4K vs HDR vs Dolby Vision: What to choose for the best viewing experience

It wasn’t too long ago when many people were going crazy over HD televisions which promised to bring exceptional clarity to our TV viewing experience. Many started scraping the conventional cathode ray tube TV’s and brought flat screen full HD 1080p TV.  But, since the only constant thing in this world is change, the ascendency of full HD TV is coming to an end, but who’s to blame? It’s the increasing popularity of 4K TVs. When it comes to TV resolution, most of us get confused between trending terms like 4K, HDR, and Dolby Vision. What is the difference between them? This article is packed with all the things you need to know about 4K vs. HDR vs. Dolby Vision.

4K vs HDR vs Dolby Vision

Ingredients of good picture quality

In terms of TV hardware, ‘Resolution’ refers to the number of pixels which composes the picture on the TV. A single pixel, or discrete picture element, contains tiny dots on the screen.

Today, there are abundant resolutions found on flat-panel TVs. Older televisions and many 32-inch models sold today have a million or so pixels (720p). More recent and slightly bigger TVs (typically 49 inches and smaller) have a little more than 2 million pixels (1080p). Even the latest bigger TVs (typically 50 inches and above) have 8 million (for 4K Ultra HD). You might have to look for a magnifying glass to distinguish between them.

Resolution is the most common specification used to sell TVs, but it isn’t the single most ingredient for great picture quality. High dynamic range (HDR) performance, overall contrast ratio, and colors all play a big role in picture quality.

What is 4K resolution

The clarity of the image you are viewing on your TV screen, irrespective of its size, depends largely on its resolution. The resolution numbers indicate how many pixels or tiny ‘colored dots’ make up your TV screen. The higher the number, the more vivid the display will be. Our case in point is ‘4K’, while the full HD TVs offer 1,920 X 1080 pixels, 4Ks offers a resolution that is four times better than the conventional HD TVs.

A 4K TV displays 3,840 (which is around 4K) horizontal and 2,160 vertical pixels in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (more normally referred to as 16×9). The total number of pixels is 8,294,400 (around 8 megapixels). It’s quite clear, between HD and 4K, the latter is expected to deliver more defined and detailed display.

HDR (High Dynamic Range) vs. 4K

4K and HDR both improve video quality, but not in the same way. HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, which is different than resolution. It is an enhanced picture quality technology that can display more life-like colors as well as higher brightness and contrast levels while playing HDR-compatible content.

Watching HDR-encoded video sources on an HDR-capable TV can provide a much wider range of picture contrast — the difference between the deepest blacks and the brightest whites is clearly visible. HDR also ensures your TV colors appear more vivid and accurate.

When compared to 4K, HDR’s picture enhancements can be dramatic, and much more perceptible. But again, although all 4K televisions can recognize the distinct HDR picture data, many can’t deliver the full impact.

Not all TVs with HDR are created equal

Good HDR performance demands two things from a TV screen:

  1. Ability to get very bright
  2. Ability to display deep blacks

This is referred to as ‘Peak Brightness’ and is measured in ‘Nits’. Today, even when HDR technology is found on virtually all modern 4K televisions, the inexpensive ones lack local dimming’s in both the areas mentioned above. However, mid-to upper-range LED-LCD TVs and OLED models excel in demonstrating the HDR advantages.

What is Dolby Vision

When 4K TVs are compared, it is common to come across four different HDR formats, including HDR10, HLG (Hybrid Log-Gamma), Advanced HDR by Technicolor® and Dolby Vision™. Out of these, HDR10 and Dolby Vision are the most important formats.

HDR10 is the most common HDR format and is compulsory for Ultra HD Blu-ray discs. Dolby Vision is available on streamed content from Netflix and Amazon, and select Ultra HD Blu-ray titles. The most substantial advantage of Dolby Vision over HDR10 is the addition of dynamic metadata to the core HDR image data. Which means, the HDR metadata can tell the TV to change brightness range on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis. The most impressive part, content is mastered with 12-bit color and peak brightness of 4000 nits – Notably, no current TVs can fully reproduce these ranges.

In simple words, Dolby Vision is the jet-engine fuel which powers the best-looking content in the world. It is the format which more and more studios are turning to and connecting its potential to deliver colorful, dynamic, and calculated images on a scene-by-scene basis.

Dolby Vision vs. HDR vs. 4K – The bottom line

Dolby Vision one of the most game-changing advancements to the television. Unquestionably, 4K gives us those additional pixels, but it is HDR that made those pixels shine out like they never did before. Ultimately, all of this shows up on your TV.

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Ankit Gupta is a writer by profession and has more than 7 years of global writing experience on technology and other areas. He follows technological developments and likes to write about Windows & IT security. He has a deep liking for wild life and has written a book on Top Tiger Parks of India.

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