There’s this common misconception that HDR requires a display with the highest quality and maximum resolution possible.
Although HDR performs the best when supported with competent hardware, it can do its job without breaking a sweat even if the panel it’s paired with isn’t the best on various parameters.
In other words, HDR doesn’t require QHD or UHD resolution to perform, as there’s no direct relationship between HDR and screen resolution. HDR primarily focuses on boosting a visual’s dark and bright aspects.
So, can HDR be 1080p?
Yes, HDR can be enjoyed in the 1080p avatar. Since HDR does not correlate with screen resolution, even 720p or a lower 480p can use HDR effectively.
It’s, however, worth mentioning that as display quality dips, the HDR output will fall too. In other words, 1080p HDR will not just be less sharp than 4K HDR.
The brightness and contrast performance will also be slightly inferior as the 1080p panel is likely inferior to the 4K display on a few grounds other than just sharpness.
Read on as we explore HDR in greater detail, how 4K and FHD HDR stack up, HDR and resolution requirements for Xbox gaming, and more.
What is HDR?
HDR (high dynamic range) is a technology used in cameras, TVs, phones, etc. It could be viewed as a photography standard or a TV display feature.
In cameras, HDR helps capture highly realistic photos and videos, completely justifying the colors, brightness, etc., in view.
An HDR photo or video is rarely too bright or dark, or the details are always on point.
HDR shows increased color variation between shots. The deep shadows aren’t just black voids. While the image remains dark, the details are not shadowed out.
On the other hand, the bright scenes aren’t merely vivid and illuminated. The finer details are not blown out.
HDR accomplishes this feat by taking multiple shots of the same scene at various brightness levels and merging all that data to generate one wholesome picture.
An HDR display on a TV, monitor, smartphone, etc., lets you view those HDR photos and videos in their complete glory.
That’s because an HDR screen has the color palette and contrast ratio to reproduce more natural, realistic pictures, which a non-HDR TV does not have.
Gaming or watching movies on an HDR screen is a visually enriching experience. The colors are more vibrant. The contrast between the bright and dark sections is better.
In short, the visuals appear real-life-like.
Here is a quick summary of HDR:
- Wide color gamut and contrast range than SDR
- Needs end-to-end compatibility
- Available in HD and higher resolution
Note: The content and display must be actual HDR to experience true HDR.
The Different Flavors/Brandings of HDR
Note that HDR is usually marketed as HDR10 or Dolby Vision.
There is also HDR10+, which is Samsung’s version based on HDR10. And then there’s HLG (hybrid log-gamma), which falls mainly within the DirecTV and BBC broadcast realm.
HDR10 is a UHD Alliance offering and the industry standard.
HDR10 incorporates “static metadata,” which sets color and light levels in absolute rates. In other words, the darkness and brightness levels remain the same throughout as the visuals play.
HDR10 is an open standard, allowing any content distributor or producer to use it freely. Generally, most HDR content is HDR10, with another HDR format like Dolby Vision usually tagging along.
A Dolby offering, Dolby Vision is an advanced variant of HDR. It transcends static metadata, allowing for frame-by-frame or scene-by-scene modifications. The result is a more captivating and accurate visual portrayal than HDR10.
DV has another trick under its sleeve called “Dolby Vision IQ.” The HDR technology’s extension adjusts HDR content to fit a living space’s varying light conditions.
Dolby Vision is licensed-based. For a TV or monitor to incorporate the tech or market the device as DV-certified, they should pay Dolby a licensing fee per unit sold.
What is 1080p HDR10?
Commonly called FHD (Full High Definition), the alphanumeric term “1080p” denotes the 1920×1080-pixel resolution.
“FHD HDR10” is the screen resolution and HDR standard put together. They are not mutually exclusive, or one doesn’t require the other to work.
In “1080p HDR10,” 1080p can be replaced by 2K or 4K, and Dolby Vision or HDR10+ could be used instead of HDR10.
The number “10” in HDR10 denotes the 10-bit color the standard uses. SDR (standard dynamic range), on the other hand, uses 8-bit color information.
The increased HDR10 color precision helps capture and display subtle color gradients and variations, lending to more visually appealing and realistic images. Another key benefit of a greater bit depth is color banding reduction.
Long story short, HDR10 emphasizes color palette. 1080p denotes the resolution or the pixel count. The more pixels used, the sharper the image will be.
Can Xbox Series X|S HDR Be 1080p?
