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Should I Turn On HDR For Gaming? 


HDR has made tremendous inroads with videos and photos. And there’s, no doubt, a lot more progress to make.

But, for some reason, HDR hasn’t caught on in the gaming world the way it was expected to.

On one side, there are people singing praises of HDR for the drastic improvements it brings to movies and shows.

And then there are gamers who borderline despise HDR and have nothing but negative thoughts to share about the tech.

But some appreciate what HDR brings to games.

The question, however, is, should you enable HDR for gaming and ignore the majority gaming population? Or accept that HDR is best when used with movies and shows?

Because there are so many variables attached to HDR gaming and individual viewpoints and preferences to consider, let’s not conclude yet.

Keep reading to find out if HDR in gaming is worth it or should you wait.

Pros and Cons of HDR Gaming

As mentioned earlier, HDR hasn’t had a significant impact on the gaming space the way it has pretty much upended the movie and TV industry.

It is still in its nascent stages, bringing good and not-so-pretty things to the gaming fraternity. The following are the most significant impacts:

Brighter Visuals

a man is playing a soccer game with bright and sharp images

When HDR is enabled on games that support it, visuals tend to be more lit up and evident.

The difference in visibility becomes apparent when comparing the same scene: one with HDR enabled and the other with no HDR.

The illumination particularly comes into its own in the darker areas of a scene. The details become visible suddenly, as if someone adorned the portion with some extra light.

With that said, there’s also the possibility of blown-out highlights and over-darkened shadows when HDR attempts to make things brighter.

To be fair, however, that’s not just HDR’s fault. Poorly calibrated displays could have caused overly dark areas and excessively bright segments.

Inconsistent Implementation

a man is playing a PC game with low resolution

HDR implementation in games is quite haphazard, particularly with PC games.

For instance, even if the HDR setting in your Windows computer is turned on, some games may still not play in HDR.

And then there are a few other titles that let you enable HDR right from within the game’s settings.

In between the above two are games with no HDR feature built-in, relying solely on your HDR computer’s settings.

That said, when HDR works in some games, that happens flawlessly.

The Xbox One X, Xbox One S, PS4Pro, and PS4 support HDR10. You should, therefore, have no trouble finding authentic and reliable HDR gaming options as a console gamer.

Not to mention, to play your favorite HDR games, you’ll need an HDR-friendly TV or monitor too.

an HDR monitor for gaming

Here are some excellent TVs to pair your latest gaming consoles with:

For gaming monitors, here are some recommendations:

Besides the above, HDR may also start to work differently based on the operating system and GPU.

For example, an older Windows OS version will not support HDR the way the latest iteration of the system software would.

Not Suitable for Competitive Gaming

HDR may lend clear visuals to a game but usually, nothing more significant than that.

It has no impact whatsoever on key gaming aspects such as latency and frame rates. Those low input lag and high frame rates are critical in competitive games.

a male games is celebrating his victory on a competitive PC game

If you’re a PC gamer, HDR could affect GPU performance. With gaming consoles, however, performance hits should not be a problem.

Upgrading the GPU or getting a new computer altogether may help, but not entirely since PC games not rendering well in HDR is not purely a hardware issue.

Note that the slightly increased latency is a minor concern with non-competitive games. 

Should I Turn on HDR for Gaming?

If the game renders well in HDR and your monitor is bright enough for the job, turn on HDR for gaming.

Brightness is key to HDR performance, and that’s more so the case in games. If the display is not bright enough, gaming could become a challenge.

Although genres such as simulation or horror have a lot of visual elements in the dark, most other games are bright enough, and the player benefits if they are not required to squint their eyes while gaming.

Some games may artificially increase the brightness levels by a few notches to ensure there are no dark or dim spots in the frame.

And as mentioned earlier, if turning HDR on affects the game’s key aspects, such as latency and frame rates, it’s recommended to disable the feature.

Enabling HDR for Gaming

Enabling HDR for Gaming

If you’re on a console that supports HDR gaming, turn on the HDR feature in the game’s built-in settings.

However, you must turn on HDR on a Windows computer at the OS level.

Games could exhibit scaling issues if HDR is enabled within the game but not at the OS level.

And if HDR is enabled in the operating system’s settings but not in the game itself, the visuals could look a bit too dim, courtesy of the HDR mismatch between the OS and the game’s setting.

Some GPU drivers could dynamically switch on and off HDR based on the content, negating the need to manually enable and disable the feature each time HDR-supported content is pulled up.  

Games That Support HDR

Here is a list of HDR-friendly games to get you started with HDR gaming.

Some of these games require you to turn on HDR in Windows settings before launching them—for instance, Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

And then there are games, such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, which automatically turn on HDR mode in Windows right after you launch the title. The game usually displays a pop-up on the screen to remind you of the HDR feature.

Mass Effect Andromeda games is available with Xbox One

Other games won’t show the HDR feature in their settings if the Windows HDR feature is not toggled on.

Since there are different flavors of HDR, the HDR-enabled games may also support a particular kind of HDR. Mass Effect: Andromeda, for instance, is one of those few games that work with Dolby Vision.

Dolby Vision is arguably the most superior form of HDR. But to truly experience the effect, you’ll need an excellent HDR gaming monitor, like the ones mentioned above.

FAQs

1. Do older games support HDR?

HDR in gaming is relatively new. Older gaming titles are, therefore, not likely to support HDR natively.

Those titles, however, could be patched to support HDR displays or gaming. The concerned developer will have to infuse some new code into the game, widening the SDR color map and accommodating HDR ranges through an algorithmic translation.  

And since repatching the code doesn’t entail a complete software overhaul, it isn’t that complex of a task for old games to hop on to the HDR train.

The Auto HDR feature in Windows is the above SDR-to-HDR conversion in the background.

2. Can you play non-HDR games on an HDR-enabled system?

a console gamer is playing video games in a dark room

You can play a game built for SDR (standard dynamic range) screens on an HDR panel or setup.

But it’s not recommended as the experience will be sub-par at best. The visuals would look darker than usual, and there could be frame drops and lag issues.

Conclusion

As mentioned earlier, HDR still has a lot of ground to cover in the gaming landscape.

But that doesn’t mean HDR gaming isn’t worth pursuing—for technologies constantly evolve and existing games will get modified, or developers shall design new, HDR-friendly games.

However, HDR progression in the gaming space may not be that simple since too many variables are involved.

One of them is the interactive nature of games or the user’s ability to dictate what they ultimately see on the screen. The game’s creator has no direct or complete control over what the user sees on their screen.

It, therefore, might take a bit longer than anticipated for games to adapt to HDR fully. Until then, we have no option but to embrace all that’s fraught with HDR gaming.

Thankfully, you can always turn off HDR in games if you don’t like it.

Last update on 2022-08-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API.


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