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Untangling HDR standards: Sony 4K TVs, “Ultra HD Premium”, “4K HDR” and “Dolby Vision”

by on May 4, 2016
 

Stephan Jukic – May 4, 2016

Sony, despite being one of the key players in the UHD Alliance, which sets many of the most crucial and widely used standards today for high dynamic range in both display devices and 4K content, does not actually use the Ultra HD Premium certification that the UHD Alliance puts out for TVs with what this organization considers to be the optimum level of High Dynamic Range by current technical standards.

Ultra HD Premium labeling was introduced by the UHD Alliance as a certification for top-tier 4K UHD TVs and other devices which can meet the following specific specs for high dynamic range delivery, color and a few other metrics:

Ultra HD Premium from the UHD Alliance, found in Samsung, Panasonic and some LG 4K TVs

Ultra HD Premium from the UHD Alliance, found in Samsung, Panasonic and some LG 4K TVs

Devices, such as 4K HDR TVs

Display resolution: minimum of 3840 x 2160 pixels

Color bit depth: 10-bit signal

Color Palette: (Wide Color Gamut)

Signal Input: BT.2020 color representation

Display Reproduction: More than 93% of the DCI P3 color spectrum

High Dynamic Range

SMPTE ST2084 EOTF

Both Peak Brightness and deep black levels of either more than 1000 nits and less than 0.05 nits of black for LCD 4K TVs, OR more than 540 nits of peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits of black level for OLED 4K TVs.

Distribution (channels of any kind which deliver content with UHD Alliance quality approval)

Minimum image resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels

Color Bit Depth: 10-bit signal minimum

Color: BT.2020 color representation

High Dynamic Range: SMPTE ST2084 EOTF

Content Master (UHD Alliance Content producers must meet the following standards)

Minimum image resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels

Color Bit Depth: 10-bit signal minimum

Color: BT.2020 color representation

High Dynamic Range: SMPTE ST2084 EOTF

And the following additional content standard are also strongly encouraged:

Display reproduction to a full 100% of DCI P3 colors

Peak brightness in excess of 1000 nits

Black level of at least 0.03 nits or less than this.

However, despite these above standards being currently considered to be the generally accepted gold standard for HDR in 4K content and display, Sony, one of the founding members of the UHD Alliance, doesn’t quite follow them.

Other brands like Panasonic, LG and Samsung have all released 4K TVs which do conform to Ultra HD Premium and many of their top 2016 4K HDR TV models are certified with the UHD Alliance logo for this qualification but Sony has decided to go its own way.

Specifically, the leading 4K TV maker has decided to launch its own and somewhat different (we’d argue lower, based on specific specs we’ve seen in a number of 2016 Sony model TVs) standard for HDR in 4K TVs which is called “4K HDR”.

According to a Sony representative, speaking to the Pocket-Lint website back in February of 2016, “We have decided not to go with the Ulta HD Premium logo”.

What complicates things here is that Sony’s 2016 and even at least one of their 2015 4K Premium TVs do indeed at least partly or in some cases completely match UHD Alliance standards as listed above. Thus, while HDR TVs like the 2016 X850D, X900D and even the edge-lit X930D don’t quite meet the levels of peak brightness required for complete Ultra HD Premium qualification, they do match the black level and Wide Color Gamut requirements of the UHD Alliance specs. On the other hand the flagship 2016 X940D full-array LED backlit Sony model in fact offers the full list of specs to match Ultra HD Premium certification.

Thus, for would-be buyers of Sony 4K TVs in 2016, Ultra HD Premium goes out the window and 4K HDR is in but if you still want a Sony 4K TV and some of the best possible HDR on the current market, you’re not entirely out of luck, but only if you go for one of the company’s most expensive premium 4K TVs. These specifically being the X930D and the X940D most of all.

Samsung on the other hand has indeed made sure that all of its 2016 SUHD Premium 4K TVs completely meet Ultra HD Premium standards. The qualification applies to all of their SUHD TVs for this year, from the most affordable KS8000 right up to the flagship and very expensive KS9800. Furthermore, the 4K OLED TVs from LG and even some of its LCD models all also match HDR specs for Ultra HD Premium while also matching the somewhat different but also very robust HDR standards set out by Dolby Labs, which go by nname of Dolby Vision.

Then there is TV maker Vizio, whose otherwise superb P-Series HDR TVs for 2016 do indeed offer HDR, Wide Color Gamut and some excellent peak brightness but also negate following the Ultra HD Premium Standard in favor of moving more towards Dolby Vision high Dynamic Range. Most importantly, the Vizio P-Series fails to match the peak brightness requirement of 1100 nits or more, while still offering the color gamut coverage and black level necessary for the qualification. In fact, Vizio’s P-Series outdoes the lower-end Sony XBR D models like the X850D despite Sony’s membership in the UHD Alliance.

HDR by any of the major certification standards looks spectacularly superior in 4K TV displays when compared to SDR display

HDR by any of the major certification standards looks spectacularly superior in 4K TV displays when compared to SDR display

To summarize in the most basic terms: for those of you who want the best in HDR for your 2016 4K TV, Ultra HD Premium is a good standard to follow but even if a 4K TV doesn’t quite match it doesn’t mean it offers anything resembling subpar viewing experience.

Story by 4k.com

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