Ask LH: Are HDR TVs Just Another Gimmick?

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.

Cheers Lifehacker

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  • Is it something you need in your next TV purchase? Almost certainly.

    Because if you don’t… YOU’LL DIE!!!!!!!!!!

  • You also need a fast internet connect (NBN) as Netflix recommends 25Mb/sec as a minimum for 4k/UltraHD).

  • “The Xbox One S video game console also supports HDR…”

    As does the PlayStation4 (both standard and pro models) FYI.

  • There is a lot of misleading information here. HDR doesn’t make images more true to life, it simply allows a digital medium to more closely replicate the way film stores images, with more differentiation in the lightest and darkest areas of your image. Whether your eyes notice the difference is debateable.

    HDR10 is a standard to help achieve this. Where digital images are traditionally stored with 8 bits per channel of data – 256 different levels for each of the red, green and blue channels that make up a pixel, for 16.778 million possible colours – HDR10 supports 10 bits per channel. That’s not just 20% more, it’s four times the data, or a possible 1.07 billion colours.

    The big thing is that everything ever made for digital consumption up until now has been created with only 8 bits per channel and that’s not likely to change. So you’ll be buying an HDR TV and mostly watching non-HDR content on it for years to come, possibly decades, maybe even forever if it doesn’t catch on. Personally, I wouldn’t pay an extra dollar for an HDR TV, nor would I go out and buy one unless my old one died on me. Spend a bit of time getting the brightness and contrast right on your current TV and you’ll be fine.

  • That picture is also a terrible representation. All you’ve done is add a haze filter to the left side.

    Most laughably, however, is 98% of the talk being about greater contrast between colours and blacks/whites. Too bad LCD tech is inherently inferior to OLED, and your ‘HDR’ efforts will be slim on LCD. In fact most of the linked article on HDR is a lie, or omits that it applies to OLED only. Terrible.

    If you actually care about HDR and having the best picture quality, you’ll get an OLED. Coupled with the lies and misinformation spread here, you’ve got an uphill battle to convince people HDR (on typical LCD tech) isn’t a scam.

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