SDR and HDR Peak Brightness – What does it really mean?
HDR (High Dynamic Range) and SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) are terms commonly used in the context of displays, such as TVs, monitors, and projectors. They refer to the range of brightness levels that a display can produce, which significantly affects the visual quality and realism of the content being viewed.
- HDR (High Dynamic Range): HDR is a technology that expands the range of brightness and contrast in a display. It allows for both brighter highlights and deeper blacks, resulting in a more lifelike and immersive viewing experience. HDR content typically has a wider range of luminance levels, allowing it to represent details in both very bright and very dark areas of the image simultaneously. This is achieved through the use of higher peak brightness, better local dimming, and wider color gamuts.
- SDR (Standard Dynamic Range): SDR is the traditional standard for displays and content. It has a limited range of brightness and contrast compared to HDR. SDR content typically has a narrower range of luminance levels, which may lead to loss of detail in very bright or very dark scenes. However, most content created before the HDR era is in SDR format.
Peak Brightness: This refers to the maximum brightness a display can achieve. It is usually measured in nits (cd/m²). HDR displays have higher peak brightness compared to SDR displays. The higher peak brightness of HDR displays allows them to produce more vibrant and detailed images, especially in scenes with high contrast between bright and dark elements.
There’s limited room for enhancing a monitor’s peak brightness, usually accomplished by increasing brightness and selecting the picture mode that maximizes luminance, although these modes often compromise image accuracy. Some monitors offer an ‘Eco mode’ to save power, but disable it if visibility is crucial. A typical 300 cd/m² suffices for most environments, but for challenging conditions like sunlight or poor reflection handling, aim for around 400 cd/m² or brighter. For HDR, brighter is better, yet few monitors achieve true HDR brilliance.
Regarding specifications, advertised brightness can be listed in ‘cd/m²’ or ‘nits,’ essentially the same unit of measure.
Except for some budget options, most monitors get bright enough for use in well-lit environments. However, keep in mind that brightness can vary slightly from one unit to another, and the manufacturer’s advertised brightness is an estimate that tends to be on the optimistic side. If you’re in a room with sunlight or want a better HDR experience, then you should specifically check the monitor’s SDR and HDR peak brightness measurements to make sure it satisfies your needs.