Q. I am a new 4K TV owner and I am using a Roku Ultra streaming player to show my 4K programs. My question is: Does Roku offer all the HDR formats? I read that HDR can really make a difference in the picture, but I also read that Roku doesn’t have Dolby Vision HDR. Is that true? — Frank, Cincinnati.
Frank, you are right. When you have a 4K TV that’s HDR compatible, the picture can look more realistic and the colors more vivid, particularly if the set is properly calibrated.
However, it’s also true that there are different HDR formats, and not all 4K TVs and 4K streaming players support all formats.
This adds to the confusion that still surrounds 4K TV, and discourages many consumers from buying one. After all, why buy an expensive 4K set (or streamer player) if you can’t watch all the available 4K programming on it? Right?
For instance, let’s look at Roku.
The company does offer Dolby Vision HDR (as well as another popular HDR format, HDR 10) in some of its Roku 4K TVs. However, the Roku 4K streaming players, such as the Ultra and the Premiere, only support HDR 10. Dolby Vision is not included.
That means if a show was produced in Dolby Vision, you will be able to see it in 4K using your Roku streaming player, but the HDR enhancements will not be available. However, if you have a Roku 4K TV that offers both Dolby Vision and HDR 10, you can watch both the way the filmmaker intended.
The good news here is that there are relatively few shows in Dolby Vision compared to HDR 10 because the latter now has the support of more studios and related companies. In other words, if you buy a Roku 4K streamer, you won’t miss much.
But after watching the stupid HD-DVD-Blu-ray disc war roughly a decade ago, it saddens me to see the industry engage in yet another format skirmish. Making matters worse, Samsung this year introduced yet another format, HDR10+, although, like Dolby Vision, it’s been used in very few productions.
By the way, HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. When a 4K show or movie has HDR, the brightest parts of the picture can become even brighter while the darkest images can become darker. This boosts the picture’s contrast, which helps creates the more realistic view.
The difference between HDR 10 and Dolby Vision is basically how each format codes the images, which determines how the set displays them. Some videophiles believe Dolby Vision does a better job of enhancing the color, but I’ve seen both and I can’t tell the difference.
So there you go.
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— Phillip Swann