Recommended HDR monitors for photography

B&H is currently offering outstanding deals on some great HDR monitors:

  • $300 off the brand new ASUS PA32UCXR monitor, which is a stunning 1600 nits monitor with 2304 local dimming zones (4x the Pro Display XDR), automated calibration, and single cable charging / pass-through. I recently bought one of these to test and it is amazing. This is the best mini-LED I’ve seen for Windows and is compares very well to the Pro Display XDR for Mac users at half the price. I’ll create a full review in the future, but you can see my initial impressions here.
  • $200 off the ASUS PA32UCR-K monitor. This monitor includes 1000 nits peak brightness and a colorimeter. See my full review here.

HDR offers vastly improved image quality through brighter displays with massively expanded dynamic range. To use it, you’ll need to use an HDR-compatible monitor and I’ve created this page to help answer a lot of questions about which options to consider. We’ll look at general considerations and then options several categories including: Apple laptops, Windows laptops, external monitors (for Apple or Windows), and mobile phones / tablets.

I personally use a 32″ Pro Display XDR (1600 nits mini-LED), M2 MacBook Pro with 14″ Retina XDR (1600 nits mini-LED), iPhone 14 Pro (1600 nits OLED), Pixel 7 Pro (1000 nits OLED), and Sony A80CJ (OLED with 600-750 nits peak for 2-10% of the display area using “brightness preferred”). All of these offer excellent HDR experiences (though the TV only does at night or on very cloudy days with low ambient light). I’ve used these with a wide variety of content in a wide variety of lighting scenarios. I also owned a ASUS Strix SCAR 16 (1100 nits) for a couple weeks, and have tested a very wide range of other hardware at least briefly in person.

If you’re looking for the best options, all the following are ideal ways to get into HDR:

  • The ASUS PA32UCXR is the best option for PC users, and the best value for MacOS users. It offers 1600+ nits with minimal blooming for a mini-LED, excellent color accuracy, and an integrated colorimeter.
  • The Apple Pro Display XDR (for Mac users only). It’s quite expensive (I got one in same as new condition for $3000) but outstanding in every way. It has some advantages for MacOS users, but is not worth ~2X the cost of the ASUS for most users. See my in-depth review.
  • ASUS and Dell offer attractive monitors which support both Mac and PC, detailed below. The ASUS ProArt PA32UCXR is probably the best external monitor for Windows users. Ultimately, you want support for 1000+ nits (an OLED with 600+ nits in a darker room would also offer a good experience).
  • The M1 or later 14″ or 16″ MacBook Pro (which has a 1600 nits XDR display). These displays are so compelling for HDR and the overall quality/performance/battery-life in a laptop makes this such a compelling option that even PC laptop users should strongly consider switching brands, the benefits are objectively significant for photography.
  • Your smartphone. Most iPhones and Android phones have offered great HDR displays for years, there’s a very good chance you own one. The software is finally giving us the chance to use this great hardware for HDR photography. In Q4 2023, iOS 17 added support for HDR AVIF in its Photos app and Android 14 is adding support for HDR web browsing.
  • Your tablet. Many of them are limited, but the new M4 iPad Pro has an XDR display which is absolutely top notch. Because it’s an OLED and has the same peak brightness, it’s the best display Apple sells (though it only edges out the other XDR displays in an incremental way, they are all excellent). In fact, it’s one of the best quality displays period.
  • Your TV (especially an OLED). If you bought it in the last few years, you very likely can connect your computer via HDMI for proper HDR display. See my free e-book for tips to setup your TV for HDR display from your computer.

 

Note: The HDR experience on MacOS is extremely easy, it works by default (with some minor effort if connecting over HDMI). Windows can also deliver great results too, but Apple clearly offers the best hardware and simplicity. I generally try to stay neutral on Mac vs PC, but the benefits are very clear for HDR.

I’ll also mention that HDMI cables can be a bit of a hassle (lacking HDR support in long lengths, stiff and hard to store, or heavy). I love the FIBBR 25 foot HDMI cable (note that as a fiber-optic cable, you need to plug the end marked as #1 into the computer and #2 to the TV)

[Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I rarely endorse other products and only do when I think you would thoroughly enjoy them. By purchasing through my on this post, you are helping to support the creation of my tutorials at no cost to you.]&H is currently offering outstanding deals on some great HDR monitors:

  • $300 off the brand new ASUS PA32UCXR monitor, which is a stunning 1600 nits monitor with 2304 local dimming zones (4x the Pro Display XDR), automated calibration, and single cable charging / pass-through. I recently bought one of these to test and it is amazing. This is the best mini-LED I’ve seen for Windows and is compares very well to the Pro Display XDR for Mac users at half the price. I’ll create a full review in the future, but you can see my initial impressions here.
  • $200 off the ASUS PA32UCR-K monitor. This monitor includes 1000 nits peak brightness and a colorimeter. See my full review here.

