A new standard is raising the bar for HDR on PC | Digital trends

Cyberpunk 2077 running on the Samsung Odyssey OLED G8.
Jacob Roach / Digital trends

HDR is about to get a big upgrade on PC. The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA), the nonprofit group behind standards like DisplayPort and Adaptive Sync, is releasing a new specification for its DisplayHDR standard. DisplayHDR 1.2 not only introduces several new tests for validation, but also increases the basic requirements for monitors to achieve the coveted badge.

Almost every aspect of the certification has been adjusted and several new tests are now part of the process. VESA tells me that this change is meant to reflect where displays are in 2024. DisplayHDR was first introduced seven years ago and the price of monitors with the badge has more than halved in that time. DisplayHDR 1.2 raises the bar.

One of the most significant changes is in the peak brightness tests. Previously, this test was performed with a white patch running at full HDR brightness on a black background to illustrate what the display is capable of. VESA says this is not a realistic situation, however. The test will now include a starfield pattern with white dots around the background. This will activate most parts of the backlight, measuring peak brightness under more realistic conditions.

A slide showing a new background for DisplayHDR tests.

In addition to brightness, VESA is increasing color requirements. The lowest DisplayHDR 400 level now requires 99% sRGB and 90% DCI-P3 coverage, the same requirement previously reserved for DisplayHDR 1000. All other levels are also increased to 95% of DCI-P3.

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Finally, VESA is expanding the range in which it tests the display’s white point. Previously, it went from 5 nits to 50% level level (ie 200 nits for DisplayHDR 400). It now goes from 1 night to 100% level cap, which is a 10x increase.

In addition to the updated tests, VESA is adding five new tests to the certification process:

  • Static contrast ratio
  • Color accuracy
  • HDR Black Level vs. SDR
  • black crush
  • Subtitles flashing

All the tests here are quite significant. The static contrast ratio test isn’t too tough for the DisplayHDR 400 level, but above that, the test ensures that the panel uses local dimming technology while overlaying the aforementioned star field pattern.

Color accuracy was previously an aspect of display performance that VESA ignored. The DisplayHDR test now analyzes 96 colors at three different brightness levels in HDR. VESA tells me that this test means that 400, 500, and 600 level screens will likely need a factory line calibration, while 1,000 and above screens will need individual calibration.

The HDR vs. SDR black level test is intended to address issues that arise when using SDR applications while HDR is enabled in Windows. In this scenario, the black parts of the screen will often appear gray. With this new test, VESA forces display manufacturers to adjust the backlight when HDR is enabled to keep black areas, well, black.

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In a similar vein, the black crush test looks at shadow detail. Some screens will crush the darkest areas of the screen, reducing subtle shadows to the lowest black level. This test looks at very low brightness levels to ensure that shadow detail is still preserved.

Finally, the subtitle flicker test aims to address an issue that VESA has seen on a small number of displays. When something bright like a subtitle appears over a very dark scene, the entire screen lights up. This isn’t a widespread problem, but the new flicker test will eliminate any display that plays tricks with the backlight and exhibits this type of behavior.

From updating old tests to introducing new ones, VESA is significantly raising the bar for display manufacturers who want DisplayHDR certification for their products. This should mean that the new displays featuring the logo have significantly better HDR performance than what we’ve seen previously.

This new rule will not take effect immediately. Although VESA says that some displays with the 1.2 specification are now available and vendors are currently free to certify their displays under the standard, the previous 1.1 specification still applies. VESA will continue to support displays below 1.1 until May 2025 for monitors and until May 2026 for laptops. VESA tells me it expects display manufacturers to notice if a product uses the 1.2 specification.

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