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What is Ultra HD Premium? New HDR standard explained

Andy Vandervell

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Ultra HD Premium

How many logo thingies do TVs need? One more, apparently, but what is 'Ultra HD Premium' and should you even care? Let's see if we can unpick this mess.

Is it a 4K TV or an Ultra HD TV? If you know your TVs, or have read our guide What is the 4K and Ultra HD?, you'll know there isn't much difference at all. While there are, technically speaking, subtle differences between the two, they're the same thing to the man on the street.

Now the UHD Alliance, a consortium of TV manufacturers, broadcasters and film producers, have ganged together to create a new thing – Ultra HD Premium. It's a logo program that defines what technical standards a TV must meet to deliver a 'premium' 4K experience.

Video: Trusted Explains... All you need to know about TVs

Confusing as that seems the intention is sound enough. If a TV has this logo then – within reason – it's a cut above TVs that don't have it.

But nothing is quite that simple. If you want the long answer, read on.

Related: Best TV deals

Ultra HD PremiumThis is the new logo – pretty, isn't it?

Why is this logo standard needed?

It's necessary because of 'High Dynamic Range', herein referred to as HDR. Our guide, HDR TV: What is it and should you care?, goes into more detail, but HDR is shorthand for several trends that allow for brighter, more detailed and higher contrast pictures from your TV.

But, as with any new tech jargon, it's open to abuse and that's what the Ultra HD Premium logo aims to prevent. By defining a set of standards for what TV manufacturers can all an 'HDR TV', everyone can be clear what they're getting is the real thing or not.

In short: if a TV has the Ultra HD Premium logo then it will support HDR content. The logo will also appear on Blu-ray discs to certify the film or TV show has been produced to the standard.

What's so great about HDR TV anyway?

Seeing is believing, but I've seen films shot and mastered for HDR and the difference is significant. HDR footage is richer and more 'real' than anything we've seen before. Dolby Vision, another standard for HDR TVs and cinemas, has already demonstrated how good it can be. For a little more on why, read the piece linked below.

Again, without delving too deep into the details, what 'HDR' does is release films and TVs from the constraints of decades old standards designed for time when technology was far less advanced. But making this work requires big companies to work together because if one doesn't play by the rules then everyone suffers.

Dolby Vision

Related: Why Dolby Vision and HDR is the future of TV and cinema

What makes an Ultra HD Premium TV?

Here comes the science. There's no easy way to simplify this bit, but here's a rough summary of the technical bits.

Minimum resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 – This is the simple part as this is the resolution – the number of pixels that make up the TV's screen – of 4K/Ultra HD TVs. There can be no confusion here.

10-bit colour depth – This means that the TV must be able to receive and process a 10-bit colour signal, which refers to the number of colours a video signal contains. Blu-rays use 8-bit colour, which equates to just over 16 million individual colours.

10-bit colour, often called 'deep colour', contains over a billion colours. This doesn't mean the TV has to be able to display all those colours, only that it can process the signal. Most decent ones can, so there's no problem here.

Minimum of 90% of P3 colours – 'P3' is what's known as a 'colour space', a standard that defines the colour information in a video stream. Colour spaces exist to ensure that the picture you see at home looks right. Think of it as the language of colour in the same way English is a language with rules people agree on.

To qualify as an Ultra HD Premium TV, a TV must be able to display 90% of the colours defined by the P3 colour space. This number is what's referred to as the colour gamut, or the number of colours a display can actually handle. So, a TV that can show '90% of P3 colours' would be said to have a 90% colour gamut.

The higher the number, the richer and more accurate the colours on a TV.

DCI P3This is a comparison of different colour spaces. sRGB / Rec. 709 is the standard for current TVs and it covers only 80% of the colours available using the DCI P3 colour space. (Image Credit: Noteloop)

Minimum dynamic range – If your head is hurting now then things are only getting worse from here on in. Sorry. To qualify, TVs have to meet a minimum standard for the maximum brightness they can reach and the lowest brightness – known as black level – they can achieve.

Sounds simple right? Wrong. That's because there are two different standards. They are:

OPTION 1: More than 1,000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05nits black level

OPTION 2: More than 540 nits brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level

The observant among you will notice that one demands higher peak brightness and accepts a higher (and therefore inferior) black level, while the other accepts a lower peak brightness but demands much lower (and therefore better) black level.