The new-gen Xbox Series X|S supports HDR but not at 1080p resolution. HDR can only be turned on in Xbox consoles at 4K resolution.
As a result, a TV or gaming monitor with a sub-4K resolution won’t be able to tap into the HDR capabilities of an Xbox X or S console.
Microsoft has yet to officially clarify why the 4K threshold for HDR in its Xbox consoles, especially as HDR is not contingent on the 4K resolution.
We assume it may be due to hardware optimization or because Microsoft wants to position its gaming consoles as premium offerings that do not compromise visual fidelity.
Moreover, restricting HDR to 4K means a consistently high-quality HDR experience for users with 4K HDR displays.
Keeping the resolution for HDR gaming standard at 4K will also streamline or simplify developing and testing games. Developers will have fewer potential software and hardware combinations to account for.
The above are all educated guesses. Microsoft’s logic behind sticking to 4K for HDR may differ entirely.
How to Check the Display if 4K HDR Supported?
To check if your TV or monitor connected to an Xbox supports 4K HDR, follow these steps:
Step 1. Hit the Xbox key on the gaming controller to launch the menu guide.
Step 2. Choose Profile & System.
Step 3. Select Settings and go to General.
Step 4. Next, choose TV & display options.
Step 5. Then select 4K TV details.
If your TV HDR is enabled, you will see green checkmarks beside Dolby Vision support and/or HDR10 support. Other aspects, such as 120hz compatibility, can also be verified at this point.
How to Enable HDR Feature?
To enable the HDR feature if it’s not already turned on, follow these steps:
Step 1. Hit the Xbox key on your controller and launch the menu guide.
Step 2. Choose Profile & System.
Step 3. Go to Settings and then General.
Step 4. Then choose TV & display options, followed by Video modes.
Step 5. Under General Video modes, choose your HDR from the available options. Select Allow 4K, Allow HDR10, and Auto HDR. You may also see the option to check Allow Dolby Vision if the TV supports it.
1080p HDR vs. 4K non-HDR
To reiterate, HDR and 4K are two different aspects of a video.
HDR primarily deals with increased color, brightness, and a striking contrast ratio. 4K is essentially the screen’s sharpness quotient.
The two complement each other effectively but do not rely on each other. So, which one’s better: 1080p with HDR or 4K with SDR?
Unfortunately, the answer is not straightforward. It depends on the screen quality, size, viewing distance, and other considerations.
If the TV or gaming monitor is 32 inches or smaller, the FHD screen with HDR will be great. If, however, the display is any more prominent, the 1080p resolution will look pixelated, mainly if you’re seated closer to the screen.
Read this article to learn about the correct viewing distance apropos to screen size.
Generally, a 40-inch or larger display will benefit immensely from 4K resolution. The viewer will gain from more detailed and sharper visuals.
Here is a table listing the technical specifications of 4K and 1080p screen resolutions:
3840 x 2160
1920 x 1080
Choosing between 1080p HDR and 4K non-HDR comes down to your “preferences.”
If you think 1080p is sharp enough for your viewing needs and fancy HDR’s improved contrast, enhanced color accuracy, etc., opt for FHD HDR.
The need for HDR primarily arises when viewing content that relies heavily on dynamic lighting. Those include movies with vivid and intense visuals or games with solid graphics.
If you reckon a sharper screen is more critical and boosted colors and rich contrasts can be put on the back-burner, you’d appreciate 4K SDR better.
You’d likely incline toward 4K if you’re a fan of sports broadcasts, nature documentaries, etc., that benefit from increased sharpness.
If you’re still unsure, visit a local electronics retail store and experience the two picture settings firsthand.
To reiterate, “HDR” and “screen resolution” are separate entities. So, technically HDR can be 1080p.
However, 1080p HDR gaming is not possible in the Xbox gaming sphere for the reasons mentioned above.
In the ideal world, 4K and HDR make the perfect pair, especially with 1080p getting slowly phased out from TV displays.
The 4K resolution strikes the right balance between cost and performance. The scenario, however, can change when 8K becomes more feasible and topples 4K to become the new screen resolution standard.
And when that happens, Microsoft may increase the resolution threshold for HDR to 8K in its gaming consoles. We hope they keep the 4K HDR combination alive or give the option to the user.
Catherine Tramell has been covering technology as a freelance writer for over a decade. She has been writing for Pointer Clicker for over a year, further expanding her expertise as a tech columnist. Catherine likes spending time with her family and friends and her pastimes are reading books and news articles.