Q. I watch a lot of 4K programming on Netflix and it’s in Dolby Vision 4K, which I think is the best out there. So my question is if I buy a new streaming device, do they all support Dolby Vision? And if not, will it be in 4K? — Gary, Spokane, Washington.
Gary, that’s a great question. First, a little background on Dolby Vision for readers who are not familiar with the term or concept.
Dolby Vision is a format used to deliver 4K programming with the High Dynamic Range (HDR) technology, which can add vividness and realism to the picture.
Another popular format for 4K HDR video is HDR 10. While both can enhance a regular 4K image, many videophiles say Dolby Vision is the superior choice, and it’s used by Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and many 4K Blu-ray disc manufacturers.
However, not all Blu-ray players, streaming devices, and 4K Smart TVs support Dolby Vision. And if a show or movie was produced in Dolby Vision, it may not look as good as it could on those products. Consequently, some 4K enthusiasts prefer a TV and/or streaming player that can exhibit 4K programming with Dolby Vision.
(Note: If your TV supports Dolby Vision, it will not display a 4K picture in Dolby Vision if it’s connected to a streaming device that does not support Dolby Vision.)
Sony and LG are two TV manufacturers that support Dolby Vision. Samsung does not.
Of the leading streaming devices, Apple TV 4K offers Dolby Vision as does Amazon’s Fire TV. But surprisingly, Roku does not except in select Roku TVs that were made in partnership with companies such as TCL. Instead, Roku’s 4K devices, such as the Roku Ultra, support the HDR 10 format.
As you can imagine, there are many reasons for this format skirmish, but money is the primary one. Dolby Vision, which was created by Dolby Enterprises, requires a licensing fee while HDR 10 is an open standard that can be used by anyone. To use Dolby Vision, a company has to make an investment in quality. That may sound like a no-brainer when you’re trying to get consumers to buy expensive TVs and streaming devices. But it’s arguable that most viewers can tell the difference between a 4K scene with Dolby Vision compared to one without.
Gary, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann