Get your reti­nas ready for HDR screens

Maximum PC - - 2017 TECH PREVIEW -

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.

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