Monitor demo shows why we shouldn't worry about HDR just yet

There is lot of hype surrounding high dynamic range (HDR), a new monitor technology that expands the color gamut and contrast on compatible displays. As opposed to the 4K movement, which adds more pixels for a superior picture compared to 1080p, HDR is all about better looking pixels with brighter and more colorful visuals (if you're unfamiliar with HDR, check out TechRadar's detailed primer). This notion was reinforced when Nvidia demonstrated two monitors side-by-side, one with HDR and one without. However, a follow up test by HardwareCanucks reveals the demonstration might have been rigged to make it appear as though HDR looks better than it really does.

HardwareCanucks says it was granted access to the monitor settings that Nvidia used for its demo at Computex. As it turns out, Nvidia toned down the brightness and contrast on the non-HDR monitor, and even altered the gamma to ensure a better picture on the HDR display.

After performing a factory reset on the non-HDR monitor, HardwareCanucks performed a second comparison, and this time the SDR looked much better than before, with the HDR monitor even looking worse in some scenes.

Mass Effect: Andromeda was chosen for the test sample since it has an HDR profile that, in theory, should look much better on an HDR display. In some cases, it still does—the sky doesn't look as washed out as it does on the non-HDR monitor. However, there are areas where the HDR displays an overexposed scene due to the lack of color information. In those cases, the non-HDR monitor arguably presents a superior picture. Some scenes also look muted on the HDR monitor versus the non-HDR panel.

As with all new technologies—in this case, HDR for gaming—it’s best to let the issues get ironed out before you run out and make a purchase. The fact that the SDR display had to be adjusted to make the HDR display look “better” is a telling sign. Right now, your best bet for a good gaming display is to focus on panel quality, latency, and refresh rate.

Have a look for yourself and tell us what you think: 

Paul Lilly

Paul has been playing PC games and raking his knuckles on computer hardware since the Commodore 64. He does not have any tattoos, but thinks it would be cool to get one that reads LOAD"*",8,1. In his off time, he rides motorcycles and wrestles alligators (only one of those is true).