The Windows 11 2022 update is launching today, and while it’s a mostly behind-the-scenes update for most PCs, gamers have a few new features to look forward to. First up, Microsoft is adding support for Auto HDR, VRR (variable refresh rates) and better latency for windowed games. Previously, those were only features you could use in full-screen mode. The change should be a boon to streamers and anyone who wants to multitask while clearing their Halo Infinite dailies.
And speaking of HDR, you can now tweak your monitor’s settings more easily with an improved HDR calibration tool. Auto HDR is also headed to more titles, which should be great news if you (literally) want to see older games in a new light. Less significantly, the Xbox Game Bar is being transformed into a new Windows Controller Bar, which will show your recently played games and launchers. You can access that by hitting the Xbox button on an Xbox controller (or a third-party equivalent).
While none of these are ground-breaking changes, they all go towards making Windows 11 a better environment for PC gamers. (Let’s just hope we get a more flexible way to install games from the Microsoft Store eventually.)
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“The Sony InZone M9 challenges the state of HDR in gaming monitors under $1,000.”
Excellent HDR for under $1,000
Auto tone mapping with PS5
Works with G-Sync and FreeSync
Easy to use OSD and software
KVM switch with two USB ports
DisplayPort over USB-C
Vignetting around the edges
Stand doesn’t get high enough
SDR is lacking behind VA panels
Poor color and brightness uniformity
Sony is entering the world of gaming monitors, and it clearly isn’t content to do that quietly. The Sony InZone M9 challenges the old guard of 4K gaming monitors, upping the ante with full-array local dimming, HDR that isn’t terrible, and a unique, space-saving design — oh, and all for under $1,000.
A spec sheet would have any display enthusiast sold on the M9 in a heartbeat, and some of that is earned. However, for as much as Sony’s first gaming monitor gets right, it also gets a number of things wrong. The stand doesn’t make sense for most people, and I experienced panel issues on two separate units. And, if you don’t care about HDR, there isn’t much to sell you on the M9 over the competition from LG and Samsung.
For that group with a PlayStation 5 and a PC that cares about HDR performance, though, the InZone M9 is offering something that the market just doesn’t have right now. And most importantly, it’s a step forward for the largely stagnant market of the best monitors.
Sony InZone M9 (SDM-U27M90)
3840 x 2560 (4K)
DisplayHDR 600 w/ Full Array Local Dimming (96 zones)
The stand is where things get funky though. It has three legs, unlike the standard two you find on most monitor stands. It’s certainly a unique look, and it’s a huge space saver on cramped desks.
I’m just not sure what Sony was thinking with the ergonomics here. It’s just tall enough. Even at its highest point, I couldn’t find a position where I wasn’t tilting my neck downwards. The range of height adjustment is so low, too, so there’s very little room to adjust it how you want. Unless you have a lot of room for height adjustment with your desk and chair, the InZone M9 was uncomfortable to use without a monitor arm. There’s a touch of tilt adjustment to help, but you’ll still be angling your neck down in most cases.
The ergonomics are a shame because the M9 and its stand really do look fantastic. Sony took advantage of the PS5 beyond looks, too. The M9 features an automatic genre mode that can toggle between the low-latency Game mode and quality-focused Cinema mode depending on what you’re doing on your PS5.
More importantly, the M9 does automatic HDR tone mapping. The PS5 can detect the M9 as the monitor, and it will adjust the color and brightness values it spits out to cater to Sony’s display. I’ll dig more into that in the performance sections below, but spoiler alert: the HDR tone mapping is really good.
What’s more exciting is the OSD. I’ve praised the menus on monitors like the Acer Predator X28, but even they don’t hold a candle to the M9. You get a large, clearly legible, and understandable OSD that’s dead simple to navigate with the joystick behind the right side of the monitor. Sony uses a separate power button, too, so you won’t accidentally switch off the display.
The InZone Hub invites a deeper level of monitor customization
You don’t have to use the OSD, though, and I recommend you don’t. The InZone Hub app gives you all of your monitor settings on your desktop, and unlike the MSI MPG32-QD, you don’t need to hook up a USB cable to use the software.
Inside, you’ll find five picture modes: Cinema, Standard, FPS, Game 1, and Game 2. The two gaming picture modes are actually custom slots where you can adjust brightness, contrast, etc. Otherwise, the picture settings are locked outside of the black equalizer and local dimming setting. None of them are bad, but the Standard mode is scorching bright, while the Cinema mode has a signature warm color temperature that only really looks good if you’re watching a moody drama.
I adjusted the brightness of the first gaming mode down to a comfortable level and went to a neutral color temperature, but that’s all I had to do to get the monitor looking how I wanted.
I suspect most people don’t configure their monitor settings because, frankly, it’s annoying dealing with an OSD and a joystick. The InZone Hub invites a deeper level of customization, which I love, and manages to provide all the crucial picture settings you need without getting into advanced color calibration that only a small fraction of people will take advantage of.
