What is HDR for Monitors? Is HDR worth it?

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High Dynamic Range is the next step in our never-ending endeavor of achieving the sharpest, most realistic visuals with the most comprehensive color range. HDR is the upper level of visual clarity and pushes the boundary of colors and brightness far beyond what a typical SDR panel could achieve.

Keep on reading to know in detail about the basic working methodology behind the HDR technology, various HDR standards, and whether or not you should make a switch from SDR to HDR.

This is no hidden fact that when it comes to displays, we love everything “high.” High resolution, high refresh rate, high frame rate, etc. So why settle with the “Standard” in the SDR. But it’s not simple to make a transition from SDR, which is Standard Dynamic Range, to HDR, which is “High” Dynamic Range. There is a lot that goes into a display that enables it to be HDR compatible.

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That is what we are going to answer. What is HDR, and why is it such a buzz in the monitor’s world?

What is HDR?

High Dynamic Range(HDR)
High Dynamic Range(HDR)

HDR, the acronym for High Dynamic Range, is a technology employed in modern-day displays to achieve brighter, sharper, and visually enhanced images. HDR significantly increases the dynamic range of the displayed image.

The HDR-enabled screen can better represent the extreme end of the dynamic range. It means the blacks and whites of the images will be more visibly enhanced. Besides the contrast, HDR expands the range of colors too. Thanks to the inherent technology, the HDR images are more detailed with more vibrant and realistic colors.

What does it actually mean for regular users like us? This simply means users with an HDR-compatible display will experience highly enhanced visuals, with ultra-detailed, more vibrant images closer to actual color as seen by human eyes.

How Does HDR work?

An HDR-compatible display gives you greater contrast, more excellent brightness, and more vivid colors. But how HDR works to produce such sharper, vibrant images with high contrast and brightness? Let’s answer this question.

Luminance, Dynamic Range, Color Space, and Bit Depth

Four concepts combine together to produce HDR content. These are Luminance, Dynamic Range, Color Space, and Bit Depth.


Luminance in its traditional sense is the amount of light an object emits. In the case of monitors, the concept corresponds to the brightness and is measured in Nits. A standard monitor can be calibrated to produce about 100 nits of brightness. But an HDR monitor is capable of way more brightness in the range of 500 to 1700 nits. How this extra brightness is put to use to produce HDR content brings us the next concept, the Dynamic Range.

Dynamic range

The dynamic range represents the contrast of the monitor, which is the difference between the brightest and the darkest part of the image on display. Dynamic range is measured in Stops. The dynamic range is generally represented in terms of contrast ratio, which means the extreme dynamic range, which is the brightest of the whites to the blackest of the blacks a monitor can display. In simple terms, more Stops or high contrast ratio means more details. High brightness and more prominent contrast combine to produce sharper, more detailed images, especially while displaying highlights and shadows.

Color Space

Color space or gamut is the range of colors a display can produce. Colors on the screen are produced the same way our eyes perceive them in real life, which is the combination of Red, Blue, and Green. The standard monitors use a color space called the rec709 or sRGB. The HDR pushes the screen’s ability to display a wider color gamut, the REC2020 or, in simple terms, just more colors.

Bit Depth

Bit depth describes the amount of data the colors contain. Each color pixel on the screen comprises about 8 bits of information, which means a standard monitor can produce 256 shades each of Red, Blue, and Green. All these shades combined give around 16 million colors. HDR increases the limit substantially.

With a 10-bit data encoding capability, an HDR-enabled screen can display about a billion colors, which will be about 76% of the visible spectrum. As the HDR-compatible display can produce a much more comprehensive range of colors, the image will obviously be more colorfully enhanced and detailed. That’s how an HDR screen combines extra brightness, extra contrast, and more colors to produce sharper, brighter, and more colorful visuals.

Which panel is best for HDR?

You now know the basic working of HDR technology and why it’s gaining so much popularity. The next question which can arise if you happen to be looking for an HDR monitor is which panel to choose? Which panel is best for HDR? Among the three display panels widely in use, only the VA and IPS have the capabilities to support HDR technology.

So, which panel to go for? That depends upon how you will put the display to use. If you are a gamer, then go with a VA panel without a second thought, as VA panels are more geared for performance. On the other hand, IPS panels are all about quality visuals, so if you are  professional, an IPS panel with HDR capability will suit you better.

What is HDR10?

There are several HDR formats. HDR 10 is more widespread and used by most display manufacturers, mainly due to its being royalty-free. Manufacturers don’t have to pay any fees to incorporate HDR 10 standards in their display panels.

To avoid Dolby’s compensation HDR 10 works on the bare minimum benchmark of the HDR technology. It employs 10-bit color encoding and can work up the brightness of up to 1000 nits. Moreover, the tone mapping remains the same for the entire video due to the static metadata, which means the visuals will not accurately represent the actual scene.

What is Dolby Vision?

Dolby Vision is the proprietary HDR standard of the Dolby Company. If a manufacturer wants to incorporate Dolby vision standards in their displays, they have to pay the license fees. The Dolby vision standards use dynamic HDR metadata and employ 12-bit color encoding with the brightness that can go as high as 10000 nits. It has support Rec.2020 colour gamut.

The Dolby Vision standards are pretty challenging to implement. There are currently very few display panels that can keep up with the hardware requirements of the Dolby Vision standards and can achieve the set level of brightness and color gamut.

What is Display HDR?

The HDR technology makes displays capable of producing visuals with better contrast, higher color accuracy, and wider color range. Manufacturers do claim that their display panels are HDR compatible but generally do not provide the HDR performance metrics. That’s why VESA, short for Video Electronics Standards Association, created DisplayHDR standards. 

These standards clearly define the HDR performance of a particular monitor. All the display manufacturers have to abide by these HDR performance compliance test specifications to be able to claim that their display panels are truly HDR enabled. This ensures that the users will have a better understanding of the HDR capabilities of any particular display.



HDR is still finding its feet in the TV and monitors arena, but it has all the potential to go big. Currently, the 4k resolution is a hot favorite in-display world. It represents our desire to achieve visuals with ultra-high clarity and remarkably accurate color representation, and HDR technology brings us one step closer to fulfill that desire. 

So it will not be a surprise to see more and more modern displays adhering to HDR standards. That being said, the decision to go for an HDR-compatible display panel comes down to personal preference. While there is no shortage of display panels capable of producing high-quality visuals, HDR is gaining ground too. If you go by the HDR now, you will be among the early adopters to enjoy a higher level of visual clarity.

Rohit is a software engineer. A pro lover of Technology and tech gadgets. I am a gamer too. Our team is here to help you find the best monitor products to decide which one is best for you.

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