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One of the main TV trends at CES this year was High Dynamic Range, or HDR.

Essentially, TVs labeled as such offer significantly greater contrast ratio, an expanded range of brightness from light to dark.

More than just a marketing term, HDR could be the next big jump in picture quality.


At this point, I assume you’ve heard of local dimming. In case I shouldn’t assume that, local dimming is when a TV selectively dims part of its backlight, making the darker parts of the image, darker. It effectively increases contrast ratio, though not all local dimming 1) works, 2) works well. Some don’t work at all.

HDR is the same idea, but to a more extreme amount. The idea is to make the bright parts of the image even brighter. A lot brighter, while still keeping the dark parts actually dark.

Extremely high contrast ratio is why we love OLED, but a well done HDR LCD could look as good. Some, maybe, might even look a little better. And that’s coming from someone who’s been ragging on LCD since they first hit the big-screen market.

There’s two aspects to HDR: the TV, and the content.

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The TV is, as is always the case, the easy part. Already we’ve seen some TVs that boast being HDR. This year we’ll see more, some of which feature Dolby Vision, that companies big push to bring HDR into your home. How each of these companies is implementing it (and how well) varies, as usually, we’ll reserve final judgment for when we actually get these in our labs.

The other aspect is content, and Dolby is working on that, with three movies due out later this year. While a (well done) HDR TV will look better than a non-HDR TV even with regular content, having a wider range available means the content itself can offer a wider range. More detail in bright areas of an image, for example.

How will these HDR versions look compared to their non-HDR Blu-rays on an HDR TV? That is an excellent question.

We look forward to testing that out.

In the meantime, don’t discount the HDR label just yet. It’s possible those TVs will offer something a cut above their standard contemporaries. But, like anything, if the moniker takes off, expect abuse (i.e. what happened with contrast ratio and refresh rate).

We’ll keep an eye out for such abuses too, and almost certainly whine about them… Isn’t that why you love HDGuru?


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