I strapped my SpyderX on the M9 to verify the specs listed by Sony, and almost everything checks out. It’s a wide gamut display that covers 100% of the sRGB spectrum and 92% of DCI-P3 based on my testing. Sony says it covers 95%, but my results are close enough that I’m content. My panel was surprisingly color accurate, too, with an average Delta-E (difference from real color) of 1.14. Less than 2 is ideal for colorwork, though the M9 certainly isn’t a display for video or photo pros.
The other results are straightforward for an IPS panel. In SDR, the M9 topped out at a peak brightness of 419 nits, with a contrast ratio of 900:1. The higher 600 nit mark that Sony quotes comes with local dimming and HDR turned on, and I actually measured a much higher value of 834 nits with VESA’s DisplayHDR Test tool. That’s super bright for an IPS panel, but keep in mind that this test blasts 10,000 nits at the screen at once. It’ll rarely get that bright in use.
The HDR can outpace even the best VA panels on the market.
Native contrast isn’t going to floor you; this is an IPS panel, which universally have poorer contrast compared to VA options. It’s the HDR contrast that stands out. With HDR and local dimming on, I measured a contrast ratio of 5,180:1, which outpaces even the best VA panels.
The specs and my testing checks out, but my subjective experience with the M9 was far from perfect. My initial review unit arrived with a few panel defects — not a huge deal, these things are bound to happen to at least a few of any monitor — and Sony swiftly sent out another one.
The second unit didn’t come with defects, but it showed clear vignetting. It was never a problem when a lot of colors were on screen from a game or movie, but it was distracting with just a web browser open, as my eye would shoot to the corner to double-check that my vision wasn’t going. My first unit came with some vignetting, as well, though not as much as the second one. I reached out to Sony about both issues, and I’ll update this review when I hear back.
I’m really torn on the M9. As I’ll dig into in the next two sections, it easily offers one of the best HDR and gaming experiences available today. No question. But it’s hard to overlook issues with the panel, especially when two separate units each come with their own problems.
Unlike the Odyssey G7 and LG’s ever-popular 27GP950, which have dimming zones on the edges of the display, the InZone M9 comes with dimming zones all around the screen. And it comes with 96 zones, which compares to only eight zones on the Samsung monitor and 16 zones on LG’s. Those zones make a huge difference. Unless you seek out a QD-OLED panel like the Alienware 34 QD-OLED, you’re not going to find a better HDR experience below $1,000.
This is easily the best HDR experience you’ll get on a PC under $1,000
DT contributor Arif Bacchus actually saw the M9 right next to LG’s popular 27-inch monitor, and he didn’t mince words: “I’m telling you, the Sony is better.”
I started with Destiny 2 to test HDR performance, which has become my litmus test with its eye-scorching contrast. And it looked great. HDR monitors have been lagging behind TVs for a while, and the InZone M9 is finally raising the bar. Due to the 96 dimming zones, you get much higher contrast in games like Destiny 2 without seeing individual parts of the monitor adjust how bright they are.
HDR gaming is great, easily the best experience on PC you’ll find for $900 (at least at this resolution). PS5 is even better due to the automatic tone mapping. I played through some of Tales of Arise and Returnal, both of which looked fantastic. Tales really shined with its watercolor-esque art, as the tone mapping and local dimming squeezed out hidden areas of contrast I never paid any mind to.
For raw gaming features, the monitor support variable refresh rate (VRR) and goes up to 144Hz. It’s G-Sync Compatible, which means VRR works across Nvidia and AMD GPUs, and the PS5 automatically turned on VRR in the settings once I hooked the monitor up.
I used the M9 as my primary gaming monitor for just over a week, trying everything from Destiny 2 to Tale of Arise to Neon White — whatever I happened to be playing at the time. And it’s fantastic. Even with HDR turned off, the local dimming offers a nice bump in contrast to some PC games, and the always-on HDR on the PS5 takes the local dimming nicely.
VRR support and a 144Hz refresh rate take the M9 outside of Sony’s console, too (though, you’ll need one of the best graphics cards to drive those frame rates at 4K). The only minor issue is some ghosting at high overdrive levels. The M9 allows you to lower the response time with overdrive, and as these settings typically do, there was some ghosting behind moving objects. It was far from a problem, though, and the monitor defaults to having overdrive turned off.
Price is the key factor that the M9 lives and dies by, and Sony is choosing to live. The list price is $900, which will almost certainly catapult the M9 to the go-to monitor for 4K gaming. The past few years have been dominated by two monitors around the same price — the 28-inch Samsung Odyssey G7 for $800 and the LG 27GP950 for $900 — and the M9 beat them point-for-point.
It’s finally a step forward for gaming monitors. There are at least a half dozen other 28-inch 4K monitors with a 144Hz refresh rate, but they’re all around the same price with only slight deviations in features. The Gigabyte M28U is cheaper and comes with a KVM switch, for example. The M9 stands apart with its 96-zone FALD.
