- HDR is a technological process that widens image contrast and can result in richer and more vibrant images.
- HDR TVs may have poorer tone mapping, static metadata, iffy minimum brightness, and lower bit depth compared to newer standards.
- Alternatives to HDR TVs include HDR10+, HDR10, and Dolby Vision, with Dolby Vision offering higher brightness and increased color range.
- Viewers looking for the next resolution jump may want to hold off on upgrading to an HDR TV and wait for media in 8K.
High dynamic range, or HDR, televisions have been one of the most important innovations to image quality since the advent of high-definition resolutions. However, there are some perfectly valid reasons you might want to avoid an HDR TV.
Now, it is downright impossible to avoid HDR content in this day and age. Streaming services build content around the concept, most Blu-rays come with it by default, and televisions support it from the factory.
That said, there are suitable alternatives that give you the best HDR can offer without some of the more annoying drawbacks. Technology is continually advancing, and that thankfully means you aren’t going to be fiddling with your contrast with some alternatives.
High Dynamic Range (HDR): Overview
So, what is HDR? HDR is short for high dynamic range and it refers to a technological process that drastically widens the image contrast. When implemented on the right media, this can result in richer and more vibrant images.
Poor implementation can lead to images that are too dark or too bright, depending on the material being used. HDR is a great way to lend depth and realism to an image, far more than what you’d get with standard dynamic range at least.
It has been the standard for a number of years. You’ll find it on most newly manufactured televisions, along with some other options that’ll be covered. As stated, there are plenty of reasons to avoid HDR TVs.
Reasons to Avoid an HDR TV
A brighter, darker, and overall more vibrant image sounds great, right? This is definitely true, but there are some issues to discuss before going into more suitable alternatives for an HDR TV. There are also plenty of reasons to stick with the older standard, but they’re far less pressing.
1. Poorer Tone Mapping
Tone mapping refers to how colors are placed upon an image. Now, HDR has great color reproduction, provided you have the right sort of panel to accompany it.
However, tone mapping through HDR’s implementation can be poorer than other more recent standards. That isn’t to say it’s going to make your image look horrible. But colors like blacks, whites, and grays might be off.
This might not mean anything to you if you’re just a casual viewer. That said, if you spend enough time staring at a television, you may begin to notice little imperfections that wear away at your immersion.
2. Static Metadata
When you watch HDR content, it receives something called metadata. This essentially is contrast instructions for the moving images of a show or movie that you’re about to watch. Now, newer technologies allow creators to define metadata dynamically.
HDR, however, is an older standard. What this means is there is metadata, but it is defined once and doesn’t change for the duration of a piece of media. This can lead to some potential problems, like having to stop your show to go adjust the image settings as needed.
Newer standards allow for more flexibility, which is needed when you consider the breadth of imagery a show or movie might conjure up during the course of viewing.
3. Iffy Minimum Brightness
Modern televisions have a minimum and maximum brightness. Now, this can greatly depend on the display technology used, like OLED or QLED for example. HDR can sometimes have less than ideal minimum brightness.
This means you’ll have the correct color mapping for a particular image, but it might still be far too bright for what is being portrayed. Poor minimum brightness is something directly addressed by subsequent revisions to HDR but isn’t present in the base version that is so pervasive among older televisions.
If you’re using HDR, you want dynamic and vivid images. Having a night scene in a movie be far too brightly lit could lead to some issues for the sake of immersion.
4. Lower Bit Depth
SDR is around 8 bits or so, and HDR is firmly stuck at 10 bits. What a bit means is that for each of the primary colors used by a display, there are ten possible samples to map.
When you consider the multitude of hues, this means you get roughly a billion or so possible colors. Having a higher bit rate means you have far more depth when it comes to color choice. There are HDR standards that are more modern with much higher bitrates, like Dolby Vision.
Dolby Vision has 12 bits per color, which is exponentially higher when it gets down to it. 10 bits is around a billion colors, as previously stated, but 12 bits is around 68 billion colors. You don’t need to be a math whiz to know that is a substantial difference.
5. Outdated Standard
HDR was first introduced in 2014, but the near decade since its arrival has led to quite a bit of innovation. Television technology moves quite quickly, all things said. You could very easily still use a 720p TV, but you’re likely looking for 1080p at minimum.
As resolutions and everything around modern television change, things like the dynamic range should advance alongside it. If you’re looking at an 8K TV in the future, you want the best possible image. Dolby Vision or something like HDR10+ will do quite a bit more for your picture than the older HDR.
