What is HDR and HDR+?

Drawing detail from the shadows

Credit: Samsung
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If it’s been a while since you shopped around for a new TV, you’ll no doubt be blown away by the picture quality and sheer detail that today’s TVs can achieve. But you might not understand the lengthy list of features that make them look so good: 4K, UHD, HDR… the list goes on.

Let’s break them down for you.

4K Ultra HD = sharper image

4K offers four times the resolution compared to the high definition (HD) television you already own. In plain English, that means there are more dots (or pixels) on the screen, which makes the picture sharper and more lifelike.

UHD is short for Ultra High Definition, or Ultra HD. If you’re getting ready to make a purchase and reading up on TVs right now, you might see UHD and 4K getting used interchangeably. That’s not quite technically accurate, but close enough for now. We’ll call it “4K Ultra HD” just to be clear.

HDR = more detail

The addition of more pixels isn’t the whole story. Most new 4K Ultra HD TVs also support HDR, or “High Dynamic Range,” which reproduces a wider range of brightness levels, richer colors, and higher contrast levels (resulting in brighter whites and darker blacks).

When seen side-by-side with non-HDR content, HDR-enhanced video is incredibly bright with lifelike colors, including some striking yellows and orange hues, such as a setting sun or crackling fire.

In short, HDR brings the wow factor.

Samsung KS9800 in Reviewed's labs
Credit: Reviewed.com
Explosions never looked so good as they do in HDR.

HDR+ = more detail every day

To get the most out of a television with HDR, ideally you’d be watching nothing but “native” HDR content—that’s content that has been mastered by the studio with HDR’s full range of colors and contrast.

But the truth is that most movies and TV shows have not been optimized for HDR. No matter how much you want it, they’re probably never going to re-master Cheers or Office Space or anything other than the most popular old movies.

That’s precisely why Samsung has created a new feature they call HDR+. Put simply, it makes regular content look pretty darn close to native HDR content, and it does it completely automatically.

HDR+ can draw out details from areas that are too shadowy or overly bright. Didn’t see that monster lurking in the shadows, or those white polar bears running across the arctic snow? HDR+ uses complex algorithms to detect them and make them pop like they never could on your old TV.

HDR+ is only available on 2016 Samsung SUHD TVs. If you purchased one earlier in the year and don’t see it in your TV’s Picture menu, you can download a free update.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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