Written by Bas Teunissen

Everything you need to know about an HDR monitor

After High Dynamic Range (HDR) having become more common in TVs, it's now the monitors' turn. HDR monitors can display many more colors than regular screens. You use an HDR monitor if you want to watch HDR videos. We've already seen it with higher resolutions and curved models, but HDR monitors are now truly being introduced in many different varieties.

What's HDR?

HDR technology

The technology

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, a color technology that enables a monitor to display a broader spectrum of colors and contrasts. Basically, this means that an HDR monitor more realistically displays nuances and color tones, and shows more detail when it comes to light and dark. For example, in horror movies, it lets you see much more clearly what's creeping up to the main character from the shadows. It also makes watching a nature documentary feel like you're seeing it with your own eyes.

HDR technology

The content

In order to display HDR image material, both the monitor and the content need to be suitable for HDR. HDR content tells a monitor or TV exactly which color and black levels are best for the most realistic display. Content that's suitable for HDR has this color information embedded in it, so a game or video can easily use it provided you have the right screen. An SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) monitor has far fewer pencils to color in the image with.

Types of HDR

There are different types of HDR. The difference is in the brightness and the colors that the screen can display. Vesa has created a DisplayHDR standard for this. All new HDR monitors have to meet one of the following standards.

Vesa standards

DisplayHDR 400

  • At least 400cd/m² peak brightness
  • At least 320cd/m² brightness
  • At least 95% coverage of BT.709 color space

DisplayHDR 600

  • 600cd/m² peak brightness
  • At least 350cd/m² brightness
  • At least 99% coverage of BT.709 color space
  • At least 90% coverage of DCI-P3 color space

DisplayHDR 1,000

  • 1,000cd/m² peak brightness
  • At least 600cd/m² brightness
  • At least 99% coverage of BT.709 color space
  • At least 90% coverage of DCI-P3 color space

In practice

Watching movies is something you would do on your (HDR) TV, of course, but what could you want HDR on your monitor for? The same deeper black levels and vibrant colors are also great for 2 important computer applications: gaming and video editing.

Gaming with HDR

Gaming in HDR
  • See more details in dark game situations.
  • Games look even more realistic, because you see a lot more colors.
  • Not all games support HDR.

The fact that game graphics are getting closer and closer to being photorealistic is a trend we've been seeing for a number of years. For instance, major releases, such as Battlefield 1 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, support HDR already. When playing these games on an HDR monitor, that means the colors from the red poppy field in Battlefield 1 will jump at you from your screen. The deep black levels are also important in gaming, as they allow you to see more detail in dark situations. Not all games use HDR yet, but nowadays you see it more and more.

Video editing with HDR

Video editing in HDR
  • See images in HDR while editing videos.
  • Suitable for photo editing as well thanks to support for extensive color spaces like DCI-P3
  • Realistic colors.

Color fidelity is very important for video professionals. An HDR monitor will produce more realistic colors and the contrast in your horror movie will be shown as you intended it. Because the content also needs to support HDR, you need an HDR monitor to create that content. In addition to support for HDR, these monitors usually also have a wide color gamut (for instance, DCI-P3). An HDR monitor produces colors and black levels that are much closer to what we see in the real world. Unfortunately, it's not possible to show the effect of HDR with an image, as you can only view HDR content on an HDR monitor. HDR is something you truly need to see with your own eyes.

4K & HDR

A 4K HDR monitor offers three major advantages. You benefit from a wide color gamut, high brightness, and a high resolution. That means – provided your video card supports it – you can watch colorful and razor-sharp movies on your screen. A screen with wide color gamut can display even more colors than a monitor with different color profiles. This means that a wide color gamut monitor truly brings out the best of your HDR content. The high resolution also means you have 4 times as much space to work in as on a Full HD screen.


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