For years, HDR and Bloom have been two of the most common graphical effects in the gaming world. Both of them are designed to offer you a more immersive experience by making the visuals look more realistic and stunning. While HDR and Bloom can function together, many gamers find the differences between them to be ambiguous.
Well, when it comes to HDR vs Bloom effect in games, the differences lie in the visual aspect they create.
“HDR enhances color and contrast by making brighter whites and darker blacks. By doing this, HDR adds more realism to the visuals. On the other hand, Bloom adds a glowing aura effect to the visual elements by increasing every light source’s luminosity. As a result, you get a more fantasy-like ambiance in visuals.”
But the discussion does not end here. Not all gamers find HDR and Bloom to be aesthetically appealing. Therefore, It is essential to understand the full potential of HDR and Bloom effects to determine whether it is for you or not.
In this article, we will discuss all about HDR and Bloom effects and understand their advantages and disadvantages so that you can make an informed choice. Let’s begin!
What Is HDR and What Does It Do?
HDR or High Dynamic Range is also known as Extended Dynamic Range, Wide Dynamic Range, and Expanded Dynamic Range. HDR refers to a set of standards that display a vast range of color and contrast. As a result, the dark colors are displayed darker, and the bright colors are displayed brighter. Therefore, HDR monitors can produce more realistic images than other regular or SDR monitors.
Video game makers implement HDR when they want to highlight realism in graphics. Games like Fortnite do not use HDR as the developers want it to have a unique graphical style. On the other hand, Gotham Knights has more realistic graphics, thanks to its fantastic graphics optimization with HDR.
While HDR10 is the industry standard for TVs right now, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are more dynamic as they use metadata for optimizing images. However, you need to remember that even if you have an HDR monitor, you cannot enjoy the benefits of HDR if your game, video, or image does not support HDR.
Does HDR Affect Performance?
Your graphics card model determines the effect of HDR on your game performance. On consoles, HDR does not cause any noticeable frame rate drop. However, in PC gaming, if your graphics card is not capable enough, then you may experience FPS drops. Therefore, to enjoy a smooth performance with HDR, you need to get a decent graphics card.
The good news is Intel, AMD, and Nvidia have been working on optimizing HDR in their graphics cards for several years now. They all support the HDR10 standard. However, Nvidia reported a 10% drop in performance with HDR content, whereas AMD had no such performance decline.
Another factor to discuss here is input lag. It refers to the amount of time it takes for your monitor to respond to the signal you send with your controller, keyboard, mouse, and other peripherals. The higher the input lag, the slower the response time will be. On certain devices, HDR can cause input lag, resulting in your game lagging or even temporarily freezing. While the lag may not be noticeable by casual gamers, it may make a huge difference in fast-paced reflex-based gaming.
Should You Use HDR?
Whether you should use HDR or not depends on what type of games you are into. HDR makes it difficult to see details in the shadows, and it causes input lag sometimes. Thus, if you play fast-paced competitive games, HDR can hamper your performance. However, if you play games to enjoy an immersive experience, you should definitely go for HDR.
For competitive multiplayer games like Apex Legends, Call of Duty, and Fortnite, using HDR will limit your capability to see enemies in the dark. Moreover, if you experience input lags, you will suffer from delays in response. As a result, you may lose fights that you could effortlessly win. Therefore, unless it’s a MOBA game like League of Legends or DOTA, we do not recommend using HDR for reflex-based and competitive multiplayer games.
For story-based single-player games like The Witcher, Elden Ring, Assassin’s Creed, or Tomb Raider, using HDR will enhance your immersive experience. In such games, world-building and ambiance development are prioritized to offer gamers the most captivating experience possible. Turning on HDR in these games will allow you to enjoy the amazing color vibrancy and stunning views. However, you may need to optimize your HDR settings to make low-light areas conveniently visible.
Turning HDR off will not necessarily lower your graphics quality. In the absence of HDR, the color range will be shorter, and the display will be a bit more colorful, which may not be realistic. In fact, some gamers prefer unrealistic, colorful images in video games. Hence, if you do not want to use HDR, there will be no harm in missing out on realism a bit.
Pros and Cons of HDR
Below, we have summarized our discussion on HDR in a “pros and cons” style so that you can quickly go through it and make a decision.
