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Your Next TV Will Have 4K With HDR. Here’s What You Need to Know

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If you’re shopping for a tv for the first time during a few years, prepare for the brave new world of even higher-tech TVs.

Almost all TVs—especially the larger ones that you simply would possibly wish for a living room or home theater—now come with a set of advanced options.

For one, most are currently “smart,” which means they allow you to stream shows from services like Netflix while not plugging in additional equipment.

Second, they’re conjointly 4K—aka ultra-high definition or UHD—with four times as many pixels as regular HDTVs. The additional pixels, or little dots that form up the image, enable the sets to display sharper, additional elaborated pictures, particularly on TVs with larger screens.

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Best of all, say our TV testers, several of today’s newest TVs can show pictures with high dynamic range, or HDR. once done right, HDR boosts a TV’s brightness, contrast, and color, creating the images on the screen look a lot of like reality.

But all those options and acronyms can even build shopping for a TV additional intimidating than it deserves to be. And not all of the new TVs perform equally well.

Here’s what you wish to know to form a decent selection.

What Makes HDR so Special?

When HDR is at work, you’ll see details that may not otherwise be obvious, from the feel of the brick on a shady walkway to nuances in the white clouds during a daytime sky.

You’ll additionally see brighter, a lot of realistic “specular highlights,” that are glints of light, like the sun’s reflection off a car’s chrome bumper or an airplane wing. With HDR, those highlights pop; without it, they wouldn’t stand out against different bright objects.

HDR does all that by increasing the distinction between the brightest whites and therefore the darkest blacks a TV will produce. That’s where the “dynamic range” in the name comes from.

“When done well, HDR presents additional natural illumination of image content,” says Claudio Ciacci, who heads the consumer Reports TV testing program. “HDR will flex its dynamic-range muscles in sturdy sunlit scenes that push the TV’s contrast to the limits,” he adds, “but you’ll conjointly see HDR’s subtle advantages on a lot of simply lit scenes.”

Typically, HDR TVs conjointly manufacture additional vivacious, varied colors than other sets. That’s because HDR is commonly paired with “wide color gamut,” or WCG, capability.

Standard HDTVs will show about 17 million colors, however, those with WCG will show up to a billion. That’s like giving your TV a bigger box of crayons to play with.

But you won’t see all that fantastic contrast and color each time you switch on the TV. you’ve got to be playing a film or television program that has been perfect to take advantage of HDR and WCG. Those offerings are a little skinny right now, however, plenty of recent content is predicted later this year and in 2018. (Find out where you’ll be able to watch 4K content with HDR.)

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Types of HDR

So far we’ve been talking regarding HDR as if it had been only one technology, however, there are a couple of kinds of HDR, each following a distinct set of technical specs.

One type, known as HDR10, has been adopted as an open standard. It’s free to use, and all 4K TVs with HDR support it. That’s conjointly true of all 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray players and HDR programming, thus you won’t be stuck with a collection that can’t play HDR.

But some TVs conjointly provide another form of HDR, known as Dolby Vision, that is being promoted as an enhanced version of HDR10. firms pay a license fee to use it. On paper, it has some benefits. Especially, it supports “dynamic” metadata, where the brightness levels for a film or show can be tweaked scene by scene. In contrast, HDR10 uses “static” metadata, where brightness levels are set for the complete film or show.

Dolby Vision won’t be alone in using dynamic metadata, though. There’s a more modern version of HDR10, known as HDR10+, waiting in the wings that to do a similar thing, creating HDR10 additional like Dolby Vision. We’ll have to see whether any firms in addition to Samsung, that developed HDR10+, adopt it.

Finally, you will hear one thing in the coming months regarding another HDR format, called, known as HLG (hybrid log gamma). It can be necessary if it’s adopted for the future generation of free over-the-air TV signals, which can follow a standard known as ATSC 3.0. Some TVs already support HLG, however, it looks like others are ready to get firmware updates if necessary. This solely matters for people that get TV through antennas, that are making a comeback.

Yes, that all sounds complicated.

But there’s some excellent news. First, your TV can automatically discover the kind of HDR getting used in the content and select the correct way to play it. No fiddling needed.

Second, the kind of HDR doesn’t appear to be too necessary right now. What we’ve seen in our labs is that top-performing TVs will do a good job with either HDR10 or Dolby Vision. The standard of the TV is additional necessary than the kind of HDR it’s playing.

Our advice: purchase the best TV you can no matter the kind of HDR it supports.

Are All HDR TVs Created Equal?

No. Our tests show that not each TV with HDR written on the box produces equally rich, lifelike images.

First of all, TVs are all over the map once it involves picture quality, HDR or no HDR. However, there are challenges specific to the present technology.

Most notably, a TV may not be bright enough to essentially deliver on HDR. to understand why, you need to understand your “nits,” the unit used to measure brightness.

Better-performing HDR TVs generally generate a minimum of 600 nits of peak brightness, with prime performers hitting 1,000 nits or more. however several HDR TVs produce only a hundred to three hundred nits.

With an underpowered TV, the fire of a rocket launch becomes a single large white flare. With a brighter tv, you’d see tongues of fire and smoke, as if you were really there.

“The advantages of HDR are often lost with mediocre displays,” Ciacci says.

How am I able to Tell a good HDR TV From a Bad One?

Unfortunately, you can’t simply read the packaging—or even rely on however the image looks in the store.

Though some TVs carry an “Ultra HD Premium” brand, indicating that they’ve been certified as superior sets by an industry group known as the UHD Alliance, not all companies are going along. for instance, LG and Samsung participate in the program; Sony and Vizio don’t.

What to do instead? Check our TV ratings and buying the guide.

As you’ll see, the TVs with the best HDR tend to be the priciest. However, there are some smart choices for people that wish to pay less. And if you’re shopping for a smaller set, or simply wish to wait on 4K and HDR, you’ll be able to notice many good—and inexpensive—options

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