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If you are an avid PC gamer, having the right HDR monitor will improve your immersion into the game by offering richer colors and more distinct depth. While HDR televisions have been around for many years, HDR monitors have only been on the market for a few. With this helpful guide, you will know why you should consider purchasing an HDR monitor and what to look for.
What Is an HDR Monitor?
HDR stands for high dynamic range, not to be confused with HD. For many, HDR is a somewhat confusing subject. In its most basic design, HDR is meant to increase the richness and color depth of images. While 4K televisions and monitors have been stealing attention over the last couple of years, HDR monitors have the power to dramatically improve the graphic’s resolution of movies, TV shows, and games above what 4K monitors can offer.
Until a couple of years ago, there was no set standard for HDR monitors. In 2017, VESA unveiled its DisplayHDR standards with three certification levels. You can read about those here.
- DisplayHDR 400
- DisplayHDR 600
- DisplayHDR 1000
The numbers you see above stand for the brightness level, measured in nits. Manufacturers must meet these, along with bit depth, black levels, and gamut standards and minimums. These are strict standards that have been put in place by VESA. They are so strict, only around nine HDR monitors meet the standards as of now.
What Should You Look for in an HDR Monitor?
Purchasing a monitor can be a bit confusing, and throwing HDR in the mix makes things even more puzzling for many people. While we cannot offer an exhaustive review of all the monitors on the market, we are here to give you a strong foundation of information to be used in making a purchase. The following offers some insight that should help you better understand what to look for.
Color Gamut – This is one of the first considerations when choosing an HDR monitor. As we mentioned above, HDR has the capability to offer much richer color schemes and it can do that because it shows more colors than an SDR monitor.
When you are looking at the specs for an HDR monitor, you will likely see a percentage of the color gamut. The closer the monitor is to 100%, the better the color range which will offer more detail and brilliance to the images being displayed. It is important you at least purchase a P3 standard color gamut monitor or you will find the images displayed are lacking in color vibrancy.
Bit Depth – Another thing you will want to consider is bit depth. Bit depth is the number of bits of information that will be used by the monitor to display images. When shopping for an HDR monitor, it is important to choose one that is at least 10-bit. If you can find a 12-bit, this will be even better, but there are few on the market at this time.
Backlighting – HDR will never look as amazing as its potential without the right lighting source to offer plenty of brightness. Many monitors today use edge lighting which includes LED lights running down both sides of the monitor. It is these lights that illuminate the pixels on the monitor to be able to show the full gamut of colors. Television manufacturers have recently begun doing away with edge lighting and are focusing on creating televisions with backlit zones that are often referred to as full-array local dimming. This type of backlighting helps to lower darker areas on the screen and make the colors that are at the forefront come to life and seem to “pop” more.
While there are few monitors that offer this backlighting scheme, more manufacturers are stepping up to the plate. When choosing a multiple-zone backlit monitor, it is important to choose one that offers as many backlit zones as possible. With more zones in place, the monitor will be able to display images and offer dynamic range and contrast more accurately.
Brightness – While backlighting is important, it is nothing if the monitor cannot go bright enough. While some televisions and monitors can go as high as 1000 nits, the average low-end monitor is not going to be any brighter than 200-300 nits.
It can be a bit confusing when you are looking at PC monitor specs. Some monitor manufacturers are touting they are HDR without being able to reach the high level of brightness that is needed for ultra-color definition.
As we mentioned above, VESA’s standards for HDR monitors will likely become the standard for all PC monitors in the future. Already, we are beginning to see manufacturers comply with VESA’s standards, including Phillips and AOC.
If you truly want the HDR experience to be fully maximized, you need to choose a monitor that offers around 1000 nits. If the brightness is too low, you really are not going to be able to experience pure HDR in all its glory.
Just to recap the information above, consider the following when purchasing an HDR monitor.
- Try to choose a monitor with 1000 nit brightness. Do not accept any monitor below 600 nits.
- Choose a 10-bit panel for the best results. You can also choose an 8-bit plus 2-bit.
- Pick a monitor with at least 90% coverage of the P3 color gamut.
Look out for imposters. What we mean by this, is manufacturers are stating they are HDR when they are only boasting of an increased color gamut over SDR monitors. While color is important, if you truly want to be able to tell you have an HDR monitor, then it is all about the brightness level.
