HDR has become a hot topic in gaming and video, thanks to its ability to improve visuals and light displays without hitting system performance (though you still need compatible hardware, obviously). But HDR isn’t just one standard. There are two primary standards for prerecorded or in-game HDR — HDR10 and Dolby Vision. HDR10 has been extended with HDR10+ and there are some standards that touch on broadcast TV, but as far as the two standards that you’re going to see advertised on a TV or monitor box, it’ll be HDR10/10+ and Dolby Vision.
Now, the Xbox One has added support for both standards. It becomes just the third device (behind Apple TV 4K and Google’s Chromecast Ultra) to support both Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision.
Dolby Vision differs from HDR10 in several respects. It supports 12-bit color (HDR10 tops out at 10-bit). It uses dynamic metadata to calibrate brightness and scene color levels, rather than static metadata. Static metadata calibrates brightness and color once, while dynamic adjusts these levels from scene to scene. Dolby Vision also supports a higher level of absolute brightness than HDR10, though the gap is less than it appears: While Dolby Vision allows for up to 10,000 cd/m2, in practice, films are mastered to 4,000 cd/m2, compared with 1,000 cd/m2 for HDR10.
But that’s where things get a little tricky. Getting Dolby Vision support as opposed to HDR10 also requires a TV that supports it. Using Dolby Vision features that HDR10 doesn’t support, like the >1,000 cd/m2 brightness limit, means needing a panel that supports that brightness as well — and right now, none of them do. This, therefore, is a forward-looking capability by definition. Today, there’s not going to be much difference between the Xbox One and PS4 as far as HDR support.
Nonetheless, Microsoft is apparently angling to push the Xbox One X as the superior all-around gaming solution, even if that positioning hasn’t really paid dividends in terms of unit sales yet. Building in better HDR support today isn’t going to be a major feature, but every indication is that HDR will follow a debut trend much like color TV itself and become a default standard sooner rather than later. 4K and HDR are both quickly taking market share and IHS predicts that unit shipments will grow by more than 50 percent from 2018 (a bit more than 80K units) to 2021, with nearly 140K units. OLEDs are also expected to account for a larger slice of the overall pie.
Those of you wondering when these benefits will come to PC are unfortunately a little out of luck. To-date, there are only a handful of PC games that support HDR, including some games that support HDR on consoles but not on PCs. Hopefully as more HDR monitors trickle out we’ll see improved sales and uptake.
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