HDR and Dolby Vision For Gaming: Ultimate Guide

HDR and Dolby Vision in Gaming

With the Xbox Series X and S natively supporting HDR10 and Dolby Vision, you may wonder if it’s worth enabling HDR for games.

What’s the difference between HDR and Dolby Vision? Are there any pros and cons of using HDR for gaming?

In this article, I’ll explain how HDR works and how it can affect the visuals of the games you play.

There are three main types of HDR: HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision.

HDR and Dolby Vision Explained

HDR10 vs Dolby Vision:

FeaturesHDR10Dolby Vision
MetadataStaticDynamic
Colour Depth8-bit12-bit
Max Luminance4000 Nits10,000 Nits
Best for: Video GamesMovies, TV Shows
Supported Consoles:PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PCXbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC

What is HDR?

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. It’s a feature that boosts the contrast ranges, improving colors in movies and games.

In simple terms, HDR makes dark scenes appear darker and bright scenes brighter.

Today, when a TV advertises its HDR features, it most likely supports HDR10. HDR10 was released in 2015 and is an open-standard feature.

HDR10 also uses static metadata. With static metadata, the contrast ranges cannot change on a scene-to-scene basis.

The problem with static metadata is some scenes can appear too bright or too dark.

Remember, HDR media can only be viewed if both the source and display are HDR-compatible.

(HDR10+ is new to the scene and not as popular as HDR10 or Dolby Vision.)

Enabling HDR10

Normal HDR (HDR10) is usually automatically enabled on your TV and console.

Most games will launch on HDR, but you may need to look for an HDR toggle in the game’s menus.

If HDR is not enabled, or no option is available, your TV may not support HDR.

What is Dolby Vision?

Dolby Vision (DV) is another type of HDR format. It uses dynamic metadata which means the brightness and contrast ranges can change on a frame-to-frame basis.

The highlights are supposed to be 40x brighter than regular HDR, allowing you to see more details.

Generally, DV is better than HDR10 because it can adapt to scenes better. It can boost the brightness of dark scenes while reducing the brightness of bright scenes and so on.

On that note, Dolby Vision supports 12-bit colour depth while other HDR formats only support 10-bit colours.

Another way DV defers from HDR is it requires developers to purchase a license. It’s not an open standard like HDR10.

However, the end result will depend on the specific TV’s capabilities.

On paper, Dolby Vision has better features, but it’s not a night and day difference over HDR10.

At the moment, only the Xbox Series X and S offer support for Dolby Vision.

Dolby Vision is often paired with Dolby Atmos, a 3D sound format.

To enable Dolby Atmos you need to buy a license, which is a one-time payment of $15.

Dolby Vision Native or Converted

Like HDR, there are ways for TVs and consoles to simulate Dolby Vision, but it’s not “native Dolby Vision”.

Your TV may say that the game is running in Dolby Vision but that’s not necessarily true.

In many cases, enabling Dolby Vision on your TV simply enables a different colour preset.

It may also be converting HDR10 to Dolby Vision – which is not the same.

Unfortunately, very few games have been designed that support native (or true) Dolby Vision.

It’s still a new technology and it’s expensive for game developers to buy a license.

Not to mention this “fake” Dolby Vision often causes issues on certain TVs (horrendous input lag) and doesn’t really improve the visuals.

When games come out that do support native Dolby Vision, they should look much better than HDR.

At the moment, the game support for HDR10 is better than Dolby Vision.

For movies though, Dolby Vision is better than HDR10 because it supports dynamic metadata, has higher peak brightness, and supports more colours.

Enabling Dolby Vision

The setting for Dolby Vision can have a different label, depending on the TV manufacturer. Most of the time, it’s not enabled by default.

For Samsung TVs, the setting will be under Picture Options and its HDMI UHD Color.

With LG TVs it will be called HDMI Ultra Deep Color.

On Sony TVs, you will need to open Settings, External Inputs, and change the HDMI signal format to HDMI Enhanced mode.

