All about HDR (High Dynamic Range)

Will most of your viewing be in HDR or SDR?


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Dodgexander

Moderator
One of the major decisions to make when purchase a TV, especially an LCD TV is based on HDR. So what is HDR, how will you use it and do you need it on your TV?

Major points to understand HDR

  1. HDR (High Dynamic Range) in the TV tech world is a means to add data to a video source which contains information allowing a TV to display a wider range of colours and more striking peak brightness. The result is increased contrast, depth and impact to picture quality It arguably is a bigger improvement in picture quality than UHD itself, and unlike UHD resolution, can be benefited from regardless of how close you sit from the TV.​
  2. HDR, despite what it may seem is not a new feature that is available on newer TVs which you can turn on and off with the remote control. Buying a TV that has HDR on the box does not mean that TV is going to be able to polish everything you throw at it and make it "HDR quality". In order for HDR to be used you need to use content that includes that information. If you do not use content with HDR data added then you are watching SDR. (Standard Dynamic Range).​
HDR is not the same as HD (High Definition) and SDR is not the same as SD (Standard Definition)

  1. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and is a separate technology from HD (High Definition).
  2. SDR stands for Standard Dynamic Range and is a separate technology from SD (Standard Definition)
  3. Both HD and SD, or even UHD are simply the resolution (the amount of pixels) and play no part it improved contrast, nor are they linked to HDR or SDR.
  4. As it happens, most HDR content is available in UHD, whilst most non-UHD content is SDR.
So what content is still mainly only SDR?

  1. HD Blu-Rays
  2. DVDs
  3. Catch up TV
  4. Regular broadcast TV, including Sky Q/Virgin/BT
The difference between cheaper and more expensive LCD TVs is now almost exclusively how they reproduce HDR.

Years back the difference between buying a cheap LCD TV and a more expensive model was almost exclusively in overall picture quality. That is not the case now. Now if you spend more money on an LCD TV you are almost exclusively paying extra money for HDR performance, you are not paying extra for better picture quality with every source like you used to.
Mid range, and in many cases low range TVs can be 90% as good as more expensive models at displaying material that isn't in HDR yet.
So if you are thinking about upgrading your TV, consider keeping what you have, or buying a cheaper TV rather than a more expensive one until you know you'll use more HDR content!
HDR makes huge demands on TVs.

Every TV now can accept HDR information, but how the TV displays it depends heavily on the hardware that is equipped on the TV. Do not assume that because a TV supports HDR that automatically when you use HDR the picture will improve. In the case of cheaper TVs, using HDR can actually result in adverse effects and worse picture quality than playing the SDR version of the same video!

To display HDR to an acceptable level on an LCD TV, you need a higher end TV. Cheaper LCD TVs just won't cut it!
With LCD TVs things like high peak brightness, a wider range of colour reproduction and local dimming are required to deliver HDR video to a high standard. If you lack high peak brightness, you don't receive the striking bright highlights that HDR is famous for. If you lack a wide range of colour reproduction you won't see an improvement with lush colour available at all stages of brightness and if you don't have good local dimming on the TV, you won't be able to separate those bright bits of the picture from the dark ones, resulting in very poor screen uniformity and poor light control. In the HDR world, these are the 3 main factors you need to display HDR to an acceptable level. If you lack these in a TV, then you can get problems displaying HDR content such as a darkened image or crushed highlights making the picture look washed out. This is very common with HDR on cheaper TVs...or TVs that do not make the "cut" with HDR. Contrary to what people may think, the panel bit depth does not contribute to HDR picture quality at all compared to the aforementioned demands. Do not think about panel bit depth when shopping for a capable HDR TV.

HDR10+ & Dolby Vision HDR

Being able to accept both HDR formats can be important to displaying HDR too, but don't get carried away if you find a cheaper TV that is able to accept both these formats.
Having HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR supported by the TV can be beneficial in the sense the TV will manage and be able to display HDR without as many problems, but it still doesn't take away if the TV has poor HDR hardware to begin with, it will not be able to deliver HDR as intended. In short, having a TV that accepts these two dynamic HDR formats is a nice-to-have, but not really worth paying for in most circumstances. Instead of setting your eyes on TVs that support all HDR formats, instead look at raising your budget to afford a TV with capable HDR hardware instead. You are better off not supporting either of these formats and having a TV that is more capable with HDR than you are supporting both and having a TV that isn't capable with HDR.