The Best HDR Monitors
As with any gaming gear purchase, it is crucial you carefully research the options that are available. There are now more HDR monitors available than ever before, and we would like to provide you with a rundown on some of the top choices. Before you even start the process of purchasing an HDR monitor, make sure you have a graphics card that supports HDR. The following are some of the best monitors on the market.
Samsung 32-Inch CHG70
This monitor is one of the very best on the market at present. This 32-inch curved monitor brings the screen a few inches closer to you than other models, putting you right in the midst of the action. Samsung is using the same CHG70 monitor they use in their 4K televisions.
- DisplayHDR 600
- 10-bit color
- Supports AMD Radeon FreeSync 2
- 3,000:1 color ratio
- 144Hz refresh rate
HP Pavilion Gaming 32 HDR
This is one of the best bargains available in HDR displays right now. This 2,560 x 1,440 monitor has a decent refresh rate and can offer some of the benefits of a higher-end monitor without the price. This monitor does not use IPS technology, so it is able to meet the DisplayHDR 600 standard.
- DisplayHDR 600
- 3,000:1 contrast ratio
- 95 percent DCI-P3 gamut
- 75Hz refresh rate
AOC 32-Inch AGON AG322QC4
The AGON AG322QC4 is one of the few monitors that comply with the VESA DisplayHDR 400 standard. Like the HP Pavilion Gaming 32 HDR, this monitor uses VA instead of IPS technology. While it is not one of the best HDR monitors, it is certainly worth the lower price, if you are on a budget.
- DisplayHDR 400
- 8-bit color
- 144Hz refresh rate
- AMD’s FreeSync 2 support
If you are focused on high color demands, this monitor may disappoint, but it is aimed towards gaming performance and that is what most gamers focus on when choosing a monitor.
Samsung 49-Inch Ultrawide CHG90 QLED Monitor
When we first saw this monitor, we named it the beast. It is quite funny to look at because it is so incredibly wide. We are talking about the fusion of two 1080p monitors. This monitor is fast and offers a beautiful and realistic color scheme. The specs will most likely surprise you.
- DisplayHDR 600
- 144Hz refresh rate
- 3,000:1 contrast ratio
- 3,840 x 1,080 resolution
- 32:9 aspect ratio
Best HDR Monitors for Multi Forms of Entertainment
If you have cut the cable ties and are a Netflix or Hulu watcher, you may use your PC monitor for multiple forms of entertainment. If you are one who uses your monitor for more than gaming and computing, you will need a bigger monitor. Thankfully, there is a monitor that is ideal for multi types of entertainment.
Philips Momentum 43-Inch 4K HDR Monitor
Let us introduce the first DisplayHDR 1000 monitor on the market. This monitor is massive, so it is perfect for those who game, watch movies and use their monitor for all types of entertainment. This monitor even has MultiView technology which means you can watch television on one part of the screen while you play a game or work on your computer on the other. (We really like this feature!)
- DisplayHDR 1000
- 10-bit processing
- 97.6 percent DCI-P3
- 80Hz refresh rate
HDR Device Support
Before you go out and spend your hard-earned money on a new HDR monitor, it is wise to check and make sure your devices support HDR. The good news is that most devices are now introducing HDR support. The following are known devices that support this technology, though this list is sure to grow longer in a short amount of time.
- Windows 10
- Certain Roku models
- Apple TV
- Certain FireTV models
If you like watching movies and television in HDR, you will find subscription services like Netflix and Hulu already have quite a lot of HDR titles to choose from. You can also sporadically find videos on YouTube and other streaming sites that have some HDR options.
Right now, you will not find a lot of titles or options available, but this is sure to only be a temporary problem since HDR is expanding in scope and will soon be plentiful. Even the gaming world is getting on board and the many titles that are on the horizon should excite every PC gamer.
HDR Game Support
While it is easier to find HDR supported games on consoles, there is a growing list of game titles that support HDR. This list is increasing each month, as HDR is growing in popularity in the gaming community. Right now, the list includes some of the following titles.
- Call of Duty: Black Ops IIII
- Destiny 2
- Devil May Cry 5
- Far Cry 5
- Halo Wars 2
- Madden NFL 19
- Resident Evil 2
- The Elder Scrolls Online
- Assassin’s Creed Origins
- Resident Evil 7:
Competitive gaming requires the right equipment and skill to get the job done. You never want to come face to face with an opponent without being prepared. There are a lot of things to consider when it comes to gaming gear. Because competitive games are so action-packed, it is imperative your screen has a high refresh rate or you could be ghosting and find yourself killed. With this guide, we will get into some of the specifics of TVs vs. monitors so you can make an informed choice.
