HIGH DYNAMIC RANGE IS COMING
Get your retinas ready for HDR screens
Conventional wisdom has it that screen technology usually develops gradually, and is only occasionally punctuated with major developments. If that’s true, somebody has gone crazy with the exclamation marks of late when it comes to PC monitors. The pace of change is almost out of control, and 2017 looks set to see more of the same.
We’ve already seen so many innovative new features become mainstream in the last 18 months or so. How about frame-synching tech, such as Nvidia’s G-Sync and AMD’s Freesync? Or high refresh panels capable of 144Hz or more? Or curved screens, super-wide aspect ratio screens, 4K screens, and more?
For 2017, all of those features should become ever more affordable. But the really big news is likely to come in two forms. The first, and the one that’s a dead cert, is HDR, or high dynamic range technology. In simple terms, it means screens will be both brighter and darker— they’ll operate over a wider range. If that’s sounds a little abstract, in practice it means screens with staggering levels of visual pop and vibrancy. So, now that 4K has arrived and given us millions and millions of pixels, HDR is all about making each pixel work much harder.
HDR is a technology that’s already rolling out across much of the HDTV market, and at relatively affordable prices. Indeed, there’s nothing stopping you from picking up an HDR HDTV, running it with one of the latest Nvidia or AMD GPUs via HDMI 2.0, and getting in on the action immediately. The only snag is that HDR content, particularly games, is extremely scarce. Still, buy an HDR panel now, and you’ll benefit from features such as much improved contrast and local backlight dimming. For that reason, we’re very much looking forward to the first dedicated HDR computer monitors in 2017.
The other piece of the 2017 puzzle for screens is the ever-tantalizing promise of OLED technology. OLED HDTVs finally got some traction in 2016, albeit at a hefty price, and a couple of OLED laptops popped up, too. We still don’t expect OLED to go mainstream in 2017, but it should become gradually more prevalent. So, depending on where you are in your monitor upgrade cycle, and no matter how tempting a conventional LCD panel may be, even with HDR capabilities, it might just be worth holding out for that OLED awesomeness.