Can I Upgrade My TV to Support Dolby Vision?

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Q I'm slow to bite on buying an Ultra HDTV because I’m waiting to see which high dynamic range format will stick. If I buy an HDR10-only set and Dolby Vision wins, can support for that format be added through a future software update? —Ray Blackburn

A No, and here’s why (long version). Dolby Vision is an end-to-end system where content is graded and mastered on a special display monitor with a wide color gamut (minimum P3/DCI color space) and an ability to deliver up to 4,000 nits brightness. A typical high-end HDR-capable LCD TV, in contrast, can achieve only around 1,000 nits brightness and 90% of P3/DCI color space.

To bridge the gap between the post-production suite and your living room, Dolby Vision-capable sets contain hardware that communicates with a Dolby Vision-capable source — a UHD Blu-ray player, for example — to convey the specific capabilities of the TV (brightness, contrast, color gamut and bit-depth, etc.). Once this happens, dynamic metadata that gets added during the color grading process maps the content to fit the TV’s capabilities, adjusting image quality on a frame-by-frame basis.

Because a TV requires specific hardware to display Dolby Vision content, support for the format can’t be added to an HDR10-only set through a software update — it has to be Dolby Vision-capable out of the box. However, the same scenario doesn’t apply to the Dolby Vision-capable sets available from LG and Vizio, all of which handle, or can be upgraded to handle, the HDR10 format.

As you consider biting on a new UHDTV, I’d suggest that you avoid looking at the situation as a format war where one solution will ultimately disappear. HDR10 is an open standard, so studios and electronics manufacturers can easily implement it. Dolby Vision, meanwhile, is a more advanced solution that’s likely to gain traction as it becomes available on Ultra HD Blu-ray (compatible players and titles are expected in 2017) and also ramps up on streaming services via Dolby Vision-compatible products like the new Chromecast Ultra.

utopianemo's picture

It's worth noting that the reverse IS true; buying a Dolby Vision-only TV is a more safe bet as most of them already have firmware updates adding HDR10 functionality.

Oldsnwbrdr's picture

Does any source material (streaming, UHD disc, etc.) support HDR-10 and Dolby Vision at the same time? Or is it always one or the other?