HDR formats

HDR10 - The basic, non dynamic layer of HDR meta-data. This data is added to a source and stays the same throughout the entire duration of the video or game. This is the only HDR format used in computer games and in many cases, lots of HDR video too. HDR10 is always included as a "backup" layer in case your TV doesn't support HDR10+ or Dolby Vision, so if you find a title with dynamic HDR that your TV does not support, do not worry, HDR will still work. The downside to HDR10 is that it will cause problems playing back on TVs that do not include good HDR format support. Every TV now supports this HDR format.
HDR10+ - The dynamic version of HDR10, open source so anyone can use it and able to change brightness levels according to each frame. This results in a more refined HDR experience. Cheaper TVs supporting this format, when playing back content that includes this format can display HDR with less issues.
Dolby Vision HDR - A royalty based HDR format, works the same way as HDR10+ but companies have to pay Dolby to master titles with this information, it may cost money to license TVs and content with this format, but at the moment its more widely used than HDR10+.
HLG HDR - This is the broadcast HDR format used by the BBC amongst others in their Nature HDR/Sport trials. Every TV now supports this HDR format.
Technicolor HDR - There's currently no content available in this format, but may be in the future. Currently only supported by higher end LG TVs.

Sources that support HDR and the Content Available In HDR

How much importance you place on HDR will depend on how often you intend to use content that includes the HDR metadata. It also depends how much you care about not having problems displaying HDR content on the TV. If you don't intend to use much HDR, but when you do, you don't want issues. You need to spend more money on a more capable HDR TV. If you watch HDR lots, you need to spend more money on a capable HDR TV. If yu don't use HDR at all and don't care how it looks if you do use it, you don't need to spend more on a capable HDR TV.
Remember, HDR is not something you simply turn on and off..and in the case of Netflix, if you use the UHD plan you can't avoid using it, even if the TV can't display it without problems!


  1. Netflix - Uses exclusively Dolby Vision HDR on certain titles. See a list here: List of 4k/HDR/Atmos Movies & TV Shows on Netflix – HD Report note that if a show is available in UHD, its not necessarily HDR.
  2. Amazon - Uses mainly HDR10+ HDR on certain titles, they have also started to introduce certain HDR shows, see: Everything on Amazon Prime Video in HDR10+, Dolby Vision, and/or Dolby Atmos | High-Def Digest - again, make a note that not all shows available in UHD include HDR data.
  3. Apple TV - Mostly Dolby Vision HDR content, but some shows are only vanilla HDR10+ List of 4k, HDR, & Dolby Atmos Movies on Apple TV – HD Report
  4. UHD Blu-Rays - Most titles now support Dolby Vision HDR, with many still being HDR10 and some being HDR10+. More rarely there are some movies supporting both, see: List of 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc Titles – HD Report for a list of movies, but you'll have to google the specific movie to find out exactly which format it accepts. Different production companies back different formats.
  5. Other streaming servives and misc HDR use - There are sometimes trials, or other streaming services that offer HDR data, in the USA there are a few streaming services apart from the ones listed where you can purchase HDR content and there can also be broadcast trials offering HDR content such as the last Football World Cup. Broadcast HDR will almost exclusively use HLG HDR so every TV supports that now.
  6. HDR games consoles, see below.

HDR Gaming

HDR games on both HDR consoles and PCs currently only support the HDR10 static format, but almost every newly console released game is now available in HDR.
Since there's no current dynamic meta data support in games, this means gaming with HDR enabled on the console can be very troublesome on cheaper TVs without ample HDR hardware. Unless the game has a way in its settings to reduce the peak light output level of brightness, you may find you have to disable HDR on the console to enjoy some games on cheaper TVs without problems.

In the future its possible for games to support Dolby Vision and HDR10+ formats, it will be at that point where HDR gaming will be more viable on cheaper TV hardware.

FAQ:

Q. What are the cheapest TVs that can display HDR to the highest standard?
A. You can expect to pay near to £1000 for a capable HDR TV. At the moment starting models would be the Samsung Q70R, Sony XG9005, XG9505, LG B9 or Philips OLED754.

Q. What are the smallest, capable HDR TVs?
A. The Sony 49XG9005 and Samsung 49Q70R are the smallest TVs that can display HDR to a decent standard.

Q. What about bit depth, or panel bit depth?
A. Bit depth is not really important for HDR. There are more important factors when choosing a TV than its bit depth. Even the UHD premium certification for HDR TVs dictates that TVs only have to accept a 10 bit signal, not display it. Remember, more bits does not mean more colours, but only a smoother transition from one colour to the next. Not only that, but there are TVs with 8 bit panels that have a smoother transition from one to the next than 10 bit ones! Forget about panel bit depth when it comes to HDR.
 
