High dynamic range, or HDR, has become one of the most sought-after features in modern displays, including gaming monitors. But what exactly is HDR and why does it matter for gaming?
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about choosing an HDR gaming monitor that provides an immersive visual experience.
What is HDR and Why it Matters for Gaming
HDR refers to displays capable of a higher brightness, wider color gamut, and higher contrast ratio compared to standard dynamic range (SDR) screens. This means an HDR display can produce deeper blacks, brighter whites, and a wider range of colors.
When it comes to gaming, HDR enables a much more realistic and nuanced image. Lighting effects like flashes, sparks, and explosions will pop on an HDR screen. You’ll see vivid colors and crisp details in shadows and highlights during gameplay. Overall, games look more lifelike in HDR, which leads to higher immersion.
HDR also unlocks graphics options that aren’t usable on SDR monitors. You may get texture or geometry detail settings that only activate when HDR is enabled. So if you want to experience games as developers intended, with all graphic features unlocked, HDR is a must.
Top 5 Gaming Monitors with HDR Support
There are quite a few gaming monitors nowadays that support HDR. But not all HDR implementations are equal. Factors like peak brightness, contrast ratio, color gamut, and local dimming impact HDR image quality.
Here are our picks for the top 5 gaming monitors that deliver an exceptional HDR experience:
1. Asus ROG Swift PG27UQ
The Asus PG27UQ features a 27-inch 4K (3840 x 2160) IPS panel with a 144Hz refresh rate. It hits a searing 1000 nits peak brightness and has 384 local dimming zones for deep blacks. The PG27UQ covers 97% of the DCI-P3 color gamut.
With DisplayHDR 1000 certification, it’s one of the best implementations of HDR currently available. The monitor supports NVIDIA G-SYNC for variable refresh rate. The rapid 144Hz refresh rate combined with 4K visuals makes for an incredible HDR gaming experience.
2. Alienware AW2721D
Alienware’s fastest 27-inch IPS monitor, the AW2721D has a 240Hz refresh rate with a 2560 x 1440 resolution. It covers 98% of DCI-P3 and reaches 600 nits peak brightness with 32 local dimming zones.
Compatible with AMD FreeSync Premium Pro and NVIDIA G-SYNC, the AW2721D has extremely fluid motion clarity. HDR content looks stunning thanks to the high brightness, excellent color reproduction, and full-array local dimming. It’s a top choice for fast-paced competitive multiplayer games.
3. LG 27GN950
The LG 27GN950 is a 4K (3840 x 2160) IPS gaming monitor with a 144Hz refresh rate. It’s DisplayHDR 600 certified and reaches 600 nits peak brightness for impactful HDR images. While not as advanced as the Asus PG27UQ, the 27GN950 provides vibrant colors with 98% DCI-P3 coverage and great contrast.
With AMD FreeSync Premium Pro and NVIDIA G-SYNC compatibility, this 4K gaming monitor delivers buttery smooth gameplay. The 27GN950 excels at single-player story campaigns thanks to the high resolution and stunning HDR visuals.
4. Acer Predator X35
For ultra-immersive HDR gaming, the Acer Predator X35 is hard to beat. This 35-inch ultrawide monitor features a 3440 x 1440 resolution paired with an overclockable 200Hz refresh rate.
With 512 local dimming zones, a 2000 nit peak brightness, and 89.5% Rec. 2020 color gamut coverage, the X35 produces a downright cinematic HDR image. Its curved VA panel and 21:9 aspect ratio provides an engrossing field of view for racing or flight simulators. The X35 is among the best for HDR gaming immersion.
5. Samsung Odyssey G7
The Samsung Odyssey G7 comes in 27-inch and 32-inch screen sizes, offering 2560 x 1440 resolution with 240Hz refresh rates. Certified DisplayHDR 600, these VA panel monitors hit 600 nits brightness with deep blacks thanks to the dual-layer lighting design.
The G7 monitors feature AMD FreeSync Premium Pro support for fluid gaming. Combined with the rapid refresh rate, the vibrant HDR visuals and colors make for an excellent high frame rate experience. The 1000R curved screen provides extra immersion. The Odyssey G7 monitors deliver premium HDR performance at more affordable prices.
