Ask LH: Are HDR TVs Just Another Gimmick?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve been hearing a lot about HDR TVs and how “revolutionary” they are. One so-called expert called it the biggest technological leap since the first colour TV. The thing is, similar things were said about 3D TV and look how that turned out! So my question is, does HDR really matter or is it just another marketing gimmick? Thanks, New TV Buyer

Dear NTB,

You’re right to be skeptical. Time and time again, TV manufacturers have over-promised and under-delivered when it comes to “the next big thing”. In addition to the damp squib that was 3D, we’ve also been disappointed by curved screens, gesture controls and LED/LCD hybrids, to name just a few examples. Whenever the TV industry proclaims something is revolutionary, you need to take a long, hard look at it.

With all that said, HDR is more than just a gimmick. Is it being overhyped? Without a doubt. Is it something you need in your next TV purchase? Almost certainly.

HDR stands for ‘High Dynamic Range’ imaging. As the name implies, it injects additional dynamic range into images which improves the ratio of light to dark and produces more colours overall. The end result are images that are brighter and more true-to-life.

Because there’s more colours to work with and more colour contrast, the footage appears much more vivid. Crucially, this is achieved without increasing the native pixel count – you can even get HDR on 1080p panels, provided they are compatible with the technology.

To get HDR, you’re going to need a television panel that supports either 2016 Dolby Vision or HDR10. All 2016 TVs from brand-name manufacturers will support these technologies, but support on earlier models is patchier.

As for content, Netflix is currently your best bet: the video streaming giant is saddling its horse to HDR with around 150 hours of High Dynamic Range (HDR) programming currently available in Australia. (To get HDR content on Netflix, you need to be signed up the Ultra HD package, which costs $14.95 per month.) The Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 video game consoles also support HDR, although you’ll still need a HDR TV to see the results.

You can learn a stack more about HDR and why it’s important via our in-depth guide on the technology. In short, HDR is not something you want to dismiss out of hand. If you want the video content you consumer to look loads better, we advise buying a HDR-capable panel for your next TV purchase.


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