Anyone shopping for a 4K UHD TV with a budget above $1,000 must make a key decision about HDR (high dynamic range). It’s not whether you want it or not—trust us, you want it if you can afford it—you first need to decide which types of HDR your contenders offer: HDR10, Dolby Vision, or both. And then you need to make sure that the TV you buy doesn’t merely support your choice, but is capable of doing something with it.

After viewing lots of content on lots of HDR10 and Dolby Vision TVs since our previous story on this topic, we’ve found that Dolby Vision delivers a vastly superior picture, with richer color, more detail in the light and dark areas of scenes, and far better contrast..

That’s not to say that HDR10 doesn’t offer value. And any TV that supports Dolby Vision will also support HDR10. HDR10 provides a noticeable improvement over standard dynamic range (SDR) material—if implemented correctly, and given the right TV. On a Samsung QLED—any quantum dot TV, for that matter—it’s very salient. The percentage of improvement varies from TV to TV, but it’s noticeable on just about anything that says 4K HDR or 4K UHD HDR loudly. The fine print is another matter, but we’ll get to that later.

Is Dolby Vision the best HDR today?

rs10712 p55 e1 p65 e1 p75 e1 hero xledvizio Vizio

Dolby Vision allows the Vizio P-Series to deliver color and contrast far superior to anything else in its price class (we reviewed the SmartCast P65-E1 in November).

Dolby Vision works by feeding your TV a steady stream of metadata—instructions on how to best utilize the TV’s capabilities to render each scene. In some cases, this level of control can get down to individual frames. This allows far more leeway than HDR10, which issues one set of instructions at the beginning that must average the effect across the entire movie: Daytime scenes, nighttime scenes and everything in between gets compromised this way.

Dolby Vision also allows for 12-bit color, as opposed to HDR10’s and HDR10+’s 10-bit color. While no retail TV we’re aware of supports 12-bit color, Dolby claims it can be down-sampled in such a way as to render 10-bit color more accurately.

The scenes below show the HDMI Licensing Administrator’s comparison of standard dynamic range (lefr), high dynamic range with static metadata (HDR10, middle), and high dynamic range with dynamic metadata (Dolby Vision and HDR10+, right)

hdr3imagecomparison HDMI Forum

Dynamic metadata, which currently means Dolby Vision, rules the HDR roost.

Dolby Vision can’t work miracles, but Dolby Labs works with every manufacturer that uses its technology to wring the best possible performance from the TV, tablet, or whatever device it’s in. Dolby also supplies rendering and mastering tools to content creators gratis. It’s the manufacturers (and ultimately the consumers who buy Dolby Vision products) who foot the bill via royalties.

Does HDR support guarantee a great HDR experiences

Not every TV capable of processing HDR can do much with the metadata it receives. A TV must possess the color and contrast chops to accurately render HDR, not just accept the signal and throw the content on its screen. We’ve seen several TVs play HDR10 content that doesn’t look any different from the version encoded with standard dynamic range. To be fair, none of those sets touted themselves as HDR TVs; the industry has so far been quite good about that.





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