My main question is how much the M9 will actually sell for. List price to list price, it’s a great deal. But the standard guard of 4K monitors around this price are frequently on sale, below $600 in a lot of cases. And in that situation, better HDR performance doesn’t quite seem worth the premium.
Yes, there are several alternatives. The two main competitors are the LG 27GP950 and Samsung Odyssey G7, which are around the same price when they’re not on sale. They’re almost identical to the InZone M9, though they lack full-array local dimming.
Meanwhile, the Alienware 34 QD-OLED offers an even better HDR experience, though you’ll have to pay considerably more for it.
How long will it last?
Most IPS monitors will last at least a decade and often longer. The M9 shouldn’t be any different, though be wary of panel defects.
Should you buy it?
If you highly value HDR, yes. There isn’t another monitor offering what the M9 does at this price. If you don’t care about HDR, and especially if you’re strictly a PC gamer, the LG and Samsung alternatives offer a better value overall.
Sony is known for televisions, but it is now getting into the PC gaming market with a new InZone brand. Coming this summer and winter are both the InZone M9 and InZone M3, which are Sony’s first gaming monitors designed with PC and PlayStation gamers in mind.
Priced at $900, the InZone M9 is the new 27-inch flagship monitor from Sony, meant to rival other gaming displays like the LG Ultragear 27, as well as the 28-inch Samsung Odyssey G7. The display features DisplayPort 1.4, HDMI 2.1, USB-C connections, a 4K resolution IPS panel, and 144Hz refresh rate, as well as a 1ms response time.
Since this is a gaming monitor, you’ll also find support for variable refresh rates, G-Sync compatibility, and full-array local dimming. There’s even a KVM switch, and certification for VESA’s DisplayHDR 600. Sony says that full-array local dimming should make for brighter highlights and deeper blacks, for better depth perception in games like Elden Ring or CS:GO where this is important.
Other gaming features on the InZone M9 include an FPS game picture mode that can optimize brightness and contrast, a black equalizer, cross hair options, and a frame rater counter. There’s even automatic HDR tone mapping for PS5 consoles and a feature that will select different picture modes on the PS5 based on what you’re doing. These modes can be used to reduce input lag to make movies and games look more expressive.
As far as the design goes, Sony has kept it simple to match the white design of the PlayStation 5. The monitor has joystick controls for navigating menus, and there’s also an app that can be used on a PC to control image settings. The stand is quite minimalistic, and the monitor has full tilt and pivot controls, where the monitor arm sticks out at a unique angle. Dual 2-watt speakers also come with this monitor along with an LED ring of light at the rear top.
The InZone M9 will be coming this summer, but the budget monitor, the InZone M3, is set for release this winter. It’s also a 27-inch monitor, but with a lower Full HD resolution, DisplayHDR 400 certification, and without features like full-array local dimming. The InZone M3 will cost $529.
“The Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX is a brilliant piece of PC gaming gear, but its flaws are hard to swallow.”
Mind-blowing HDR performance
Extremely high peak brightness
Thread built-in for camera mounting
Fast, fluid gaming
No HDMI 2.1
Has audible cooling fan
Still not a perfect HDR experience
The ROG Swift PG32UQX was first teased around two years ago, and it hyped up the PC gaming community unlike any gaming monitor in recent history. You’ll find forum threads full of excitement. And for good reason.
According to Asus, the ROG Swift PG32UQX featured mind-blowing HDR performance unlike any other monitor that’s currently on the market. More than that, it was also the first 32-inch 4K gaming monitor based on Mini-LED technology, featuring Full-Array Local Dimming (FALD) for HDR illumination with 1,152 individual zones and a peak brightness of up to 1,400 nits.
The catch, of course, was its price tag. $2,999 is more than most entire PC gaming setups cost, including PC, monitor, and peripherals. As such, it’s only realistic to expect absolute and utter perfection. The ROG Swift PG32UQX does a lot of things amazingly well, but perfect it is not.
The ROG Swift PG32UQX is quite a large monitor. That’s expected from a 32-inch display, but the PG32UQX is a little bigger than most 32-inch panels due to its FALD illumination panel, which adds a noticeable thickness to the display.
The design style is also quite aggressive, with Asus sparing no opportunity for the PG32UQX to be recognized as a Republic of Gamers product. The monitor’s stand features the new-but-classic tripod design with a downward-cast illumination stamp, the back of the display has strong shapes and a huge, RGB-illuminated Asus ROG logo, and the display’s big chin has a little OLED panel in it for displaying entertaining visuals or system information, such as CPU temperature.
Indeed, there is a lot to take in here. But if you’re not into the styling, it’s easy enough to shove the back of the monitor towards a wall, replace the stand with a VESA mount, and then you’ll be left with just the display’s chin that may look a little aggressive.
The little OLED display is quite nifty though – I doubt anyone will mind it especially because it’s customizable.