Important HDR considerations

There are several considerations for an HDR monitor:  

  • Peak brightness (in nits, aka cd/m^2).
    • 1000+ nits is where HDR gets truly exciting in general. Anything in this range will look excellent for HDR in a range of viewing conditions.
    • 600 nits OLED will also look amazing if you can keep the ambient light low (dark room or working at night).
    • Mini-LED monitors tend to be brighter than OLED at the same reported peak brightness. For example, a 1000 nits mini-LED might be able to show that brightness across the entire screen, while a 1000-nits OLED might only show 1-10% of the screen at that level (and perhaps only a few hundred nits if you try to max out the display). Generally, this difference isn’t huge as good HDR often means a few highlight areas or some bright colors – but it can make a significant difference for images with large areas using HDR pixels. Try looking for DisplayHDR 600 certifications for OLEDs, that would be a good sign (the 400 level performance would be moderate and require a fairly dark environment to appreciate HDR).
    • This is the single most important criteria for HDR display. If the monitor doesn’t get bright enough, it will offer at best a mediocre HDR experience in anything other than a dark room.
    • The absolute minimum for HDR support is 400 nits. A monitor at this level will offer about 1 stop of HDR when viewed at half brightness. That can offer a good experience when viewed in a dim room, but you wouldn’t get much benefit if the screen is near a window or outdoors. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t get very excited about any 400 nits monitor, and many of these monitors still fail to offer a true HDR experience.
    • 600 nits is a noticeable step up over 400, but still just a decent HDR experience. I wouldn’t buy a new monitor just to get 600 nits. It’s just a nice bonus if you have it (and you’ll need to limit your brightness to about 50% of maximum to see real HDR benefit).
  • Deep blacks
    • HDR quality is ultimately about achieving a greater dynamic range, and having a washed out black (not truly black) reduces dynamic range. How much you benefit from deeper blacks depends on your ambient environment. A bright room (or one with bright lights) will reflect light on the screen and may significantly reduce the apparent value of deep blacks.
    • Most monitors use a backlight to illuminate multiple pixels This is known as a “transmissive” display because the light is transmitted through the pixels (rather than emitted from each pixel individually). The LCD restricts the light to create pixels, but it cannot block 100% of the light, so black pixels are not  truly black.
      • This also may show “blooming” where black pixels near bright pixels show as grey because those pixels share the same backlight.
      • The best transmissive displays use “full array local dimming” (FALD). These use more than one backlight so that dark areas in the image may use a darker backlight or perhaps turn it off entirely. This allows for much darker blacks as it reduced bleed through, and often allows for true black in pixels which are not near bright pixels.
      • There are many variations of this approach and those with <100 zones don’t offer a lot of benefit. Look for ideally 500+ local zones.
    • Some monitors (such OLED or future “micro” LED displays) are “emissive” displays which emit light directly from the pixel. These monitors offer true black and significantly improve dynamic range (particularly when viewing in environments without bright ambient light).
      • You may see such monitors marketed as having “infinite” contrast (since you’re dividing the brightness white pixel by a black pixel that is considered to be 0 nits).
    • The difference with black levels will be very obvious when viewing FALD vs OLED in a dark room with content such as a star field (stars in the black night sky). These small bright areas will force a lot of backlight to affect the blacks in the FALD, while the OLED will retain deep blacks. So content which mixes small bright areas near deep shadows will suffer on FALD when viewed in a room dark enough to discriminate between true black and the monitor’s minimum black.
  • Contrast ratio:
    • 600+ nits are often a great sign for quality, but not the entire story. Make sure the display offers a very high contrast ratio. 1000:1 indicates you’re mostly getting bright SDR (blacks won’t be very dark). The ideal is 100,000:1 or more.
  • Calibration / Profiling
    • There is currently no ICC standard for HDR. As a result, it is important to get a monitor which is reasonable to highly accurate out of the box (ideally deltaE <1) or which supports hardware calibration in the monitor itself. You cannot use typical consumer colorimeters to profile HDR displays at this time (aside from supporting MacOS Fine Tune calibration for Apple displays).
    • Apple’s XDR displays are both accurate and support some unique Apple options for calibration.
    • ASUS ProArt monitors support hardware based calibration through their software utility.
    • HDR TVs offer a range of controls and some HDR monitors have controls such as RGB gain which may be used to help improve accuracy of the device. This works best if you use software like CalMAN to help test color accuracy (generally the EOTF for HDR displays is not well described or something you can easily validate). TVs sold in the last couple of years tend to offer pretty decent color accuracy out of the box.
  • VESA DisplayHDR ratings can be helpful, but have some limitations you should be aware of:
    • Many great products are not rated (this includes all Apple displays, and their XDR displays are the gold standard for consumer HDR).
    • Their test methodology for peak brightness is helpful, but their contrast tests have been criticized for  allowing high ratings for monitors which lack local dimming (ie, poor blacks / dynamic range).
    • Why might a monitor have “1000 nits peak brightness” and yet only certify to “DisplayHDR True Black 400” or something like that? Most likely because the peak brightness either does not include enough pixels (ie >10% of the display simultaneously) or cannot hold that level of brightness for a long duration. See the test specs here.
  • Can you adapt the display as needed? 
    • Windows lets you dim the “SDR content brightness” of any monitor, but MacOS only lets you do this with Apple monitors.
    • When you use a 3rd-party display with MacOS, there is no control in the operating system to adapt the SDR white luminance. It will typically be around 200 nits in my experience.
    • That’s fine in with daylight or bright ambient light. However, that’s too bright in a dark room, and it also means you may not achieve as much headroom as you could under Windows.
    • Due to this lack of control, you’re probably better off avoiding a 600 nits OLED under MacOS. The hardware is great, you just might not be able to use it in an optimal way. So an Apple display or 1000+ nits display is probably a better choice under MacOS.
  • Apple vs 3rd-party monitors
    • You can use a 3rd-party display with both MacOS and Windows.
    • Windows users should not purchase Apple monitors at this time due to a lack of physical or software controls (you can get a basic image, but it is unsuitable for HDR).
    • Apple monitors are simpler to use on MacOS. The Pro Display XDR has unique capabilities on MacOS and just works by plugging it in (no setup and color is accurate out of the box). 3rd-party monitors can work great with MacOS too, but you should expect to spend some time to configure/calibrate it. 
    • When Apple has full control of both hardware and software, they can do amazing things. Especially with an XDR display, where you have full control of the SDR brightness in HDR mode, which is very convenient for optimizing for print as well as balancing the brightness of productivity work with your environment. You can also easily switch to various reference modes.
  • How does the monitor look with a reference image?
    • There are so many considerations that there is no substitute for seeing the monitor yourself.
    • If you are comparing monitors in a store, use Google Chrome to view my tests and example HDR images. Be especially sure to use test #8 to check the HDR headroom. This shows the real HDR benefit at the current monitor brightness (and SDR content brightness for Windows).
    • Check system settings to ensure HDR is enabled in Windows or the display settings for an HDMI monitor on MacOS.
    • Check that the SDR content brightness is 0-50 (if this slider is set too high on a 400 nits monitor, you won’t have any HDR headroom at all).
    • Check that the monitor settings (brightness, etc) are reasonable.
  • Non-HDR considerations:
    • Look for a monitor which covers most or all of either the P3 or Adobe RGB gamut. Most HDR images will still look with a limited sRGB gamut, but don’t limit yourself to colors from the ’90s.
    • You can experience HDR at any resolution and 4k resolution isn’t very important for photography with even 32″ monitors. Unless you’re editing 4k video, this is a place to consider saving some money.
    • If you are going to evaluate images for print with your HDR monitor, all the standard considerations apply in terms of even illumination, etc. That said, I’ve made a lot of large prints using a budget monitor with proper calibration and profiling. Learn more about considerations for printing with HDR workflows here.
    • High refresh rates are helpful for gaming, but not important for photography – and you may need use less than the maximum refresh rate in some setups to use HDR.
  • Price
    • HDR monitors are definitely a bit of an investment. Costs should start to come down as volumes increase in the coming years. The general range in late 2022 is about $500 – $3000 for most consumer options (but you can find $300 options and spend $35k on an HDR reference monitor).
    • If you’re on a tight budget, you might wait a while or purchase a 400-600 nits monitor if you will be able to use it at half brightness.
    • If you have a larger budget, get a 1000+ nits monitor for an outstanding display. The benefits of HDR increase substantially with these brighter monitors.
  • GPU / video card / codec
    • Microsoft customer support indicated that there is no specific GPU or video card requirement to enable HDR in Windows 10 or 11 so long as you have an HDR monitor.
    • I’m not 100% confident that there aren’t exceptions to that, but I am not aware of any at this time.
    • Apple explicitly lists their compatible HDR hardware here.
  • Considerations for testing in a store: There are numerous scenarios where HDR may not look optimal in a default store setting even for a great HDR monitor. Be sure to check all the following:
    • Make sure you pass test #1 on my page. If HDR headroom is not showing 1-4 stops: make sure HDR mode is switched on in the operating system settings, that you set the display as an extended (not mirrored) display in Windows, check that the external monitor’s controls are set for an HDR signal, and that the display brightness is not set too high if the monitor only supports 400-600 nits.
    • If you pass test #1, but test#2 shows a clipped gradient: that is likely because there is a ICC profile in use, try switching back to sRGB or the factory profile. This may also be caused by 3rd party software (I have seen this with both ASUS and MSI laptops).
    • One brand at CES 2024 showed soon-to-be released monitors which showed hard to read text in HDR mode (some very bright white edges to black text). The root issue was the sharpness setting in the display settings, setting it back to 0 fixed the issue. Hopefully it won’t ship with this as a default in the final shipping product, but I want to mention as it looked terrible on both their miniLED and OLED monitors until I changed this setting.