What Should You Know About Refresh Rate?
As with many aspects of purchasing gaming gear, there is often a lot of confusion revolving around refresh rate and its importance. This is a feature that doesn’t do anything to the picture quality or color and goes unnoticed if it is working as it should.
So, what is the importance of the refresh rate? Before we delve much deeper into the subject, it is important to understand exactly what the refresh rate is and then we can get into more details on why it matters.
Refresh Rate – The refresh rate is the number of times the screen updates its buffer in any given second. The refresh rate is measured in hertz. What this means is the more times the screen refreshes each second, the smoother the image. If you are into fast action games, you will notice if the refresh rate is too low.
Low Refresh Rates = Problems
Low refresh rates generally equal problems when it comes to graphically demanding games. Being aware of the common problems associated with lower refresh rates will help you to better understand why this is an important consideration when choosing between a TV or monitor.
Motion Resolution is easily one of the most noticeable problems when it comes to low refresh rates. Motion resolution is the ability of the screen to properly display moving images. The lower the refresh rate, the more blurring will occur and this can be detrimental, especially in a live competitive match.
Screen Tearing can be extremely frustrating for gamers. This happens when the refresh rate and frame rate are not compatible. If your graphics card is putting out frames at a rate your monitor or TV cannot handle, it will often split the frames, leading to screen tearing. This issue is very distracting in a match and can have you pulling your hair out with each kill suffered as a result.
Input Response can also be affected by lower refresh rates. While some gamers may not even notice a minor problem with input lag, it can be extremely frustrating in a highly competitive match. In its basic terms, an input response lag is a delay that occurs between the monitor or television receiving the signal and it being displayed. While a few milliseconds of lag might not seem like much, it could mean the difference between you obliterating your opponent or being taken out.
Is a Higher Refresh Rate Always Better?
It would seem the higher the numbers, the better the results, right? While this is most often the case, as we discussed above, there are sometimes problems with the compatibility of the frame rate and refresh rate.
Even with games that are not graphically demanding, the frame rate can rise over 100 FPS. Let’s say you have a monitor or television that is only refreshing at 60Hz. This means there is no way your monitor can keep up with the FPS and you are going to experience frame tearing.
Now, if your monitor refreshes at 120Hz, this means it will refresh twice as fast as a 60Hz monitor and will be able to properly display a game that has a frame rate of 100 or slightly above. A 240Hz refresh rate is going to be able to handle highly taxing games without motion blurs, frame tearing, and input lags.
To get the best results, it would be wise for you to purchase a monitor that has a refresh rate of 120Hz or 144Hz. These displays will be able to handle most games and competitive play should not be interrupted with major lags and annoying frame tears.
Why Not Replace Your Gaming Monitor with a TV?
If you find a TV that has around the same refresh rate as some of the best gaming monitors, it would seem that would be a fair trade, but there is more to consider. Yes, there are gamers who use televisions as their display for PC gaming, but we are here to tell you this likely is not the best idea.
Yes, HD and 4K televisions are now going for insanely good prices. You can sometimes get a huge television for less than the price of a high-end gaming monitor. Unfortunately, there is a problem.
No matter how big the TV, how awesome the refresh rate, or how good the price, the vast majority of televisions only have inputs of around 60Hz. With the input at 60Hz, the TV then goes to work to try to achieve a double refresh rate from the input, going up to 120Hz or trying for even higher.
The way a television achieves a higher refresh rate is through a process called motion interpolation. What happens during motion interpolation, is the display attempts to speed up the frame rate to the TV’s maximum rate.
What Is Motion Interpolation?
To make it easier to understand, let’s break motion interpolation into its simplest of terms. This means the TV will add what is called a predictive frame. It takes the frame before and after and creates a predictive frame to make the motions more fluid and lifelike. While this may seem like a good thing on the surface, it may not be the best for competitive gaming.
So, you are playing a highly competitive online game, using a TV display. The picture looks great and it’s huge, so you are able to see all the competition. As the frame rate begins to rise, you start seeing strange frames in the mix. What you think is a tree turns out to be an opponent. It is easy to see this is not what gamers want!
