The LG G6 is the world's first smartphone packing a Dolby Vision HDR screen. But how does Dolby Vision work, what are the benefits, and how does the G6's Dolby Vision display compare with rival HDR-10 panels on the likes of Sony's Xperia XZ Premium and the Galaxy Note 7?
First phones offered us Full HD 1080p video on the go. Then a few years that jumped to 2K and even 4K resolutions, in the case of the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium - although we're not entirely sure that was a necessary step.
The next step when it comes to smartphone visual tech was inevitable: the jump to High Dynamic Range, just as TVs have done before. Over at Mobile World Congress 2017 we saw a couple of handsets supporting HDR visuals. For instance, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium sports the world's first HDR 4K mobile display, supporting the HDR-10 format. Meanwhile, the new LG G6 - also unveiled at MWC 2017 - is the world’s first smartphone to feature Dolby Vision HDR.
Dolby Vision is a different standard to HDR-10. Since Dolby is so heavily involved in film production and editing, this is a paid-for option that only some TV manufacturers, like LG, have opted to subscribe to in their televisions. As the adage goes, you get what you pay for - this is definitely the best format on TVs right now.
As an added bonus, if you have a Dolby Vision display, it’s able to decode video with the lower spec HDR-10 standards anyway.
The LG G6, thanks to Dolby Vision, could therefore sport the very best mobile screen of 2017. So how goes Dolby Vision work on a smartphone screen, and is the LG G6 worth investing in for movie lovers? Here's all you need to know.
LG G6 Dolby Vision is colourful
When you start to watch an HDR movie or show on your phone, the G6's Dolby Vision tech will kick in and the display will switch to HDR mode. This means you get the gorgeous visuals when needed, without draining the battery at other times.
One of the main selling points of HDR is the wide variety of colours available. HDR-10 tops out at 10-bit colour, meaning about a billion colours overall. But Dolby Vision uses 12-bit, for a whopping 68 billion colours.
In reality, on phones like the G6, Dolby has simply tuned the LCD so it can best replicate an image as close to reference monitor quality as possible.
Dolby Vision uses the Rec 2020 colour gamut, which offers 67 percent of the colours a human eye can see - plenty more than the 34 percent offered by the sRGB standard of most displays.
This might all sound like a fad that your eye won’t even notice, as some have said about the increasing smartphone screen resolution when the display is so small to begin with. However, when it comes to colour reproduction, the eye really does notice. Human skin, for example, is something that the brain is highly attuned to and will pick up on even the slightest variation. So by adding lots more colours to a panel's repertoire, the subtlety of skin can be portrayed more realistically, pulling the viewer deeper into the experience.
For that reason, HDR on smartphones could actually be more important than higher resolutions, after a certain point.
LG G6 Dolby Vision is bright
Another advantage offered by HDR is the wide range of contrast afforded from the higher levels of brightness. This variance between light and dark allows images to be more well defined and dark scenes to offer more variation on the black levels. In other words, every image is clearer.
Dolby Vision supports brightness of up to 10,000 nits. Of course TVs top out at about 2,000 nits and phones don’t get much above 700 nits. But that Dolby tuning should mean a better overall picture for a more immersive viewing experience.
This is a positive too as the backlight levels go up and down depending on what’s being displayed, so it can actually save on battery through both display brightness and the processing required. Dolby says this can reduce battery drain by up to 15 percent. Definitely handy for a mobile device.
Netflix and Amazon will offer Dolby vision movies and shows for the LG G6
Both Netflix and Amazon have announced that their streaming service will support Dolby Vision on mobiles.
Currently these streaming services will vary bandwidth depending on your connection. There’s even an option in your phone to make sure it keeps quality low, so you can save on data use when out and about.
The new HDR stream will mean that even on smartphones you’ll have the option - ideally over Wi-Fi - to stream at full quality. Netflix already offers some Dolby Vision level 4K and HDR content for compatible TVs, which it will now be possible to enjoy on the LG G6 too.
What other mobile phones support HDR?
The swathe of new mobile devices that support HDR is only just beginning to appear.
Sony is also on team HDR with its new Xperia XZ Premium not only churning out a 4K resolution, on a smartphone, but also with HDR support.
Since the Dolby Vision HDR is about the way the image is tuned it could, technically, work on other devices that perhaps haven’t been marketed as HDR. So if your current phone has a decent AMOLED display, for example, that might be enough to display Dolby Vision quality content with the right software update.
We’ll have to wait and see just how many devices offer the HDR content soon and hope that it doesn’t water down the Dolby Vision brand - which requires specific hardware to run on TVs - too much in the meantime.