What to look for in automated shades

Automated shades are an increasingly popular choice for home owners. Whether it’s for convenience, privacy, energy savings, or just as an upgrade, automated shades add a nice touch to your home. While a lot of the decisions are around aesthetics like any window covering, there are more details to think about with automated shades. Let’s review what to consider for automated shades.

Type

Start with what type of automated shade you are looking for, e.g. roller shades, honeycomb, etc. Sometimes aesthetics will dominate, so you’ll choose your window coverings weighing the right look over other features like maximizing energy savings or privacy. For example, since honeycomb style shades have a built in air pocket, they have better insulating properties over roller shades.

Fabrics

Before you choose your fabric, you should consider how much light and privacy you want from your automated shades. Fabrics are grouped in three main categories: sheer, translucent and opaque. Sheer allow you to see your outside view and lets lots of light in; the flip side is that they don’t offer much privacy. Translucent shades soften exterior light and provide more privacy, but won’t allow you much of an outside view. Opaque fabrics block light and provide maximum privacy – for example, nice for bedrooms and media rooms. Once you have an idea of the fabric group, then you can look at colour, styles and textures.

All shades will help keep a house cooler in the summer (ie shades down during full sun), and warmer in the winter (shades up during day, and down at night). If you are looking for extra insulation from your window coverings, you should pay closer attention to the “R value” of a shade. R value is a measurement of thermal resistance – basically, how well something does at insulating.

Power

Automated shades can be powered by battery or wires, or you can go completely manual. Battery powered is the easiest way to power automated shades, especially if you’re not able to realistically run power wires to your windows. Note though that while batteries should last years; e.g. Lutron expects 3-5 years under basic daily use, you will have to replace batteries eventually.

If you’re building or renovating your home, we strongly recommend running power wires to each shade. This takes batteries out of the equation – especially for hard to reach areas. Wires also give you more flexibility on fascia choice (see below). Most shades use low voltage wiring (and power supplies can be out of the way, such as in a basement), but some require regular house voltage. Make sure you know which you have chosen, as if you’re using regular house wiring, you’ll have to make room for an outlet.

Manual shades come in handy for areas where you don’t want or need automated shades, or for windows that are too narrow for automation. Either way, if your chosen manufacturer makes both, you can choose manual shades and still have them match nicely with your automated shades.

Control

For control, some shades are controlled wirelessly and some require control wires. If your chosen system requires control wires, make sure you know what your wiring needs are before you close up your home’s walls for good.

Fascia

Fascia options depend on the manufacturers. They cover the roller and any shade mechanisms. Most have options for no fascia, fabric fascia or box (architectural) fascia. You can choose no fascia if you plan on building a recess for the shade or like the look of a shade roll.

If you’ve chosen to wire your shades, the headrail will likely be much smaller than one with batteries – this will make it easy to hide or simply ignore the shades without needing a fascia.

Mounting

You can decide to mount your shades inside your window frame or outside it (i.e. above your window frame). If you choose inside your window frame, careful measurements must be made to make sure it will actually fit inside.

If you want it mounted outside, you have to consider mounting on your window trim, or check that the shades come with spacers so they can be mounted to clear your window trim. While the measurements for outside of your window frame are a bit easier, you still have to make sure they are measured to fully cover the window.

When you choose roller shades, you can also decide if you want regular or reverse roll. Reverse roll can provide more clearance for things like window and door hardware.

Control

The last big decision you have to make is how to control your shades. You can decide from a simple remote control, remote control and smart phone app, or remote control and integration with smart home control. There is a growing collection of shade products that are compatible with consumer DIY yourself systems, so you can dig into those if you like. If your system is large, it makes sense to get some professional help.

Note that not all shades behave the same. Some only open and close with one or a couple set points (e.g. 50% open). Maybe this is all you need, but if you are the type to have your shades 23% open yesterday, 100% today, and 89% open tomorrow, you’ll want to make sure your chosen shade supports infinite open/close settings. If you want to group a rooms shade to open and close in sync, make sure the system supports that.

There are lots of shading vendors to choose from, so choose one that works for you and your home. Check to see what other feature are available when you narrow down your automated shade choice. For instance, is it alright if you manually pull on a shade and have it still work with automation? How loud are the motors when the shades are opening and closing? Do you have a preference on the hembar style? What’s the warranty? With a bit of effort up front, you can have automated shades that give you great value in your home for years to come.

Tip for great home music systems: subwoofers

small subwoofers like sub air help home music systems sound better

People are listening to more music, often using streaming music. Many have music (and surround) speakers discreetly installed in their living spaces. Frequently this involves installing ceiling speakers. While they can sound great and are hidden in plain sight in the ceiling, there’s something missing,.. true low-end bass. This includes the low-end dance beat or the rumble from a movie explosion. These low-end sounds require subwoofers. But, there are ways to hide subwoofers too.

Speakers need to be physically large to create proper bass – blame physics. Even with the technical sorcery that manufactures build into their products to make small speakers produce surprising bass, they just can’t hit the true low notes. Its not just for dance music aficionados or action movie fans, good bass helps better fill sound in the room and is more pleasing to listen to (often without specifically noticing ‘bass’). We always encourage people to consider a discreet subwoofer (or completely hidden) whenever possible.