Everyone has different needs

Different photographers will have different needs based on budget, color accuracy concerns, size requirements, etc. And you may also care about gaming or other uses like video. So a few things to consider:

  • Budget: You tend to get what you pay for. I have a super-cheap 600 nits PC laptop and the display is pretty awful in terms of color accuracy and deep shadow detail – even though it is OLED. As time goes on, we should see great monitors at affordable prices, but be careful with any deals that seem too good to be true.
  • Refresh rate: If you’re a gamer, mini-LED refresh rates / response times tend to be much slower than OLED and may not meet your expectations. QD OLED should help brightness and may be ideal if you can’t keep ambient light super low. But otherwise, mini-LED is probably a great choice for most photographers as they tend to offer better peak brightness for working in bright ambient conditions.
  • Gamut: Anything with a high percentage P3 coverage is probably great. If you buy WOLED or another technology which uses a white sub-pixel for brightness, you might be limited more towards sRGB and I would try to avoid that if possible. You do not need high coverage of Rec2020, and there may even be some downside risk for color appearance (observer metamerism) due to narrow power spectral distribution for many ultra-wide gamut displays. AdobeRGB coverage is ideal for print (as it includes printable colors outside P3 for green/cyan), but isn’t emphasized by many monitor manufacturers.
  • Resolution: Opinions vary here for printing (for evaluating sharpness), but I don’t think there’s any concern unique to HDR here. If you print much, you know what you need or are comfortable with. If not, I wouldn’t overthink it. I would personally be comfortable on a wide range of displays (it’s more about how you use it, be sure to stick with zoom factors which are multiples of 100%).
  • Charging and ports: Until we have an abundance of good HDR displays, I wouldn’t worry about using your monitor as a USB hub or charging cable. Just get a decent USB / Thunderbolt dock if the monitor doesn’t include your ideal extras.

