HDR, and what you need to know

HDRIt’s that time again my friends. It’s time for a spot of genuine technical consumer advice. This time up we are going to be talking briefly about HDR technology and the often glanced
over requirements for a 4K monitor or TV to actually be “Certified” as fully HDR compatible. While it’s a bit technically boring I hope that this will help some of you fine people figure
out what you will need to look for when upgrading to a 4K set.

HDR, What does is mean?

HDR or High Dynamic Range, to sum it up means that a TV will display darker levels of black and
brighter levels of color detail over the entire range of colors that a set is capable of displaying.
HDR does not mean that you will get some mysterious upgrade to resolution. Do not be fooled by marketing
terms that suggest a higher resolution. HDR will just give you a more accurate and dynamic representation of colors that are already being displayed. It fills in the areas that could potentially get washed out in certain viewing scenarios and really brings a much more standout picture than a standard 4K, non-HDR display.

Are there different kinds of HDR?

Yes, there are two main kinds of HDR on the market right now. One is called Dolby Vision and the other is HDR10.
HDR10 is the standard HDR format for most all HDR compatible media. Xbox One S only supports HDR10 right now so if you are considering a 4K HDR TV for your Xbox One S, then you will need to make sure it supports HDR10. If it says Dolby Vision then you are out of luck on the Xbox One S.

The Playstation NEO has yet to announce what HDR format it will support but given that Sony and Blu-Ray are synonymous with one another and Blu-Ray only supports HDR10 at
this point that leads me to believe that Sony will only back HDR10. Obviously, that remains to be seen but don’t be shocked if that is what happens.

There are many different names for HDR and the TV manufacturers that support each specific type of HDR are varied. In some cases they even support both. CNET has a wonderful list that gives you all the information of who supports what format. Head over and check them out here.

lg hdr
LG details the difference in HDR to non-HDR
How do I know if my TV is HDR compatible?

This is a great question and you would be forgiven for being confused. Ok, so you need to know that in order
for a set to be fully HDR certified, pay close attention because this is where the industry catch phrases and
marketing terms really get tricky. Some sets will say that they are HDR compatible but will still only be an 8-bit display (16.8 million colors). The Samsung KU6000 series is actually egregiously guilty of this one.

Many of their 2016 models that are under $1000 will claim to be HDR compatible but not be fully HDR certified as they are only 8-bit sets. Keep in mind they don’t tell you this. In the case of the Samsung 55KU6300 I had to go to an independent review site that professionally reviews TV sets to find out that this particular set is only an 8-bit set that claims to be HDR compatible. I would be one unhappy individual to buy this at the $999 price tag and find that it is not indeed fully HDR compatible.

In order for a set to be fully HDR compatible that particular set will need to be capable of displaying a whopping 1 billion colors, or 10-bit color. If you see a set that indicates that it is HDR compatible then look for its technical specifications.

If it says that it can display 1 billion or more colors and that it is HDR compatible then you know that you are getting a fully HDR certified set. Anything under 1 billion color or if it says anything under 10-bit then you will not be getting the full experience. Certain manufacturers will specifically say that their sets are 8-bit or 10-bit, but there are some that only list how many millions of colors it can display so you have to know the information that I just gave you to find out.

Again, 8-bit (16.8 million colors). 10-bit (1 Billion colors) Don’t forget that.

Does it really matter if my set is HDR compatible if its 4K already?

The short answer is, only if you care about it. In my opinion it is more important to have a 4K TV that is capable of accurately displaying the colors that it can show. There are some phenomenal 8-bit, 4K sets on the market that can provide you with a near HDR levels of color representation.By contrast, there are some HDR compatible sets on the market that have been very poorly reviewed for one reason or another.

Keep in mind that 16.8 million colors and 1 Billion colors are far more than the human eye can see to begin with so at some point, it almost becomes pointless. That being said, if money is not a concern and you spring for a top of the line 4K fully HDR compatible set such as the Samsung KS9000 series (55″ at $2000) with Quantum Dot display and HDR1000 technology then you are definitely going to see a marked difference
from the bottom of the line entry level 4K non-HDR sets.

dolby-vision hdr
Dolby-Vision HDR

In the end it really comes down to how much you want to spend and what is most important to you. Do you want the top of the line and every single option? Then be prepared to fork over some serious money for that 55″ set. If you are looking for a very nice picture but don’t want to break the bank, then skip the HDR and get the set fully calibrated. From my own experience, it’s hard to be upset having a top quality 4K, non-HDR set that has been fully calibrated. It is my advice that whatever you do, get the set calibrated by a professional or you can go online and buy a calibration disc that will walk you through the steps to get everything fine tuned to give you the best possible viewing experience.

I would recommend going to Amazon and picking up “Digital Video Essentials Basic” calibration Blu-Ray. Having this will help you set a great deal of color and contrast settings that otherwise will be impossible to set properly without the correct display test patterns that this disc will walk you through.

I hope this helps everyone out and gives you just a little more information than you had before. Happy viewing and happy gaming ladies and gentlemen!

[Article written by Seán Gearhart]

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