Even with highly intuitive motion interpolation, your TV can miss and create a frame that is slightly confusing to the eye. While this may not be such a big deal when watching a movie or television show, it is not something you want during a competitive match.
Before you totally rule out using a television to play, you will likely find slow-paced games with immersive storylines are beautifully displayed on a large television. Games like Witcher 3 and Mass Effect are going to be more enjoyable spread out across an HDR or 4K television display.
If you are not a competitive gamer, you likely will not notice the minor frame interruptions that can occur with a high level of motion interpolation. If you mostly play games like God of War, then using a TV as a gaming display will make these games come to life.
Bottom Line – A TV is not going to give you the frame and refresh rates that are needed for highly competitive gaming. No matter how good it looks, don’t try it or you will end up discovering your losses greatly increase.
How to Choose the Right Gaming Monitor for Competitive Gaming
Now that you know competitive gaming just cannot happen on a widescreen television, you are likely wondering how to choose the right gaming display. The right monitor can mean the difference between you getting annihilated every time your character revives and being able to dominate them at every turn.
As we have discussed, there are a few different areas you will need to focus on when choosing a gaming monitor. So, let’s dive right in and discover some key areas that can make a huge difference in competitive gaming.
If you love playing competitive games like PUBG, Call of Duty, or Counter Strike: Global Offensive, you know just how important every second is during the battle. One slight blur or shadowing can spell disaster for your character.
There are a few refresh rates for gaming monitors.
Before you go out and purchase a 240Hz monitor, take a look at the graphics card you are using. Nvidia and AMD make graphics cards that can handle higher refresh rates. As we briefly mentioned above, your graphics card and refresh rate need to be matched as much as possible, or you will be wasting the capability of both.
Another factor to consider when purchasing a gaming monitor is response time. The simple definition of response time is the rate at which each pixel on the screen can change colors. When it comes to response time, lower is always better. Most gaming monitors come with really low response time rates, but it never hurts to check out this spec before you buy. It is important to choose a monitor with no greater than a 6ms response rate. There are even some monitors on the market that offer a 1ms response rate.
Another thing you will need to consider when choosing a gaming monitor is the video inputs. Many gamers overlook this important aspect because they do not realize its sheer importance. There are two main types of video inputs you will see on gaming monitors.
When searching for gaming monitors, you are likely going to find a lot of them offer HDMI connectors. This seems to be the new standard in gaming monitors because they can be hooked up to computers and consoles, depending on the type of gaming you prefer. Unfortunately, HDMI connectors cannot handle a high refresh rate so they can be limiting, especially if you like competitive gaming and want to stay ahead of your opponents.
DisplayPort connectors are the best video inputs for gaming monitors, especially those used for competitive gaming. They can handle fast refresh rates which is what you want in an online competitive match. If your video input cannot handle such high refresh rates, you are going to notice many problems that we have discussed above. The most common version you will see in today’s gaming monitors is DisplayPort 1.2. These can support refresh rates up to 60Hz and resolutions of up to 3840 x 2160 pixels.
Many people are surprised to learn the panel can have a lot to do with their refresh rate. There are three main panel types and they include the following.
TN Panels – These panels are the least expensive, and they also offer the lowest refresh rates. If you are a competitive gamer, you do not want a TN panel.
VA Panels – While these offer great views, they tend to have ghosting issues that can be problematic for competitive gamers.
IPS Panels – These panels offer the best picture quality, with the highest refresh rates. While IPS panels are the best for competitive gaming, they are also the most expensive. Even when choosing an IPS panel, it is wise to still check the specs to ensure the panel offers the lowest response time.
While it may seem reasonable to switch out a gaming monitor with a TV, this can be problematic. With televisions only offering video inputs of 60Hz, it really is a waste of time for competitive gamers to use a television display.
If you love competitive gaming and want to get all the kills and win the game, you need a good gaming monitor. If you take time researching and look for monitors with the above specs, you will find your competitive gaming experience will be more immersive. With the right refresh rates and response times, along with the best video input, competitive gaming will be free of the problems that take away the fun.
While televisions are ideal for slow-paced story games, they can spell disaster for an online competitive match. No one wants to be deep in a game, only to find their monitor just is not up to speed. Looking for the specs above will help you to make a perfect choice.