Apple HDR laptop

If you want the best possible HDR experience in a laptop, Apple MacBook Pro (M1 or later) is the hands-down winner. Apple may have a reputation for being premium pricing, but I belive the MacBook Pro is the best value out there. You get a best-in-class 1600 nits Retina XDR display, blazing fast performance, excellent battery life, and outstanding quality and customer support. You don’t have to spend a lot either. I’ve frequently seen sales on the M1, base model M2 or used ones on Craiglist for well under $2000. The base CPU/GPU offers great performance for most photographers. I recommend the 14″ if you want to travel light, the 16″ if you want the best screen, upgrading to 32GB of RAM if budget allows, and an internal drive that covers your essential needs. If you have the budget, the M2 with 32-64GB RAM and 2-4TB is great. 

Beyond that, the entire lineup supports at least some level of HDR. They’ve been shipping with HDR monitors back to 2018 (see the support list). So nearly any new or used laptop should support HDR, but you should check the list.

Any Apple displays branded as “XDR” (such as the M1 MacBook Pro, recent iPads, etc) is outstanding. These displays offer peak brightness of 1600 nits or more. And they are very cost effective relative to other options. An entry level MacBook Pro costs the same as the typical external 1000+ nits screen. Of course the external screen is larger, but you’re getting an incredible HDR screen with these devices. This is an ideal way to get into HDR.

The MacBook Air offers 400-500 nits, which is great if you own one or need a laptop for other reasons, but I wouldn’t upgrade a laptop solely for the screen if it doesn’t offer at least 600-1000 nits.

External HDR monitor

External monitors are of course required for desktop computers or for seeing images on a large screen when working with a laptop. Unfortunately, price points for the best HDR monitors remain quite high, but there are already several great options. I’ll offer some specific options to consider below, but first let’s take a look at the most important considerations.

I have not had the opportunity to test many of the following monitors significantly, but believe they are well worth considering based on their specifications and/or my experience with them in stores. I’ve marked them as “promising” to indicate my lack of in-depth experience. I’m including my rationale as to why I feel they are interesting, so that you may help determine if any of these are ideal for your needs:

  • Best in class: Apple Pro Display XDR ($5-7,000; see latest price on Amazon or B&H)
    • This is the monitor I personally use and absolutely love. See my review of the Pro Display XDR.
    • 1600 nits makes this an ideal option for HDR.
    • Additionally it offers 32″ size, wide color gamut (99% P3), 6k resolution, 1600nits, great accuracy (ΔE < 1) .
    • This monitor is ideal for MacOS users due to advanced integration which is not available for any other monitor (on MacOS or Windows).
    • This monitor integrates extremely well with Macs and I’ve great feedback from a friend who uses it extensively for HDR. One particularly nice Mac feature is the ability to set specific SDR and HDR brightness values (the M1 / M2 MacBook Pro’s internal XDR display offers this as well). You get what you pay for, this is a truly excellent monitor.
    • Note: this monitor is only for use with MacOS (it has very basic support on a PC, which does not include any HDR).
  • Excellent: ASUS Pro Art PA32UCXR (~$3,000; see latest price at B&H)
    • 1600 nits peak (I actually measure up to 1750 nits) with 1000 nits full screen brightness (DisplayHDR 1400), quantum dot mini-LED with 2304 dimming zones.
    • Also includes 4k resolution, a very nice stand, 99% Adobe RGB coverage, 97% P3, 85% Rec2020.  This is a great gamut great for HDR but also optimized to support print workflows.
    • Self-calibrating: Built-in calibration hardware can run on its own (even without a computer or scheduled off hours). Also supported by CalMAN / ColorSpace. ΔE < 1, see ProArt Hardware Calibration
    • Supports Dolby Vision (and HDR10, HLG), dual Thunderbolt4 with 90W power delivery, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.4 and a built-in USB Hub (one Type-C, 3 of the older rectangular Type-A, all support USB 3.2 Gen 2)
    • This monitor offers several advantages over the Pro Display XDR:
      • Significantly lower cost.
      • Supports both PC and MacOS (the Pro Display XDR has some advantages on MacOS including.
      • Single cord connection (can charge your laptop and connect multiple downstream devices).
      • Somewhat less blooming / haloing in extremely dark content (though you would rarely see it with either). The ASUS never achieves the full blacks possible on the XDR, but it is less prone to blooming and ultimately shows more shadow detail in very dark areas. This is so dark that it isn’t a big advantage for editing as your viewers wouldn’t see it.
      • Rec2020 support. You’re only getting 85% coverage, but this does translate into the potential slightly more saturated green/cyan colors.
      • The integrated calibration hardware is nice and gives a sense of confidence, but the XDR is very accurate and most photographers will be very happy with either.
    • On the flip side, the Pro Display XDR has some advantages for MacOS users:
      • If you use MacOS and want the best experience with outstanding results, the XDR is the way to go. Simple controls for brightness, no calibration needed, zero noise, and the best uniformity. The XDR’s higher price is justified for those with a serious budget.
      • Apple support is excellent, and my limited experience with ASUS support (unrelated to this monitor) did not meet my expectations.
      • Simple control over brightness as well as easier SDR mode switching / viewing for print-related work. This is quite nice, as you can easily change the brightness of the display anytime in HDR mode – whereas a 3rd-party display like the ASUS requires switching to SDR mode (due to the limitations of MacOS, not the monitor – PCs do not have this limitation with the monitor).
      • Offers a full 4 stops vs 3.3 for the ASUS (due to different EOTF under MacOS, the monitor capabilities are fairly similar). This can be useful.
      • 6k (vs 4k) resolution. I don’t think this will matter significantly to most photographers.
      • The XDR offers better uniformity, especially for darker tones in the corners.
      • Complete silence vs minor fan noise with this ASUS measuring ~28 dB at times (you would only hear this fan noise in a very quiet environment).
  • Very promising: ASUS ProArt 32″ PA32UCG (~$2,800 while inventory lasts; see latest price at Amazon or B&H) **
    • 1600 nits mini-LED (DisplayHDR 1400) with 1152 local zones and a 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio makes this an ideal option for HDR.
    • Also offers 32″, wide color gamut (98% P3), 4k resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, Dolby Vision, great accuracy (ΔE < 1)
    • While I have not seen this model yet, I have seen its sibling which is optimized for gaming and already would consider that an excellent option (whereas this model is optimized for photography).
  • Very promising: ASUS PA32UCDM (price TBD, not yet launched)
    • 1000 nits QD-OLED
    • Great accuracy (ΔE < 1): Built-in calibration hardware can run on its own (even without a computer or scheduled off hours). Also supported by CalMAN / ColorSpace.
    • Also offers 31.5″, wide color gamut (99% P3), 4k resolution,
  • Very promising: Dell UP3221Q (~$3500; see latest price on Amazon or B&H) **
    • 1000 nits mini-LED (DisplayHDR 1000) with ~2000 local dimming zones
    • Also offers 32″, wide color gamut (99.8% P3), 4k resolution, built-in colorimeter, Thunderbolt 3 (in addition to DisplayPort / HDMI), good accuracy (ΔE < 2)
    • Note: buyer reviews on Amazon mention concerns with display uniformity (though other comments on B&H don’t suggest issues), so be sure to buy with an option to return if you are not satisfied.
  • Very promising: ASUS PA32UCX-PK ($2300; see latest price on Amazon).
    • 1200 nits mini-LED with 1152 zones(DisplayHDR 1000)
    • includes X-rite Calibrator
    • Also features: 4K, 99% DCI-P3 99.5% Adobe RGB, DeltaE<1, 10-bit
  • Very good: ASUS ProArt 32″ PA32UCR-K (~$1300; see latest price on Amazon or B&H)
    • 1000 nits mini-LED with 576 local dimming zones (DisplayHDR 1000). I bought one and have measured an actual peak of 1500 nits. SDR white is just over 200 nits while in HDR mode.
    • This is great monitor if you set it up correctly (using the settings below and included calibration hardware). But it may show some concerns with both local dimming and color accuracy with default settings out of the box. You may be frustrated if you do not set it up properly.
    • Also offers 4k and wide gamut (98% P3) and fairly good accuracy (ΔE < 1 is claimed, but the monitor has a notable shift from red/orange towards yellow and slightly warm neutrals straight out of the box.).
    • X-rite i1 Display Pro calibration device included. This is very important to use. Out of the box, I saw red and orange HDR colors shifted quite a bit towards yellow, but they looked great after calibration. I also saw highlight clipping around 2.0 stops even though the official headroom is 2.6. Both of these problems were easily resolved when I used the calibration tool. Set the monitor to PQ DCI, leave the RGB gain controls at the default 50 (while I got better results in CalMAN, the calibration software was fighting it and reported worse results), and turn off HDR in MacOS while you are calibrating (the software warns you to do this – you’ll actually get HDR values this way and see dimmer results during calibration if HDR is on, very confusing). See this video for tips to use it for HDR calibration, as well as a great detailed review.
    • While images generally look very nice, there is fairly distracting local dimming in areas which are darker and of less detail (in both SDR and HDR mode) at default settings. This can be seen with my “dark halo” test. It appears to dum the local backlight too much in the presence of brighter pixels. It is generally hard to see in photos unless you have very smooth detail like water or open sky, but you may find this distracting at default settings in the user interface of Photoshop or text editors when using a dark theme. Thankfully, you can significantly improve the results by tweaking the OSD controls:
      • Raise ProArt Palette / Black Level / Backlight as high as the maximum 10 (vs the default 0). This resolves most of the dark halo. Anything above 0 prevents perfect blacks, but it is well worth this tradeoff. You can see a clear difference between this monitor and the Pro Display XDR with extremely dark content in a black room, but both show shadow deeper than you will often see with an iPhone in bright light or when set to very low brightness. So any improvement here would help you enjoy dark content, but achieves what you need to reliably to safely edit for other displays.
      • Reduce ProArt Palette / Black Level / Signal to around 25-35 (vs the default 50). This helps restore some of the shadow contrast lost from bumping the backlight.
      • Leave System Setup / Dynamic Dimming at the default “medium” setting seems to minimize any residual distractions (such as cursor lag or when zooming).
      • You can switch to a lighter theme in PS to help further avoid seeing haloing around layer names if you’re sensitive to it after the above adjustments. You could also disable local dimming, but this raises the minimum blacks quite a bit.
      • I believe most photographers will be very happy with this display once setup to address the haloing. It’s a great value at this price point. I suspect that some further improvements in performance might be possible if there were a firmware update, so hopefully it may improve even further. I tested with the latest firmware as of Mar 8, 2024 (MCM 204)
    • If you are concerned with haloing or display uniformity, the PA32UCXR offers superior local dimming (with >4x the number of local zones and a newer design). If you currently do print work on a high end (>$1000) SDR display, you might be be happier with a higher end HDR monitor. But if you haven’t spent huge sums on your current monitor, you will likely be very happy with this model and save quite a bit over other HDR options.
  • Very good: ASUS ProArt 27″ PA27UCX-K (~$1500; see latest price on B&H) **
    • 1000 nits mini-LED with 576 local dimming zones (DisplayHDR 1000). Like the other ASUS displays, this one seems like to exceed the advertised performance on brightness (I’m measuring a bit over 1600 nits).
    • Also offers 4K and wide gamut (97% P3), great accuracy (ΔE < 1).
    • X-rite i1 Display Pro calibration device included.
    • This monitor shows slight bright halos around bright content. It’s a fairly minor issue and I do not see a way to improve results further. It’s a different behavior than I see with the PA32UCR-K (where things get darker), and is less of a concern with this model. The PA32UCXR is well worth the price premium over both of those displays.
    • Note that unlike the PA32UCXR and PA32UCR-K models, the PA27UCX does not support calibration of the non-user modes. You should instead rely on User Mode 1 & 2 to set your targets and calibrate. So you could for example set mode 1 for your P3 HDR and mode 2 for your preferred SDR settings.
    • Note: You can only calibrate the User Modes. It’s not a problem (as you can configure them to any SDR / HDR target), just different than the other ASUS models.
    • Note: There is a bug in the current Windows version of the ASUS calibration software specific to this model which prevents calibration from completing for HDR modes. I contacted ASUS support and they said that they are working on a fix. For PC users, you can still calibrate SDR and HDR accuracy out of the box is very good. MacOS is not affected.
  • Promising: Cooler Master Tempest GP27-FUS (~$800, see latest price on B&H)
    • 1000 nits mini-LED sounds promising, but customer reviews for quality seem a bit mixed on this brand and I would not expect great color accuracy. They claim they could meet DisplayHDR 1000 specs, but do not appear to be certified on Vesa’s site.