The display’s power brick is external, which I suppose is a good thing as otherwise the PG32UQX would have been even bigger, and at the top of the monitor you’ll find thread to insert a camera mount – I tried, and this monitor will happily hold my mirrorless camera with a big lens. Streamers, are you getting this?
There is even a USB port at the top right next to it for plugging your webcam or camera into without having to feel around behind the monitor.
Ports and controls
The ROG Swift PG32UQX packs a wide host of connectivity options, but it’s not complete. There are three HDMI 2.0 ports, a single DisplayPort 1.4a port, a three-port USB hub, and a headphone out jack.
But indeed, HDMI 2.1 is missing, and that’s a big one. HDMI 2.1 is now the go-to standard for multimedia connectivity, with all of 2020 and 2021’s GPUs and consoles featuring the interface. Without it, your Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5 won’t be able to run at 4K 120Hz with full color support, and that’s unacceptable for a high-end 4K monitor in 2021 – especially one that costs $3,000. Most new gaming laptops are even shipping with support for HDMI 2.1.
HDMI 2.1 is missing, and that’s unacceptable for a high-end 4K monitor in 2021.
There is a counter-side to that argument, and that is that there are still barely any PC monitors out with HDMI 2.1 in the first place. That, and the official Nvidia G-Sync module isn’t developed to support HDMI 2.1 yet. Regardless, I find it inexcusable on a monitor of this price and caliber. If you plan on using the PG32UQX with a modern console, keep in mind that you’ll be limited to 60Hz or have to make color sacrifices: You will never have an optimal experience.
The display’s OSD has slightly odd controls with a spinning wheel in the middle and a button to each side, but it is easy to navigate and most of the required settings are present.
However, in HDR mode, there is no brightness control, which is a problem. One can argue whether this matters as brightness in HDR is meant to be controlled by the PC and not the monitor, but I still prefer seeing some form of brightness modifier at all so that the baseline brightness can be adjusted to a comfortable level for the room.
There is a cooling fan
Before wrapping up, there is one more drawback that’s worth mentioning: the display has a cooling fan. It turns on the moment the display does, and while it isn’t loud, it is audible. This isn’t a problem if you use headphones or have silent music playing, but it may bug you if you enjoy a silent room and have an otherwise quiet computer.
Mini-LED and HDR
If there’s one reason you’re interested in buying the PG32UQX, it’s Mini-LED and its HDR performance. I’ll start with the good stuff: When using proper HDR content, the visuals the PG32UQX is able to produce are nothing short of astonishing. As if the monitor wasn’t worth its asking price this whole time, it suddenly was, almost.
However, as you can imagine, this illuminated column effect is undesirable, which is why manufacturers are experimenting with Mini-LED: an illumination technique that rather than edge-lighting the display, places an array with a huge number of individually controllable LEDs directly behind the panel. This illumination technique is called Full-Array Local Dimming (FALD), and in the PG32UQX’s case, that’s 1152 zones, offering lavishly fine local dimming control.
In a way, FALD actually fixes the major drawbacks of IPS panels: Backlight bleeding and IPS glow are no longer a problem because the afflicted area just isn’t illuminated when displaying black. The static contrast ratio isn’t as relevant either again, because the area simply wouldn’t be illuminated when displaying a black image.
Individual zones can peak at up to 1,400 nits of brightness when displaying highlights, and although I was unable to test this number due to my tester’s limitations, I’ll take Asus’ word on it: Bright lights, the sun, fires, and other highlights really popped off the screen in almost eye-searing brightness, which was really a sight to behold when just to the left of said object an area would be fully dark, displaying an inky-black night sky.
This kind of realistic luminosity control is exactly what HDR is all about, and the PG32UQX more than delivers. Especially in games running at higher framerates with G-Sync enabled, the PG32UQX is a joy to use. It’s not the fastest panel, but it’s plenty fast for non-competitive gameplay.
Fire up a game that does HDR properly, and you’re in for a spectacle.
But the technology isn’t perfect. The IPS panel is only capable of blocking so much light, and although 1,152 zones is magnitudes superior over an edge-lit display with 8 zones (which barely feels like HDR at all after experiencing the PG32UQX), they are still visible zones, especially on darker scenes. Plain desktop use is the worst offender to this — take a black or dark background, and hover your mouse over it: You’ll see a round halo of blue light nervously following around the mouse as it jumps between zones. Or grab a white dialogue box on a dark background, its edges will have an odd yellow sheen on them. You can get used to this effect, but ignoring it is difficult and you will always be reminded of how the technology is still imperfect.
However, desktop use isn’t really a fair test, as individual elements are often far too small for the zones. It doesn’t address the higher peak brightness levels, and Microsoft’s HDR implementation still needs refinement. But with dynamic content, such as games, movies or tv shows, the halo effect is far less prominent. That’s because individual bright elements are often bigger, but also because there’s just far more movement happening on-screen.
