Posted on May 18, 2022 By Philip Boyle
2022 seems to be the year when the industry is beginning to seriously push 8K over 4K resolution displays. Most major display manufacturers offer a couple of 8K televisions for sale, while manufacturers such as Samsung, LG, and Sony offer an entire series of 8K flat-panel displays.
With so many 8K televisions for sale, you might wonder why there aren’t more 8K projectors available to buy, especially from companies selling 8K flat-panel televisions?
First, all 8K flat-panel displays are “native” 8K, meaning the LCD or OLED displays are made up of 8K (33,177,600) worth of pixels in a display configuration of 7,680 Horizontal x 4,320 Vertical. This configuration is four times the amount of pixels found in a 4K UHD panel, so combining four small 4K panels results in one larger 8K panel. However, creating a native 8K imager for a projector is a lot more complicated. First, it’s necessary to define the type of 8K sensor we are discussing.
No one can currently make a native 8K projection imager. Here’s why.
At this point in time making a native 8K projector would require the use of a physically larger native 8K imager. The increase in size is provides the space to hold 4X the number of pixels of a native 4K imager. A bigger imager will require more light if you want to maintain or increase the 8K projectors displayed brightness. More light results in more heat which will then need better heat dissipation. Lastly, a bigger sensor will require a larger, higher-quality lens. The increased size of the core components of a native 8K projector will also need a larger chassis to hold them.
Bigger imager + bigger light source + bigger lens = larger (more expensive) projector.
So why hasn’t JVC or Sony developed a native 8K sensor? Currently producing a native 8K sensor in any of the available imaging platforms (LCOS, DLP, or LCD) involves more than just placing a bunch of pixels or micromirrors onto a silicon wafer.
Unfortunately, with current technology, a native 8K imager would have to be much larger (and more expensive) than a native 4K imager.
When 8K flat-panel TVs were introduced, they were massive. The first 8K models measured 85″ to 100″ diagonally. This is because manufacturers just combined four 42-inch or 50-inch 4K (8.3 million pixels) panels to create one large 8K (33 million pixels) panel. For the past several years, TV manufacturers have worked to reduce the size of the pixels used in panels by increasing the panel’s pixel density. Increasing the pixel density of panels has resulted in smaller and smaller 8K TVs. The smallest 8K consumer television currently available measures 55-inches diagonally.
In 2022, Sony offers the smallest, high-resolution, native 4K projection imager measuring about 0.61″ diagonally. That’s more than 99% smaller than a 55-inch 8K television. To make a native 8K projector, we would need the ability to house all 33 million (8K) pixels onto the projector’s image sensor. The math is just not in our favor. Why? Because they have not figured out how to build an imager with that level of pixel density.
Since this many pixels won’t fit on the most modern image sensor, a native 8K imager will need to be four times larger than the smallest, most modern, 4K sensor available today.
The Need to Upgrade Other Components
Our imaginary 8K imaging sensor is not the only physical component needed to make a projector work correctly. A video projector’s core components consist of the following:
Let’s go ahead and pretend we’ve formed an imaging company that has figured out how to build a 33-million pixel projection sensor.
Okay. Now that we’ve got our 33-million pixel array on our imaginary chip, there’s the light source issue. First, sharing light across four times the number of pixels and across four times the diameter of a native 4K imager will reduce the projector’s light output. That means we also have to brighter light source to go with our new, imaginary, native 8K imager. Second, more brightness typically means more heat being produced. Now we need to increase the cooling capabilities of our new, native 8K projector. But let’s say that this problem is solved. There’s still one more big issue left to figure out.
For the much bigger, native 8K projector to work, we will need lenses capable of resolving a native 8K image.
These new components will likely require a bigger enclosure to house the new light source, imagers, optics, power supply, and cooling solutions. This new native 8K projector will bigger, louder, and heavier than its native 4K sibling. Keep in mind my examples just some of the obvious problems that need to be addressed before our imaginary, native 8K projector comes to market.
While it’s entirely possible that the engineering minds at Texas Instruments, Sony, JVC, and Epson have already solved these issues, they’ve been pretty silent on the subject. As of now, no native 8K consumer projectors are slated to hit the market any time soon.
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