High Dynamic Range TVs and devices are here, along with HDR TV shows and movies. You can buy a new 4K HDR TV for as little as $450 and stream HDR Netflix and Amazon, or add a $300 Xbox and spin HDR 4K Blu-ray discs. HDR games are coming soon, and even phones and PC screens are attaching those three buzzy letters.
But how do they work? Is HDR just another marketing gimmick to sell TVs and other gear, with no technology behind it? What does it claim to do, and why is that better?
Well folks, if those are your questions, you’ve come to the right place.
For the basics about what HDR is, check out What is HDR for TVs, and why should you care?. The short version is an HDR TV, when showing special HDR content, has a wider dynamic range (i.e. contrast ratio), along with more steps in brightness (for smother transitions and more detail in bright and shadowy areas). Also, usually, HDR is paired with Wide Color Gamut (WCG), which offers a greater range and depth of color.
Unlike 4K resolution, curved screens or 3D, HDR is a TV-related technology we’re actually excited about. In the best cases it actually improve the image beyond what you’re used to with non-HDR video (standard dynamic range, or SDR), including conventional high-def, Blu-ray or even 4K. How much of an improvement–if any–depends first and foremost on the capabilities of TV itself, but also on the content.
Of course you’ll need to be watching actual HDR content on a new HDR TV to see the benefits. Fake HDR “upconversion” is available on some products, but it’s not the same.