What is HDR TV?
HDR – or high dynamic range – is the latest, must-have TV feature that everyone is talking about. HDR TV offers improved picture contrast, with more vivid and realistic colours than shown on a standard set. Particularly accurate at defining the whitest whites and the darkest darks, it highly improves the quality and visibility of darker scenes, for greater accuracy and detail.
But is a HDR TV really necessary and how does it compare to 4K, 1080p and all of the other TV specifications that are so often talked about? At Ferguson TV, we’ve put together this informative guide to help you understand what HDR TV does, the different types of HDR TV available and whether it’s time to invest in a set that supports it, to help you choose your next TV with confidence.
Is HDR better than 4K?
To answer this question accurately, it’s important to understand the difference between HDR and 4K. Both work to improve the quality of your TV’s images, but they are not in competition with each other.
4K is to do with screen resolution and is, in fact, the number of pixels that your TV screen can fit, offering a sharper and more defined, crisp image. HDR compatible TVs offer a wider colour gamut and contrast range than a standard-definition TV when watching HDR content. In fact, most manufacturers of premium digital 4K Ultra HD televisions of over 1080p or 720p offer both as standard, so rather than one being better than the other, the pair work in tandem to create the best picture quality possible. Although 4K TV is exceptional on its own, a 4K HDR picture will appear brighter, richer in colour and will improve the quality of darker scenes when playing HDR compatible content.
What are the different types of HDR TV?
Most 4K TVs are now HDR compatible, so an HDR-ready TV is not something that the consumer is paying extra for. More expensive TVs will stretch the colour spectrum even further, brightening whites and deciphering blacks for exceptional picture quality, but all HDR compatible TVs will offer an enhanced picture quality when playing HDR content. There are five different formats of HDR TV that are currently supported by different manufacturers, so in this section, we’ll look at each in turn and how they differ.
Essentially, all five different HDR TV formats perform the same function, working to enhance your TV’s colour spectrum, depth and contrast, but how they work is to do with metadata. Metadata is the information that is required to turn an SDR (standard definition video file) into an HDR (high dynamic range file).
There are two types of metadata: static and dynamic. Dynamic metadata is able to adjust the HDR scene by scene and will be dependent on the brightness of your TV and what is being displayed. Static metadata can’t alter with each scene but will still enhance the colour spectrum overall, although some minor details may be lost in darker scenes. HDR10 uses static metadata, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision use dynamic metadata, Technicolor uses both, whereas HLG uses neither. Here are the main features of each type;-
Standard HDR is currently HDR10, and all HDR-capable TVs are compatible with it, as are streaming services Amazon and Netflix, film studios Sony, Warner Bros and Universal and Ultra-HD Blu Rays, where your HDR content comes from. Games consoles PS4 and Xbox One S and One X are also HDR10 ready.
One of the main differences between Dolby Vision and HDR10 is that TV manufacturers are made to pay a fee to make their TVs compatible with it, but despite this, most leading TVs are Dolby Vision compatible. Dolby Vision uses dynamic metadata in comparison to HDR10’s static and is able to work with older versions of HDMI than the latter too. Dolby Vision HDR offers a wider spectrum of brightness than standard HDR TV and can be transmitted at the same time as SDR content, making it much easier to broadcast.
HDR10+ is an upgraded version of standard HDR10 TV, using dynamic metadata as opposed to static for better colour quality and definition. TV manufacturers Samsung and Panasonic both see HDR10+ as a real competitor to Dolby Vision, since there is no manufacturer’s licence fee to use it. However, at the moment, it is the lesser included type of the two, with only a few TV brands currently offering it. Just as effective as Dolby Vision HDR TV, whichever your TV has, you can expect exceptional colour and picture accuracy with both.
Developed by Japanese broadcaster NHK and the BBC, HLG or Hybrid Log Gamma was created as a resolution to the problem of broadcasting HDR TV. Although it’s already in use in Japan, the BBC are yet to launch a HDR channel, instead opting to trial it on BBC iPlayer for HDR compatible TVs. Most TV manufacturers are prepared for its arrival, and most TV sets made after 2018 are compatible with it.
Technicolor HD TV is unique from all other types in that it can upgrade standard definition to HDR quality, meaning that HDR video can be watched on a non-HDR TV. Solving some broadcasting issues, Tecnicolor can convert an HDR TV signal to another that’s currently supported by your TV set. For example, it could convert a Technicolor HDR broadcast to Dolby Vision HDR TV so Dolby Vision compatible TV’s could still display it.
Is HDR worth it when buying a TV?
Just because you purchase an HDR TV, it doesn’t mean that you will always be watching HDR-quality programmes every time you switch on your set. To watch HDR TV, the content you’re viewing must be mastered to that standard in order to capitalise on your TVs capabilities. Many streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Video are now offering HDR quality content, but it’s important that you have a high-quality broadband connection too, in order to stream it effectively.
Similarly, movie studios are beginning to issue new films and remaster old ones in HDR quality, perfect for HDR TVs that are paired with 4K Blu-Ray players. In regular television broadcasting, HDR TV is in its very early stages, and as TV infrastructure struggles to even broadcast 4K quality TV, HDR TV in a mainstream sense seems a long way off becoming a reality. With this said, HDR TV is coming, and most good 4K compatible TVs offer it as standard, so if you’re buying a new premium TV, the chances are that it will be HDR-ready.
Although there isn’t an enormous amount of HDR content around at the moment, an HDR compatible TV is certainly a sensible investment for the future. Look for a HDR TV that has an Ultra HD Premium certification to ensure a true HDR viewing experience, and get ready for your most amazing at-home viewing experience yet.To enhance your viewing experience, why not browse our full collection of 4K Ultra HD TVs at Ferguson TV today to find your next set?