What is HDR?

HDR

Short Answer

High Dynamic Range, or in short HDR, is the ability of a display to produce a wider range of colors and a superior contrast ratio. There are two major formats of the HDR available nowadays, the HDR10 format and the Dolby Vision format.

Throughout the last few years, we’ve witnessed a lot of improvement in the monitor technology. Resolutions have come a long way, from HD through Full HD and Ultra HD to the recently announced Dell’s 8K resolution monitor. You might wonder what is the next step, perhaps 16K resolution? Not exactly, the time has come to focus on the details of the each individual pixel, rather than on the sheer number of them. This is where the HDR kicks in.

What is HDR?

HDR Format War: HDR10 vs Dolby Vision

HDR technology is already present in some TVs in both Dolby Vision and HDR10 formats. Dolby Vision is the superior format of the two as it’s capable of delivering brightness up to 10,000 cd/m2, although the current target of peak brightness amounts to 4,000cd/m2. It also offers 12-bit color depth and covers the Rec2020 color space spectrum. However, this technology is very expensive and it is implemented only as 10-bit versions in some TVs by LG, TCL, and Vizio.

The Rec2020 color space is the broadest spectrum of colors currently available to us. While both of these formats are capable of entirely covering it, most monitors will cover only a portion of it due to the limitation of their panels. For instance, the ASUS ProArt PA32U which will be released sometime in the second quarter of 2017, will cover up to 85% of the Rec2020 color space. Nevertheless, that will result in stunning color vibrancy and intensity.

The HDR10 format, on the other hand, is open-source and already adopted by some monitor and gaming console manufacturers such as the Xbox One S and the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro. The main reason why these manufacturers opted for the HDR10 format instead of Dolby Vision format is the fact that it is much more affordable whilst still giving a much more detailed picture quality than the regular displays.

With the maximum brightness capacity of 4,000 cd/m2 which is currently peaked at 1,000 cd/m2 and the 10-bit color depth, the HDR10 covers the Rec2020 color space as much as the Dolby Vision does. Throughout this year, we’ll already be seeing some HDR-ready monitors from LG, ASUS, Acer, Samsung, and other manufacturers.

In order for a panel to support HDR10, it should be capable of delivering at least 1,000 cd/m2 peak brightness, have a 10-bit color depth, and cover at least 90% of the DCI-P3 color space. The standard sRGB color spectrum amounts to only one-third of the HDR capacity. In comparison to SDR, standard dynamic range, HDR delivers millions of more colors and a far superior contrast between the darkest and the brightest tones resulting in more vivid details, vibrant colors, and life-like image quality.

HDR vs SDR

HDR in Gaming

By now you’re probably sold on HDR and the stunning image quality that it can deliver, but perhaps you’re wondering what kind of graphics card would you need to power up this display. The latest graphics card such as the Nvidia GTX 1080 is already capable of delivering HDR content at 4K resolution and 60Hz through the HDMI 2.0a (or b) port.

Last year, many who wanted to experience the HDR gaming experience had to go for gaming TVs. However, these TVs are quite expensive, especially considering the rather bad response time speed they can deliver. In the end, you would pay for a significantly expensive display that wasn’t performing nearly as well as it had cost. This lead many to postpone their dreams of the highly responsive HDR gaming for some time.

Luckily, at the CES 2017 this year, several monitor manufacturers announced HDR-ready gaming monitors to be released during this year. Some of these monitors that are most anticipated are the Acer Predator XB272-HDR and the ASUS ROG Swift PG27UQ. However, these ultimate gaming monitors will be available sometime in the second quarter of 2017. Another problem is that in order to take full advantage of these monitors and their 144Hz rate, new and more powerful graphics cards have to be released as well.

Some computer video games already support HDR such as the Shadow Warrior 2 and so will Mass Effect: Andromeda once it is released. Other games, such as Gears of War 4 will mostly likely feature a patch which will implement HDR10 support.

Until HDR-ready monitors are released as well as more HDR content and more powerful graphics cards, you can take a glimpse at HDR TV gaming. After that, imagine it with a much more fluid and smooth gameplay. We’re all waiting for the HDR gaming monitors to be released with eager anticipation, so that we may finally see them in action. There is no doubt that they will be nothing short of phenomenal.

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