Are you considering whether to get into the trend of HDR monitors or are you worried that this is only a fad? The problem with these hypes is that you may get convinced to invest the money on these new items when, in reality, they do not bring you any advantage whatsoever. Some explanations are also too technical for the ordinary person to understand, and this may lead to buyer’s remorse.
While having stuff with better specs and newer technology is better most of the time, the question you need to ask yourself is, “Will I benefit from this upgrade?“ After all, it will cost you money to buy a new monitor, and you might as well make the purchase worthwhile. To answer this question, you need to understand what HDR is, specifically when it comes to monitors.
What Is HDR?
The term HDR, short for High Dynamic Range, is not at all new. You most likely have the technology at home already because HD TVs support HDR. While you have experienced better viewing experience due to HDR, it has taken more time to be adopted into computers and gaming.
HDR has one purpose, and that is to make the image appear more realistic. It does so by improving the contrast between dark and bright and maintaining a wide colour gamut. You, the end-user, will be able to see more vivid colours and the image itself ends up looking more lifelike.
Specifically, HDR improves image quality in the following ways.
1. Luminance and Chrominance
These 2 factors truly differentiate “true HDR“ from the others. Luminance refers to the intensity of light emitted from a surface, measured per unit. Brightness plays a huge part in colour accuracy, so better luminance means a better picture.
Chrominance, on the other hand, is the difference between the colour you see on the screen and the same colour based on luminance. When you have greater chrominance, then it means the monitor is displaying colours more accurately. HDR has higher luminance and chrominance, especially compared to SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) displays, which leads to superior video quality.
2. Colour Space and Color Gamut
Colour spacing is what displays use to map out the colours in the screen, measured in terms of bits. Better colour spacing leads to more defined colours. If the millions of bits of colour in your monitor have better quality, then you can expect a superior output in terms of image quality. HDR not only improves on this, but it has a new name that describes the quality, Color Gamut. This means the complete range (of the colour spectrum) is supported by HDR monitors.
3. Shadows and Black Levels
The black levels are the most popular feature of HDR screens, especially because this was a particular problem of SDR displays. Instead of a bluish tone, HDR offers striking black levels and shadows that will improve the overall picture quality.
4. Nits, Brightness, and Stops
Nits refer to the brightness levels of a monitor and the more Nits it has, the brighter it can be. Plus, with higher brightness, colours and hues can be more accurately displayed. When it comes to monitors, though, they cannot always produce the same level of brightness as an HDTV because you will be sitting much closer to the screen.
Thus, monitors use the process called Stops to catch or stop the brightness from passing all the way through the screen. An HDR monitor, therefore, has both a high Nit value and several stops (at least 1000 Nits and 7 Stops when it comes to HDR10 displays).
What Is Compatible With An HDR Monitor?
Because it is entirely new, HDR has not been established as a standard rendering methodology. Thus, older media is simply not able to support HDR. Some manufacturers are trying to find a solution by introducing some sort of emulated HDR, which makes it possible for non-compatible media to improve its picture quality from the old SDR quality. However, it is still inferior to real HDR.
When it comes to video games, they have been tailor-fit for this kind of technology, with the major brands able to support HDR10. This means, if you have a gaming console, you will certainly be able to maximize on your HDR monitor.
PC games currently do not support native HDR10. This means it is technically possible with your Windows 10 but the application is far from perfect. You will experience glitches often, as well as visual hiccups. Once inside the game, it is a different story. Most Triple-A games out there have a setting for HDR10, so integration is both easy and fast.
In short, if you are into gaming, both in your console or on Windows, you will experience superior video quality on an HDR monitor. However, if you want to watch other forms of media on your PC (streaming videos and movies, for example), then you are better off watching on your HDTV.
Is It Worthwhile To Buy An HDR Monitor?
The extreme popularity of HDTVs and the adoption of technology by media means the future is all about HDR. After all, who wouldn’t love the superior image and video quality it offers? Even if it is not yet compatible with everything, you can already enjoy whatever forms of media and games that can integrate easily with it. At the end of the day, it is all about, “Do you really want to stick to low-contrast, less-brightness, overall-lower-image-quality of SDR monitors?“ Why should you?
The only hurdle to overcome is the price. Most HDR10 displays also support 4K, which means a much higher price tag for a monitor upgrade that might not yet be applicable to everything. But if you are on the market for an upgrade after many years with your old monitor, then it does not make any sense to invest in anything other than an HDR monitor. Once the whole industry adopts and uses it on all future media, you will anyways have to buy again. So save yourself from the double purchase and make the investment.