What is HDR and why do you need it on your next TV? Our top 3 HDR TVs chosen

Steve May
·3-min read
Looking for a new TV? We have found the best 4K HDR TV's to buy now.  (Panasonic TV)
Looking for a new TV? We have found the best 4K HDR TV's to buy now. (Panasonic TV)

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HDR comes as standard on all new 4K TVs: it was once an extra topping, like sprinkles, but now every set has it.

And it’s the best reason yet to upgrade to a new flatscreen TV.

But what exactly is it, and why will it transform your home viewing forever?

What is HDR?

HDR has been described as 3D without the glasses, and having lived with a HDR TV for a couple of years now, I can see why. 

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, adds a level of depth to a TV picture that makes programmes far more believable. You don’t just look at a picture, you peer into it.

HDR TVs can present a wider dynamic range between pitch black and bright white (don’t worry, that’s as technical as I’m going to get), which means they’re brighter than your old HD telly.

They use that extra "oomph" to create visual pop. You’ll immediately notice HDR on fireworks which really sparkle, headlights that glare realistically in the dark, sun that glints off shiny cars and neon lights on the Las Vegas strip.

Long story short: films look glossier.

Why do you need HDR?

HDR isn’t just for movies though. It’s really important for sports too. We’ve all seen big stadiums on TV, one end bathed in bright sunlight, the other cloaked in blackness - or one end in detail and the other bleached out. They don’t look that way in real life, and if you were there in person you’d be able to see clearly both ends of the pitch.

But because a regular TV camera can’t expose for such extremes, the director covering the sport has to decide what option to opt for. HDR cameras can cope with both, so when you watch the big match on a HDR telly, the entire game is perfectly visible.

Convinced? You should be.

Three facts you need to know before you buy an HDR TV

Fact one: To watch in HDR you need the programme to be in HDR: Sky, BT, Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ have loads. You’ll also find them on BBC iPlayer.

Fact two: HDR comes in different flavours. There’s regular (sometimes called HDR10) and fancy, Dolby Vision. Your TV will play one or the other.

Fact three: Not all HDR TVs are created equal. The more expensive models offer brighter HDR, which gives more picture pizzazz.

My top three HDR TVs

These are the sets you really should shortlist right now:

Best budget buy

Hisense 55-inch U7QF. this set offers a great HDR viewing experience for the cash, and has all the smart trappings. It’s a great value buy.

Buy it: HISENSE 55U7QFTUK 55” Smart 4K | £549 from Currys

HISENSE 55U7QFTUK 55” Smart 4K
HISENSE 55U7QFTUK 55” Smart 4K

Best Living Room TV

Samsung 49-inch Q80T - this colourful QLED model combines a stunningly bright picture performance with vibrant HDR, plus powerful smart TV features.

Buy it: Samsung QE49Q80T 49" Smart 4K TV | £999 from John Lewis

Samsung QE49Q80T 49
Samsung QE49Q80T 49

Best Home Cinema TV

Panasonic 55-inch TX-55HZ1000 - superb picture performer with artful HDR, ideal for those who like to watch with the lights low and the popcorn piled high.

Buy it: Panasonic TX-55HZ1000B 55" 4K TV | £1,599 from John Lewis

Panasonic TX-55HZ1000B 55
Panasonic TX-55HZ1000B 55

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