HDR10 for Gaming:

When implemented correctly, HDR10 can boost the colours in video games making the graphics appear much more life-like.

Since HDR10 is an open standard, developers can implement it in their games without expensive licensing fees.

To enable HDR10 in a game you need to make sure that both your TV and the game you want to play support HDR.

If your TV and console support HDR but the game does not, then HDR won’t work.

Most modern games offer support for HDR and even older titles have been updated for HDR.

Some games even let you adjust the amount of HDR. For example, in Screen Calibration, Halo Infinite has an HDR and brightness slider.

Video games will either automatically implement HDR or you will need to manually enable it in the settings.

Remember, if HDR is not enabled in your console’s display settings, the option may not appear in the game’s graphics settings.

HDR10 Compatible Consoles

Most gaming consoles natively support HDR10, it has been supported

  • PS4
  • PS5
  • Xbox One
  • Xbox Series X/S
  • PC

HDR10 Games

Almost every major game title released in the past few years supports HDR10. Almost all the popular games on Xbox Game Pass support HDR10.

However, enabling HDR won’t necessarily improve the visuals of each game because the HDR capabilities are limited by TV hardware.

Popular games that support HDR10:

  1. Assassins Creed Valhala
  2. A Plague Tale (Innocence and Requiem)
  3. Battlefield 2042
  4. Elden Ring
  5. Cyberpunk 2077
  6. Sea of Thieves
  7. Forza Horizon 5
  8. Gears 5
  9. Halo Infinite
  10. Life is Strange True Colours

Dolby Vision for Gaming

Compared to HDR10, there aren’t as many games that support Dolby Vision. Nevertheless, most of the recent Xbox games do support Dolby Vision.

Compatible Games

  1. Cyberpunk 2077
  2. Forza 5
  3. Gears 5
  4. Halo Infinite
  5. Metro Exodus

For more, take a look at Xbox’s official Dolby Vision-supported games.

Input Lag with HDR Enabled

There’s one issue with HDR and Dolby Vision that is noticeable for gamers. HDR introduces some input lag in games, and the amount varies from TV to TV.

HDR10 also takes a very slight performance hit. Most of the time, the downsides of HDR are not that noticeable.

Unfortunately, Dolby Vision introduces a significant amount of input lag on TVs that are not LG OLED.

LG OLEDs are the only TVs at the moment that has a Dolby Vision gaming mode which reduces the input lag.

Most people don’t think the input lag is worth the very slight change in visuals.

If you play games that require accuracy, I recommend disabling Dolby Vision.

Should I Enable HDR10 or Dolby Vision?

The quality of a display’s HDR10 varies depending on a number of other features such as local dimming and whatnot.

In other words, on some displays, enabling HDR10 won’t improve the visuals. In fact, it may look the image look worse due to oversaturation.

However, on other TVs, enabling HDR10 can make a dramatic improvement in colours and visuals. It requires some tweaking to get right.

As for Dolby Vision, again, it depends on the TV’s hardware.

At this time, HDR10 is much better for games because it makes the colours appear brighter without adding much input lag.

Dolby Vision introduces a lot of input lag which makes games unplayable. Only LG OLEDs have a Dolby Vision Game Mode that reduces the lag.

Besides, even if a TV or game has Dolby Vision, there’s no way to tell if it’s native Dolby Vision or a slightly modified version of HDR10.

In Conclusion

You might need to play around with the HDR settings on your TV to find what looks best for you. Generally, HDR10 is great for most media, including video games.

If Dolby Vision is not natively supported, it won’t look much better than regular HDR10.

When Dolby Vision games are natively supported, they should look better than HDR10 but that day is yet to come.

To keep it short, unless you’re using an LG OLED, I recommend disabling Dolby Vision.

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About Tim Gagnon

Timothy Gagnon is a tech blogger and writer. When he's not dissembling computers, he's researching the latest tech gadgets and trends.

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