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Why is HDR Bad on PC?


HDR or High Dynamic Range is a feature supported by many TVs, gaming consoles, and computers.

Although this technology has been around TVs and other technologies for a while, it’s now getting around PCs. But why is HDR so bad on PCs?

To give you a direct answer, HDR is bad on a PC because there seem to be too many settings to finagle with that users are not aware of. This results in HDR looking worse than SDR when it’s turned on.

However, to give you a detailed answer, we’ll have to clarify what we mean. 

So, keep reading to see why HDR is bad on a PC.

What is HDR?

A couple watching 4K contents on their TV

First, let’s discuss HDR and why it’s becoming as popular as it has

HDR or High Dynamic Range aims at giving you a more extensive range when it comes to video output, from contrast, giving you brighter whites and darker blacks to more luminance and more colors.

HDR effectively tries to re-create what the eyes see. Therefore, your image is more life-like and vibrant.

However, the only real issue here is that your source (your computer, projector, or console) needs to be HDR compatible. Otherwise, it will not look good.

Competing Version of High Dynamic Range

A girl playing game on 4K monitor

HDR, although great, has a few competitors. Each one aims at giving you the best, most life-like image around. But at times, they seem to clash or do different things.

You have HDR, HDR10, HLG, and Dolby Vision. But to take advantage of any of these, your computer must be compatible and support one or all.

How Does HDR Work?

A man playing game on 4K monitor

HDR improves the quality of the video by giving you richer colors at a broader range. In other words, you will see more colors than before. It also creates a deeper contrast ratio between the lights and darks of your imagery.

HDR also improves the image’s fidelity to create a “true” video representation. Apart from that, HDR gives static and dynamic metadata.

Although HDR is great, it’s currently not available on every device.

Is HDR Bad on PC?

A set of PC with 4K monitor

We feel we need to clear something up. When we say “bad,” we don’t mean harmful. Bad in this context means the quality is not great. Now that we have that out of the way, we can continue answering our question, is HDR bad on PC?

At the moment, HDR quality is not good on a PC. In fact, many users complain that their computer looks excellent before they turn on their HDR. 

Once they turn on the HDR feature, suddenly their computer seems terrible. So what’s going on?

Why Does HDR Look Worse on Computers?

a man being tired of blurry monitor

There are a couple of reasons your HDR settings look bad on your computers.

For starters, HDR on computers is relatively new. Therefore, if you’re watching movies or playing video games on your PC, many games and some movies don’t have HDR compatibility yet. 

In other words, if you turn on HDR for your video game and it doesn’t have the proper settings to accept them, it ends up looking bad because it’s trying to emulate HDR while using SDR settings.

For your video games and movies to look good on your PC (using HDR settings), your video games and films must be HDR compatible, and only the makers of those games and movies can make that happen.

Even if these items have HDR settings, your games must take advantage of the 10bpc colors (the full range of colors HDR attempts to recreate.)

Your Settings Are Off

A full monitor set up

Every computer has a graphics card. That little silicon chip is integral to your computer’s image rendering process. In PCs, you’ll have options you can turn on and off. In other words, you have settings already in place.

Therefore, if you have a PC, you cant just turn on your HDR settings.

Turning on your HDR settings is the first step to making your computer look good. However, when you turn it on, it often looks bad. That’s because the settings for your graphics card are clashing with your new PC HDR settings.

For example, if you have an NVIDIA graphics card on your PC, you can set the settings to 422/10 bit.

Once you do that, your PC will now auto switch and detect any new HDR display currently connected. However, a reboot of the computer is required upon changing the settings.

As a side note, most games will auto-detect the new settings, but there are some video games where you’ll have to do this every time.

It also appears that the issue resides in the fact that Windows has HDR settings, and so does your Graphics card, causing both HDR settings to clash.

How to Fix The Problem

A Laptop next to a monitor

It’s important to understand that, at the moment, the execution of HDR in PCs doesn’t always work. It cannot switch automatically when you insert an HDR video or game. So this means you have to change your HDR settings within your computer to force your entire operating system into HDR mode.

If You’re Using a TV as a Display

can a tv with hdmi be used as a computer monitor

First, we must ensure your PC supports HDR. Then ensure it’s set to “unlimited” to take advantage of everything HDR offers. 

Next, you’ll need to ensure your PC has 10-bit RGB 444.

Now, your display should have 10-bit YUV 444. Make sure your black levels are low to limited.

Head into your PC and proceed to Settings > Display > Windows HDR Color Settings > Enable HDR.

Now, within these settings, head to Brightness and Balance. Find the slider and drag it down to 10 to 15 or until you’re satisfied.

Fixing HDR for Gaming

two people playing games on TV

Once you’ve configured your HDR settings for your display, the rest is easy.

All you have to do now for video games is enable HDR mode and watch the beauty happen.

However, not many games are using HDR as of now. If that’s the case, you might not be able to do anything about it.

HDR, Not So Bad Afterall

a player playing game on a monitor

As you can see, HDR is only bad on PCs because Windows has settings apart from your NVIDIA graphics card. Both HDR settings have to be appropriately configured for your computer to look better.

Although, you’ll have to keep in mind that not all games, TVs, and other electronics have enabled HDR. So this means even if you configure the settings properly, you won’t be able to take advantage of the crisp HDR settings.

Nevertheless, we hope you learned why HDR sometimes doesn’t work on PCs and how you might be able to fix it.


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