It’s getting more and more difficult to avoid HDR. It’s one of the current buzzwords when it comes to panels, and it’ s gaining traction as more models use this new technology as a key part of their appeal.
However, all is not what it seems. While loads Of monitors display HDR logos, manufacturers are cutting corners in order to benefit from HDR without delivering a good experience.
What is HDR?
HDR stands for high dynamic range. It allows screens to render images with significant improvements to brightness, black point, contrast, and colour gamut – and with dynamic adjustments throughout – in order to create bolder.
brighter images with more depth and subtlety. It’s designed to give films and games more punch and, in theory, more realism. HDR monitors need stronger backlights that are divided into zones for dynamic, localized adjustment – a feature called local dimming.
A strong backlight with local dimming delivers higher peaks and deeper black levels. Elsewhere, HDR panels should support wider colour gamuts in order to display the extra shades allowed by that superior contrast.
compare and contrast
Helpfully, industry organisation VESA publishes official certifications th at specify what a monitor must do to earn an HDR logo.
Unfortunately, most current HER monitors adhere to the VESA Display HDR 400 standard. It’s the entry-level protocol, and it’s poor.
When it comes to brightness, Display HDR 400 demands that monitors serve up a peak brightness of 400cd/m2 with a long-duration brightness Of 320cd/m2.
Those are low: barely any different from the levels attained by non- HDR screens, and far short of HDR TVS. DisplayHDR 400 also requires a black point of 0.1cd/m2 – again, not particularly eye-catching and miles behind the black points attained by more accomplished devices.
Combine those figures and you will get contrast ratios of – on paper. That level is fine but, again, it’s still a long way behind better hardware. And, critically, our tests show that Display HDR 400 screens often don’t attain these levels despite their certification.
There are more concerns. Even if a screen does achieve these modest figures, there’s no requirement for a Display HDR 400 panel to have local dimming. Instead, most panels rely on cheaper global dimming, which can’t deliver the peaks, troughs, and precision of local dimming.
The Asus ROG Strix XG49VQ and AOC Agon AG322QC4 in this Labs both have Display HDR 400. But both struggle when it comes to matching this protocol – and so HDR content is barely boosted at all.
The Display HDR ,100 standard also has colour issues. This protocol demands that screens render 95 % of the BT.709 colour gamut.
That might sound impressive, but in truth BT.709 is mighty close to the sRGB gamut, which is the basic standard used by most screens – while the promise Of 95′”. coverage is useful, ultimately it’s another area where Display HDR 400 doesn’t deliver anyth ing beyond the norm.
Higher HDR standards specify that screens support of the wider DCl-P3 gamut. However, there’s no obligation for manufacturers to do this for Display HDR 4 00 – so, most of the time, they don’t.
Display HDR400 also only specifies that screens have 8-bit colour, not 10-bit. This is another area where the Asus and. AOC monitors fall short. And while both panels handle sRGB and BT.709 colour, neither succeeds with dCI-P3. The Asus Only rendered 80.8% of that gamut.
Wait for better HDR
So, on paper, I-IDR is excellent – but, in reality, too many monitors use DisplayHDR 400 and that’s just not acceptable.
This popular protocol isn’t strict enough with brightness, contrast and black levels. and it doesn’t make the necessary vigorous demands when it comes to local dimming or colour gamutS.
If a screen matches DisplayHDR 400, H DR content gets a tiny boost – not enough of an improvement to make it worthwhile.
And, too often, screens can’t even manage that. so, while HER is tempting, we’d steer clear of DisplayHDR 400. It’s the most popular protocol right now, but it’s so undemanding that it may as well not be included at all.
It’s a far cry from HDR 10 and Dolby Vision, which are often found on market-leading HDR TVs. Instead, we would wait. VESA DisplayHDR 600 and 1000 screens will be coming soon, and they’re going to be far better – they will actually give HDR content the boost it deserves.