Samsung UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player Review High Dynamic Range: The Abridged Primer

High Dynamic Range: The Abridged Primer

High dynamic range, or HDR, is simply a way of more closely replicating the variations in luminance we see in real life. A typical LED-driven LCD HDTV might produce a maximum output of about 400 nits (117 foot-lamberts). Today’s brightest HDR-capable consumer sets can at least double that.

However, HDR isn’t just about a brighter picture; if it were, we could simply set our HDTVs to stun (Vivid mode!) and be done with it. HDR offers improved luminance gradations not only in the peak and near whites, but in the dark, shadowy parts of the picture as well.

Dolby was the first to bring HDR to our attention with Dolby Vision. But now there’s also HDR10. Dolby Vision is currently offered in a few HDR movie streams (mainly from Netflix and Vudu), but HDR10 is the format of choice on all of the first HDR-enhanced Ultra HD Blu-rays on the market.

Dolby Vision is also a minority player so far in UHD TVs, where it’s not yet supported by either Samsung or Sony, companies that strictly support HDR10. Ideally, you’ll want both for future-proofing, and more such dual-format sets will hit the market this year, including some of LG’s new OLEDs. But support for both formats will not be universal in 2016.

Meanwhile, a set that meets the specs (and carries the logo) of Ultra HD Premium, as stipulated by the UHD Alliance, must be capable of 1,000 nits of peak brightness and 0.05 nit at black, or 540 nits peak brightness and 0.0005 nit black. The latter range is a nod to OLED, which, for all practical purposes, can do total black but won’t go as bright as an LCD. LCDs, on the other hand, can’t go nearly as dark as OLEDs, though LCDs with full-array local- dimming backlights can do black quite well. Indeed, unless an LCD set does local dimming of some kind, it isn’t likely to be very effective with HDR material, even if it claims the ability to display that format.

To recap: HDR isn’t just about a brighter picture. Rather, it’s how the brightness range tracks from the deepest blacks to the brightest whites. With HDR on a properly set display, normal material looks normal, but both near-black details and bright highlights are enhanced. That’s why I was able to watch HDR in a fully darkened room without burning my retinas (though I did dial down the video controls to slightly below the factory settings on some material).—TJN

WildGuy's picture

Really good information here. i thoroughly enjoy reading it. Speaking about Samsung 65JS9500 uhdtv, since its a last year's model, i think it probably display less than 90% of DCI-P3 color gamut. Maybe that's why the difference between Rec.709 and wider color gamut such as DCI-P3 and REC.2020 isn't that big.

newer samsung uhdtv models which i think its about to come out soon or just recently come out this year possibly support color gamut higher than 90% of DCI-P3 which should make the differences between Rec.709 and DCI-P3 or Rec.2020 bigger.

prerich45's picture

Great review Mr. Norton! Very honest.

dougspeterson's picture

I grabbed one of those prerelease units and have, been enjoying it's 4k, not just the new UHD disks but the apps that were missing from my 2014 Sony 4k 65" flatscreen. The upraded res over 1080p is obvious to me.

However it apparently does not do the hires DVD based audio formats, which are likely to be replaced by Atmos etc in any case. Does it actually do the 192/24 spec'd? There is a rumor the bit depth is truncated.