Microsoft and Sony are both promising big things to come from HDR capabilities on their new consoles – but what is it?

HDR – high dynamic range – affects how you see the colours and imagery on your screen, giving you a broader depth of colours that ends up being closer to how we perceive colours in the real world.

To put it simply, televisions have two important factors when it comes to how they look – contrast ratio and colour accuracy. Contrast ratio is the differences between your lights and your darks, and colour accuracy is how well the colours on the screen reflect those in real life. If you put two TVs – one with higher colour accuracy and contrast ratio, and one with simply a higher resolution – next to each other, you’ll most likely prefer the former, as it would appear more realistic and have perceptively more depth.

This is where HDR comes in. High dynamic range increases the breadth of contrast and colour significantly, allowing for a more immersive and realistic experience. When you apply that to, say, the world of Lara Croft, things start to look considerably more shiny.

This kind of thing is becoming a natural progression of sorts in a world of endless technological advancements. In the same way that everyone thought Blu-ray was the next big thing when it first launched, HDR is likely to have the same impact. It’s not unlike seeing a movie in IMAX for the first time.

As far as support for the firmware is concerned, Microsoft’s Xbox One S (and Project Scorpio when it launches) supports HDR gameplay as well as “true 4K gaming”. Sony’s recently-announced PS4 Pro will also support the feature, and the company even went one step further, announcing a firmware update launching next week for current PS4 consoles that will enable HDR support – provided you have a screen that can handle it.

We’ve come a long way since 8bit, haven’t we?