NVIDIA IS BETTING BIG on high dynamic range (HDR) gaming, looking to spearhead a big of a display revolution that sees more games get support for more saturated colours better contrast and crisper white and blacks.
The graphics giant put on a showcase of two HDR displays it has certified as ready for high-end PC gaming, one from Acer and one from Asus, showing off the potential for HDR in PC gaming.
But first, for those of you who don't know, a quick refresher on HDR. The display certification is now common in mid to high-end TVs and smartphones, and it basically increases the range of colours, shades of black and white, contrast and brightness a display can....errr....display.
To do this properly it needs a 10-bit panel capable of supporting some billion colours and at least 1,000 nits of peak luminance - one nit is the equivalent of the light one candle gives off. That base specification meets the HDR10 standard that you'll find in TVs from the likes of Samsung and LG.
And that's what Nvidia, Acer and Asus have built their upcoming fancy screens too. Now that you know that let's dig into some specs.
Both the Acer Predator X27 and the Asus RoG Swift PG27UQ (catchy...) come with 27in 4K VA LCD panels with a quantum dot layer; you may recognise that from current-gen Samsung TVs. The panels are fully rather than edge backlit with 384 backlight zones that give the screens their ability to coax pixels into displaying a wider range of blacks and whites.
Both the panels are calibrated to the DCI-P3 standard, much like cinema projectors, to ensure they can display a wide range of colour accurately. Basically, the displays have a lot of brightness, contrast and colours at their disposal.
The impressive specs also continue to the displays' refresh rate; out of the box it sits at 120Hz but can be overclocked to rapid 144Hz, which promises to make fast-paced games seem super smooth. Oh and Nvidia's frame-syncing G-Sync tech is also in there for good measure.
But you'll need a very powerful PC to do that; in fact you'll want a powerful PC to push HDR and 4K resolutions in the first place, let alone at blistering refresh rates. A top-of-the-line Nvidia GeForce 1080 Ti will struggle to top 4K at 60Hz, so really these monitors are built for the next wave of GPUs, especially those from Nvidia.
In short, these are high-end displays for high-end machines and people with high-end bank balances are they're expected to go on sale for at least £1,000, if not more towards £2,000.
Now you might think that's a heck of a lot of pennies to throw at an HDR monitor when the tech in gaming is at a fledgeling stage and only some 30 or so games have proper HDR modes.
However, Nvidia doesn't care as it reckons the Acer and Asus displays will capture the hearts and minds of pro and enthusiast PC gamers. And once the tech takes hold, and with a little help from Nvidia, the game development community will start mastering games for use with HDR displays.
If that happens HDR displays could spread around the PC gaming market and eventually become more mainstream and affordable.
Some of you might raise an eyebrow here and note that HDR is supported in the latest Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 models, which when used with an HDR10 TV offers enhanced gaming visuals at price that's likely a lot less than just Acer or Asus' fancy monitors, let along the powerful PC needed to push their pixels.
Yet we've seen these monitors in action, and boy are they something. Side-by-side comparisons to a pretty decent standard dynamic range monitor, the difference becomes apparent.
The HDR version of Acer's Predator X27 shows so much more colour and details than its SDR predecessor that the difference in nearly night and day. On the older display, a scene in Final Fantasy XV looks washed-out, dull and flat, while on the HDR monitor far more details spring to the eyes and everything looks a lot more realistic despite the Manga vibes of the game's characters and world.
We've seen impressive HDR modes in games like Horizon Zero Dawn and Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, but the Nvidia-approved displays looked leagues ahead of anything a current-gen console and HDR TV can deliver.
Immediately going back to an SDR display and playing a few games felt like a smack in the chops after seeing the Acer and Asus monitors in action.
You might note that Nvidia's high-end HDR PC gaming-grade displays were touted back in 2017, but they've taken a while to get close to being ready for pre-order; the Predator X27 is now available to pre-order in the US for a cool $1,999.
But the wait has paid off as the HDR display these screen put on were properly impressive.
Not that we'll be shelling out for one just yet as the tech is just too pricey for our blood. However, as is the case with pretty much all new technology, if it doesn't fade into obscurity it'll get cheaper and become widely available.
And given how stunning proper 4K 144Hx HDR PC gaming looks, we expect it'll be the next big tech thing in the gaming world, providing developers keep making PC games and not all decide to capitalise upon the Nintendo's Switch's success and make software for the hybrid console. µ
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