Pros of HDR
- Can display hyper-realistic graphics
- Works remarkably well with 4K resolution
- Required for the most immersive experiences
- Recommended for playing high-end single-player RPGs and other graphically demanding games
Cons of HDR
- Requires graphics cards with high capabilities
- Can cause FPS drops and input lags
- Not recommended for fast-paced, reflex-based multiplayer games
What Is Bloom and What Does It Do?
Bloom is a graphical effect that adds fringes of light to the borders of a bright object in an image to enhance its brightness. In short, this effect increases the luminosity of the light sources in a scene so that the light pops. This glow technology is widely used in video games to create more realistic lights and reflections of lights in an environment.
The Bloom effect works on all sorts of light sources, such as the sun, light bulbs, and fire, in a game environment. Moreover, it also enhances the effect of how the light behaves with other objects, such as reflecting on shiny armor or water.
Bloom effect adds realism to the scene as well. For example, with Bloom off, you can look directly at the sun on Witcher 3, which is not possible in real life. However, with the Bloom effect on, the sun looks realistically brighter, and you can not see its shape, which is more realistic. However, in some games, such bright light sources can be too blinding for gamers to see far in the distance.
Does Bloom Affect Performance?
Bloom effect requires some graphical processing and consumes a bit more video memory than your system would need with Bloom off. However, the stress on the system is significantly less than chromatic aberration or anti-aliasing. Therefore, in most cases, you will not notice critical FPS drops or input lags with the Bloom effect on.
However, since Bloom eats up video memory in post-processing, you will need to implement a good graphics system. It is not a problem for console gamers. But PC gamers need to use a high-end graphics card to enjoy high and stable FPS with the Bloom effect on. Similarly, without a good graphics system, PC gamers may suffer from input lags as well.
Should You Use Bloom?
Whether you should use Bloom or not depends on three things: the types of games you are playing, your visual preferences, and the quality of Bloom effect on a particular game. Bloom effect is recommended for story-focused games rather than reflex-based games. However, if you don’t like how the Bloom effect is implemented in a particular game, you should not turn it on.
Story-based single-player games, especially fantasy-themed RPGs, offer a more realistic and immersive experience with the Bloom effect on. But not all games can implement Bloom in an aesthetically pleasing manner.
For example, the Bloom effect of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Witcher 3 enhanced the players’ visual experience, which is highly appreciated among gamers. However, another game famously known for overusing Bloom, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, ruined the gamers’ visual experience with it. Oblivion’s poorly implemented Bloom not only produced a ridiculous visual, but it also made every character’s skin outrageously shiny.
However, reflex-based multiplayer gamers may suffer from the Bloom effect as it may restrict their view. Because of enhanced light, you may not be able to see your opponent in time. Moreover, if your graphics system is not capable enough, you can lose because of FPS drops and input lags.
Lastly, it largely depends on your preferences. If you prefer a realistic atmosphere or a mystic glow in your game environment, you will find the Bloom effect appealing. But if you do not want your light sources to be too bright, you can either lower the Bloom effect down to your preferred level or turn it off.
Pros and Cons of Bloom
Let’s summarize our findings on Bloom effect in a “pros and cons” list for your convenience.
Pros of Bloom
- More realistic light effects
- Can create an amazing mystical atmosphere in fantasy games
- Recommended for story-based games offering an immersive game world
- Does not put too much stress on your GPU
Cons of Bloom
- Not recommended for fast-paced, reflex-based, multiplayer games as Bloom effect makes spotting opponents more difficult
- Can cause FPS drops and input lags
- Not all games optimally implement Bloom effect
HDR vs Bloom: Which One is for You?
HDR and Bloom are developed to take your gaming experience to a whole new level of visualization. In most cases, if you like both, you won’t have to make a choice between them as they can function together.
HDR and Bloom are both recommended for story-based, single-player games that offer an immersive world to explore. With both effects, you can enjoy a more realistic experience if your graphics system is up to the task. However, HDR and Bloom are not recommended for highly competitive multiplayer games. Also, if you do not have a dedicated graphics card, it is better to avoid them. Finally, before using HDR and Bloom in a game, make sure the game’s graphics are optimized to implement the effects perfectly.