Unless you’re after the best image quality possible at the moment and can afford a high-end gaming display, it’s not worth buying a monitor solely for HDR purposes.
Looking for a new monitor for gaming and wondering whether you should get one that supports HDR (High Dynamic Range) while you’re at it?
HDR has been getting a lot of attention lately. We’ve seen many HDR monitors released over the last couple of years and we expect even more coming up.
Does this mean HDR is the next major thing and a must-have element for your next display? Well, it depends.
What does HDR do?
HDR monitors accept the HDR signal of the compatible content and improve the picture quality by extending the contrast ratio, color gamut, and peak brightness thus bringing the image closer to how its creator intended it.
There are various HDR formats, but when it comes to PC gaming, the most essential one is HDR10 as it’s an open standard and primarily used by video game and monitor manufacturers.
Not all HDR10 monitors will give you the same viewing experience. Some offer a significantly better image quality while some provide you with a barely visible upgrade.
Due to the lack of proper certification and straightforward clarification about the HDR capability of a specific monitor by their manufacturers, it’s not enough for a display to simply be “HDR-compatible”.
When buying an HDR monitor, pay attention to the display’s specifications, specifically to the peak brightness, color gamut, and contrast ratio. Ideally, you should look for a monitor with some sort of an HDR certificate such as VESA’s DisplayHDR or Ultra HD Premium.
VESA’s (Video Electronics Standards Association) DisplayHDR certification is one way to know exactly what the HDR on the monitor means. If you get an HDR10 monitor which is certified by VESA, you can download a free application to test your display’s HDR effectiveness.
UHD Alliance’s Ultra HD Premium certificate requirements are similar to that of VESA’s DisplayHDR 1000.
For a notable improvement in HDR picture quality, a monitor should have at least DisplayHDR 600 certification as it implies a strong 600-nit peak brightness, wide color gamut, and some sort of local dimming.
DisplayHDR 400 monitors offer only a slightly higher peak brightness than a regular monitor, so these displays should be avoided – if you’re buying them solely because of HDR support.
DisplayHDR 1000 can offer significant improvement over DisplayHDR 600, but only if the monitor supports full-array local dimming.
For instance, one DisplayHDR 1000 monitor might have only several edge-lit dimming zones, while another monitor with the same certification might have 384 or 512 full-array local dimming zones.
The more dimming zones, the better, and for the ‘true’ HDR picture quality on a LED-backlit monitor, full-array local dimming is a must!
You’ve likely heard the term “fake HDR” or “pseudo-HDR” used for certain HDR monitors.
These displays can accept and process the HDR signal but their hardware cannot improve the picture quality, not even by a boost in peak brightness like DisplayHDR 400.
HDR Gaming Monitors
So, should you get an HDR monitor for gaming?
HDR can greatly improve the gameplay experience, for some games more than for the others. You get a brighter image with higher contrast and more vibrant colors with vivid details in the shadows and highlights.
Alas, there aren’t many PC games that support HDR right now which may be a reason enough to delay purchasing an HDR display unless your favorite games already support it.
Additionally, there are many issues with toggling the HDR mode in Windows; basically, it is buggy and requires a lot of fiddling with the drivers and settings.
For the best experience, you should get an HDR gaming monitor with either FreeSync Premium Pro or G-SYNC Ultimate in order to minimize these issues.
When it comes to console gaming, there aren’t such issues regardless of whether you’ve connected your console to an HDR TV or a monitor.
For most people, getting an HDR monitor for PC gaming right now won’t seem like a good idea mainly because there’s insufficient content and support for it.
However, if you’re looking to buy a new display anyway, and you stumble upon a gaming monitor that offers all the specs you need plus HDR support, go for it!