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HDR Monitors: Ultimate Guide To High Quality Displays

High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology greatly enhances display capabilities, providing richer colors, brighter highlights, and deeper shadows. First popular in TVs and movies, HDR is now also used in computer monitors, improving the viewing and gaming experiences.

This guide will explain what HDR means for monitors, discuss the various HDR technologies available, and describe the standards set by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) for measuring HDR performance.

Understanding HDR Technology

Here, you will understand the technicalities of HDR but also how it can enhance your daily computing tasks. So, let’s get into the HDR monitors.

What Is HDR?

What Is HDR?

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a technology that enhances display quality by boosting the contrast between the brightest whites and the darkest blacks. This improvement makes details in shadows and highlights more visible, giving images a more vivid and realistic look. HDR also broadens the range of colors, resulting in richer and more accurate colors. This makes watching movies, playing games, and viewing other digital content a better experience.

How Does HDR Improve Image Quality?

Apart from offering a better color output and image quality, there are many more aspects in which HDR manages to improve image quality. One of the key differences between HDR and SDR content is the level of brightness that can be displayed. SDR content typically has a peak brightness of around 100 nits, while HDR content can have a peak brightness of up to 1000 nits or more. Hence, HDR content can display much brighter highlights and more details in bright areas of an image, while still retaining detail in the darker areas. We can break down the differences between HDR and SDR content regarding a few important aspects presented below.

1. Luminance and Chrominance

HDR can display a wider range of brightness levels than SDR or standard displays. With that, it can show more detail in bright areas, considering the stream has more information available for each pixel in each scene. This results in brighter highlights along with a very high contrast ratio, making images appear more realistic.

HDR also passes more information about the colors in each scene than SDR, which means it can display more colors and shades. HDR typically uses the Rec. 2020 color space, which is capable of displaying a larger range of colors than the Rec. 709 color space used by normal displays. Resulting in more vibrant and accurate colors.

2. Color Space

One of the most important aspects where HDR makes a lot of difference is the color space. HDR’s wide color gamut and increased bit depth which is 10-bit or higher, result in accurate and precise color representation. This means that colors are displayed more realistically, with less banding or color inaccuracies. Also, the dynamic metadata in some HDR formats provides information about the content on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis. This allows the display device to adjust its color settings for each individual scene.

3. Shadows and Black Levels

The higher contrast ratio is also an advantage for an HDR display, especially for digital panels that benefit from local dimming zones. But, the best HDR performance can only be experienced with an OLED screen where every single pixel is individually lit and can be turned off completely for a black background. Thus, HDR can display much darker blacks than normal SDR content.

HDR also reduces or sometimes completely eliminates the “black crush” effect that can occur in SDR content. Black crush occurs when the darkest parts of an image become too dark and lose detail, resulting in a loss of information and an overall decrease in image quality. HDR can display more detail in the shadows, allowing for a smoother transition between dark and bright areas

4. Stops

Last, but not the least, the higher dynamic range of the content allows it to capture or display more stops of light. A single “stop” refers to a doubling or halving of the amount of light in a scene. HDR content typically has a dynamic range of 10 stops or more, while SDR content typically has a dynamic range of around 6 stops. This allows HDR content to display more detail in bright and dark areas of an image simultaneously.

Impact Of HDR On Content Visualization

HDR technology greatly enhances how images and videos look on screens. It shows clearer details in both very bright and very dark areas. For movies and TV shows, you can see more texture and depth in scenes, like in dark shadows or under bright skies. In video games, HDR makes the environments look more realistic and engaging, enhancing your overall experience. Overall, HDR improves colors, making them richer and more true-to-life, which enhances everything from movies to games.

Types of HDR Technologies

There are several key types of HDR technologies that are commonly used in modern displays to enhance visual quality:

1. HDR10:

HDR10 is a format of HDR that is widely used in the industry right now. It is an open standard technology that is supported by most HDR-capable displays, and it is used by many streaming services, Blu-ray discs, and other sources of HDR content.

HDR10 uses a 10-bit color depth and static metadata to convey brightness and color information to the display. Meaning, the brightness and color levels are set at the beginning of the content and remain static throughout the entire playback.

