What the heck is HDR TV?

June 15th, 2016

Appliance Talk TV, Audio & Electronics TVs

What the heck isHDR TV_

The Next Big Thing™ in TV display technology is HDR, or High Dynamic Range, with many of 2016’s newest TVs having this as their primary point of difference from the previous generation.

Here’s our short and simple guide to exactly what HDR is, what it means to your TV, and what to look for if you’re thinking of making the upgrade:

What is HDR, exactly?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. Essentially, it’s your TV’s contrast setting on steroids, making the bright areas of your screen brighter and the dark areas darker.

sony hdr exampleSource: Sony

When combined with the 4K resolution of an Ultra HD TV, HDR helps to make already-detailed images even more spectacular.

What does a TV need to display HDR images?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to watch HDR entertainment on a Standard or High Definition TV screen, as the format uses the additional resolution of a 4K TV to enhance the images.

But not all Ultra HD TVs are capable of displaying HDR images. To qualify as an HDR TV, the 4K screen needs to be able to reliably display brightness of more than 1000 nits, and black levels of less than 0.05 nits, OR a brightness of more than 540 nits and black levels of less than 0.0005 nits.

(For the record, “nits” are a unit of luminance equivalent to one candela per square metre, and not the horrible lice that got in your hair in kindergarten).

Can I watch everything in HDR?

Short answer – No.

Longer answer:

HDR contrast is a bit like 4K resolution – you get the most out of it by watching media that’s been created with it in mind. Sure, you can still watch Standard or High Definition entertainment on a 4K TV, but to really get you money’s worth, you’ll want to be watching some Ultra HD media, whether streamed from YouTube or Netflix, or recorded on one of the Ultra HD Blu-ray discs that are starting to be rolled out (for reals!).

4K_Blu_Ray_early_Best_Buy_releasesource: B137 on Wikimedia Commons

Similarly, an HDR TV will still provide great colour and contrast when watching regular TV or movies, but to get the awesome power of your fully operational HDR TV, you’ll want to watch some 4K-standard media (streamed or on disc) that’s also HDR-compatible, which includes embedded metadata that tells the TV how to best use its colour and contrast settings to display images in all of their spectacular glory.

How do I know if a TV is HDR-capable?

The above HDR guidelines were sorted out by a collection of TV manufacturers, the UHD Alliance. These guys also set a simple specification for HDR-ready TVs – “Ultra HD Premium”.

uhd alliance

If you’re buying a new TV, look for the Ultra HD Premium badge or note in the TV specifications, and you’ll be confident that the TV fulfils the requirements listed above, and will be capable of providing the spectacular contrast offered by HDR technology.

Also, keep an eye out for the terms “HDR10” and “Dolby Vision” – more on these in just a second.

While the only guaranteed way to watch HDR is to buy a new HDR TV, a few previously-released 4K TVs (such as Samsung’s SUHD sets) are HDR-compatible.

Check out the following table for a list of all the HDR TVs available at Appliances Online at time of writing – we expect more models will be released over time as manufacturers embrace this technology:

What is the deal with HDR10 and Dolby Vision?

You may have seen these terms getting thrown around on tech blogs or on TV manufacturer’s websites, making the whole HDR thing that little bit more confusing. Let’s try to clear this all up a little:

HDR10 is a term for “baseline” HDR, used in Ultra HD Premium products as described above. So far, so good.

dolby visionsource: Dolby

Dolby Vision is an alternative HDR standard, utilised by Dolby and its affiliated companies. This standard builds on the already-established HDR10 and adds extra quality, with the intention of creating a more “future-proof” standard of HDR to be used as TV technology continues to improve. Dolby reportedly has plans to work alongside filmmakers to produce movies and TV shows using Dolby Vision technology, to ensure the visuals remain stunning from the first day of filming to the end of your movie marathon.

If you buy a TV that’s Dolby Vision-compatible, it will also be good to watch HDR10 content. But if your TV is only compatible with HDR10, it won’t benefit from the additional quality provided by material that’s been produced in Dolby Vision.

This doesn’t necessarily mean you should pass up an HDR10 TV in favour of Dolby Vision, though – HDR is still in its relative infancy, so who knows where things are going to end up? As VCR/Betamax showed us, nothing is ever certain in the world of home entertainment…

Mark joined Appliances Online in November 2011 and has since learned more than he ever expected to know about appliances. He enjoys looking for new and unusual ways for to solve everyday problems using typical household appliances. When he’s not toiling at the desks of Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he tries to find time to write the next big bestseller and draw satirical cartoons, but is too easily distracted by TV, music and video games. Mark’s favourite appliance is the Dyson Groom Tool, as he loves the concept of vacuuming your dog. Google+

Comments are closed.