When buying a new monitor or television, one of the hottest marketing buzzwords you will find is “HDR.”
While HDR technology can definitely add a new level of immersion to your movies and games, are there any drawbacks? Will you see a dip in your computer or console’s performance when having it enabled?
Let’s take a look at exactly how HDR can impact your favorite video games and if the possible trade-offs are worth it.
Does HDR Affect Performance?
When enabling HDR on your monitor or TV, you will not notice any dips in your in-game frame rates if gaming on a console. This is great news for those who shelled out the big bucks for a high-quality HDR TV for your gaming needs.
If you are trying to play your games at a smooth high refresh rate on a gaming PC, you will generally not be hampered by a quality HDR experience either, though a slight loss has been reported.
Is HDR Good For Gaming?
This is a highly subjective question, but it will vary based on the type of games you enjoy playing. HDR is designed to give you a more immersive experience, so if you want your games to look gorgeous and engulf you in the world, HDR should definitely be on.
Multiplayer Competitive Games
If you like to go for high frag games such as Call of Duty, Apex Legends, or Fortnite, turning HDR on will not be in your best interest.
HDR brightens the highlights and can deepen and darken the shadows, making it more difficult to see the enemy you are trying to shoot. This is bad news and will certainly cost you a few gunfights and maybe a thrown mouse or controller as well.
MOBAs such as League of Legends or DOTA are a bit different. While they are still competitive multiplayer games, the cartoon art style they employ can actually benefit from the added contrast you will get from HDR. If you play these types of games, this will come down to personal taste.
If that’s the case, you should ask yourself, do you ultimately like HDR or not?
Another point that should be brought up is the input lag that is created with HDR enabled.
If you have a TV or monitor with a dedicated low latency gaming mode, switching over to HDR will be disabled. This means in some cases, you will see a noticeable increase in the input lag of your display.
This could be the difference in life and death in your favorite multiplayer game, so it is something that you should consider.
Single Player Story-Based Games
This is where HDR shines, pun intended.
If you enjoy playing games like Elden Ring, Tomb Raider, or The Witcher, turning HDR on will give you the most immersive gaming experience possible.
These titles are as much about eye candy as they are about gameplay, and cranking the graphics and turning on HDR will take your gaming experience to a whole new level.
This doesn’t mean that HDR is always going to be optimal. In extremely low light areas of games, you will still struggle a bit because it can make the darkness even darker.
Play around with your monitor’s settings and in-game adjustments to ensure you don’t miss any details in those deep dark dungeons.
Here is another area where HDR is going to look very good.
Games such as Age of Empires, Civilization, or Crusader Kings will look phenomenal with the inclusion of HDR. The highlights rippling on the ocean tides, and the dark shadows of a thick pine forest will all be enhanced by having HDR enabled.
In city-building games such as Sim City, Cities Skylines, or Tropico, you may encounter a bit of a visibility issue when nighttime arrives.
You will notice your building lights and street lamps look overly bright while the details in the shadows will be lost. This may not be an issue for you, but it could pose a problem if you are trying to do something tedious.
Does HDR Lower FPS?
No, HDR does not lower your in-game FPS numbers on console, meaning you can still get those silky smooth frame rates that you are used to.
While we don’t recommend using HDR in fast-paced, action-packed, highly competitive multiplayer games, you technically could get lower FPS. It will give you the previously mentioned disadvantages, but it certainly will look and feel great.
Like certain graphics features, you can turn them on in your GPU settings or in the game itself. Enabling HDR will affect your frame rate a bit when gaming on a PC.
It is better to view HDR as an optional setting and save it for a game where losing a few frames isn’t going to make a world of difference.
Think of HDR as the cherry on top of your gaming immersion sundae. A bit of extra eye candy without sacrificing any performance. Talk about a win-win.
Should I Turn HDR On or Off During Gaming?
As mentioned previously, the answer to this question depends largely on the type of game you enjoy. Not only that, but certain people are just going to generally love the way HDR looks, while others will hate it in every scenario.
There is no one size fits all answer when it comes to HDR, so the best thing you can do is turn it on if you have compatible hardware and see what your personal preference is.
You should do yourself a favor and try it. If you have a compatible monitor, what is the downside? If you don’t like it, toggle it off and forget the feature even exists.
However, you may find that you love it and want to play every game going forward with it enabled. Either way is a win for you!
Many people find they toggle the feature on and off depending on the current activity. For example, if you want to play Apex Legends with your friends, toggle it off to enjoy fewer blown-out highlights and more visible shadow areas.
But if later you want to watch a movie and get immersed? Simply toggle it back on and grab your popcorn.
HDR is the new kid on the block when it comes to PC gaming, and some games benefit from this new technology greatly. I mean, who doesn’t like more eye candy?!
The good news is it isn’t going to lower your FPS severely on a PC (or at all if you game on a console), so giving it a shot is not going to cost you a thing, other than the price of a decent HDR-enabled monitor or TV.
Give it a shot. What have you got to lose?