In general, anything with a 1400 or 1000 nits DisplayHDR certification list will likely offer impressive HDR. Anything certified as Display HDR 600 True Black should be a good option for use in darker environments.

==> Be careful with the low end of the market, there’s definitely some junk out there with “HDR” slapped on the box. I recommend going to a store to compare the best and worst HDR monitors. Viewing my HDR tests and images on Google Chrome is a quick way to see for yourself.

==> Only buy monitors I marked as “promising” if you have tried one yourself or can return (as I have not personally tested them).

==> ASUS support (https://www.asus.com/us/support/callus/) tells me that returns are allowed in the US within 30 days of ordering. They will give a FREE return shipping label. A non-defective return may be subject to a possible 15% restocking fee (at their discretion, and I suspect this is not often applied for products returned in original condition with all the original packaging, etc). I would contact them to know the return policy for other countries, but this seems like a reasonable option if you’re interested but wish to get hands on experience to confirm one of their products for your own use.

Windows HDR laptop

The Windows laptop ecosystem is much more mixed/limited than what you’ll see at an Apple store today, so you’ll need to do more homework to find a suitable display. An external HDR monitor is probably the best option for most PC users at this time.

I have purchased the ASUS Strix SCAR 16 (which I returned for reasons covered below) and done a fair bit of reviewing details of available HDR options. I try to maintain neutrality on various tools and focus on teaching the art of photography and I fully respect many people love and prefer PCs. However, after extensive experience with a range of HDR computers over the past year, I believe Apple offers an objectively better laptop for HDR photography than any PC laptop I have seen (not even close in my experience). Unless you run other gaming or productivity software which will not run on MacOS, I would recommend the M1 or M2 MBP zero hesitation. These are outstanding computers sold at very competitive prices for what they offer.

The fundamental issue I see is that Apple Silicon’s efficiency offers a level of performance to battery weight / size which HDR PC laptops are going to struggle to match for a very long time. There’s a bit of a chicken and egg problem too as both PC ARM hardware and Windows ARM need investment, but neither investment pays off until the other is ready. My emphasis here is on the laptop options, a PC desktop can offer a great HDR experience (since weight and power draw aren’t a concern there).

Here are some Windows laptops offering high levels of HDR display:

  • Lenovo 16″ Slim Pro 9i Multi-Touch Notebook (~$1800, see latest price at B&H) **
    • Features a 1200 nits mini-LED
    • Also includes 2.6 GHz Intel Core i9 (13th Gen), 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD
    • I’ve seen this at Costco and the display is nice. Lenovo claims deltaE <1.
    • Reviews raise questions around battery life.
  • ASUS Strix SCAR 16 ($2900-3700, see latest price at Amazon or B&H)
    • Features a 1100 nits display (self reports as 1261 in Windows). It has less than half as many local dimming zones as the MacBook Pro (1024 vs 2500) and you can see more significant blooming clearly in the boot screen for this computer.
    • This computer currently costs $2900 (I was able to buy an open box / new one for $2400 at a local store). For the exact same price, you can get an M2 MBP with16″ display, 32GB RAM and 1TB SSD to for comparable specs, but you’ll have a better HDR display, much simpler HDR setup/interface, faster performance, lighter weight, and better quality. You can get one of the Apple devices down below $2000 new with lesser specs (all of which offer the same great HDR display) or even less with sales or used devices.
    • Performance at default settings is modest (takes 80% longer to complete G-Bench than the M2 MAX MacBook Pro). When plugged in and settings are switched to optimize for performance over battery life, it runs about 30% slower than the M2 and the fans are quite audible – and you’ll only achieve its highest level of performance when plugged into the wall.
    • This is a hefty machine both physically and in weight. The power block is also massive and it draws too much power to use a USB-C power supply. I would not travel with this machine.
    • Watchout for extra software on Windows computers like this, as it may cause HDR conflicts. I found the screen frequently would show a pink color shift until I went to System / Display. Ultimately, I resolved this by removing ASUS software which came with the laptop. 
    • I bought this for Windows validation testing of my software. My hope was to get faster performance than the virtual machine I’ve run on an old Intel Mac and gain HDR on Windows. But the performance is only marginally better and given the bulk of this device, I have returned it.
  • ASUS ROG Flow X16 GV601RW, (see latest price at Amazon)**
    • DisplayHDR 1000 certified
  • ASUS ROG Zephyrus Duo 16 GX650RW (see latest price at Amazon or B&H)**
    • DisplayHDR 1000 certified
  • ASUS ProArt StudioBook 16″ OLED laptop  (~$2,200, see latest price at Amazon or B&H)**
    • DisplayHDR 600 True Black certified. If you work in a dark environment, this should offer a great HDR experience given the deep blacks and lack of blooming with OLED. But HDR benefits will likely be limited in bright environments.
    • DeltaE <2 for relatively high color accuracy out of the box.

