VESA updates DisplayHDR logo spec to accommodate laptop, OLED screens
At CES 2019, VESA added DisplayHDR logo certifications with reduced brightness requirements so that laptop displays and OLED monitors can join the club.
Lori GruninSenior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
ExpertisePhotography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Since its inception, VESA's (the Video Electronic Standards Association) DisplayHDR logo-certification program for monitors has been a clear-cut mix of competence requirements (DisplayHDR 600 and 1000) and marketing desperation (DisplayHDR 400). But with the CES 2019 announcement of DisplayHDR 500, DisplayHDR True Black 400 and DisplayHDR True Black 500, somehow they've managed to make things more confusing than necessary. There are just too many now.
DisplayHDR 500 essentially certifies that a display is almost DisplayHDR 600 capable, but since it's in a laptop it gets a pass on hitting the same peak or sustained brightness levels to conserve power. However there's nothing preventing a desktop monitor manufacturer for opting for this lower level -- dare we say "cheaper to implement" -- level either.
But the naming underemphasizes the huge disparity between DisplayHDR 400 and DisplayHDR 500: the latter requires the wide color gamut, local dimming and higher contrast the 400 spec lacks, all of which are essential for HDR video rendering.
The two DisplayHDR True Black logofications similarly downplay the benefits of OLED. Since OLED generally can't hit or sustain peak brightness for the full screen, only for the 10 percent window required by the spec, it gets its own category which dramatizes the fact that OLED achieves near perfect black levels compared to LCDs.
But what the nomenclature utterly fails to conveys is the huge jump in contrast that results in, despite the lower brightness levels.
If you're not familiar with DisplayHDR, the number indicates the peak brightness of a 10 percent window in the middle of the screen displayed for short intervals as measured in nits (candelas per square meter). The names actually conveyed information when there were only three options -- 400, 600 or 1,000.
It meant you'd know not to expect actual HDR-quality video from a DisplayHDR 400 monitor; they barely squeak by the letter of the definition, as defined by the ability to decode an HDR signal, much less the spirit. (In fact, it's not even a given that a DisplayHDR 400 monitor will be better than one that's not certified given the increase in the number of 400-nit panels we're seeing in monitors.)
But it also it meant that you'd be able to tell that DisplayHDR 600 and DisplayHDR 1000 offered reasonable and differentiable display qualities, because they had different contrast levels. But what are the real visual differences between 500 and 600?