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UHD HLG vs HDR10 vs Dolby Vision: What’s the difference?

Now that the BBC has launched its new standard for high definition television content, called UHD HLG, we have three standards of HDR: UHD HLG, HDR10 and Dolby Vision. So which is best and what’s the difference? What TVs support each? Is one more future-proof than the others? Lots of questions spring up whenever a new standard emerges and it’s tough to know which selection comes out on top.

This feature aims to inform you so that you know what each is capable of, where they’re going and what you need to invest in now so you can be ready for a high-dynamic Ultra HD TV-laden future.

UHD HLG vs HDR10 vs Dolby Vision: What is HDR?

The three formats all represent a similar television advancement in High Dynamic Range. This means rather than simply cramming more pixels on a screen as 4K UHD does, these improve the quality of the pixels.

Essentially HDR is an improvement on the number of colours on screen and the range of contrast from dark to light. The end result of all of this is a more realistic portrayal of reality that allows your brain to be tricked more convincingly, making the experience more immersive.

When it comes to colours, for example, the human eye can detect many variations in skin tone that make TV reproductions seem fake – by enhancing colours and brightness faces appear more real. As this continues to improve we get closer to fooling our brains totally and blurring the lines between reality and TV.

HDR10, Dolby Vision and HLG are all variants of this enhanced dynamic range.

UHD HLG vs HDR10 vs Dolby Vision: Best colour reproduction

Of the three standards, the BBC claims that its HLG has been rated as better than HDR10. It was a little more tight-lipped when it came to Dolby Vision.

Both HDR10 and HLG offer 10-bit colour, meaning a whopping one billion colours on the screen. This is a huge jump up from the normal 16 million of 8-bit but it’s still a way off Dolby Vision. Dolby’s standard offers 12-bit for a mammoth 64 billion colours.

The key here, of course, is that you’re limited by the television, so if you have an OLED, for example, which can display 99 per cent of the DCI-P3 colour gamut then you might be able to appreciate the difference across the formats.

In reality, this is future-proofing for newer televisions that can produce even more colours. So if you want the most future-ready format Dolby Vision wins out with its 12-bit colour.

UHD HLG vs HDR10 vs Dolby Vision: Widest contrast

When comparing high dynamic range formats the levels of bright and dark, and the variation between them, is a key factor. Brighter images and clearer darkness go a long way towards recreating reality as we see it day to day.

When it comes to the top end of peak nits brightness Dolby Vision once again has the technical crown. While HDR10 and HLG top out at 4,000 nits Dolby claims Vision will support up to 10,000 nits. Once again this is a future-proofing thing as even the best televisions right now top out at around the 1,000 nit mark.

UHD HLG vs HDR10 vs Dolby Vision: Which is best for transmission?

The BBC produced HLG as a format that is made to be transmitted. Right now it can be sent over a 20MB internet line for streaming but since it was developed with Japanese broadcaster NHK it seems like the two will use it for its ability to be sent over the air too. Right now there isn’t enough information to definitely say it’s better than the other two formats at being transmitted but it seems likely since it was developed for that specific purpose.

HDR10 works online already via several platforms like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Video. Dolby Vision works on some Ultra HD Blu-rays as well as on some Netflix videos. Dolby Vision can cram in even more information so it’ll likely be most difficult to transmit but should offer the best end result. HDR10 is most common right now though, so it could yet win out.

UHD HLG vs HDR10 vs Dolby Vision: Which TVs works for each?

At the time of publishing most new 4K TVs with HDR come with the firmware installed for playback of HDR10. Fewer have Dolby Vision and none currently can playback HLG. Although they can play HLG in an HDR format as it’s backwards compatible in that way. With a firmware update HLG would also work in its full dynamic glory on most HDR TVs.

Some TVs, like new LG OLED models, come with HDR10 and Dolby Vision playback capabilities making them the most future-proofed. With an HLG update they will be able to play any format streamed to them. Philips, TCl and Vizio TVs also playback the Dolby Vision format and since that’s the top end all these are also able to handle the simpler HDR10 standard.

Expect new televisions in 2017 to come with Dolby Vision and HLG for the ability to play all formats. Hopefully, older ones will get firmware updates to allow for greater support of HLG too.

Read next: What is BBC HLG and how can I watch it?

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