This is to accommodate the pros and cons of different TV technologies. LED TVs, which form the majority of TVs sold, support higher brightness but inferior black levels. OLED, meanwhile, can produce stunningly deep blacks, but aren't as bright.

In other words, the alliance has found a way to make everyone happy. Hurrah!

If you're interested, our guide to OLED vs LED LCD explains the differences between these rival technologies. And if you're wondering about Plasma TVs, wonder no longer: they're dead. No one makes them anymore.

Could my current TV be Ultra HD Premium?

TVs could be certified Ultra HD Premium retroactively, but few TVs released in 2015 can meet the standard. So, if you're interested in HDR, you'll probably need a new TV. That said, any top-end TV from 2015 is still mighty fine, so there's no need to feel sad about it.

Panasonic TX-65CZ952Even Panasonic's stunning £8,000 OLED TV can't be certified Ultra HD Premium, though most top-end 2016 TVs will.

What else will I need?

If you buy one of this year's shiny new TVs with the Ultra HD Premium logo, you'll need more kit to enjoy the benefits. First, you'll need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player – no, your current Blu-ray player won't cut it sadly. You'll also need an Ultra HD Blu-ray disc mastered for HDR. Both the players and the discs, like the TVs, will start appearing throughout 2016.

Netflix and Amazon have already started working on streaming HDR content, however, so Blu-rays won't be the only source.

Got more questions? Leave a comment and we'll do our best to help

Bugblatter

January 6, 2016, 6:52 pm

So I just dropped over £3.5K on a TV and they've introduced a new standard that it probably doesn't meet. I know technology moves on but that's bloody ridiculous!

Having said that it does HDR and supports HDMI 2.0a and 10 bit colour so I'm probably not missing out on anything. It's just marketing departments trying to make us think we need to upgrade again.

I'm curious why the Panny OLED wouldn't qualify?

andyvan

January 6, 2016, 7:29 pm

Brightness. It's capped at 450 nits. That isn't to say 'Ultra HD Premium' content can't look great on non-certified TVs, though.

Out of interest, which TV do you have. There are one or two that make the grade, I believe.

You're right to be slightly peeved, though. The industry has been shamefully slow to sort this stuff out. We're two years into the 4K era and only now have they nailed down this stuff.

It's similar to the mess with over HDMI. It was ridiculous that brands were selling TVs with HDMI 1.4 ports that could never properly support 4K content.

Mind you, that kind of underlines why these kind of programs are necessary. If not, companies just do as they please.

Bugblatter

January 6, 2016, 8:11 pm

It's the LG65EF950v (which will also fall short on max nits). Unfortunately Currys is going to have to replace it (when they have stock) because it has the very common yellow stain issue.

The new standard should probably define over what proportion of the screen the 540 nits is required. The LG can do something like 450 nits over a 10% white window but more like 250 over a 100% white window. In practice if you have more than 10% of the screen at max brightness then you're probably going to want sunglasses; in a dark room HDR content already makes my eyes hurt at times.

You're right that these standards are needed in order to stop manufacturers doing what they like, as long as that works. Remember how 4G was a defined standard, then providers started ignoring that standard and calling anything faster than 3G 4G and the standards board decided to redefine the standard to allow for that.

LeeTronix

January 6, 2016, 10:42 pm

I am just going to stick with my 1080p and wait a few more yrs.

Adrian1987

January 7, 2016, 2:09 am

I've just bought samsung ue65js9500, and wonder if it meets the requirements for Ultra-HD Premium? It has 1000 nits/10bit/HDR

Pickee

January 7, 2016, 2:43 am

So 90% of the P3 colour space is 90% of the one billion colours defined by 10 bit colour depth?

Dolf Muccillo

January 7, 2016, 1:43 pm

And unless you are running the Ultra Blu-ray player directly to your TV, you'll also need a new A/V receiver! ;) All new everything!

andyvan

January 7, 2016, 4:21 pm

Good point.

andyvan

January 7, 2016, 4:23 pm

Not quite, but then you're reaching the boundaries of my knowledge in this area. Bit-depth is really about the number of shades between colours. Higher 10-bit colour means smoother gradations, which prevents the 'striping' effect you can sometimes see in videos.

But, as I say, there are better authorities on this than I!

andyvan

January 7, 2016, 4:23 pm

I believe that's one of the few that would qualify.

andyvan

January 7, 2016, 4:26 pm

Well, HDR content will look great on your TV because it's a great TV, and you'll still benefit from the improved mastering of content for HDR. I don't know what the colour gamut on that one is, but I'm sure it's very good. I seriously want an OLED TV!

