Efficient energy consumption has been a constant pursuit for humans. And with global warming concerns looming, the need to consume fewer resources has never been this dire.
Although televisions aren’t your typical energy-hoggers, power consumption ratings of electronic items have been under a soft scanner for quite some time now.
And with these devices becoming more capable and packing in more features than ever before, doubts about their power usage have only increased in recent times.
4K resolution in TVs, for instance, consumes more power than a traditional HD television. Like 4K, HDR is another giant leap in display technology.
But does it eat up more power too? Or is it the power-efficiency panacea that the large 4K and 8K TVs need so that they don’t contribute any more to a household’s utility bill?
Keep reading to learn about HDR power consumption and the impact on overall performance, and what you could do in this regard.
Does HDR Consume More Power?
Yes, HDR does consume more power than traditional SDR visuals, and it’s not that difficult to comprehend why.
High dynamic range (HDR) technology widens a display’s luminance range, boosting the contrast ratio and making the colors richer and more profound.
All of the added visual data cannot be realized without more power. In other words, extra brightness means increased energy use. And HDR thrives when the panel is brighter than usual.
As per this NRDC report, watching a movie in HDR translates to 50% more energy consumption than watching the same film in the standard dynamic range.
Also, the energy-saving features of 4K HDR TVs get automatically disabled when HDR content is played.
Is HDR Power Consumption Worrying?
There’s no doubt HDR consumes more power.
And since HDR is almost always coupled with 4K, the energy use of a large 4K HDR TV is several times greater than the Full HD SDR TVs we used not very long ago.
With that said, the focus of companies and the industry coming up with these advanced technologies is not just on raw power upgrades and added features but also on reduced energy use.
Since HDR is relatively nascent, we haven’t reached a point wherein HDR energy use is at least similar to its predecessor. But it’s not unrealistic to expect significant improvements in the space in the coming years.
What can you do as a consumer? If you’d like to decrease your 4K HDR TV’s energy use and thereby reduce its carbon footprint on the environmental map, here are a few things you could do before and after your HDR TV purchase to minimize the energy impact:
- Do not set the brightness levels to high always. Instead, turn on automatic brightness mode so that the display can adjust its brightness levels according to ambient light. The power savings could be anywhere between 17% and 93% based on the TV model.
- When buying a TV or monitor, look for a product with the highest ENERGY STAR ratings. The greater the number of stars, the more efficient the device at power consumption
- Most importantly, turn on the TV only when actively watching it. Do not switch on the living room TV while you’re busy working in the kitchen. There are audio-only devices that you may put to good use instead.
- And when you turn off the TV, power it off for real. Please do not put it on standby for instant wake-up convenience. Wasted standby power is a reality, in case you didn’t know.
Does HDR Reduce Performance?
HDR does decrease performance, but the dip varies based on multiple factors.
HDR requires more CPU and GPU to run efficiently. When it doesn’t have additional power at its disposal, the display tech hampers performance to compensate for the lack of energy supply.
But based on the game and your gaming hardware, the performance hit could be noticeable or negligible.
The conversation about HDR’s impact on performance doesn’t exist in the TV space.
But in gaming, there are some rendering or gameplay concerns. However, the impact depends on where and how HDR is implemented. The particular title and gaming hardware has a major say in this.
For instance, if it’s console gaming, HDR has no negative impact on performance. It instead enhances the gaming experience.
However, HDR execution leaves a lot to desire in the PC gaming sphere.
First, there aren’t a lot of PC-based HDR games. Since multiple variables determine the gaming experience, which the game developer cannot directly control, studios and individual creators choose not to dabble with HDR for their PC games to be on the safe side of things.
One of the elements the developer has no control over is the video card on the user’s computer. It’s not possible to optimize a game for all graphics cards out there.
Not to mention, the graphics card onboard can make or break gaming in HDR. Based on the GPU, some games could see a drop in performance by more than 20%.
Also, a minor CPU hit could occur if HDR allows for light and color-shifting during the stream. The effects, however, wouldn’t be very noticeable since HDR is usually more demanding on the GPU.
Here is a video showing the performance differences between 4K SDR and HDR gaming:
But some games don’t get impacted much when HDR is enabled. And it is not clear why the disparity. Maybe it was an upcoming graphics driver update issue with the former.
Here is a video demonstrating how toggling HDR on or off has pretty much no impact on the FPS numbers:
Since monitors have been late to the HDR adoption game, their non-readiness could also cause performance issues.
Gaming consoles are usually hooked on to TVs, which are way ahead in terms of HDR implementation and standardization compared to gaming monitors.
HDR is not ready yet for competitive games.
If there’s one aspect that PC games and console games agree about HDR not being ready yet is “competitive gaming.”
In competitive esports, low input lag, high frame rates, precise visuals, and a solid internet connection are critical. When you toggle on HDR, one or more of those vital requirements suffer—whether you’re playing on a PC or console.
Some milliseconds of delay in a competitive single-player game could deny a win.
1/ Does HDR improve the gaming experience?
There can be a dip in frames on the performance front with HDR turned on. But then, that varies with the game and the video card your computer is rocking.
The performance aspect aside, HDR can give games a colorful pop. If your monitor is bright enough for true HDR, you may also find darker areas in games more visible than before.
With that said, some gamers complain of a washed-out effect with HDR enabled, which is usually an outcome of the display not being bright enough.
2/ Does HDR add more pixels?
HDR doesn’t increase the number of pixels an inch. It coexists with pixel count-increasing solutions, such as 4K and 8K.
However, HDR improves pixel quality through better color reproduction, increased brightness, and much-improved contrast figures.
To conclude, HDR requires increased power and affects performance when it doesn’t get that.
Thankfully, the industry is aware of the situation and is working on making HDR technology a lot more power-efficient.
Similarly, game developers are assumedly hard at work trying to figure out the optimal way to implement HDR in their content and make their games’ performance less contingent on specific hardware.
Since PC gaming has too many variables (monitor, game, processor, GPU, etc.) to manage, seamless HDR gaming on PCs may be a distant prospect.
But considering the current status of PC gaming in HDR and the continual efforts of the concerned parties to rectify the situation, the future looks bright for 4K HDR gaming.
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.