Forget 4K! HDR Is The New Buzzword

There was a time when TVs used to sell solely based on resolution. We started with 480px, then went on to HD Ready, Full HD, 4K and now we even have 8K TVs available in the market. So, does looking at resolution alone help you buy the best television with outstanding visuals? Not exactly. If resolution is all about the quantity of pixels, HDR is about the quality. And as with everything else, quality is more important than quantity!

What is HDR?

Dynamic Range essentially refers to the range of contrast and colour palette that the TV is capable of displaying. In HDR TV this dynamic range is more and hence each pixel can display a wider colour range of varying brightness, which in turns reflects a higher contrast ratio.

A 4K TV with HDR has vivid, bright and colourful visuals that are close to real life. As it has a better contrast ratio, blacks appear darker and whites appear lighter and the various gradients of colours are clearly visible. This ensures even minute details are clear and not lost. Combine this with the local dimming technology available in higher end TVs and you get outstanding clarity even in dark scenes.

In order to enjoy outstandingly vivid and colourful visuals, your TV should be HDR compatible and so should the content you see. Videos available on Netflix, Prime, YouTube, Hotstar and such VOD apps are HDR compatible. But the cable TV content is not. 

HDR TV Formats

When you buy a 4K TV, don’t choose one just because it is HDR compatible. More importantly, look at the HDR formats it support. HDR 10 is the base standard, while Dolby Vision is the gold standard available predominantly in high-end TVs from LG, Sony, TCL, Hisense etc. Samsung supports HDR10+ content- a format it developed in collaboration with other companies. In their attempt to promote HDR10+, even high end 4K TVs from Samsung don’t support Dolby Vision. 

Now, let us take a look at the different HDR formats in detail.

HDR 10- As mentioned, it is the base standard. A TV that is HDR 10 compatible will be able to display 1 billion colours and has a maximum brightness of 1000 nits and colour depth of 10 bits. It is an open format and hence it is not enforced by anyone. So, if a manufacturer says his TV is HDR 10 compatible, you have to take his word for it. 

HDR 10 contents are static. This means, the color calibration is set for a movie or a show. But in Dolby Vision, this is set per frame.

Dolby Vision- As this format is licensed by Dolby, you can rest assured that if a TV’s specifications say Dolby Vision compatible, it will be so in actuality. As mentioned earlier, the calibration in terms of colour, contrast and brightness can be set frame by frame.

Dolby Vision content can be mastered to display 68 billion colours and peak brightness of 10,000 nits. But at present, the displays are not capable of showing such bright content.

As it can support such a wide palette of colours, what you see on TV will be exactly as what the director of the show or movie intended. 

HDR 10+ content has a peak brightness of 4000 nits. It was developed by a consortium of Samsung, Panasonic and 20th Century Fox. It is definitely better than HDR10, but not quite there when compared with Dolby Vision.

HLG is HDR for cable TV. Unfortunately, in India, we don’t get HLG content from our broadcasters.

What To Buy?

If you are a videophile who enjoys crisp, clear and vivid visuals, and if your budget permits, buy a 4K TV that is Dolby Vision compatible. Or else, at least opt for a Samsung TV that is HDR10+ compatible.

But if you are someone who can’t really distinguish between HD ready, Full HD and 4K content visually, then, you needn’t give much focus on these aspects and would be better off buying a budget friendly Full HD or 4K TV of desired size.

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