Forget 8K and Curves, HDR is The Next Big Thing. Here’s Why
4K is already here and making waves. 8K is in its nascent stage, and it will be another 5 years before it enters the mainstream. Curve TVs have also left the fans impressed. But, if you truly want a TV viewing experience that blows your mind away with its awesomeness, then HDR is what you should consider, when shopping for your next TV. HDR has been the talk of the town lately, with almost all the major TV manufacturers featuring HDR in their flagship televisions at CES 2016. 2016 will be the year in which HDR will emerge as the next big thing. If you are wondering what HDR is, and why it will be that big, read on.
What is HDR?
In layman terms, HDR or High Dynamic Range, is the ability of a television to produce darker blacks, brighter whites, and overall a richer and wider range of colors. This ability gives the picture a dynamic look, which is where the technology gets its name. If you are into technology, then chances are that you have already come across this term, although not in the TV industry. HDR has been in use in photography for quite a long time. Smartphones, and cameras, both have been using this technology to produce superb quality pictures for quite some time now. Here is how it works.
Devices with HDR capability can click several images in a single burst, and combine them to produce photos that have the least error in them. These individual pictures are clicked at different exposures, with the first one being an extremely dark image and the last one being the brightest. When these images are combined, HDR retains the darker shades, hues, and colors, while simultaneously preserving the bright regions in the photograph. Thus, the final product contains the brightest elements of a scene, as well as the darkest ones. They are stacked in a single picture, which produces an amazing level of contrast, previously unseen with other technologies. In a nutshell, HDR produces the most lifelike pictures ever produced by a screen.
This is important because no matter how great all those blog posts sound when they talk about 4K, curves, and other features, the real world works quite differently. Suppose you put two televisions of same size side by side, with one of them featuring better contrast, and the other featuring higher resolution. Most customers will pick the one with a better contrast, as the pictures are more ‘true’ in its case. In other words, “1080p resolution + HDR beats 4K any day”.
Do I have to pick between LED and OLED, if I choose HDR?
The short answer is ‘no’. But the long answer starts with a ‘may be’. The thing with HDR is that it has not a mainstream technology yet. The consortium of manufacturers of televisions, content producers, TV channel operators, and other parties involved in this industry only recently agreed on what qualifies for the tag of HDR. They now have a new term for HDR – Ultra HD Premium. So, TV manufacturers are not building their TVs, so that they meet the requirements of Ultra HD Premium, as set by the consortium.
The manufacturers of LED do not have any problem as LED TVs can produce intense brightness. On the other hand, OLED technology cannot match the brightness levels of LED. On the other hand, OLED can produce much crisper, and darker hues, than LEDs. Therefore, the consortium created two standards for HDR. Both the standards set different bars for the minimum peak brightness and the corresponding maximum black levels, thus accommodating both OLED and LED technology in the HDR bandwagon. So, both OLED and LED TVs can feature HDR. But, there aren’t that many OLED TVs in the market as there are LED ones. So, you might be limited in your choice if you go for OLED, although many feel that it produces a much better picture quality.
Will I be able to watch all TV programs in HDR if I buy an HDR TV?
Sorry to disappoint you, but if only the world were that simple. The thing is that you will get HDR programs only when the content producers, and TV channels air programs that are HDR compatible. Of course, you will need an HDR compatible TV too. It took some time before all the stakeholders agreed on common specifications for HDR. But, now that they have agreed upon common standards, it won’t take much time before they begin rolling out HDR compatible content. Netflix is already working on it. As early as last year, a few movies were released on HDR, which was met with favorable reviews from fans. So, although there is not much HDR content available in the market, it is set to change very soon.
Will I need new cables for HDR?
The current high speed HDMI is perfectly capable of transferring HDR content. However, both the source, the player, as well as the TV, should have HDMI 2.0a. If you have a device with HDMI 2.0, then migrating to HDMI 2.0a is no biggie. It appears that only a firmware update is required for the migration. If you have not already received the upgrade, just call your manufacturer and inquire about it.
To wrap it up, we have to say that 4K has not lived up to its expectations, and 8K TVs are prohibitively expensive. Curved TVs hardly make any difference to the TV viewing experience. It appears that for now, HDR is the only thing that makes for a better television viewing experience. The smart thing to do for a TV shopper is to wait a little while until HDR content becomes mainstream, by which time HDR TVs will also have dropped in price. If you need to buy a TV urgently, or any time in the near future, do not miss the HDR feature. You will regret it big time.