Thanks to the PlayStation 4 Pro and upcoming Xbox Scorpio, gamers are hearing about 4K and HDR more than ever these days.
While everyone can understand that these terms basically amount to a higher quality visual experience, some might be wondering exactly what the two bits of technical jargon mean – adding to the confusion is the fact that Sony and Microsoft’s machines do differing amounts of each.
Worry not though; concerned potential buyers out there who can’t be arsed/never cared enough to look into these matters can simply read this handy guide – because I’ve got nothing better to do, obviously.
Let’s Start With 4K
4K means higher resolution, which means sharper, clearer images, which means a better time for you and those lovely eyes of yours. No really, they’re very pretty. Stop blushing.
Anyway, to really get the most out of these crisp images, you’ll need a 4K monitor (just as you’d need a HD TV to enjoy HD gaming). They aren’t exactly cheap though, so if you don’t already have one, picking up a 4K gaming console becomes a much more costly investment.
The PlayStation 4 Pro supports 4K streaming and upscales games to a 4K output, as can the Xbox One S. However, only the undeniably more powerful Scorpio promises to run games in native 4K.
So should you really care about the difference between native 4K and upscaling? Obviously a game that has been upscaled will still look noticeably lovelier, but if you’ve gone to all the trouble of forking out for a 4K monitor, then the little details that only native 4K can bring out will blow you away.
We’re talking things like individual strands of hair, grains of sand, eyelashes… the kind of junk that you wouldn’t think makes a difference, but will absolutely add to your overall experience in the long run.
So What’s HDR?
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range which, as the name implies, means brighter colours, more contrast, and more detail in dark scenes.
Higher contrast and brighter colours essentially lead to much more realistic lighting, allowing us to really see what’s going on in dark scenes instead of just squinting at murky outlines or being forced to turn up the brightness. Because let’s face it, that’s always super annoying, so a more seamless transition from light to dark is something we all need.
Once again, you’ll need a TV that’s compatible with HDR though. The good news is that HDR support can now be found in all PlayStation 4 models, as well as the Xbox One S and the Scorpio.
So really, the big thing anyone unfamiliar with 4K and HDR need to realise is that both make a huge difference to the visual quality of your games. Exactly how much of a difference you want from your games is up to you.
As a final word of advice, I have to repeat myself one more time: don’t buy anything without making sure you have a TV that supports it first – otherwise you’ve really fucked yourself.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.