Fire up a game that does HDR properly, go into the settings and properly calibrate the peak darkness and peak brightness levels so that the game engine correctly addresses the HDR brightness responsivity of the monitor, and you’re in for a spectacle. Trust me, you’ll forget all about the halo-effect with games and videos.
Thanks to its IPS panel, the PG32UQX has great color performance, which paired with the 4K resolution at the 32-inch size make it a dream as an editing display, especially if you produce HDR content.
We tested the monitor in SDR mode as our tester doesn’t do HDR, and the panel’s color performance does impress. At the start of testing, I ran into the sRGB color clamp pinning color coverage at a perfect 100% of sRGB, which is a much-appreciated feature: unclamped sRGB colors can often look over-saturated on wide-gamut monitors, so it’s nice to see the inclusion of this limiter.
With the clamp off, the panel covered a tidy 100% of the AdobeRGB and 97% of the DCI-P3 color spaces, with color accuracy rated at a Delta-E (difference from real) of 1.77. Any Delta-E under 2 is considered good enough for professional work. Calibrating the display did not yield any significant improvements, but its performance is plenty good out of the box.
Gamma performance was also perfect, though I was unimpressed with the panel’s native static contrast ratio. Whereas IPS panels, especially flat samples generally pin a result of about 1000:1, the best recorded contrast ratio I achieved in testing this sample was 810:1, which is what I would expect from a curved IPS panel that bleeds a little more due to the pressure. But this is a flat panel.
That being said, this was tested without HDR and the panel’s variable backlight feature switched off. We test like this to properly judge the panel’s native contrast ratio without automated changes in the backlighting interfering with the result. With variable backlighting switched on, the contrast ratio was much better, genuinely producing deep blacks even in SDR mode – and I reckon that most people using this monitor will want to leave the variable backlighting feature enabled. The only exception would be when doing color-critical work as dimmed backlighting does cause color shift in the adjacent areas.
This raises the question of how much it really matters that the panel’s contrast performance isn’t great, which is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, it shouldn’t matter with this kind of backlighting, but a panel with better static contrast performance would do a better job at blocking light, and thus do a better job at combatting the haloing exhibited by the PG32UQX.
Do keep in mind that contrast performance is something that varies greatly from sample to sample, and given that I feel this sample performed at the bottom end of the spectrum with other reports stating much higher contrast ratios, chances are you’ll have better luck.
What about OLED as an alternative?
If you’re looking for the perfect HDR experience that doesn’t have any haloing under any circumstances, chances are that you’re thinking something along the lines of ‘what about just getting an OLED panel instead?’ and I wouldn’t blame you for it. In fact, that’s a good idea, but OLED panels do come with their own sets of perils.
The attraction would be that each pixel is its own light source. One pixel could be lit at peak brightness, and those directly adjacent to it pitch black. No halo-ing, just pure and perfect luminosity control across the panel. HDR would look great in the windows desktop and in all movies and games with no visual sacrifice.
But, there are a few catches. First and foremost, there are no OLED PC gaming monitors, and the smallest OLED TV’s currently come in at about 48-inches in diagonal. That’s a little big for use on a desk as a PC monitor, especially without a curve. They’re also all glossy, burn-in is a potential risk especially with the amount of static content PC desktop use pertains, and to mitigate burn-in, peak brightness is also limited so you’ll never quite get that “I have to look away because it’s so bright” level of immersion.
At the end of the day, the choice between Mini-LED and OLED is one of concessions: Which will you be able to tolerate, and which will you not. But if you’re asking yourself whether you should get the PG32UQX or an OLED TV for content consumption, then the PG32UQX is probably not for you – an OLED TV might not last as long, but it costs less than half as much – and I’ll bet that the PG32UQX will depreciate faster than an OLED will reach $0 in value.
The Asus ROG Swift PG32UQX is an amazing piece of equipment. With an array featuring 1,152 Mini-LED illumination zones, it produces an HDR experience that is unlike any other PC monitor currently on the market. There already aren’t many 32-inch 4K gaming monitors on the market in the first place, so sitting in front of one that not only comes in that size, but also has FALD illumination is like sitting in front of a unicorn. At least at this time, the PG32UQX offers the most stunning HDR performance available on PC without turning to an OLED television.
The PG32UQX is at the cusp of what PC monitor technology can do nowadays, and if you’re after an HDR spectacle for your desk, it’s the tool for the job. But like any cutting-edge technology, it’s far from perfect and in that respect, the PG32UQX feels a bit like a prototype: there is no HDMI 2.1 so it’s not exactly future-proofed and I feel the Mini-LED technology, while it looks good now, will soon be outdated due to new developments. Add to that the usual panel performance lottery, no baseline HDR brightness control and an annoying cooling fan, and it quickly becomes a very challenging proposition to spend $2,999 on a monitor.
Are there any alternatives?
No. There are currently no other PC monitors that offer fast, 4K gaming performance paired with FALD and this level of color performance. Your other best bet is an OLED TV like LG’s 48-inch C1 model, but that comes with its own set of compromises, provided you have the desk space for it at all.