The static metadata of HDR10 specifies the maximum brightness and color values for the entire content. This allows the display device to adjust its brightness and color settings to match the content being played at the very beginning, resulting in more vibrant and realistic images.

2. HDR10+:

HDR10+ is a format of HDR that is an extension of the HDR10 standard. It was developed by Samsung in collaboration with other industry-leading brands such as Amazon Prime Video and 20th Century Fox to overcome the limitations of HDR10.

One of the main advantages of HDR10+ over HDR10 is that it uses dynamic metadata, which allows brightness and color levels to be adjusted as the scenes are rendered from the video file. So, each scene in the content can be optimized for the specific capabilities of the display device.

HDR10+ also uses a higher peak brightness than HDR10, which allows it to display brighter highlights. It uses a 10-bit color depth similar to HDR10 and a color gamut that is compatible with the wider Rec. 2020 color space.

3. Dolby Vision:

Dolby Vision was developed by Dolby Laboratories. It is designed to provide a more immersive and lifelike viewing experience by enhancing the contrast, brightness, and color accuracy of images and videos.

One of the main advantages of Dolby Vision over other formats of HDR is its use of dynamic metadata just like HDR10+. This metadata provides information about the content on a frame-by-frame basis, making it possible to convey the information per scene. So just like HDR10+, the content is set up per scene, offering a lifelike experience in each scene.

Dolby Vision also supports a higher peak brightness than most other HDR formats. But, one of the major advantages of Dolby Vision is that It uses a 12-bit color depth and access to more color information, which means it can display more subtle shades of each color.

4. Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG):

Developed by the BBC and NHK for broadcasting, HLG is designed to be backward compatible with SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) broadcasts. It was designed to be compatible with both HDR and SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) displays, making it ideal for broadcasting high-quality content over live television and content streams.

One of the main features of HLG is its compatibility with SDR displays. It includes a base layer of SDR content that can be used to display the content on non-HDR displays, while the HDR information is used to enhance the image on HDR-capable displays. Therefore, the same content can be broadcasted to both HDR and SDR viewers without the need for separate versions.

HLG also uses a unique gamma curve that is designed to be more perceptually uniform than other gamma curves. The brightness and color levels are adjusted in a way that is more consistent with how humans perceive brightness and color, resulting in more natural images.

5. Advanced HDR by Technicolor:

This technology focuses on optimizing the way HDR is delivered based on the capabilities of specific TVs and monitors, using dynamic metadata to enhance image quality dynamically across various displays.

VESA HDR Standards

Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) has developed specific standards to categorize and define the performance of HDR-capable displays. These standards, known as DisplayHDR, help consumers and professionals alike understand the level of HDR quality a monitor can provide. Here’s a breakdown of the key VESA HDR standards:

  1. DisplayHDR 400: This is the entry-level tier for HDR displays, primarily suitable for users who want a slight enhancement over standard dynamic range (SDR) displays. It requires a peak brightness of 400 nits, but does not significantly improve contrast ratios or color accuracy compared to higher tiers.

  2. DisplayHDR 600: A mid-range HDR standard that offers a more substantial improvement in brightness and color accuracy with a peak brightness of 600 nits. Displays with DisplayHDR 600 certification also feature better backlight dimming, which improves the contrast and enhances the HDR effect.

  3. DisplayHDR 1000: Designed for premium monitors, this standard demands a peak brightness of 1000 nits, providing exceptional brightness and contrast capabilities. It significantly enhances details in both bright and dark areas of the picture, making it ideal for professional video editing and high-end gaming.

  4. DisplayHDR True Black: This category is specifically tailored for OLED and other advanced display technologies that can achieve truly deep blacks. DisplayHDR True Black allows for much lower brightness levels than other HDR standards, down to as low as 0.0005 nits, which is crucial for displaying extremely dark scenes with high fidelity. It comes in two levels: DisplayHDR True Black 400 and DisplayHDR True Black 500, targeting different minimum brightness and color gamut requirements.

