High Dynamic Range, or HDR, has been making waves in the world of high-end TVs and is now turning heads in the monitor market as well. This game-changing technology is transforming our viewing experience, offering a richer palette of colors and contrasts, and a more lifelike portrayal of nuances and color tones. But what’s the real deal with HDR, and should it be on your checklist when you’re on the hunt for a new monitor? Let’s dive into the world of HDR for monitors, exploring its benefits and value.

HDR: A New Dimension to Viewing

At its core, HDR is a specification that dictates whether a display can render an image with deeper contrast, a wider color gamut, and higher brightness levels. It’s like adding a new dimension to your viewing experience, especially for high-resolution PC monitors with top-notch panels that boast excellent contrast ratios, high brightness, and a wide color gamut. But here’s the catch – not all games and software can fully leverage these features. That’s where HDR steps in, using its metadata to ensure accurate reproduction of all colors, gamma, and brightness levels.

SDR vs HDR
SDR vs HDR

The HDR vs SDR Showdown

HDR monitors recognize the HDR signal and allow the image to be displayed as the content creator intended. To deliver a proper HDR viewing experience, a monitor needs to either have an OLED panel or, if it’s an LED-lit LCD, a full-array local dimming (FALD) solution.

HDR Monitors: The Good, The Bad, and The Misleading

While many monitors can accept the HDR10 signal, not all have the right display hardware for good HDR image quality. These are often dubbed as “fake HDR monitors.” To help distinguish these imposters from the real deal, VESA has introduced DisplayHDR certifications. However, these certifications can sometimes be misleading, so don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Enhanced Detail With Better Contrast
Enhanced Detail With Better Contrast

The Magic of Better Contrast

The real charm of HDR is that the monitor can simultaneously display deep blacks and bright highlights. This isn’t possible without FALD on LED-backlit LCDs. For instance, the Sony Inzone M9 with DisplayHDR 600 has a 96-zone FALD solution, while the LG 32GQ950 with DisplayHDR 1000 has a 32-zone edge-lit local dimming solution.

Monitors with edge-lit local dimming can enhance some HDR scenes where dark and bright objects are far apart or by dimming the black bars when watching a 21:9 movie on a 16:9 screen. However, these backlights can also cause distracting artifacts in many scenes, so tread carefully if HDR is your main goal.

The OLED Advantage

OLED displays have per-pixel dimming as they don’t rely on a backlight to produce an image. Each pixel emits its own light and can be completely turned off for true blacks, thus providing a virtually infinite contrast ratio. OLED panels also don’t have any backlight bleeding, blooming, or glowing visual artifacts like FALD monitors, but they do come with the risk of image burn-in, lower peak brightness, and uncommon subpixel layouts.

OLED HDR Monitors
OLED HDR Monitors

Conclusion

The good news is that there’s no shortage of HDR content or reasonably priced HDR monitors these days. So, if you’re keen on experiencing HDR, a good FALD or OLED HDR monitor is definitely worth considering. However, it’s crucial to do your homework and understand the specifications and capabilities of the monitor you’re eyeing. Not all HDR monitors are created equal, and some may not deliver the high-quality HDR experience you’re hoping for.

For more information and recommendations, check out our best HDR monitors buyer’s guide or full reviews. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to making the right choice. Happy shopping!

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