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Peterbeard

Standard Member
All I know is that my 43inch one year old Sony looks great and sounds great with external speaker and amp system added.
It handles Netflix and my Talktalk/Huwai (?) recorder excellently only Amazon UHD pictures look a bit garish without tweeking down.
 

Dodgexander

Moderator
All I know is that my 43inch one year old Sony looks great and sounds great with external speaker and amp system added.
It handles Netflix and my Talktalk/Huwai (?) recorder excellently only Amazon UHD pictures look a bit garish without tweeking down.
If its UHD shows in HDR on Amazon you find garish its probably a result of clipped highlights. Try watching the non-UHD version instead (amazon includes both) to see which you prefer the look of.

True HDR doesn't really come on smaller TVs, so your current TV won't be able to display HDR as its intended to be shown, but if you are still watching a lot of regular TV its not a bad idea to keep with a small TV for now.
 

Phibborama

Novice Member
Hi Dodgexander - you obviously know your stuff. Perhaps you can help.
I currently have about a 10 year old Sony TV. Its 38 inch and in the corner of a small room. I sit at about 40 degrees from it and about 9 feet away. My wife at the other end of the sofa at about 30 degrees and the same distance - although we could turn the table slightly and reduce both these angles.
The current TV has a dull picture with slightly blotchy blacks and the sound is weak, and with my eyesight and hearing the wrong side of 40 we'd like to upgrade.
I know now that it restricts options but the room won't take a big TV. 40 inches would be fine, stretching to 43 if necessary.
We have a Virgin Tivo box. We mainly watch films drama and documentaries on mainstream channels, often recording them to watch when we like. When I remember we watch on BBCHD channels and other HD channels. We sometimes use BBCiplayer to watch stuff on catch-up. We sometimes watch films and series on the Netflix channel and purchase films from Virgin films or Netflix, and I watch quite a bit of sport on BTHD channels. And that's it really. We have a DVD Blue-ray player but rarely use it these days. I don't video game any more.
I'm looking for a well-made TV, futurescoped to last the next 5 to 10 years or so, with a much better sound and picture than currently. I appreciate that I'll probably need a sound bar to get the sound I need, so what do I need to look at to get the best picture? Nice blacks, good contrast, good natural colours etc.
I've been going in circles around the Pansonic 40xg8000B, LG UM7500PLA, the 43 inch Samsung QLED or going back and trying to pick up a Samsung UE40MU6400 or various Sonys - I know the Sony operating system and there's a certain comfort in going with a brand I've always had in the past...If there was a quality 40 to 43 inch Sony that satisfied these requirements, but they all seem to have such mixed review. I even signed up to Which! but they exclusively seem to recommend the LGs.
Can you help in this minefield?
 

Dodgexander

Moderator
Hi Dodgexander - you obviously know your stuff. Perhaps you can help.
I currently have about a 10 year old Sony TV. Its 38 inch and in the corner of a small room. I sit at about 40 degrees from it and about 9 feet away. My wife at the other end of the sofa at about 30 degrees and the same distance - although we could turn the table slightly and reduce both these angles.
The current TV has a dull picture with slightly blotchy blacks and the sound is weak, and with my eyesight and hearing the wrong side of 40 we'd like to upgrade.
I know now that it restricts options but the room won't take a big TV. 40 inches would be fine, stretching to 43 if necessary.
We have a Virgin Tivo box. We mainly watch films drama and documentaries on mainstream channels, often recording them to watch when we like. When I remember we watch on BBCHD channels and other HD channels. We sometimes use BBCiplayer to watch stuff on catch-up. We sometimes watch films and series on the Netflix channel and purchase films from Virgin films or Netflix, and I watch quite a bit of sport on BTHD channels. And that's it really. We have a DVD Blue-ray player but rarely use it these days. I don't video game any more.
I'm looking for a well-made TV, futurescoped to last the next 5 to 10 years or so, with a much better sound and picture than currently. I appreciate that I'll probably need a sound bar to get the sound I need, so what do I need to look at to get the best picture? Nice blacks, good contrast, good natural colours etc.
I've been going in circles around the Pansonic 40xg8000B, LG UM7500PLA, the 43 inch Samsung QLED or going back and trying to pick up a Samsung UE40MU6400 or various Sonys - I know the Sony operating system and there's a certain comfort in going with a brand I've always had in the past...If there was a quality 40 to 43 inch Sony that satisfied these requirements, but they all seem to have such mixed review. I even signed up to Which! but they exclusively seem to recommend the LGs.
Can you help in this minefield?
The best TVs for picture quality use a type of panel which has narrow viewing angles. Therefore if you want a TV like the Panasonic 40GX800 or Samsung 40MU6400, you will have to view between 20-30 degrees angle of it to not have any degradation in picture quality.

