The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) on Monday announced a test specification for the upcoming high dynamic range notebook and desktop LCD displays.

Marketed as “DisplayHDR”, it’s billed as the display industry’s first fully open, lightweight certification standard specifying HDR image quality for computer displays, like luminance, color gamut, bit depth and rise time.

As succinctly explained by ArsTechnica, DisplayHDR is meant to set performance standards for HDR displays and how manufacturers can test their products against them

HDR standard for computers

High dynamic range (HDR) delivers better contrast and color accuracy, as well as more vibrant colors compared with standard dynamic range (SDR). 2017 iPad Pros have HDR10 panels while iPhone X is the first iPhone with native support for both HDR10 and Dolby Vision video.

DisplayHDR version 1.0 focuses on LCD panels, which represent more than 99% percent of displays in the PC market. The new standard establishes three distinct levels of HDR system performance: DisplayHDR 400, DisplayHDR 600 and DisplayHDR 1000.

Compliant devices of all levels must be capable of processing HDR10 video, must utilize true 8-bit drivers without dithering and must incorporate global or local dimming.

DisplayHDR 400

This is the first genuine entry point for DisplayHDR offering a major step-up from SDR baseline:

  • True 8-bit image quality on par with top 15% of PC displays today
  • Global dimming improves dynamic contrast ratio
  • Peak luminance of 400 cd/m2, up to 50% higher than typical SDR
  • Minimum requirements for color gamut and contrast exceed SDR

DisplayHDR 600

This specification targets professional or enthusiast-level laptops and high-performance desktop monitors who demand true high-contrast HDR with notable specular highlights:

  • Peak luminance of 600 cd/m2, which is double that of typical displays
  • Full-screen flash requirement renders realistic effects in gaming and movies
  • Real-time contrast ratios with local dimming yields impressive highlights and deep blacks
  • Visible increase in color gamut compared to already improved DisplayHDR 400
  • Requires 10-bit image processing (8-bit native + 2-bit dithering permitted)

DisplayHDR 1000

The DisplayHDR 1000 specification targets professional or enthusiast content creators who require the best in computer display monitors with features like outstanding local-dimming and high-contrast HDR with advanced specular highlights:

  • Peak luminance of 1000 cd/m2, or more than 3x that of typical displays
  • Full-screen flash requirement delivers ultrarealistic effects in gaming and movies
  • Unprecedented long duration, high performance ideal for content creation
  • Local dimming yields 2x contrast increase over DisplayHDR 600
  • Significantly visible increase in color gamut compared to DisplayHDR 400
  • Requires 10-bit image processing (8-bit native + 2-bit dithering permitted)

Additional tiers are expected to be added later.

DisplayHDR benefits

They have selected 400 nits as the specification’s entry point for three key reasons: 400 nits is 50 percent brighter than typical SDR laptop displays, the bit depth requirement is true 8-bit (versus 6-bit color with dithering to simulate 8-bit video on the vast majority of SDR panels out there) and HDR10 support and global dimming at a minimum.

For the full summary of DisplayHDR specifications, visit VESA’s website.

There are currently no DisplayHDR-certified products announced because the testing tools won’t release before the first quarter of next year.

CES 2018 demo

However, a number of demos will be showcased in the VESA DisplayPort booth #21066 at CES 2018 highlighting DisplayHDR features. They plan on showcasing several monitors for the gaming and professional industries that will show off the high contrast ratio, color accuracy and vibrancy enabled by HDR, like Samsung CHG70 and CHG90 HDR gaming monitors.

Also on hand will be DisplayPort-HDMI adapters for 4K HDR televisions, making any modern computer an HDMI HDR source. Along with the new official logos, the DisplayHDR certification will make it easy for consumers buying a new notebook or desktop computer to view an HDR rating number that is meaningful and will reflect actual performance.

A forward-looking standard

VESA anticipates future DisplayHDR revisions to address OLED and other display technologies as they become more common, plus the addition of higher levels of HDR performance.

This new specification is developed and tested in association with more than two dozen active member companies, ranging from major OEMs that make displays, graphic cards, CPUs, panels, display drivers and other components to color calibration providers.

A list of participating companies is available at displayhdr.org.

Apple has been transitioning iOS devices to HDR displays and is said to be working on Mac notebooks with OLED panels for an introduction in 2018 or 2019. If all goes well, MacBooks should soon rock DisplayHDR-certified panels.

Have you seen the difference between SDR and HDR video with your own eyes? If so, did the high dynamic range, contrast ratio and black levels impress you?

Share your thoughts in the comments section.