4k and HDR – Do I Have to Have Both?

Newer TVs are plastered with the 4k spec as if it makes a difference in your viewing experience. For the most part, and for most people, it really doesn’t. What does make a difference is HDR. High Dynamic Range provides more colors and greater realism to the images you see on your TV. This begs the question: Do you really need a 4k panel in order to experience HDR? Is there any reason why HD panels (1080p) couldn’t display HDR? Let’s discuss!

HDR and 4k Are Not Linked

HDR is the number of colors that a panel can display while 4k is the number of pixels a panel contains. One is a resolution (4k) and the other is a color gamut (HDR). Currently, if you want to experience HDR, you pretty much have to have a 4k TV. But is that because the 4k resolution is required?


There are older displays that promised the ability to show wider color. There is no reason why a 1080p display couldn’t have HDR capabilities. In fact, there are times, right now, where you may experience lower than 4k resolution while still experiencing HDR. When? Streaming.

Streaming Services Show the Truth

If you have a 4k, HDR stream of a show or movie and your bandwidth drops, your streaming services will lower the resolution that your TV is displaying. Often, you won’t even notice because the resolution will drop from 4k to something slightly lower and it will be imperceptible to your eye from your seating distance.

What they won’t do, at least not at first, is drop the HDR part of the stream. You may be seeing a 1080p image, but they will still send the HDR metadata. This is because you are more likely to notice the drop in quality if they switch off the HDR then if they drop the number of pixels.

So Why Are 4k and HDR Linked?

If resolution and HDR aren’t tied, why aren’t they selling 4k TVs without HDR (at a discount) or Full HD TVs (1080p) with HDR for a slight premium? The answer is the same as why AV receivers have so many features. They are trying to attract the most customers to their products.

Consumers (for the most part) need to be told what to buy. Sometimes they only look at the price, other times they are looking for very specific features. If you have a TV with 4k and HDR, then you get the people that care about 4k and the people that care about HDR. If your TV only has one of those features, you are losing potential customers.

While techncially it is possible to create a 1080p display with HDR, there is no financial reason for any company to do so. If you want HDR you will be stuck buying a 4k display and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

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