If you need wider viewing angles than that, then you will have to accept the TV you buy will not fair as well with things like blacks or contrast.

Given you view 40 degrees off-centre and your wife 30 I'd consider the LG 43UM7xxx series, all the series have the same picture quality. Anything 43UM7600 and over has an extra HDMI port and anything 43UM7450 and over comes with the improved smart TV controller.

Sony models at 43" aren't bad by any means, they like the LGs have better viewing angles at the cost of blacks and contrast. The main reason they don't get glowing reviews is because they generally cost a lot more than LGs do and their smart TV platform is a lot worse.

At 9ft away I'd seriously consider a larger TV if you can. If you could wait until around a year from now to upgrade, or get a stop-gap TV in the interim then there will be 48" OLEDs released next year which will be a night and day difference between any TV you can buy at 40-50" now.

Sadly, the days of manufacturers making more than budget-oriented TVs at smaller sizes have ended, with 40-43" model lines in particular suffering. The very best TVs now are a lot larger and more expensive, so you mustn't expect much when buying a smaller TV now.
 

silent ninja

Well-known Member
Thanks for the wonderful guide.
I do like your point that cheaper LCDs are now just as good as those double or triple the price for non-HDR content. I went into Curry's and couldn't see much of a difference with non HDR content.

What about tellies that only support certain HDR formats. Samsung doesn't support Dolby Vision on any of their modeks so what happens when you play a Dolby Vision title on Netflix - does it fail to provide an HDR image?
 

LCDseeker

Distinguished Member
Thanks for the wonderful guide.
I do like your point that cheaper LCDs are now just as good as those double or triple the price for non-HDR content. I went into Curry's and couldn't see much of a difference with non HDR content.

What about tellies that only support certain HDR formats. Samsung doesn't support Dolby Vision on any of their modeks so what happens when you play a Dolby Vision title on Netflix - does it fail to provide an HDR image?
I think you get HDR10+ but I might be wrong on that. It's a massive downside to Samsungs that you don't get DV as the picture quality is superb and most of Netflix is now DV or Dolby Atmos. Unlike 3D I do think HDR is here to stay and I think DV looks like the front runner by quite a distance.
 

shoestring25

Distinguished Member
HDR10 is the front runner as thats supported by every tv. As for formats with dynamic metadata yes dolby vision appears to be the front runner
 
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LCDseeker

Distinguished Member
HDR10 is the front runner as thats supported by every tv as for formats with dynamic metadata yes dolby vision appears to be the front runner
Why do you say it's the front runner? Hardly anything is being produced in HDR10, that I'm available to get anyway.
 

shoestring25

Distinguished Member
HDR10 is the default HDR format every 4k HDR tv supports this. if your tv doesnt do dolby vision you get HDR10 if your tv doesnt do HDR10+ you get HDR10.

almost all HDR video games are in HDR10
 
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Dodgexander

Moderator
The key thing to take from this guide is the hardware used to create the TV has a lot more to do with how the TV can display HDR other than the HDR formats it accepts.

For example, Panasonic and LG have models that can understand Dolby Vision HDR but are awful HDR TVs. Whilst Samsung have models that don't support Dolby Vision, but despite this can display the standard HDR10 layer of Dolby Vision HDR content and display it better than TVs that support Dolby Vision directly.
 

LCDseeker

Distinguished Member
HDR10 is the default HDR format every 4k HDR tv supports this. if your tv doesnt do dolby vision you get HDR10 if your tv doesnt do HDR10+ you get HDR10.

almost all HDR video games are in HDR10
I know but most programming is being released in DV or Dolby Atmos now. I don't game so didn't realise that.
 

Sando

Novice Member
Wow im still confused
Am I correct in thinking a 2020 samsung uhd or 4k or what ever its called would be ok for a bright ish room im no expert i just like a decent clear picture
 

Dodgexander

Moderator
Wow im still confused
Am I correct in thinking a 2020 samsung uhd or 4k or what ever its called would be ok for a bright ish room im no expert i just like a decent clear picture
That is a bit of a generic question, you'd need to be more specific with model numbers.
For most rooms any TV will be bright enough today provided you don't use HDR on the TV.
But if your room is quite bright, and especially if you use HDR material you need at very minimum TVs that can reach around 1000 nits peak brightness like the Sony XH9505 or Samsung Q90T.
 

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