Sunday, November 27, 2022

What is HDR technology in monitors

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The magical set of words “high dynamic range,” or HDR for short, is increasingly found in monitor specs. HDR technology makes the image more vivid and realistic by increasing the brightness and expanding the color gamut. This significantly increases the contrast between light and dark areas, which in turn increases the image detail. HDR brings the image on the screen closer to real life – this is what the creators of modern films and games are trying to achieve.

You can learn more about the basic concepts and formats of HDR in the blog “What is HDR on TV” . And we will immediately move on to the standards and requirements of HDR for PC.

HDR standards for monitors
Marketers like to stick an “HDR” tag on just about any monitor. Unlike TVs, where everything is more or less clear, the monitor market simply did not have a clear understanding of the HDR display for a while. The VESA DisplayHDR standard that appeared in 2018 was able to put things in order. It guarantees consumers that a device with such a certificate can play HDR content in high quality. There are three main VESA DisplayHDR standards. The numbers in the name indicate the peak brightness required to obtain a certificate.

VESA DisplayHDR 400 is entry-level with simple requirements: 400 nits peak brightness and8-bit matrix. Local illumination technology is optional, so the HDR effect will not be very noticeable. It is symbolic that prices for such monitors start from just $400.

VESA DisplayHDR 600 is a more demanding standard: 600 nits of brightness,a 10-bit matrixand local backlighting (most often dynamic contour) are required. Most of these displays cost over $1,000.

VESA DisplayHDR 1000 is the standard for high-end monitors with a maximum brightness of 1000 nits,a 10-bit sensor, and stringent local dimming requirements. This provides twice the contrast compared to DisplayHDR 600. Such devices have a thicker case with perforations to cool the matrix backlight system. The cost of a monitor with a diagonal of 27-35 inches is often more than $ 3,000.

Recently, a new standard has appeared – VESA DisplayHDR 1400 . It is designed to certify professional monitors. In addition to the incredible brightness of 1400 nits, it requires up to 95% coverage of the DCI-P3 65 color space. No monitor has yet received this certification.

The next three standards are for laptops.

VESA DisplayHDR 500 – requires a 10-bit matrix and local backlight. The peak brightness limit of 500 nits is designed to keep the thin display from overheating.

VESA DisplayHDR 400/500 TRUE BLACK – based on an estimate of the minimum brightness when rendering black. Less is better. The acceptable level is 0.0005 nits, the lower limit for standard colorimeters.

Separately, there is certification from AMD. FreeSync Premium Pro requires monitors to:

refresh rate of at least 120 Hz at minimum FHD resolution;
support for low frame rate compensation technology;
low signal delay;
HDR support.
The author could not find monitors with this certificate, but there is already a small list of computer games that meet this standard.

Sometimes manufacturers try to achieve the desired effect by winding up the contrast and brightness settings, so it’s best to check the list of certified HDR models before buying . Also, the certificate mark can be found on the monitor packaging and on the manufacturer’s website.

Content
Let’s just say HDR content for PC is not going well. Streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, AppleTV+ and HBO Max are geared primarily for TVs and don’t always display HDR content correctly on PC. Movies on UHD Blu-ray discs can be an output if you have the appropriate drive.

More than anyone, gamers will appreciate the capabilities of HDR monitors. Unfortunately, so far only a few computer games work with this technology: Halo, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Metro Exodus, Far Cry 5, Borderlands 3, RE 2 and several others. How sad everything can be seen, for example, in the Microsoft Store.

Hardware and software
To play HDR content, one HDR monitor is not enough – you need DisplayPort 1.4 or HDMI 2.0 cables and an appropriate video card:

Intel UHD Graphics 600 series and above;
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900-Series and above;
AMD Radeon RX 400-Series and above;
AMD Radeon RX VEGA.
The format war that is going on in the HDR TV market has not touched monitors: Windows 10 supports only the HDR10 format without any alternative. The exception is Dolby Vision, which only a few professional monitors can work with using special decoders.

Playing HDR content on a PC requires Windows 10 , 10-bit video decoding codecs (HEVC or VP9), and the latest WDDM drivers. On TVs, HDR content usually starts automatically; on PCs, this feature must be activated manually, following Microsoft’s instructions . If you have any doubts about activating the HDR mode, you can use a special test utility from Vesa from the Microsoft store.

Perhaps in the future, the OS will learn to correctly recognize HDR content and will automatically enable support for it. In the meantime, in order to avoid color distortion during normal operation, it is better to turn off the HDR mode.

XDR от Apple
When it comes to HDR monitors, we can’t help but mention the Cupertino-based company that unveiled its vision for an extended color gamut last year. The technology, called Extreme Dynamic Range (XDR), was implemented in the Pro Display XDR monitor.

The cost of the device was 380,000 rubles for the basic package (which, in principle, can be justified by excellent characteristics) and 80,000 for a leg (which no longer lends itself to logic). Price aside, the display is undeniably very good. The 32-inch monitor has a unique resolution of 6016 x 3384. The standard panel brightness reaches 1000 nits, the peak brightness is 1600 nits.

But, despite the big name, the company has not gone beyond the generally accepted HDR standards. With a 10-bit matrix and 576 backlight zones, Pro Display XDR is not much different from other premium monitors, and impressive performance is achieved through huge peak brightness.

What else are marketers silent about?
When consuming video and game content, HDR technology certainly gives a new experience, but there are several controversial points. First, high values ​​of peak brightness have an extremely negative effect on the eyes. Especially at a distance of a standard half a meter from the matrix. Especially in the dark.

Secondly, monitors with pseudo-HDR often sin with twisted settings that simply kill color accuracy.

Thirdly, HDR in monitors is just one of many areas of development: yesterday, manufacturers advertised realistic physics, today – ray tracing, tomorrow something else will appear. It’s unclear if HDR will become a key feature when choosing a monitor in the future.

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