HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision: Which one is better?

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is a video technology that improves image quality by providing higher brightness, contrast, and a wider color gamut. To date, it is represented by three main formats –  HDR10 ,  HDR10 +  and  Dolby  Vision . Accordingly, when choosing a TV, buyers are wondering which one is better, because different models support different  HDR technologies .

In this article we will consider their features, advantages and disadvantages. And based on the results of the analysis, we will try to answer the question in the title.

The difference between HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision

The key determinants of  HDR  quality are color depth, brightness, tone mapping, and metadata. Of the three formats under consideration,  HDR10  is the simplest and most common. As for the more advanced  HDR10+  and  Dolby  Vision , most  HDR capable TVs only offer one of these. Although there are universal copies on the market that support all three formats.

In the table below, we present our subjective assessment of  HDR  parameters on a 10-point scale.

Parameter HDR10 HDR10+ Dolby Vision
Color depth 5 6 6
Peak brightness, min 5 5 6
Peak brightness, max eight eight eight
tone mapping 5 7 eight
Number of supporting TVs eight 5 6
The prevalence of content in this format eight 6 7

As you can see, Dolby Vision is ahead of its competitors in terms of the average score  , and the winner seems to be clear. But not everything is so clear.

Conclusion. Technically  , HDR10  is an outsider of our trinity, so further analysis will mainly come down to comparing HDR10 + and Dolby Vision.

Color depth

The higher this setting, the more colors the TV can display. Most screens on the market today are 8-bit, that is, capable of transmitting 16.7 million colors, within which content is usually created in  SDR  – standard dynamic range. However, premium TVs have 10-bit color depth, supporting over a billion colors.

As far as our formats go, 10-bit depth is the max for  HDR10 . And  HDR10+  and  Dolby  Vision  can technically overcome it, although such content is quite rare and is found only on  UHD Dolby Vision Blu-ray discs .

Conclusion. Despite technical capabilities, real content in HDR10 + and Dolby Vision is created within 10-bit color depth, and for streaming applications this mark is completely insurmountable. Therefore, in terms of this parameter, there is no difference between HDR10 + and Dolby Vision for the consumer.

Peak Brightness

This parameter is key for high-quality  HDR  transmission and there is a direct relationship here. If the content is recorded at  1000 nits , then the TV must also support 1000 nits for its high-quality transmission.

Consider the following table.

HDR10 HDR10+ Dolby  Vision
Peak brightness of real content during editing, nits from 400 to 4,000 from 1000 to 4000 from 1000 to 4000
Format technical limit, nits 10,000 10,000 10,000

Most  HDR  content today is created around 1000 nits of peak brightness , but  HDR10  clearly outperforms its two rivals in terms of its minimum value, which, of course, affects image quality. Technically, the whole trinity far exceeds the capabilities of today’s TVs.

Conclusion. There is no difference between HDR10+ and Dolby Vision for the consumer in terms of peak brightness, as both formats operate in the same practical ranges.

Metadata

Metadata is a technical instruction that describes content parameters. It is written directly into the video signal and dictates to the TV how best to display it.

The key difference  between the HDR10  format and others is that it uses static metadata. This means that when displaying content, the TV receives instructions on, say, the brightness range at the very beginning and adheres to it until the end of the display. The brightness range of the brightest scene is taken as the basis. It is easy to guess that dark scenes with this approach are often transmitted not in black, but in gray.

In this regard  , HDR10+  and  Dolby  Vision  are more advanced formats that use dynamic metadata. That is, the instruction that accompanies the corresponding content transmits to the TV the parameters of its best display for each scene separately, up to frame-by-frame optimization! Of course, such an individual approach gives a better result.

However, there are pitfalls here as well. Some TVs ignore the metadata and use their own image processing algorithms instead. In this case, it does not matter what  HDR  format you are viewing and you can only rely on the quality of the TV.

Conclusion. HDR10+ and Dolby Vision are more advanced formats as they adapt picture parameters to each individual scene. 

Tone mapping

As we have shown above with the example of color depth, content editing options can exceed the capabilities of the TV. Consider an example. When recording a scene, red is used in such a bright hue that the TV cannot display. Further, 2 scenarios are possible. In the first case, the so-called clipping occurs, when the brightness of the scene becomes so high that you cannot see its details. As you may have guessed, this phenomenon is typical for not the highest quality screens.

In the second case, the TV performs color conversion, trying to adapt to the content using the range available in its arsenal. That is, it “compresses” the range of colors of the video signal to its own capabilities, hence the term “tone mapping”. As a result, the transfer of the scene close to the original is achieved without loss of detail.

The static nature of the  HDR10  format tells us that the tone mapping in this format stays the same for the whole of a certain movie, which leads to not the best result.

The dynamic  HDR10+  and  Dolby  Vision  formats can apply tone mapping for each scene individually, achieving a higher quality image.

Conclusion. HDR10+ and Dolby Vision dynamic tone mapping result in better image reproduction.

Content prevalence

The  HDR format has grown rapidly in recent years. HDR10,  due to its simplicity and openness, is the most common, followed by  Dolby Vision , popular in Hollywood studios and streaming applications. HDR10+ is the newest of the trio and is still behind in adoption.

TV support

HDR10  is supported by a large number of TVs today. As for the other two formats, there is a division among large manufacturers. So,  Samsung  supports  HDR10 + and does not accept  Dolby Vision , while  LG  and  Sony , on the contrary, are supporters of  Dolby Vision and reject  HDR10 + .

A number of manufacturers are leaning towards universality, providing support for both of these formats on their TVs. These are, for example,  Hisense , TCL , Panasonic ,  Philips .

Conclusion

From a technical point of view, the two progressive formats HDR10+  and  Dolby  Vision  do not reveal a clear winner between themselves, as our analysis shows  , since they use dynamic metadata and achieve comparable high quality. However,  Dolby Vision content is much more common than  HDR10+ content . The most popular  HDR  format among both TV manufacturers and content producers is the simplified HDR10 .

As for the choice of a TV, we advise you to pay the main attention not to the support of a particular format, but to its characteristics. After all, the quality of the screen itself plays a key role in providing an entertaining viewing experience.

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