping 49-inches, this will display your work in all it's beautiful pixel glory across a huge ultrawide screen. When it comes to photo and video editing work (don't miss our round up of the best video editing software), there are higher end options available, but for the price, the performance of this quality monitor can't be argued with.
There's plenty of connectivity options, including a USB Type-C interface if you want a second screen for your MacBook. Overall, when you consider quality and price, this 5K monitor offers outstanding value.
Even though this Dell UltraSharp UP3218K display will look amazing on your desk it’s hard not to wince at the quite considerable price tag. But for your high outlay you will get the future here and now. We've also covered a 49-inch version below.
By the time 8K is an everyday fixture, IPS screen technology will be replaced by some of the specifications we’re seeing in high end TVs now, such as OLED – Dell itself has experimented with a 30-inch OLED monitor. But that's a long way off - this is a serious display that will last you for years.
This smart black IPS LED 5K display has a super-thin bezel but a super high price compared to the Iiyama above; is it really worth the extra? In pure price terms no, but it does boast the compelling addition of Thunderbolt 3, meaning you can attach a single cable directly to one of the ports on your 2016 or later MacBook Pro for both 5K display data and power, too.
That’s right you can charge quickly (85W) from the same cable that carries all those pixels. There are also three USB-C downstream ports for connecting up other peripherals. What’s more, the macOS-optimised LG Screen Manager can also be used to divide up your screen into different frames depending on what you need.
This pro-level monitor is not only huge, but it's also aimed at gamers, too. It features Samsung's latest QLED display tech (Samsung doesn't believe in OLED) and supports VESA DisplayHDR 1000 and AMD Radeon FreeSync.
Put it this way, if you're a designer who also wants to take advantage of 8K gaming with next-gen consoles then you'll REALLY want this display.
It's a shame it doesn't have USB-C connectivity, but chances are you'll be using a beefy desktop rather than a laptop since you'll need a beefy graphics card. That said, you can easily have two 16:9 images from two devices side-by-side.
What is 8K resolution?
8K images are 7,680 pixels horizontally by 4,320 vertically. It’s not quite 8,000 pixels wide – hence the 8K name – but it’s close enough. Like 4K (3,840 by 2,160) has double the pixels but four times the resolution of Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), 8K has four times the resolution of 4K (and double the number of pixels). So therefore, 8K is 16 times the resolution of Full HD.
All this means that the pixels on 8K displays will be indistinguishable to your eyes because there are over 33 million of them.
Like 4K, 8K will also be referred to under the umbrella name of Ultra High Definition (UHD) although it will be interesting to see how manufacturers distinguish that for consumers.
So what’s out there? 8K monitors will hit the market over the coming years but Dell fired the starting gun early – in 2017 in fact. Dell is still arguably the leader in the segment.
Talking about graphics, there aren’t a huge number of graphics chips that currently support 8K – you’ll need a latest-gen AMD Radeon Pro or Nvidia GeForce card to make full use of the resolution.
The main problem with using a computer with 8K at the moment is that user interface elements aren’t geared up for such a high resolution – an app like Photoshop CC will only scale its user interface to 200 per cent, which isn’t enough for comfortable use.
Dell’s 8K display is clearly ahead of its time, but it’s not looking as futuristic as it did a year ago. That’s because TV manufacturers are also starting to release the initial batch of 8K sets. There are several reasons why manufacturers like Samsung are keen to leap and not just because they like to say they were first.
They also want to pull the market with them, so all manufacturers will currently be looking at their options for 8K. Another reason is that 8K content isn’t necessarily required from the off; the powerful image processors inside these TVs will be able to upscale content – so 4K content to 8K.
It’s also true that 8K will have impact in the Far East far earlier than in Europe and the US; Japan will have an 8K TV channel in time for the Tokyo Olympics, for example. But it’s clear that easily-available 8K content is a way off. There’s also a problem with the delivery of it – it will need a lot of bandwidth to deliver it, potentially 80-100Mbps, so streaming 8K via broadband connections is also a way off.
So we’ve put together a short buying guide to the 8K display that’s available now plus a couple of 5K options if you want to upgrade your existing display.