How long will it last?
From a functional perspective, I see no reason why the ROG Swift PG32UQX couldn’t last a minimum of five years. But between the lack of HDMI 2.1 and rapidly developing alternative display technologies, you’ll likely itch to replace it long before it breaks, especially if you’re someone that likes to live at the forefront of technology.
Should I buy it?
For most gamers, no. It has a few flaws that are guaranteed to be dealbreakers for large groups of buyers, especially at this price.
If you have deep pockets, and just want the best HDR gaming monitor you can currently buy right now, then the ROG Swift PG32UQX is as good as it gets But for most of us it’s like an exotic sports car: I’d like to rent it, just to experience it, but I wouldn’t want to own it.
HDR. These three letters have been one of the most important developments in TV and monitor technology in recent years, and for good reason. They stand for High Dynamic Range, a technology that offers a higher degree of luminosity control over SDR, or Standard Dynamic Range, images. Where SDR assigns each pixel a color value, HDR complements that value with a pixel brightness, allowing for far deeper black values and much brighter highlights — an important factor in figuring out the best monitor for you.
A night scene on a proper HDR display will display almost true, deep blacks, but then a flashlight shining at the camera can be eye-searingly bright — an excellent feature for improved immersion and realism, no matter what you’re watching or playing.
But, there are multiple standards for HDR performance and various different display technologies that can all vastly alter the experience, so when you’re shopping for a new computer monitor and you care for HDR, it can be helpful to understand what’s what before pulling the trigger.
DisplayHDR, HDR10, Dolby Vision … an ocean of standards
VESA, an industry group that sets a handful of display standards in the PC industry (including the infamous VESA mount and DisplayPort technologies), set some standards for rating the HDR performance of PC monitors. These range all the way from DisplayHDR 400 up to DisplayHDR 1400. These are ratings to communicate to the consumer what the peak brightness is that a particular display is able to achieve.
For example, DisplayHDR400 is the lowest standard, offering a peak brightness of just 400 nits, whereas the top standard is DisplayHDR1400, capable of outputting at over 1400 nits when there is a small but very bright area demanding high brightness. From our experience testing, the lowest DisplayHDR standard, DisplayHDR 400, isn’t very useful, but it has a lot to do with the display technologies used to achieve it. More on that below.
There are other techy terms like HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision that you may also run into. These are the protocols used for encoding and decoding the HDR signals. On televisions, you’ll often find support for both technologies, but on PC monitors it’s all about HDR10, so it’s not something most monitor buyers typically need to worry about.
That said, a selection of television and cinema content comes encoded in Dolby Vision, so for professional video editors, there are a small handful of PC monitors that support this standard — but they’re prohibitively expensive.
How well a display is capable of rendering HDR images essentially boils down to one thing: How the display is illuminated. The vast majority of quality PC monitors nowadays use IPS displays, though VA panels are quickly rising in popularity thanks to their better contrast ratio and lower costs. But both of these are essentially the same thing when it comes to illumination: A variable color filter with a lamp behind it.
Nowadays, this lamp generally comprises a series of LEDs at the edge of a panel, hence the term “edge-lit,” and can be wired into multiple zones. That’s where we get into the difference between global dimming and local dimming.
An important bit of knowledge here is about a panel’s contrast ratio — its ability to block light when showing a black image. No LCD panel is able to block all the light, with IPS panels, despite offering excellent colors, “only” achieving static contrast ratios of 1000:1. This means that a white image is 1,000 times brighter than black. VA panels might not offer the same pixel response or color performance, but they do offer a much higher contrast ratio often in the realm of 3,000:1, making way for deeper, inky blacks.
To create true blacks, the lighting itself needs to be dimmed.
For global dimming, a display has no specific zones it can individually control the brightness of, instead changing the brightness of the entire display to meet the image needs. This is generally a rather ineffective way of rendering HDR images as it limits peak brightness and leaves all of the display illuminated in dark scenes with a single, small bright element. Fortunately, these displays are only allowed to carry the DisplayHDR 400 label and no higher — we consider these not to be HDR-capable displays because of this, since, although they have the controller technology to interpret HDR signals, they aren’t capable of effectively recreating them.
Make the jump to local dimming, and suddenly the experience vastly improves. For displays with local dimming, the edge lighting is split into multiple zones, often 8, 16, or 32 zones, almost always as vertical columns. Of course, this requires a more complicated design, so these monitors do cost a bit more.
Because the backlighting is split up into multiple zones, the peak brightness of individual zones goes up. This is a balance of power draw. If the entire display is bright, then the maximum brightness is generally limited, but if much of the display is dark, an individual zone can light up much brighter than the display’s typical brightness, meeting the DisplayHDR rated maximum brightness. Is that night scene with the flashlight coming to mind?
