What is HDR TV?

HDR is here to make your 4K TV better – from watching Netflix and Blu-ray to playing PlayStation 4…

TV technology has evolved rapidly in the past decade. First we had standard definition – the kind of TV you might have grown up with. Then came HD – high definition.  

More recently, we’ve been introduced to 4K UHD, which ups the resolution to 4 times that of HD.

Now we have HDR, which stands for high dynamic range and can work alongside 4K with 4K HDR.

How does HDR make TV look better?  

It takes the two most important elements in picture quality – contrast ratio and colour accuracy and seriously improves them.

You get much more detail in shadowy scenes, and bright scenes – think clear blue skies, football pitches and sun shining off a car bonnet – look awesome. HDR can highlight tiny, nuanced changes in shade. The range of colours is hugely increased and much more vibrant too.

‘HDR is set to change the way we see colour and detail in our homes,’ says our large screen TV buyer, James Griffiths. ‘We will see our favourite movies as the director intended.’


Watch The Gadget Show compare HDR to 4K and Full HD

Introducing 4K HDR TVs

The great thing about HDR is that it works in tandem with 4K – the other major TV technology of today. With a 4K HDR TV, you’ll get 4 times the resolution of a Full HD TV with even better colour, contrast and detail.

Samsung, LG, Sony and Panasonic have all launched 4K HDR TVs.

Not sure which one to go for? Check out our article on finding the perfect 4K HDR TV for you


What can I watch in HDR?

To watch HDR content you need to combine your 4K HDR TV with a HDR video source. Some content from Netflix and Amazon Instant Video already streams in HDR – their offerings are growing as the technology starts to become more mainstream. The HDR is laid over 4K resolution streams, so the picture is incredible

You get ‘brighter highlights’ and ‘more detail in dark scenes,’ says a Netflix blogpost. Netflix expects to have 150 hours of HDR content available by the end of 2016. You can already watch season 1 of Marco Polo in HDR on Netflix. Marvel’s Daredevil and foodie show The Chef’s Table are among other upcoming HDR releases.

Home cinema fan? You can enjoy Blu-ray with the added benefits of HDR if you combine your 4K HDR TV with an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. The players, and their special 4K Blu-ray discs, support HDR video.


Gaming and HDR – PlayStation and Xbox

The latest consoles from Sony and Xbox – the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Xbox One S – both support HDR video. HDR games are currently in development, while older games are being redeveloped and relaunched to take advantage of HDR video.

When you play HDR content on a HDR TV you get a ‘noticeably fuller, richer image, that’s closer to what the eye naturally sees,’ according to the official PlayStation blog. 

Of course you’ll need a 4K HDR TV to see these games in HDR


The science bit – how does HDR work?

The quality of your TV’s picture is traditionally defined by its resolution – or the number of pixels that make up the screen. More pixels mean a better picture. A 4K UHD TV has 4 times as many pixels as a Full HD TV, and is therefore much sharper.

We’re now at the point where resolution is about as good as it needs to get for human eyes. This is where HDR comes in – by improving the quality of pixels rather than increasing their number. Now we’ll explain this in a bit more detail…

Bright, bold and plentiful colour

HDR TVs have a wider colour gamut – this means millions more colours. They can reproduce a broader range of hues and shades –bolder reds, stronger greens and deeper blues.

Detailed areas like clouds, grass or human hair are more vividly rendered. These contrasting colours are kept precise so the image still looks highly detailed and realistic.


Brighter whites and deep blacks

The ‘dynamic range’ is the range of shades from dark to light that your TV is able to produce. Whereas older TVs might have had a small dynamic range, producing greyer blacks and duller whites, a HDR TV has a much broader spectrum creating bright whites and deep blacks.

4K HDR TVs use powerful backlights to create a brighter picture and sophisticated dimming technology to create deeper blacks. What is local dimming?

Samsung SUHD TVs are designed to get the best from HDR. They create an incredibly bright picture thanks to their 1,000-nit peak brightness. Nits are a way of measuring brightness (not something you worry about finding in your hair).

They also use quantum dots. Tiny crystals that can display over 1 billion colours. Check out Samsung SUHD TVs


What about the formats?

HDR video is made available in 2 different formats, but the support for these formats differs slightly among the TV makers.

  • HDR10: The most common format, supported by LG, Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Panasonic. Enjoy content from Netflix, Amazon and 4K Blu-ray
  • Dolby Vision: Only LG TVs support this format. Amazon and Netflix stream in it too


Enjoy movies as the director intended

HDR video gives moviemakers so many more colours and shades of black and white to play with when making films.

And with a HDR TV this colour and detail looks as the director intended it in your home.

In the words of our large screen TV buyer, James Parker, HDR is ‘the next step in home entertainment’. Welcome to the future of TV.


Find your perfect 4K HDR TV