HDR: Should you upgrade your TV?

You may have seen reports in the tech industry news over the course of the last few months of the latest TV technology hitting the market that promises to improve your viewing experience and bring more lifelike video to your screens.  This new technology is called High Dynamic Range or HDR and is already available on some of this year's newer premium model TV’s so what actually is it, is it worth it, and how do you get it?


What is HDR?


In a nutshell HDR offers a much higher contrast ratio that standard TV and specialised local dimming capabilities which in laymans terms means brighter colours and darker blacks. This is something that TV manufacturers have been pushing with every incremental upgrade since the advent of LED screens but where HDR comes in is taking this technology to the next level and taking advantage of the higher bandwidth available to carry all the additional information required.  What this means is a much higher colour accuracy meaning more natural looking colours from a much wider colour palette and therefore images that really pop. Tests have shown that the dynamic range of a video is actually more noticeable to the viewer than screen resolution so when asked to pick between 2 screens one in 1080p but with a HDR video and one in 4k with a normal dynamic range the vast majority of viewers prefer the HDR image.


How do I get HDR?


To be able to benefit from HDR video you need both sides of the equation so you need a HDR compatible screen and you also need HDR content to view on the screen.




As of CES 2016 HDR has been the buzzword with the TV manufacturers with all the big players showing off brand new HDR compatible sets.  Initially it is the range topping models that have the High Dynamic Range functionality baked in but the manufacturers are promising that by the end of the year the majority of the new TV releases will support the new standard and as this has been accepted as an industry standard you just need to look out for the “Ultra HD Premium” branding when purchasing your new TV set to ensure compatibility with HDR content.




Once you have a TV capable of displaying HDR content then the final piece of the jigsaw is getting HDR content onto your screen.  Right now there are no TV shows being broadcast in HDR, although both the BBC and Sky are conducting their own experiments into the format but that does not mean you can’t enjoy it in your own home.  Popular streaming service Amazon Prime Instant Video is offering HDR content directly to your TV through its own dedicated app on a range of Samsung and LG TV models with more devices being added to the service regularly.  Netfilx has also just announced HDR content being available on their streaming service although it currently carries a premium cost over their standard 1080p package.  There is also the new Ultra HD Premium 4k blu ray format that will support HDR in the near future.


Is it worth it?
That is a choice you will have to make yourself, if you need to have the latest and greatest then you will probably be upgrading now regardless but with the limited content on offer it will probably be 6-12 months before HDR really hits the mainstream.  And if you have just bought a TV that is not HDR compatible don’t panic just yet as there will be firmware updates coming to certain 2015 4K TV models that will upgrade them to view HDR content at no extra cost!


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