6. Constant Adjustments
This harkens back to the minimum brightness issue. Imagine you’re sitting and watching an intense thriller. It switches to a dark scene, so you pause the film and adjust the contrast because the brightness is making it look too washed out.
The film then switches to a daylight scene. You immediately have to stop what you’re doing to readjust the image. Image adjustments are a way of life for some who are fastidious about their image quality. This doesn’t have to be the case, however.
Newer standards and supported media can leave you in the comfort of your sofa. You can enjoy your popcorn and drink and don’t need to sweat the details so much.
7. Doesn’t Take Advantage of HDMI 2.0
HDMI 2.0 allows for higher bandwidth. This means more data is being transmitted from an interface to a receiver. For television, this means you can get richer, more detailed images. HDR predates the advent of HDMI 2.0, which is just now making its way to commercially available televisions, however.
Newer technologies like HDR10+ and Dolby Vision aren’t plagued by this particular issue. You get the benefit of rich and vibrant colors while also having the capability of watching 8K media. While your current television might not support HDMI 2.0, any new TV you purchase in the future most certainly will.
Alternatives to an HDR TV
There is a trio of more updated standards that advance on the standard HDR has set. Most newer televisions support these technologies. Streaming services are also adopting them, so you can take advantage of them now rather than later.
HDR10+ is Samsung’s proprietary take on the open format HDR10 standard. It still stays on the same 10 bits as HDR and HDR10 but comes with some added bonuses. You’ll notice your image is far brighter when compared to other televisions.
HDR10+ is adaptive, as well, something Samsung has been touting since its introduction. This means the image on your screen adjusts brightness dynamically according to the ambient light in the room. It is a great stopgap technology in lieu of something like Dolby Vision.
However, it is solely relegated to televisions available from Samsung and Panasonic. As such, you’ll want to invest in one of those as your primary platform for HDR10+.
The newer HDR10 is an open standard, meaning anyone is perfectly able to take and adapt it to suit their own means.
HDR10 is still prone to some of the same issues like tone mapping you’ll experience with standard HDR. However, it is overall a brighter image. You’ll find the image can be up to twice as bright as a standard panel using HDR.
It is not quite as featured as HDR10+ or Dolby Vision. However, as it is an open standard, that means you’re more likely to find it on televisions from likes of Sony, LG, and others.
Dolby Vision is a proprietary take on HDR10, with a few extra twists. The brightness is, overall, much higher, as you’d expect. However, it increases the bit depth from 10 bits to 12 bits, which drastically increases the range of possible colors for a given image.
Dolby Vision is a licensed technology, meaning any television manufacturer and streaming device can adopt it once licensed. Vision is the video counterpart to Atmos, which has done quite a bit to revolutionize audio spatialization for film, music, and television.
Reasons You Might Choose an HDR TV
HDR is still a great standard, despite the nitpicks. If you’re willing to make adjustments, as necessary, you’ll still be happy with an HDR set. Not all media is available in HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. However, a huge amount of movies and shows are set for HDR already.
If you’re still on an older HDR set, it might not be worth upgrading just yet. That will all depend on what you value most in a television. Viewers looking for the next big resolution jump might be better suited to holding on to their current televisions before media is available in 8K.
There are many compelling reasons as to why you might stay with an HDR set. However, there are plenty of better options out there while still retaining the same backward compatibility you’d have with HDR media.
Most viewers would be well-suited to Dolby Vision, which has all the niceties of HDR bundled with some much-needed improvements.
|Reasons to Avoid HDR TV||Description|
|Poorer Tone Mapping||Colors like blacks, whites, and grays might be off due to HDR’s implementation.|
|Static Metadata||HDR uses static metadata which doesn’t change for the duration of a piece of media, leading to potential problems like having to adjust the image settings as needed.|
|Iffy Minimum Brightness||HDR can sometimes have less than ideal minimum brightness, which can affect the image quality.|
|Lower Bit Depth||HDR is stuck at 10 bits, which limits the depth of color choice compared to newer standards like Dolby Vision.|
|Outdated Standard||HDR, introduced in 2014, has been surpassed by newer and more advanced standards.|
|Constant Adjustments||Viewers may need to constantly adjust the image settings when watching HDR content.|
|Doesnât Take Advantage of HDMI 2.0||HDR predates HDMI 2.0, which allows for higher bandwidth and richer, more detailed images.|
The image featured at the top of this post is ©nexus 7/Shutterstock.com.