HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a video signal containing metadata that allows the TV to display a broader range of colors and contrast for the HDR-compatible content.
Specifications that play a significant role in HDR are the TV’s brightness, contrast ratio, color gamut, and resolution. The most common HDR formats are HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision.
Almost all new TVs support HDR, so if you’re buying a TV, you should definitely get one with HDR support. However, just how good HDR image quality will be on your TV will depend on its peak brightness, contrast ratio, and color gamut.
In comparison to 1080p, a 4K TV has four times the pixel count, which dramatically improves the image quality in terms of detail clarity and immersion, but what about color quality and contrast ratio?
If you want to take another step forward when buying a new TV and get an even more vibrant image quality, you will need HDR (High Dynamic Range).
In short, HDR feeds its metadata to the TV, which allows it to display more lifelike and distinct colors. However, just having an HDR-capable TV isn’t enough, there are plenty of additional things to consider.
First of all, HDR only works for content that was made for HDR, be it video games, HDR Blu-rays, or your favorite TV shows on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, etc. So, you need to make sure you’ll have something worthy to watch on an HDR TV.
Secondly, not all HDR TVs are the same. HDR won’t be able to improve the picture by much if the TV has a poor contrast ratio, low brightness, and a narrow color gamut. In fact, a cheap HDR TV will still have a worse image than a pricey non-HDR TV.
Lastly, there are several different HDR formats, including HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision, HLG, Advanced HDR, etc. In this article, we’ll be focusing on the two most popular and widespread formats, which are HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
HDR vs. Non-HDR
To truly see how HDR affects the picture quality, you would need an HDR-capable display.
This also means that all of the images online that try to depict HDR vs. non-HDR content are simply emulated to illustrate the point.
However, the emulated pictures are not far off. HDR extends the color gamut, contrast, and brightness, which significantly improves details in the highlights and shadows of the image.
Most importantly, proper HDR allows you to see the video game or movie the way its creators intended.
There are two main formats of HDR: HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
Dolby Vision offers a better image quality as it provides 12-bit color, while HDR10 is limited to 10-bit. Although there aren’t any 12-bit color TVs, Dolby Vision uses down-sampling to deliver superior 10-bit color depth.
Furthermore, Dolby Vision implements its metadata on a scene-by-scene or frame-by-frame basis, also referred to as Dynamic HDR, which provides a more immersive and realistic viewing experience. A TV with Dolby Vision also supports HDR10.
HDR10, on the other hand, has static metadata, which applies to the content as a whole rather than each scene individually.
However, HDR10 is an open standard and royalty-free, which is why more content, including video games, supports it, whereas Dolby Vision is more expensive.
HDR10+ is the improved version of HDR10. It brings support for dynamic metadata while still being free and limited to 10-bit color. Although there isn’t a lot of HDR10+ content available at the moment, it is slowly but steadily gaining popularity.
Is HDR Worth It?
If you are buying a new and expensive TV, then HDR is especially worth the money.
Ideally, you should look for an HDR TV with the Ultra HD Premium certification, which ensures the ‘true’ HDR viewing experience.
The Ultra HD Premium requirements are that the TV’s has a 4K resolution, 10-bit color depth, and at least 1,000-nit peak brightness and 20,000:1 contrast ratio.
If you are interested in HDR for monitors, you can learn more about it here.