How to Choose an HDR Gaming Monitor
With the basics of HDR covered, here are the key factors to consider when picking an HDR gaming monitor for the ultimate experience:
- Resolution – Higher resolutions like 4K enable HDR to shine with enhanced details. But lower 1440p resolutions are fine as well. Match resolution to your graphics card power.
- Refresh Rate – Aim for at least 120Hz refresh rate for smooth HDR gameplay. Higher is better to take advantage of frame rates beyond 60 fps.
- Adaptive Sync – Ensure the monitor has AMD FreeSync Premium/Pro or NVIDIA G-SYNC Compatible certification for variable refresh rate. Eliminates screen tearing.
- Brightness – Look for at least 600 nits peak brightness, with 1000 nits being ideal. Brighter monitors make the most out of HDR content.
- Local Dimming – Full array local dimming (FALD) with several hundred zones results in best contrast and blacks. Mini-LED backlighting is excellent too.
- Wide Color Gamut – Look for 90% or more coverage of DCI-P3 or Display P3 color space, or at least 85% Rec. 2020 coverage. Ensures vivid colors.
- HDR Format Support – Aim for HDR10 support at minimum, with optional Dolby Vision being a bonus for movie watching. Displays with DisplayHDR 1000 certification have the peak performance.
- Panel Type – IPS panels offer the best viewing angles and color accuracy. VA panels boast superior contrast and blacks. Both are good for HDR, go with preference.
HDR Gaming Monitor FAQs
Is HDR worth it for gaming monitors?
For games that support HDR, it can make a huge difference in image quality and realism. The wider range of colors, brighter highlights, and increased contrast create a more immersive experience. HDR enables graphic settings and details not possible on SDR. If you play HDR-enabled games, it’s absolutely worth investing in an HDR monitor.
Do I need a 4K monitor to take advantage of HDR?
While 4K monitors allow you to see all the enhanced details HDR provides, a 1440p gaming monitor is sufficient for a great HDR experience. As long as the monitor meets specs like high peak brightness, wide color gamut, and local dimming, the benefits of HDR will be clear. Higher resolution panels can better display the benefits of HDR, but they aren’t required.
What kind of GPU do I need for 4K HDR gaming?
To enjoy smooth 4K HDR gaming, you’ll want at least an NVIDIA RTX 3070 Ti / AMD Radeon RX 6800 XT or above. For the full 4K 60+ fps HDR gaming experience, an RTX 3080 Ti or Radeon RX 6950 XT is recommended. The more powerful your graphics card, the better your 4K HDR gameplay will be.
Is an OLED TV better for HDR gaming than a monitor?
OLED TVs are excellent for HDR content thanks to their infinite contrast ratios and true blacks. But they aren’t ideal for desktop gaming due to the risk of permanent burn-in with static elements. Monitors like those with mini-LED backlights offer incredible HDR performance without burn-in risk. You can also find some monitors reaching OLED-rivaling contrast ratios nowadays.
How bright should an HDR gaming monitor be?
To truly take advantage of HDR’s expanded brightness range, you want a monitor capable of at least 600 to 1000 nits peak brightness. Standard monitors usually only reach 300 to 400 nits. The brighter a monitor, the more impactful the HDR highlights and visuals will be. So when HDR gaming, choose the brightest monitor that fits your budget.
Experience Games in a New Light with HDR Monitors
Gaming in HDR enables you to see games as developers intended, with vivid lighting, realistic colors, and enhanced graphics settings. An HDR gaming monitor can take your experience to the next level.
When shopping for an HDR gaming monitor, look for high peak brightness, full array local dimming, wide color gamut coverage, and a high refresh rate. Pair an HDR monitor with a powerful graphics card, and games will come to life with brilliant colors and cinematic intensity.
The monitors we highlighted offer some of the best implementations of HDR currently available. Any one of them will provide an incredible viewing experience that makes games more immersive and entertaining. With the gameplay advantages and jaw-dropping visuals, an HDR gaming monitor is the way to go for the ultimate gaming setup.