Bugblatter

January 7, 2016, 4:59 pm

I don't know what gamut LG claims but another review site measured 86% of P3.

At its best the picture is amazing, but Sky and Virgin are so compressed they'll never look good and the main streaming services, while better, are still heavily compressed.

I found a Life of Pi HDR sample which looks amazing but not much else has really wowed me. There's a HDR sample of a fire, where the flames are well defined whereas on a normal blu-ray there's no detail due to white crush. The differences from non-HDR are often quite subtle though; I'm not sure HDR is really going to sell new TVs.

This gen of OLED is pretty good, especially for a 3rd-gen of a new technology, but if you can wait then the next gen should blow every other technology out of the water (this gen pretty much does but with some caveats). If they can get the price down then every other TV manufacturer should be very worried.

Bugblatter

January 7, 2016, 5:03 pm

My receiver doesn't support 4K, but I'm running my PC directly to the TV and outputting audio to the receiver through ARC. This also allows the TV to control the amp, switching it on and off and controlling the volume, so it's a pretty nice setup.

ARC can be a bit inconsistent depending on the brands involved, but Onkyo receiver to LG TV works fine.

Awat Hussein

January 9, 2016, 5:36 pm

Interesting to read your posts. Does anyone know all the tv's including 2015-2016 line set to certify and support Ultra HD Premium? I mean is it only LG's oled and samsung SUHD to certify and support Ultra HD Premium? what about sonys new 4k flagship as well as LG's SUPER LCD lineset?

CM Harrington

January 12, 2016, 12:51 am

To clarify:

10bit colour has over 1billion colours
P3 colourspace is a subset (a fraction of that billion)
90% of P3 means 90% of that fraction that P3 takes within the billion colours.

if you want to look at it this way:

10bit colour > P3 > 90% P3

john

February 17, 2016, 2:11 pm

Can only be good news for consumers like myself who buy 'behind the curve'. Picked up a huge 60" decent quality 1080p Smart TV new for £300 last year, and a bedroom Sony 26" 1080p for £30 (2nd hand of course but decent spec.) this year. Sweet. Who needs basic 4k when you need to be fairly close to really get the pixels. The new Ultra TV standard is tempting, but will be expensive for early adopters.

Ava Banana

June 9, 2016, 6:26 pm

As someone who feels completely swindled by LG having been an early 4k adopter, my TV now not being a 4k TV at all, I advise everyone not to go near this new tech for at least a couple of years until they've sorted standards out.

lozandier

July 23, 2016, 10:36 am

This standard being done only this year was known well ahead of time; sorry you feel scorned.

Michael

July 23, 2016, 3:17 pm

So in other words, its the big boys ganging up on the new kid to keep him from joining their club.

Andy Wells

August 19, 2016, 3:29 pm

Samsungs UN78KU7500FXZA apparently supports HDR premium, according to their website, but it's not listed under their SUHD label.. Hmmm.. Anyone have the scoop?

Shant

August 26, 2016, 2:38 pm

hmmm...seems that the HDR versions of a TV are roughly 15-20% more in price. That seems on the edge of being worth it. If you're going to spend a couple grand on a TV, then it would be foolish not to go all the way and have HDR premium. If you're on a tight budget however, deciding between a $500 TV or $700 TV can be a much harder choice. Not to mention, if you're willing to spend a couple hundred dollars more when you're in such a low price range, that $200 could get you a 60" TV vs a 48" inch version of the same model. For me personally, having a 20% larger screen beats a moderate improvement in picture quality.

Shant

August 26, 2016, 2:42 pm

Also, something I haven't seen mentioned as of yet, is there a substantial difference in file size for HDR Premium video? 4k takes up massive amounts of data as it is, which isn't going to be easy to stream even for people with high speed cable. How much larger is a HDR Premium video file? Anybody know? Thanks...

Ryan Hall

September 8, 2016, 7:58 am

is there a such thing as a 1080p HDR tv or monitor? And if so.... could you show me where?

slumdog hundredaire

September 9, 2016, 4:38 pm

No, I think only 4K does HDR.

Andy Sun

September 13, 2016, 4:56 pm

So this basically needs proper 4k content to display as well. I have found ( the only ) native ultra hd premium content site .. musicvideos4k com

guys, that DOES LOOK GOOD.

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