But as you can imagine, this form of lighting is still imperfect: In that scene, most of the display will be dark, except for the column with the flashlight — the entire area above and below the flashlight will also be illuminated, emitting a blueish sheen while the rest of the display is dimmed to true black. This effect is less prominent on VA panels compared with IPS due to their improved dark levels, but still visible.
Full-Array Local Dimming (FALD)
That’s where Full-Array Local Dimming comes in. But let me warn you, displays with this technology are expensive.
FALD displays don’t use an LED strip at the edge of their panel to illuminate the image, but rather feature a full array (hence the name) of LEDs behind the panel for illumination. An array like this can feature over 1,000 zones, giving much more precise control over which area of the display is illuminated and eliminating the “illuminated column” effect. And because the bright zones are much smaller, often, they can reach ludicrously high peak brightness on small zones.
But there are still drawbacks to this technology too: Power draw, cooling, cost (a FALD array can easily double a monitor’s cost), and the technology still isn’t perfect. Over 1,000 zones is a lot finer control than a small handful of columns but still produces a slight halo effect even if it does offer a far superior HDR experience.
What about OLED
If you want no halo effect, your best bet is an OLED TV. We say TV, because really, there aren’t any gaming OLED monitors out on the market. This is of course for a good reason: Burn-in. Unlike TV shows, movies, and games, computing subjects a panel to a lot of static images — and because each pixel is its own light source on an OLED panel, each pixel can wear out at its own rate. There are tricks to reduce burn-in, but even so, it makes sense that manufacturers are hesitant to put OLED monitors in consumers’ hands.
But if you’re willing to take that risk, OLED TVs make great HDR gaming monitors thanks to their grand size and incredible black levels without any haloing at all — there’s also no backlight bleed, or the glowing that you’ll see on traditional LCD panels. OLED TVs give you the best picture available today.
As far as the image goes, the main catch with OLED is peak brightness levels, as these can be limited to about 600 nits — something the manufacturers do to protect the lifespan of the panels. That being said, for most potential buyers, 600 nits is plenty. Especially those gaming in darker rooms where peak brightness isn’t as important.
Find what’s perfect for you
Having come this far, you may have noticed something: There is no such thing as the perfect monitor. Even if you throw unlimited money at the problem, you still have to make a compromise somewhere, and that’s probably not going to change for quite some time.
While there is no perfect HDR monitor, though, there may be one that’s perfect for you. For the majority of gamers, the best recommendation for a good HDR monitor is one with edge-lit, local dimming, with a DisplayHDR 600 label or above, based on a VA panel to combat the halo effect as best as possible without breaking the bank.
You’ll still find that although you’ll spot the halo effect in especially dark scenes and desktop use, it falls to the background in most dynamic content and is hardly noticeable at all in daylight scenes.
If you’re a content creator, you may need to drop a few extra pennies on a display with an IPS panel, and if you’re very professional about it, one of the FALD types, but this isn’t necessary for the vast majority of consumers.
BenQ is back with another home projector, and this one is made specifically with gamers in mind. The new BenQ TK700STi 4K projector with HDR support is, according to the company, the first of its kind to offer only 16ms of input lag, making it suitable for people playing fast-paced games like first-person shooters, sports games, and similar.
The new BenQ projector features a short-throw design and support for an image size up to 120-inches at true 4K resolution. The model features Android TV built-in for accessing streaming content, as well as dual HDMI 2.0 connectivity for using it with the Xbox Series X, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch consoles.
As far as connectivity goes, the projector also packs a VGA port, USB-A port, 3.5mm audio jack, two IR receivers, RS232, support for a Kensington lock, and a ‘hidden space’ for the Android TV dongle. The TK700STi has a 240-watt light source, 3000 lumens brightness, 10,000:1 contrast ratio, 1.07 billion colors, and a native 16:9 aspect ratio with five selectable aspect ratio options.
Assuming the projector is used in its normal operation mode, users can expect around 4,000 hours from the lamp before it needs to be replaced. There are other modes available to extend that time, however, including a SmartEco mode for around 8,000 hours of use, an Eco mode at 10,000 hours, and a LampSave mode at 15,000 hours.
Other notable features include a 1.2x zoom, 2D keystone adjustment with picture rotation, auto vertical, and manual horizontal adjustments, and up to a max 300-inch image size. The model sports 96-percent Rec.709 coverage and three different game modes: RPG Game, SPG Game, and FPS Game. There are also modes for other types of entertainment, including cinema, sports, and living room.
The BenQ TK700STi 4K HDR game projector is available now for $1,699 USD.
Optoma has unveiled two new 4K HDR home theater projectors, the $1,300 UHD35 and its slightly more powerful sibling, the $1,400 UHD38. They look like just about every other bulb-based projector on the market, but inside their plain white shells, Optoma has included some technology that will make these models a lot more appealing to gamers.
Home theater projectors do one thing really well: They provide the largest image size for the lowest price. A nice, big 150-inch image or larger is a real tempting way to play console or PC games, but the downside of these projectors is that their input lag and response times are usually too slow for serious gamers, who need things to be as fast as possible. That’s where the UHD35 and UHD38 come in.
