The above image may or may not actually be an HDR image, I just pulled it off of Google Images after doing a search for “High Dynamic Range Comparison.” However, it does illustrate how I feel about HDR. Before the PS4 Pro reveal I had next to no idea what HDR really was or what it did. The only thing I understood was that it meant more colors, nothing beyond that. Why should I be excited for something that just increases the amount of colors my television can display? Likewise, I’ve never really understood the appeal of 4K. I understand that it’s more pixels and thus an image clearer than even 1080p, and as my write-up from the other day goes into, 1080p still has a bit of blur that 4K does clear up, though it has more to do with objects farther in the distance and minute details such as the stitching on a shirt. I don’t understand why I NEED that. To me 1080p is perfectly fine and is all I will ever need in the clarity department. When it comes to video games, 4K is a serious power drain, meaning I would have to crank the settings down a couple notches even on my 980ti to get acceptable performance. Now that I’ve tasted 60fps, it’s hard for me to settle for 30fps with 4K and cranked down settings when I can currently accomplish stable 1080p60 on Ultra settings for just about any game currently released.
So, this past Wednesday, Sony failed to advertise 4K to me, especially considering I was watching from home, on a crappy internet connection, via Twitch, on a 1080p television. It isn’t something that you can realistically show off to the masses at a streamed event. The people there in person will see the full effect, but the people at home, who also likely don’t own a 4K monitor or television, don’t see the benefit of 4K. And even after reading every article I can on 4K, I’m not convinced it is something that is necessary going forward.
The being said, when they switched HDR on and off for Horizon: Zero Dawn and Days Gone, I could immediately see the difference. I didn’t need a clear stream or 4K television to see the benefits of HDR. It was more than adding more colors, it breathed life and dimension/depth into the game world that previously didn’t exist. Clouds stood out from the moon and objects on the ground popped away from the ground itself and other objects they were close too. Likewise, the fire from a molotov looked better than ever because different colors were represented in the flames. It was no longer a solid orange or solid red or solid yellow. Now it was all three seamlessly merging in the flames. Another benefit is that darker colors become true dark colors and brighter colors become true brights, which enhances the quality of shadows and light sources naturally. And all of this comes at a low performance cost.
I want HDR in all of my games and I want something that can display HDR. The problem: I don’t want 4K. And as of right now, HDR is only available on 4K televisions. Computer monitors do not yet support HDR either. The silver-lining is that, with some patience, hopefully, I’ll be able to get a 1080p display that also supports HDR, as HDR has nothing to do with the resolution of a television. Now that is a bit of a stretch, and I’ll likely just end up getting a 4KTV as the prices drop because there is also nothing wrong with a little added clarity, it just isn’t essential and personally speaking not worth the expense or performance cost. And if I’ve interpreted the PS4 Pro announcement correctly, the system itself decides how your game is upgraded based on the type of TV you have, rather than you deciding what you want. That could be a misinterpretation, but we won’t know until a developer or Sony themselves states otherwise, likely at next weeks Tokyo Game Show where I’m sure Japanese developers will be keen to show off the improvements PS4P has brought to their upcoming titles and past releases.