HD, HDR, 4K, UHD: TV image jargon explained

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So, you want to buy a new TV with great picture quality. You walk into a shop or start browsing online and you run into terms like HD, HDR, 4K, HFR, UHD, SDR — what does it all mean?

When it comes to picture quality there are a lot of things to consider. Picture quality is more than just resolution: it’s also color, contrast, and detail. Finding the right combination of features is key. Let's start by breaking it down into three general categories of resolution.


Spatial resolution = more pixels

First and most widely understood is what we would refer to as spatial resolution which defines the number of pixels a display has available to reproduce an image. The higher the resolution the sharper the image may appear. This category covers terms such as High Definition (HD), also known as 1080p.

Then there is Ultra High Definition (UHD) also known as 4K which are generally used interchangeably to refer to content that is roughly four times the resolution of HD.

Then come the heavy hitters 6K, 8K, and 10K which are considered to be bleeding-edge visual technology and potential future of resolution standards.

With most new content being created and delivered in 4K, it's a wise choice to consider 4K as a preferred feature for any new TV purchases.


Color resolution = better pixels

Next, we can take a look at color resolution which defines the range of colors and contrast a TV, computer, or other device is capable of displaying to reproduce an image.

Traditionally most consumer displays could only reproduce content in Standard Dynamic Range (SDR) which is limited to 8-bit color, 100 nits of brightness, and a maximum contrast ratio of ~1,200:1.

By comparison, many newer displays are able to leverage the wide variety of HDR technologies, from HDR10 all the way up to Dolby Vision.

While SDR is limited to 8-bit color which can reproduce ~16,000,000 unique colors, HDR can reproduce in 10-bit color which greatly expands that to ~1,000,000,000 unique colors, with Dolby Vision able to leverage a full 12-bit color depth representing over 68,000,000,000 colors creating a dramatically richer, true-to-life image.

HDR also drastically increases the potential brightness with a minimum required 400-nit baseline, with a theoretical maximum allowed 10,000-nits of peak brightness. Additionally, HDR has the advantage when it comes to contrast ratio, allowing nearly infinite:1 contrast on many models.

Temporal resolution = frame rates

Finally, we can cover temporal resolution which defines how many frames per second (fps) are used to recreate an image. Most movies and TV shows are created in 24 frames per second which strikes a balance between a sharp and clear image with a natural amount of motion blur that we have become so accustomed to.

Many videos created and distributed for the internet — as well as many reality shows — are created in 30 frames per second which give the image a sharper, more true-to-life quality when compared to 24 fps.

Sports and gaming up the ante by leveraging 60 frames per second or even greater. When it comes to gaming, going up to 120 fps and beyond to create a hyper-realistic smooth playback experience that can feel more like looking through a window, putting you right in the action.

All modern TV offerings will have you covered up to 60 fps, but if you plan to take advantage of higher frame rates, especially at high resolutions, make sure your TV of choice supports those formats which will likely take advantage of the new HDMI 2.1 standard.

How to find entertainment in Dolby

To get the full Dolby experience, brought to you in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, you need to first make sure you are engaging with content created in Dolby. You can find entertainment in Dolby on any number of popular streaming services such as Apple TV+, Netflix, HBO Max (US), Paramount+ (US), Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+. As well as cable services such as Sky and BT Sport in the UK and Comcast in the US. Be sure to look for the Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos badges on the title pages of your favorite entertainment.


Many services will offer Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos as part of their standard subscription. If not available, check with your service provider as you may need to upgrade to a different subscription plan.