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Technology is always changing. We’ve come a long way from black-and-white movies and computers that take up an entire room. While these changes are exciting, it can be hard to keep up with what is the current hot trend. These days, the latest innovation is the HDR monitor.
What Are HDR Monitors?
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HDR stands for high dynamic range. While prior technologies have focused more on increasing pixels for higher quality, HDR offers different features and advances. In particular, HDR monitors offer higher contrast and greater color depth. These monitors are capable of producing a much brighter picture. The increased range means that an HDR monitor can offer far more detail than HD or even 4K monitors.
A key aspect of HDR monitors is the brightness level, measured in a unit known as “nits.” A nit is the term for candelas per square meter, used for measuring contrast by comparing the darkest and brightest capability of the monitor. Standard monitors maxed out at around 500 nits, but an HDR monitor is capable of much more.
It is important to know that there are different HDR formats, and different monitors may not be compatible with all of the formats. The two major formats currently available are Dolby Vision and HDR10. Each of these formats has different offerings, and changes are still occurring as the technology continues to develop.
Dolby Vision is the first HDR format and is currently the biggest player in the market. Dolby Vision has superior specs, offering 12-bit color depth and support for up to 10,000 nits of brightness. While no monitor is currently capable of supporting the maximum possible specs Dolby Vision can offer, it is clear that the technology is developing and preparing for the future.
Dolby Vision also has an advantage in terms of metadata. This format is capable of accounting for differences between the TV you are watching and the gear used when developing the content. This allows for adaptation as needed, producing the best possible display for your monitor.
Finally, Dolby Vision does not require hardware as advanced or updated as that required by other formats. As of February 2017, Dolby Vision was offered through software, no longer needing dedicated hardware. Several manufacturers have developed models capable of supporting Dolby Vision. Overall, this is a fairly accessible technology, in terms of manufacturers making it available through their products.
HDR10 and HDR 10+
The other main formats available for an HDR monitor are HDR10 and HDR10+. HDR10 is the only format supported by HDR PC monitors, so it is especially relevant for that consumer market.
HDR is a popular format, as it is available for TV manufacturers to implement without charge. However, the specs are somewhat lower than those of Dolby Vision. HDR10 uses only 10-bit color depth and less metadata. For now, however, it is worth noting that these differences are rather minor and are not likely to be particularly noticeable. This may change as the technology continues to progress.
HDR10+ was brought to the scene by Samsung and Amazon. This format maintains the color depth of HDR10 but brings in the metadata of Dolby Vision. It is currently being supported in the Samsung and Panasonic TV lines.
While several other companies are developing formats, these three options are the major players, especially as companies have agreed on an HDR10 open standard.
Do I Need an HDR Monitor?
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As HDR is becoming more and more commonplace, it is likely to become the new standard. If this is the case, it will eventually be essential to replace your standard monitor with an HDR monitor to avoid missing out on the best content. It is clear that HDR offers a significant graphic advantage over typical standard monitors. There are, of course, some factors that customers will want to consider before buying an HDR monitor.
Price is always a factor to consider when making a purchase, especially one as significant as a new television or PC. In the case of HDR monitors, the premium quality does dictate a premium price. Among computer monitors, for example, options can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Compatibility and Content
One disadvantage facing the various HDR formats is the current lack of content available. As with any new technology, content manufacturers have to take time to catch up and produce content which is suitable for the new display specs. At this point, there is still a rather large gap in what content is available in an HDR format. However, there are still quite a few viable options, with many companies showing growing support for the new formats.
Netflix, in keeping with their role as a company always on top of technology trends, was one of the first companies to debut HDR support. Multiple Netflix original shows and movies are available in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision formats. Amazon is also offering support for HDR technology; quite a few Amazon Prime offerings are available in HDR format, as well as original Amazon content. Like Netflix, Amazon offers content in both HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
iTunes has likewise begun to offer HDR10 and Dolby Vision titles. For users who have already bought a certain title, it will be automatically upgraded to the HDR content without needing to be purchased again. Google has also joined in on HDR format, with Google Play and YouTube offering HDR content. However, these products do not currently support Dolby Vision, but only HDR10.
Aside from movies, TV shows, and videos, HDR is also a popular topic when it comes to gaming, both on consoles and on PCs. Currently, HDR is more supported for console games, though some PC offerings are available.
The Xbox One and Sony Playstation 4 have both added HDR capability for gaming and streaming content. There are some differences with what each platform supports as far as 4K Ultra HD, meaning that each option may have pros and cons for different players. It is clear, however, that both platforms are leading the way into HDR capability.
On the PC side, it is more difficult to find HDR games. Those that are available, however, tend to be big name titles such as Destiny 2 or Call of Duty: World War II.
How to Choose an HDR Monitor
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Features to consider when choosing an HDR monitor will vary from person to person, depending on what aspects are important and what the monitor is going to be used for. However, certain features are generally good options to keep in mind when shopping for an HDR monitor.
Brightness is one of the key features of HDR monitors, and the capabilities are fairly varied. It can be helpful to consider the DisplayHDR Standard, which offers three certification levels based on brightness. The levels are HDR400, HDR600, and HDR1000, with the numbers referring to the highest brightness level, measured in nits. Clearly, a higher certification level will mean greater brightness and contrast.
Color depth is another important feature of HDR monitors, as is the contrast ratio. These are aspects which will help the picture look clearer and sharper.
Some features may be more important among PC users of HDR monitors. Important features in this arena include size, refresh rate, latency, and design features.
Overall, the choice for which HDR monitor best suits your needs is one which is inherently personal. However, it is always useful to do research on the specs of various monitors. Consider what aspects are most important to you and your needs. Are you looking for precision graphic design, intense gaming, or a new way to experience movies and TV shows? Talking with experts can also help point you in the right direction as to what monitor is likely to be best for you.
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The decision to upgrade a television or PC monitor is a big one. A lot of time and money goes into these purchases, making it an important investment. As technology changes, more and more features must be taken into consideration to ensure that the product you are purchasing is the best one for your needs. In the case of HDR monitors, it may be intimidating to try to decipher what is the best possible option.
It is clear, however, that an HDR monitor is well worth the extra investment. While the technology is relatively new, it represents great strides in viewing content. Brighter pictures with better images, sharper contrast, and more colors are becoming commonplace. More importantly, major companies such as Amazon and Google are showing their support for the technology, creating content and manufacturing products which are compatible with the new formats.
HDR monitors are the way of the future, and it can be expected that more content will be consistently released for movies, tv shows, and games. Consider the features broken down in this article, and start preparing for your next big monitor purchase. The incredible displays are sure to prove well worth it.