Shopping for a new 4K TV can be pretty puzzling and challenging if you’re not a techie. High dynamic range (HDR) has taken the world of displays by storm, but not everybody likes how it looks. So, can you have a 4K TV without HDR?
You can have a 4K TV without HDR. 4K and HDR are distinct display features, and you can have one without the other. “4K” refers to the resolution (number of pixels), and HDR describes the dynamic range, which increases the color gamut and contrast ratio. It’s possible to find a 4K TV without HDR.
The rest of this article will explain the relation between 4K and HDR in TVs, whether all 4K TVs come with HDR, and if there’s a way to add HDR to your existing 4K TV. I’ll also touch on what matters more for gaming.
Also read: Why Does 4K Look Dark?
Can You Have a 4K TV Without HDR?
You can have a 4K TV without HDR, although most modern 4K TVs on the market today support it. 4K and HDR are unrelated features, but they’re often coupled together. New 4K TVs without HDR tend to be cheaper. Also, you can turn off HDR on nearly all modern 4K TVs.
Pretty much anyone under the sun would agree that 4K is better than 1080p Full HD on TVs. You get a sharper resolution at the cost of brightness. But it’s generally worth it because 4K is breathtaking.
But when it comes to HDR, opinions are divided. Not everybody likes what HDR does to your image. It makes movies, TV shows, and video games especially vibrant and contrasty.
Since HDR has found its way into even the cheapest 4K TVs, you can’t always shop by price.
If you’re a competitive console gamer, you probably want a 4K TV without HDR.
Your best bet would be to either buy an old, used 4K TV without HDR or buy a brand-new 4K HDR TV and then disable it.
Almost all TVs have an option that turns off HDR completely, but the sharp 4K resolution stays.
To reiterate, you can get a 4K TV without HDR, but they’re relatively rare nowadays. Most people enjoy HDR because it brings the image to life.
Do All 4K TVs Have HDR?
Not all 4K TVs have HDR. Although most modern 4K TVs have HDR, there are also models without HDR. Older and budget 4K TVs often don’t have HDR because strong backlights can increase manufacturing costs. Additionally, not all TVs support all HDR standards. Most of them only support one or two.
If you go into a retail store or check Amazon.com for 4K TVs, you’ll likely stumble upon dozens of 4K TVs, almost all of which have HDR.
Although HDR and 4K are completely different, they’re often found together. A 4K resolution is much sharper than 1080p, and HDR has a wider color gamut and contrast ratio than SDR (Standard Dynamic Range).
The two technologies combined will feed your eyes with breathtaking content when combined.
Since HDR10 and HDR10+ are open standards, no additional licensing costs are involved in the manufacturing process. The TV simply has to meet the specs, and it’ll be HDR certified.
So, the cost of implementing HDR is relatively low nowadays. Manufacturers have nothing to gain and everything to lose if they don’t add HDR to their 4K TVs.
Since the smart TV market is crowded with fantastic options from high-end OLEDs all the way down to low-budget 4K models, HDR used to be a major differentiator.
Thankfully, HDR trickled down to even the cheapest of cheap TVs.
So, although not all 4K TVs have HDR, most of them do.
Can You Add HDR to a 4K TV?
You can’t add HDR to a 4K TV. High Dynamic Range (HDR) is an inherent capability that a TV has, and it can’t be added or removed from the TV. The HDR standard is largely determined by the capabilities of the backlight LEDs, such as peak brightness levels and local dimming.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to upgrade your aging 4K TV to support HDR. Although you can watch content in HDR, and it’ll look fantastic, it’ll still run in SDR.
Your TV has a hard limit on the color gamut, peak brightness, and contrast ratio. There’s no way to change that other than buying a brand-new 4K TV.
If you want to have a better understanding of how HDR works, you should watch this extensive video by Engadget:
It’s worth noting that the content you’re watching has to be compatible with HDR too. For example, HDR videos on YouTube will show “HDR” next to the resolution on supported devices.
So, ensure you’re streaming HDR movies and shows to get the most out of your 4K HDR TV.
HDR or 4K TV for Gaming
I’ve already hinted at it previously, but HDR isn’t ideal for gaming. Although it is an incredible feature for a cinematic single-player experience, it’s not good for competitive online games.
For example, the sunlight shining through a cave in Battlefield can blind you, exposing you to enemy snipers and infantry.
On the other hand, 4K is mostly beneficial for all gamers.
You’ll lose some FPS if you run games at a native 4K resolution on next-gen consoles and high-end PCs, but it’s generally worth it.
If you need more FPS, you can always switch to upscaled 4K and reap some benefits from the high-resolution display.
But this isn’t to say that HDR is bad for gaming by any means. You’ll likely notice the high contrast ratio and color range before a sharper image.
It just boils down to personal preference. You can always disable HDR in game settings if you don’t like it. Also, you can switch to upscaled 4K if you want more FPS, and your games will look better.
It’s possible to have a 4K TV without HDR. However, most 4K TVs come with HDR nowadays due to economies of scale and fierce competition.
And this isn’t a bad thing — HDR gives your image a natural look, and it can be disabled if you don’t like it.
If you have an aging 4K TV, upgrading to a newer model with HDR can greatly improve your content-consuming experience.
- Wikipedia: High dynamic range
- Cnet: What is HDR for TVs, and how does it make the picture better?
- How-To Geek: What is the HDR10+ Standard?
- CIE Group: How does HDR video work?
- PCWorld: HDR gaming on PC: Everything you need to know
Jason is a home theater expert with over 10 years of experience in setting up home cinema rooms and systems. What started out as a hobby soon transformed him into an authority in the audio-visual field. He is passionate about providing readers with accurate and up-to-date information on the latest audiovisual technologies and their applications for home theaters. Read more about Jason.