Display HDR Types Minimum Peak Brightness Requirement Black Level Color Depth Support
Display HDR 400 At least 400 nits At most 0.4 nits 8-bit
Display HDR 500 At least 500 nits At most 0.5 nits 8-bit
Display HDR 600 At least 600 nits At most 0.1 nits 10-bit
Display HDR 1000 At least 1000 nits At most 0.05 nits 10-bit
Display HDR 1400 At least 1400 nits At most 0.05 nits 10-bit
Display HDR True Black Ability to completely turn off the pixels individually

How To Choose The Right HDR Monitor?

When selecting an HDR monitor, it’s important to consider how you intend to use it. Different activities benefit from different features. Here’s a simple guide to help you choose based on your needs:

For Gaming

  • High Refresh Rate: Look for a monitor with at least a 120 Hz refresh rate for smooth gameplay.
  • Low Response Time: Aim for a response time of 1ms to minimize motion blur and ghosting.
  • Adaptive Sync Technology: Choose a monitor with G-Sync or FreeSync to prevent screen tearing.
  • Peak Brightness: A brightness of at least 600 nits will ensure vivid HDR effects in games.
  • Color Accuracy: While not as critical as for video editing, good color accuracy can enhance the gaming experience.

For Video Editing

  • Color Coverage: Opt for monitors that cover a wide color gamut such as 100% sRGB or a high percentage of Adobe RGB or DCI-P3.
  • High Resolution: A 4K resolution can provide more screen real estate and detail.
  • Accurate Color Calibration: Ensure the monitor comes factory-calibrated for color accuracy.
  • HDR Standard: Preferably choose DisplayHDR 1000 for the best luminance and color depth.
  • Panel Type: IPS panels are preferable for their wide viewing angles and better color consistency.

For Everyday Use

  • Comfort Features: Look for eye care technologies like blue light filters and flicker-free screens.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Ensure the monitor has tilt, swivel, and height adjustments for better posture.
  • Moderate Brightness and Resolution: DisplayHDR 400 or 600 and 1080p or 1440p resolution are sufficient for general use.
  • Connectivity Options: Check for sufficient ports like HDMI, DisplayPort, and USB hubs for connecting various devices.

How To Set Up Your HDR Monitor?

Necessary Hardware For HDR:

  • HDR-Compatible Displays: Ensure your monitor supports HDR. Look for VESA DisplayHDR certification or similar HDR standards like HDR10 or Dolby Vision.
  • Display Cables: Use cables that can handle high bandwidth, such as HDMI 2.0a or later, or DisplayPort 1.4 or later, to support HDR signals.
  • HDR-Compatible Graphics Cards: Your graphics card should support HDR. Most recent NVIDIA and AMD cards offer HDR support, but check specific model specifications to be sure.

Software Setup For HDR:

  • Enabling HDR in Windows:
    1. Right-click on the desktop and select “Display Settings.”
    2. Under the “Windows HD Color” section, toggle “Use HDR” to ‘On’ for your HDR display.
    3. Adjust HDR/SDR brightness balance if necessary to fine-tune the display’s appearance.
  • Settings for Mac Users:
    1. Click on the Apple menu and select “System Preferences.”
    2. Go to “Displays” and select your HDR monitor if not automatically selected.
    3. Check the “High Dynamic Range” box to enable HDR.


Today, we have discussed the HDR technology and its variants available on the market right now to get an idea about how this technology works and how different options differ in terms of output quality. We have also talked about a few standard HDR ratings usually available on HDr monitors which should give you a clear idea about what you should look for under your budget to get the best performance. But ultimately, the decision should be based on your usage and the content you are going to render on the display. Comparing the different technologies, Dolby Vision and HDR10+ are currently the most popular options for various streaming services for offering HDR content. Thus, it will be an ideal choice for you if you want to enjoy a movie or a TV show on HDR.


Is HDR Worth It for Monitors?

Yes, HDR is worth it for monitors if you value enhanced visual quality. HDR technology improves the color depth, contrast, and brightness, making images appear more vibrant and lifelike.

Can HDR Be Used on Any Monitor?

No, HDR cannot be used on just any monitor. A monitor needs to specifically support HDR technology, which involves having a display capable of higher brightness and a wider color gamut, among other specifications.

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