** I have not personally tested these devices.

There are a handful of options at lower HDR specifications, but as with the MacBook Air, I wouldn’t go out of my way for anything less than 1000 nits.

Gaming monitors

I would be somewhat careful with gaming monitors for photography as they may show color fringing in fine details (such as text), may have curved monitors (which can cause more reflections from ambient light), often lack high color accuracy or ways to calibrate, and generally aren’t designed with photographers needs in mind. However, if you do a lot of gaming and photography is just one consideration for you, a gaming monitor may be a great choice. A few to consider:

  • Very promising: 34″ (curved) Dell Alienware  QD-OLED Gaming Monitor AW3423DW (~$1200, see latest price on Amazon) **
    • 1000 nits (DisplayHDR 400 True Black)
    • Also offers large 34″ screen (curved), high refresh rate for gaming (175Hz, but I’m not sure the max allowed when HDR is enabled)
  • Very promising: 27″ Acer Nitro XV275K (~$650, see latest price on Amazon) **
    • Display HDR 1000
  • Very promising: 32″ (curved) Odyssey Neo G7 HDR2000 Curved Gaming Monitor – LS32BG752NNXGO (~$850, see latest price on Amazon) **
    • Claims 2000 nits, but rtings.com puts it closer to 1000
    • Also offers 32″ screen (curved)
  • Very promising: ViewSonic XG321UG (~$2400, see latest price on Amazon or B&H)
    • 1400 nits peak brightness (Display HDR 1400), 1152 mini-LED backlighting zones, 10-bit depth (DisplayHDR 1400 certified)
    • Also offers 32″, 4K, 99% AdobeRGB, 144 Hz refresh rate
  • Very promising: AOC Porsche Design AGON Pro PD32M (~$1800, see latest price on Amazon or B&H) **
    • 1600 nits peak brightness (DisplayHDR 1400)
    • Also offers 32″, 4K, 144 Hz refresh rate
  • Very promising: MSI 321URX OLED (~$1200, EXPECTED FEB 2024)
    • 1000 nits peak brightness (DisplayHDR 400 True Black)
    • Also features: 32″, 120Hz
  • Very promising: ASUS ROG Swift OLED PG27AQDM (~$900, see latest price on Amazon or B&H) **
    • 1000 nits peak brightness OLED
    • Also offers 27″ size, wide gamut (99% DCI-P3), true 10-bit color
    • 2560 x 1440 QHD resolution
  • Promising: LG 27GR95QE-B ($950, see latest price on Amazon)
    • Claims 1000 nits peak brightness, but online test data suggests it would likely meet the DisplayHDR 400 True Black rating if it were certified

** I have not personally tested these devices or have very limited experience with them. I have tested a a good selection of 400-1000 nits displays and believe the above are likely among the most appealing options.

HDR TVs:

A large number of HDR TVs have been on the market since about 2016. If you’ve bought a big screen TV in the past few years, there’s a good chance you have one. I’ve tested my ~600 nits Sony TV using an HDMI connection from my M2 MacBook Pro and it looks amazing, with 3 stops of HDR headroom. I’ve heard great feedback from video editors and gamers about the following models:

  • Very promising: 42″ LG C3 (~$1000, see latest price at B&H)
    • Offers ~750 peak nits in an OLED. This is a gorgeous display, particularly if you don’t have an excessively bright ambient light.
    • This and the prior C2 model have been very popular for serious HDR video editors.
    • An expert user told me they use it for both MacOS and Windows and it’s excellent, including for viewing text in productivity apps (when viewing from about 30-36″ back).

 

Many people will get an excellent experience from an HDR TV, but you may need to to put in a bit more work. And of course this is an excellent option for casually showing HDR photos in your living room.

