With the rise of 4K televisions and displays, consumers now face a new choice – not just picture resolution, but high dynamic range (HDR) format. HDR technology produces images with richer contrast, color and brightness than standard dynamic range (SDR) displays. However, there are competing HDR standards, with the two main options being HDR10 and HDR400.
For the average consumer looking to purchase a new 4K HDR TV or monitor, deciding between support for HDR10 or HDR400 can be confusing. Retail descriptions throw around terms like “HDR Premium” or “DisplayHDR”, but it’s not always clear what you’re getting. On paper, HDR10 sounds like the superior technology, but HDR400 is sometimes presented as an affordable alternative.
Understanding HDR Technology
HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a technology used in displays like TVs and monitors, as well as in photography and videos, to make the visuals look more realistic and vibrant. It does this by showing a wider range of colors and brightness levels, from the darkest blacks to the brightest whites, compared to standard displays. This makes images and videos appear more lifelike because they can show details in both very dark and very bright areas at the same time, creating a more impressive and immersive viewing experience. So, in simple terms, HDR makes what you see on your screen or in your photos/videos look better and closer to what you’d see in the real world.
The Standard HRD10
HDR10 is the widely adopted HDR format, setting the standard for HDR content across devices. It ensures compatibility with most HDR-capable devices, offering a substantial improvement over standard dynamic range (SDR) content. HDR10 enhances visual experiences with better brightness, contrast, and color accuracy, making visuals more vibrant and true to life. It’s supported by a vast range of devices, including TVs, monitors, and streaming services, making it accessible to many users.
However, HDR10 has limitations, such as a maximum brightness of 1,000 nits, which may not fully exploit the potential of high-end HDR displays. Additionally, it lacks precise calibration options since it doesn’t allow for frame-by-frame adjustments, restricting scene-specific optimizations.
The Affordable HDR400
HDR400 is a certification from the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA), indicating that a display can reach a maximum brightness of 400 nits. It’s designed to bring HDR-like capabilities to more affordable displays that may not meet stricter HDR standards.
The advantages of HDR400 include affordability, making HDR technology accessible to a broader audience. It also offers better contrast and color reproduction compared to standard SDR video, though not as impressive as higher-tier HDR formats. HDR400 displays can be found in various products like monitors, laptops, and gaming consoles.
However, there are drawbacks to HDR400. Its limited 400-nit brightness may not deliver the same visual impact as higher-tier HDR formats. Additionally, it often uses 8-bit color depth, resulting in a smaller color range and occasionally visible color banding.
Key Differences: HDR10 Vs HDR400
Here we’re going to break down the key distinctions between HDR10 and HDR400 across four main categories – technical specifications, real-world image quality, monitor/TV support, and content creation differences.
HDR10 was developed by major device manufacturers as an open standard for UHD content and displays. It requires 10-bit color for a wider color gamut, up to 10,000 nits peak brightness, and dynamic metadata for frame-by-frame adjustments. HDR400 is a certification standard developed by VESA with looser specifications of 8-bit color, up to 400 nits brightness, and static metadata.
Image Quality Comparison
In real world performance, the fuller technical capabilities of HDR10 allow it to deliver more dramatic improvements over SDR. With support for 10-bit color, HDR10 unlocks over 1 billion colors for richer hues. The higher peak brightness of up to 10,000 nits creates stunning specular highlights and contrast. HDR400 still delivers better color and contrast than SDR, but not to the same degree as full HDR10.
For PC monitors, HDR400 tends to be supported on cheaper or entry-level models. Most premium gaming and professional monitors include HDR10 for the complete experience. Some budget monitors may only have VESA DisplayHDR 400 certification. For living room TVs, HDR10 is now the minimum spec for HDR playback. Streaming devices like Roku also require HDR10. Check display specs for “HDR10” for assurance.
Content Creation Differences
For creators, HDR10 has more stringent requirements for 10-bit video, while HDR400 works with more common 8-bit video. HDR10 mastering also requires hitting up to 10,000 nits brightness vs just 400 nits for HDR400. So HDR400 is easier for content creation, but HDR10 delivers the pinnacle of quality.
|Dynamic Range||Up to 10-bit||Up to 10-bit|
|Brightness||Up to 1,000 nits||Up to 400 nits|
|Color Gamut||Standard (Rec. 2020)||Standard (Rec. 2020)|
|Peak Luminance||No specific requirement||Up to 400 nits|
|Certification||Widely adopted||Optional certification for DisplayHDR 400|
|Backlight Zones||No specific requirement||No specific requirement|
|HDR Metadata||Static metadata||Static metadata|
|Dolby Vision||Not supported||Not supported|
|Wide Color Gamut||Supported||Supported, but limited to standard color gamut|
HDR400 Vs. HDR10: Which Monitor You Should Buy?
There are two main HDR standards – HDR10 and HDR400.
- HDR10 is the top HDR standard. It goes up to 1000 nits brightness. It uses 10-bit color for way more colors and contrast than normal displays. HDR10 is supported on most TVs, monitors, and streaming.
- HDR400 is a more basic HDR standard made by VESA. It only goes up to 400 nits max brightness and usually found in budget HDR displays with limited HDR performance.
In short, HDR10 offers full-on HDR with 10-bit color and 1000 nit peak brightness. HDR400 is a weaker HDR standard topping out at 400 nits.
Overall, HDR10 is clearly the superior HDR format. For the best HDR picture quality, I recommend choosing displays and content that support the full HDR10 standard rather than the more limited HDR400.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Does HDR400 provide the same HDR quality as HDR10?
Ans: No, HDR400 does not provide the same level of HDR quality and performance as HDR10. HDR400 maxes out at 400 nits brightness and 8-bit color, while HDR10 goes up to 1000 nits brightness with 10-bit color for over 1 billion colors. This gives HDR10 much richer contrast, deeper blacks, and more vibrant and accurate colors.
What displays support HDR10 vs HDR400?
Ans: HDR10 is supported on most high-end 4K TVs, gaming monitors, smartphones, and streaming devices. HDR400 tends to be limited to more affordable or entry-level displays that only meet the baseline specs. Always check display specs for the HDR10 logo to confirm compatibility.
Is HDR10 better than HDR400?
Ans: Yes, HDR10 is considered superior to HDR400 in terms of technical capabilities and real-world image quality. The far higher brightness, 10-bit color depth, and dynamic metadata of HDR10 allow it to deliver a more substantial visual upgrade over standard dynamic range.
How many nits brightness does HDR10 support vs HDR400?
Ans: HDR10 supports peak brightness up to 10,000 nits for the most intense highlights, while HDR400 only requires 400 nits maximum brightness. This gives HDR10 significant highDynamic range advantages.
Does HDR10 require 10-bit color depth vs 8-bit for HDR400?
Ans: HDR10 requires 10-bit color depth for over 1 billion color values, compared to 8-bit color for HDR400 which limits to 16 million colors. This allows HDR10 displays to render colors with much more accuracy and gradation.
Is it worth upgrading my TV/monitor to one that supports full HDR10 vs HDR400?
Ans: If your budget allows, absolutely upgrade to a TV or monitor that supports the full HDR10 standard over the more limited HDR400. You’ll get significantly better contrast, color and brightness for the ultimate HDR viewing experience.