No matter what the monitor and TV manufacturers want to tell you, we live in an age of diminishing returns. Our gaming displays already look great, and they’re fast running out of reasons why you need a 5K monitor over a 4K display. It’s why we find hardware manufacturers looking elsewhere then resolution to shift their displays, touting ‘better pixels’ rather than more pixels and giving rise to OLED displays and yes, HDR.
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, and in a nutshell, it’s a standard for enhancing the available colour palette and contrast of a display. It allows for a greater contrast between light and dark images, creating a more lifelike image onscreen.
First and foremost - HDR is a hardware solution. In order to take advantage of HDR, you will require a PC monitor or TV that meets the HDR specs. They require a minimum of 1000 cd/m2 (nits of brightness), as well as 10 (HDR10) or 12-bit (Dolby Vision) colour space per channel. Most ordinary monitors these days will be 8-bit.
As it currently stands, monitors still lag some way behind TVs when it comes to new technology like HDR. There are increasing numbers out there available, although there’s also a lot marketed towards the design and workstation markets. These can carry a large price premium and they’re also not designed with gaming in mind, often featuring high response times. With any luck, HDR PC monitors should become more commonplace throughout 2018, and it’s certainly a technology to consider if you’re planning to splash the cash on a brand new monitor.
The big question now is, is it worth the extra cash to buy an HDR monitor? There are certainly those out there that would argue HDR is a better improvement than 4K in terms of image quality. I’m not so sure myself, but if you’ve seen in action for yourself you’ll be aware the difference is profound. It’s a key method for how the PS4 Pro papers over the cracks of its poor 4K resolution. When 1440p with HDR looks so good, it’s harder to tell when you’re missing out on the 4K experience. Pair a 4K display and HDR together though and you’ve arguably got the premium image quality available on the market today.
One issue with HDR though, aside from the prohibitive cost, is the flaky support. A handful of modern AAA games have some form of HDR support baked in, but more often than not there is none. This will change going forward as HDR becomes a more popular standard, but for now, it’s a serious investment just to play what's potentially a few dozen titles with HDR.
Have any of you got HDR displays? Do you think it’s worth paying the extra cash for HDR? Would you rather a 4K display or a 1440p HDR monitor? Let us know below!