If you have a TV, you’ll probably need to do a few things to enable proper display over HDMI:

  • Watch out for any default settings which require processing. TVs tend to have enough lag that your cursor will probably look sluggish with default settings. Gaming mode is designed to avoid this and would be a quick test. 
  • You’ll need HDMI 2.0 in all links in the connection, so be check that the port on your computer or dongle supports it – and use a high quality cable. You’ll need to connect to an HDMI port support HDMI 2.0 or later. Not all TVs have this and TVs may only support it on some of their HDMI inputs.
  • You may need to enable settings in the TV menus to use the full / enhanced range of the input. By default, it may not look for an HDR signal.
  • You’ll need to enable HDR display in the computer settings (even for MacOS: System / Display settings).
  • On Windows, avoid screen mirroring (seems to disable HDR). Set it up as an extended display and then turn on HDR mode.
  • Note that AirPlay 2 does not support HDR (same limit for Chromecast as far as I know)
 

A TV is not a monitor, so there are some things to keep in mind as you review options:

  • A TV is going to be large and you’ll need an appropriate area to set it far enough back to view it comfortably. You may also need to consider how you will mount it to ensure it is at the proper height (so you aren’t looking up to see the middle of the screen).
  • TVs are not designed for viewing at a close distance. The pixel pitch (size) / resolution may mean that text does not look as crisp, though images should be fine. That’s not a problem for photos/video, but you’ll want to see that it supports everyday use if it will be your only monitor.
  • Some monitors may show a color shift at an angle, which means you might see color in the sides/corner which does not match the center of the display if you are too close to a large TV.
  • It probably won’t power on and off with the computer automatically. There are numerous videos on YouTube showing how to setup settings or install software on your computer to help make this happen, so it is possible in many cases.
  • If you use the display as both a TV and a computer monitor, you will need to think about proper calibration. If you leave on a bunch of automated processing settings, you should not expect to get a stable profile from a calibration device. That’s probably fine for sharing images with friends and family, but just be aware that profiling a monitor assumes it behaves in a stable way.
  • You may need special software like CalMAN for Home to help profile the display if you want to do to try to set stable and optimized settings. Note that CalMan for Home is sold for specific brands and some versions support Windows and some support Android (I don’t believe any support MacOS). Be sure to check the details, including whether your calibration hardware is compatible with this software. This kind of calibration has a steep learning curve, which you might avoid if there is a CalMAN tutorial on YouTube for your TV brand / model. Here’s one tutorial video to give you an idea of what to expect.
 
 

HDR phones:

You probably already have an excellent HDR display in your pocket. It is only a matter of time before phones are widely ready as there is already a massive installed base of HDR hardware.

Android 14 is adding HDR support and the beta looks excellent on a Pixel 7 Pro running Chrome Canary. Based on typical cadence, that probably means it’s available to for HDR Android phones in a final release by the end of 2023.

Apple has a great lineup of HDR hardware and you can already fake it by creating a single frame HDR video, but real HDR browsing support requires updates to WebKit. 

The following phones all off great HDR displays:

  • 2200 nits HDR (2500 nits peak): Oppo Find X6 Pro
  • 1750 nits: Galaxy S23, Galaxy S22 Plus, Galaxy S22 Ultra
  • 1600 nits HDR (2400 nits overall): Pixel 8 Pro
  • 1600 nits HDR (2000 nits outdoors): iPhone 15 / 15 Pro, iPhone 14 Pro
  • 1500 nits: Galaxy S21 Ultra
  • 1400 nits HDR (2000 nits overall): Pixel 8
  • 1300 nits: Galaxy S21, S22
  • 1200 nits: iPhone 11-14, iPhone 11-13 Pro, Samsung Galaxy S20
  • 1000 nits HDR: Pixel 7 Pro
  • 800 nits: Pixel 6 Pro, Asus Zenfone 9

This bright screens means that a very large number of people will be able to view truly gorgeous HDR images. It’s important to note that unlike computer monitors, phones are designed to be used outdoors. So the maximum brightness allowed for SDR content is higher (such as 1000 nits / 2000 nits outdoors max for an iPhone 14 vs 500 nits max SDR for an M1 MacBook Pro). That means that the total HDR headroom (at higher brightness levels ) will be less than a comparable computer monitor. But there will be HDR benefit under most conditions and truly stunning capabilities indoors or in otherwise darker conditions. 

In general, assume you’re getting an experience close to SDR when outdoors in the middle of the day. You’d probably need 3000+ nits to enjoy HDR outdoors on a bright cloudy day or even more in direct sunlight. I can easily imagine the benefits of a 6000-10,000 nit display on some sunny day in the distant future in order to show the level of HDR quality we have otherwise now.

Note that the USB-C port on the iPhone 15 (and 12″ iPad Pro gen 5+) supports 4k HDR output. You should be able to to show HDR AVIF images with the Photos app over HDMI to your big screen TV.

HDR tablets:

Bright HDR displays for tablets are lagging, but should grow significantly in the years to come. The following tablets offer excellent HDR:

  • 1600 nits mini-LED: iPad Pro 12.9″ gen 5 (2021), gen 6 (2022)
  • 930 nits OLED: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9 Ultra: this is the 14.6″ model. There is marginal benefit to the extra nits over the 11″ model, so I would get that if you want to save money or want a more compact size/weight.
  • 750 nits OLED: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9: this is the 11″ model. This should compete very well with the iPad in darker environments given true black pixels. (~$800-$920 See latest prices on B&H).
  • 650 nits OLED: Samsung Galaxy Tab S9+: this is the 12.4″ model. (~$1000-$1120, See latest prices on B&H).
  • 600 nits: iPad Pro 11″ generation 2-6, iPad Pro 12.9″ gen 2-4.
  • There are several other tablets which offer 500-800 nits, but the benefit is modest for anything which is not OLED viewed in a dim environment.

What's your experience?

There are far too many displays for me to try much of what’s on the market. Please comment below if you have extensive experience using Photoshop / Adobe Camera RAW with any of the above or other HDR computer monitors. I’d love to hear your impressions.

Greg Benz Photography