There are many benefits to HDR monitors. More contrast thanks to HDR10 and increased luminosity with a DisplayHDR certification ensure the good image impression. We show you the currently best HDR monitors on the market and explain how to choose a good one.
What is an HDR monitor? When does it make sense to use it?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, a color technology that allows a monitor to display a wider range of colors and contrasts. Basically, this means that an HDR monitor shows nuances and tones more realistically and shows more details in terms of light and darkness. In horror games, for example, you can see much more clearly what is coming towards the main character from the shadows. Plus, a nature documentary feels like you're seeing it with your own eyes.
To view HDR footage, both the monitor and the content must be HDR capable. HDR content tells a monitor or television exactly which color and black values are best suited for the most realistic display possible. HDR-ready content embeds this color information so a game or video can easily use it, as long as you have the right display. An SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) monitor has far fewer levels of matching images color to color.
Types of HDR monitors
There are different types of HDR. The difference is in the brightness and colors that the screen can display. HDR displays are featured in some of the latest Lenovo X-series tablets and convertibles. But HDR isn't just for laptops. There are HDR TVs, HDR monitors, even HDR tablets and smartphones. The rich color details possible with HDR10, Dolby Vision, and other HDR formats make the technology ideal for photos, action videos, and virtual gaming environments.
HDR videos are still relatively new and not a lot of content is compatible with them. For the time being, this makes HDR particularly interesting for photographers, video editors, and other image professionals.
How does an HDR monitor work?
Without going too deep into the technical details, an HDR display produces higher luminance and color depth than screens built to older standards.
Don't confuse HDR with other new display-related acronyms like Ultra High Definition (UHD) and 4K, which only refer to display resolution (how many rows of pixels a display contains, which determines how detailed each video is) or Freeze frame can be. Indeed, HDR is often associated with UHD/4K, but that's because the technology is currently mostly limited to high-end IPS displays, which can display it best.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of an HDR monitor?
The first and most significant benefit of an HDR monitor is its massive pixel count, which equates to a larger field of view and more exquisite detail. Games look sharper and offer more points to the user due to the additional depth of the image that the extra pixels provide. The sharper and cleaner lines and edges also reduce the need for post-processing effects like anti-aliasing, resulting in more frames per second in most titles.
Many new titles look great on HDR monitors as the environmental details have been expanded. The general feeling conveyed by the level designs is much more intense in HDR. Some might even claim that games in HDR generally look better on low to medium settings than one in 1080p on Ultra.
Workflows are unrestricted as you have more screen real estate, which is the equivalent of four 1080p screens stacked into a rectangle. It has never been easier for HDR monitors to position four windows and display their content simultaneously.
Thanks to tighter pixel pitches, HDR monitors also look better for gaming, no matter what size you choose. 1080p is great for displays up to 24 inches, while QHD is perfect for 27-inch variants. For the rest, it is 4K. The benefits remain visible even when using a 43-inch monitor, eliminating the size limitation related to sharpness in desktop setups.
Finally, upgrading to an HDR monitor for gaming can be considered future-proof as it is the current growth trend in media, games, and gadgets.
Disadvantage: High demands for GPUs
The main downside to choosing an HDR monitor for gaming is the cost. It's true that HDR monitor prices, including 144Hz variants, have come down significantly, but the upgrades won't end there. As we all know, very high GPU performance is required to run games at a stable 60Hz. So you have to spend a lot of money on top-of-the-line GPUs, which alone cost more than a powerful game.
GPU technology can hardly meet the needs of an HDR monitor for gaming, and its cost has already increased significantly. We may see Nvidia's next "Ti" card if this trend continues.
Top-end GPUs require mid-to-high-end processors so they can run at 100% and use every ounce of processing power to render high-resolution frames. Games in HDR also use more RAM. You also need a robust power supply and a well-ventilated case to keep everything running smoothly.
What should I consider when buying an HDR monitor?
- Practical matters
Of course, you would watch movies on your (HDR) TV, but why do you want HDR on your monitor? The same deep black levels and vibrant colors are also excellent for two critical computing applications: gaming and video editing.
- Gaming with HDR
The fact that game graphics are becoming more and more realistic is a trend that has been observed for several years. For example, significant releases like Battlefield 1 and Rise of the Tomb Raider already support HDR. The deep black levels are also necessary when gaming, allowing you to see more detail in dark situations. Not all games use HDR yet, but more and more game developers are doing so.
- Video editing with HDR
Color fidelity is essential for video professionals. An HDR monitor produces more realistic colors and contrast in your horror movie as you intended. Since the content must also support HDR, you need an HDR monitor to create this content. These monitors not only support HDR but also offer a vast color space. An HDR monitor produces colors and black levels 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 need to see with your own eyes.
- 4K & HDR
A 4K HDR monitor offers three key benefits. You benefit from an ample color space, high brightness, and high resolution. If your graphics card supports it, you can watch colorful and razor-sharp films on your screen.
A screen with a wide color gamut can display even more colors than a monitor with different color profiles. A wide color gamut monitor will get the most out of your HDR content. The high resolution also means you have four times the space to work than on a Full HD screen.
HDR monitor reviews
The current top three bestsellers for HDR monitors are:
ASUS TUF Gaming VG27AQ1A (27 inches) HDR monitor (WQHD, IPS, 170Hz, G-Sync compatible, HDR10, HDMI, DisplayPort, 1ms response time) is an IPS gaming monitor with an ultra-fast 170Hz refresh rate designed for professional gamers and immersive gameplay. ASUS Extreme Low Motion Blur (ELMB) technology eliminates ghosting and tearing for crisp gaming graphics with high frame rates. Thanks to G-SYNC Compatible Ready (calculation), the VG27AQ1A delivers a seamless, tear-free gaming experience using a standard variable refresh rate (VRR).
BenQ ZOWIE XL2411K Gaming Monitor (24 inches) is compatible with PS5 and Xbox Series X, offering high in-game performance. The DyAc technology ensures clarity when aiming in brief scenes, while the Black eQualizer unmasks opponents in dark backgrounds. Smooth gaming is provided thanks to a quick response time of 1 millisecond and a refresh rate of 144 Hz with DisplayPort or HDMI2.0. This monitor is compatible with Xbox Series X and PS5. Another benefit is the new design: Thanks to the new height-adjustable and rounded base, you are more flexible and save space on your table for even more freedom of movement.
BenQ EL2870U 4K Monitor is also compatible with PS5 and Xbox. Smooth gaming is ensured thanks to 60Hz, FreeSync, and 1ms response time. The 4K UHD image quality delivers a razor-sharp and detailed accented image. Brightness Intelligence Plus and HDR together ensure dynamic brightness and sharpness.
Other great HDR monitors according to testers and customers:
- Samsung C32G74TQSU
- Asus ProArt PA27UCX-K
- BenQ PhotoVue SW271C
- LG 32GN600-B
- Huawei MateView GT 34" (Standard Edition)
- Asus TUF Gaming VG27AQ1A