Equipped with an Enhanced Gaming Mode, the two projectors boast an input lag as low as 4.2 milliseconds. That might not seem like a big deal when compared to dedicated gaming monitors, which can get as low as 0.7ms, but in the world of projectors, the UHD35 and UHD38 are speed demons — almost twice as quick as the previous fastest model, Optoma’s own HD39HDR.
Response times are equally impressive. If you set your game’s resolution and refresh rate at 1080p at 240Hz, the UHD3X models can turn in a blistering performance of 4.2ms. Even their slowest response rate of 16.7ms when using 4K at 60Hz is not too shabby as far as projectors go.
Those specs are going to please gamers for sure, but these projectors look to be every bit as capable for standard viewing. too. The difference between the two models as you’re no doubt wondering is brightness. The UHD35 kicks out 3,600 lumens, while the UHD38 can output 4,000 lumens. Their bulbs are rated for up to 15,000 hours of life before needing to be changed. They support both HLG and HDR10 formats of high dynamic range (HDR) material. There is also support for Rec.709 and DCI-P3 color spaces, though Optoma hasn’t said what percentage of each the projectors can display.
Optoma claims that, unlike other projectors that are labeled 4K UHD but actually have a lower native resolution, the UHD35 and 38 have a real native resolution of 3840 x 2160 — which has earned these two models a True 4K UHD certification from the Consumer Technology Association (CTA).
Image sizes can get as large as 300 inches depending on the distance from the screen. The back panel sports two HDMI 2.0 with HDCP 2.2 inputs in addition to a VGA port, a powered USB port, an optical output, an analog input and output for audio, and a 12-volt trigger port for use with motorized screens.
Though we can’t imagine anyone will want to use it, there’s also a built-in 10-watt speaker, just in case your need to game on a huge screen takes you away from your home theater setup.
Microsoft already declared that this year’s first major Windows 10 update will be a smaller one than usual, focusing more on keeping the operating system stable and polished. That doesn’t mean, however, that it won’t be introducing new features, some of them bigger than others and might even change the way you see things, quite literally, too. The latest Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 21337 gives a glimpse of what’s coming and it has something for every Windows user, from gamers to multi-taskers and even to die-hard Notepad fans.
Microsoft has been trying to bridge the gap between two of the world’s biggest gaming platforms but, fortunately for either camp, it’s not exactly mashing them up together. Microsoft is instead bringing some Windows features to Xbox and vice versa, like the Xbox Series X|S Auto HDR that’s coming soon to PCs as well. In a nutshell, it uses computational and graphics magic to “upgrade” games that were never designed with HDR in mind to something almost resembling HDR.
The Preview also adds more ways for power users to customize Virtual Desktops to match their workflows and tastes. You will soon be able to reorder those virtual desktops and will be able to assign different backgrounds for individual desktops. This can help give users visual cues that, in turn, could help them separate work and personal desktops as needed.
Microsoft also announced a few changes to its Inbox apps, what it calls the standard set of apps pre-installed in every Windows 10 system. In the next release, the venerable Notepad will finally get a new icon, which could end up confusing some older users. Windows Terminal is also being added to the set and both it and Notepad will be updated via the Microsoft Store rather than through major Windows updates.
The preview build also has other changes, like a more spacious layout for File Explorer. It also comes with known issues that will hopefully get ironed out before the final release goes out to the public.
It’s been a long time coming, but it looks like YouTube finally has HDR support on Xbox consoles. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a console from this generation or the last, if you’re streaming YouTube on a TV that supports HDR, you should be able to tap into HDR while you watch. This is something that has apparently been in the works for a number of years, but it’s here now at last.
That’s according to Flat Panels HD, at least, which tested YouTube on both an Xbox One S from the previous generation and an Xbox Series X from the current generation. That means HDR support is very likely available on Xbox One X and Xbox Series S as well, despite the fact that YouTube wasn’t tested on those two platforms.
If you’re using one of those consoles and you want to confirm that HDR support is up and running for you, you’ll need to toggle on the “stats for nerds” while using the app. There you’ll see that HDR is active using Google’s VP9-2 codec, which is a rather important thing to keep in mind as Flat Panels HD notes that support for the AV1 codec isn’t live at this time. There’s no telling if Google plans to support AV1 videos in the Xbox YouTube app at some point in the future, but for now, videos using that codec won’t play in HDR on Xbox consoles.
On Xbox One S, it seems that resolution and framerate are limited to 1440p60 while HDR is active. On Xbox Series X, however, resolution takes a bump up to 4K60, which is precisely what we’d expect given Microsoft’s push for the console to support 4K resolution across the board.
So, if you’ve got an Xbox and an HDR capable display connected to it, you can now take full advantage of your display’s capabilities while watching YouTube. We’ll see if the YouTube app is updated in the future to support the AV1 codec, so stay tuned for more.