Are HDR Monitors Good For Gaming?

So you’re looking to upgrade your monitor and you noticed most new monitors have a feature called HDR.

Are HDR monitors good for gaming? Are they even worth the upgrade? Let’s do a deep dive into the world of HDR monitors to find out.

Are HDR Monitors Good for Gaming?

True-HDR monitors are good for gaming because they add a whole new level of colour depth and realism to visuals. If you want the clearest, most realistic graphics possible, an HDR monitor will deliver. The upside is HDR doesn’t have much of a negative impact on in-game performance, making it an easy way to improve the visuals. For some, turning on HDR is a better visual improvement than increasing the resolution.

The downside is not every game implements proper HDR and you need a graphics card that is compatible. Before you make a decision, I suggest considering other display features, such as resolution, colour depth, brightness, and Hertz Rate. In my opinion, HDR is not the most important feature on a new monitor but it is a “nice to have” and an easy way to future proof your display.

Understanding HDR:

HDR stands for “High Dynamic Range” which is a media profile standard that improves contrast and brightness levels on displays. Displays with good HDR are capable of delivering more vivid and life-like colours. There are several types of HDR varieties too (a total of five), and each manufacturer has its own variation.

The most popular types of HDR are HDR-10, HDR 10+, and HDR 1,400. Dolby’s HDR is called Dolby Vision. The Vesa HDR Standard is the easiest one to understand. With the Vesa Standard, when there’s a three-digit number next to the abbreviation, the number represents the maximum nits (brightness) the HDR adds. I’ll recommend some specifications a little later.

To read more about that, take a look at our HDR 10 vs HDR 400 article.

How Does HDR Work With Games?

Even if a monitor supports HDR, the game and the graphics card have to support the feature too. Most modern games will have a setting in the graphics options for HDR.  Not every game has it, and only a handful are able to use it correctly. Most games use a variation of HDR which is not the same as true HDR.

Needless to say, the experience you get from gaming with HDR will vary depending on the type of HDR used and how the game implements it. Good HDR will improve the range of colours in games. The range of colours is determined by the developers and artists. For some games, the enhanced colour and brightness can really improve the scene quality. However, with other games, the HDR can wash out the colour in scenes by changing the colour profile too much.

For example, if there are bright areas in a game, such as sunlight, the HDR can enhance the sunlight so much that it adds a kind of bloom effect that covers other details in the game. The quality of HDR will depend on the monitor you choose, how it implements the technology, and how the game developers designed the visuals. Generally speaking HDR greatly enhances the colours in games.

HDR also works best on displays that use full-array local dimming (FALD) or OLED. Most monitors don’t support full-array local dimming but it is available on newer TVs.

Games that Support HDR:

Currently, there are not that many games that support true HDR. Here is a quick list of some popular titles that support HDR:

  1. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Origins, and Valhalla
  2. Battlefield 1 and V
  3. Call of Duty Modern Warfare
  4. Cyberpunk 2077
  5. Doom Eternal

Most games released after 2017 use some version of HDR. Older titles are sometimes updated, especially remastered editions, to include HDR compatibility.

Bear in mind, most HDR-compatible games look better on consoles than on PC. The reason for that seems to be on Window’s end because it requires more configuration to set up. If you want a good HDR experience, it might be better to use your HDR monitor with a next-gen console because consoles support HDR out of the box.

HDR and Graphics Cards:

As mentioned earlier, not every graphics card is compatible with HDR. The main issue is not with the graphics card hardware but the ports. HDR only works on HDMI 2.0 connectors, DVI does not support HDR, and DisplayPort only supports it from DisplayPort 1.4 and onwards. Make sure your graphics card supports either HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.4.

An Easy Guideline for HDR:

If you’re left scratching your head with all these terms, I don’t blame you. The world of HDR is very complicated, and there’s lots of misinformation out there. Not to mention the visual quality is subjective too. Either way, to simplify it for you, I put together a short guide that will help you get the best HDR experience from games.

For the best HDR experience:

  1. Choose a monitor that has HDR-600 or higher.
  2. Make sure your graphics card has the required ports (HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.4)
  3. Double-check if your favourite games are compatible with True HDR.
  4. Run the game at 1440 or 4K
  5. Use an OLED (preferred) or IPS Monitor
  6. Enable G-Sync or AMDS FreeSync

If you can meet all of those requirements, the visuals in your games will look incredible. You could also consider connecting your PC to an HDR-compatible OLED TV. OLED displays tend to deliver the best colour quality and accuracy when compared to other types of panels.

The Downside to HDR:

The most obvious downside to HDR monitors is the price. These monitors are very expensive, some cost more than an entirely new computer. There are entry-level monitors that have some version of HDR, but it’s not nearly good enough. One notable True-HDR monitor is the Acer Predator X27. At the moment, TVs deliver a better HDR experience than monitors, and they’re cheaper too, although that might change in the near future.

The Bottom Line:

To summarize, HDR can add new life to the visuals on games, but it comes with a price. My suggestion is to look for monitors that have the features you really need and want. HDR is more of a side feature that’s nice to have but not completely necessary. Even if you do have an HDR monitor, not many games, especially on Windows, implement it properly. Another option would be to go with an HDR-compatible 4K OLED TV.

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.

Leave a Comment