Standard subwoofers

A standard subwoofer needs to be large to properly produce proper bass – especially if you want explosion feeling bass. A true audiophile or cinephile will require a ‘proper’, read very large, subwoofer. In these cases, aesthetics often lose to sound. It doesn’t always have to be the case though. If you’re building or renovating, often some planning can greatly minimize impact to your living space. For example, its sometimes possible to cloak subwoofers with end tables or cabinetry. Often this doesn’t work for a room though, so we have to look to the next two categories.

In-wall or in-ceiling subwoofers

In-wall and in-ceiling subwoofers only need the speaker itself exposed. All the electronics can be hidden in some other part of the home. Some in-wall subwoofers use the space in the wall as part of the speaker to create great sound. Others like in-ceiling subs have the speaker cabinets hidden in the ceiling. Our ears can’t perceive where bass is coming from, so we often ‘hide’ speakers low to the ground behind furniture. Even if exposed, they’re usually barely noticed – like a vent cover. While you can get audiophile or cinephile grade in-wall subwoofers, even a reasonably priced setup can really open up the musicality and sound of a room.

Alternative subwoofers

Sometimes you’re in a bind – perhaps you want to more bass, but you can’t plan for a standard or in-wall/in-ceiling sub. Here you can look at clever subwoofers that are either small or non-standard shaped. While this category of subs can’t play as low as the others, they definitely improve the sound without a large visible presense. For example a small sub can easy be placed under an end table. You can also consider one like the Focal Sub Air that is just over 6” deep. If you’re a Sonos fan, their Sonos Sub is also just over 6” deep. These and others are wireless if you can’t run cables. Some are available in black or white to help blend into your decor as well. These can be  placed under or behind furniture as still sound great.

The addition of a good subwoofer will help improve the sound of home music systems. Depending on your situation and budget, from building to simply adding a wireless music streaming system, there are many subwoofer options available. With some planning, you shouldn’t have to compromise your home’s sound system.

Top technology trends of 2017

There were many interesting technology trends this year, but for us, these stuck out from the rest. In no particular order, here’s what got us excited this year.

Samsung’s Frame TV

We’re big fans of technology trends that can help minimize technology’s aesthetic footprint in homes. We focus a lot of effort on this in our projects. For example with TVs, they can be hidden with TV lifts, covered by panels, or have projections screens that drop from ceilings. If not hidden, TVs in living spaces are great when they’re on, but often become black voids when off. Samsung’s The Frame TV wants to change that – it displays art when not used as a TV, but then switches to a TV when you want to watch video. It has a modern art frame (with optional colour options) and hangs on the wall like a frame. We see a fine future here, as not only can you display art, you can also load up family photos. No longer does your TV have to be a black scar on the wall.

Voice control

This month Amazon made their Alexa voice assistant officially available in Canada. Together with the Google Home, you now can have voice control of your home’s smart things. While these are a ways from being perfect, they are pretty handy and will only improve. They can also be integrated with home control systems. For those who prefer talking to their home to turn on music or lights vs. pressing buttons, this might be the just the ticket.

Expanding video streaming options

There have been other ways to watch Amazon Prime Video, but starting this month its now also available on the latest generation Apple TVs. For those of us with Amazon Prime accounts, this is very exciting, as it opens up our streaming world. Like Netflix, Amazon is vying to provide top-notch content in-line with HBO. Other content apps are emerging as well, such as CBC and City TV. This gives Canadians, many of whom have already cancelled cable TV service, even more incentive to cut cable and stick to streaming services only.

Affordable smart home control

It has a boring name:, “C2K1”, but RTI’s Custom Control Kit is an exciting and affordable starter kit to professional grade smart home control and automation. This brings high-end home control features to a level many home owners can afford. While it starts as a remote control for a single room, it can easily expand to control other rooms and devices in home. It comes with a 2-way remote with touch screen, a control processor (the ‘brain’), and unlimited licenses for smart phones and tablets. When custom programmed for your home, it can automate and seamlessly combine your home tech to work in concert, e.g. dimming the lights and closing the shades when you turn on your AV system. With the smart device app, you can control or monitor your home from anywhere in the world.

Improving remote support

Technology is great, but it can be frustrating when there is a hiccup. No matter how awesome equipment is or how well its integrated, there may be the occasional issue. Everything from cable boxes to Wi-Fi access points sometime need a bit of attention. This is where remote management shines. If a client needs something tweaked or restated, we can often do this without a visit – a win, win for everyone. We also program auto reboots for troublesome devices like cable boxes to proactively clear up glitches before they cause issues. New feature are being added too – for example OvrC now has parental controls.

Fibre is feasible

We’re all gobbling up data at an increasing rate, and video streaming is the hungriest of all – especially 4K video. While Ethernet wiring and sometimes even Wi-Fi are usually getting us by, fibre optic cabling is now an affordable option. It has allows for more data throughout to enable all these technology trends for a long time to come.

4K TVs (and projectors) for all

We’ve talked about 4K TVs and projectors a lot lately, so we don’t need to elaborate too much. 4K sets are now priced at levels thats accessible to everyone. While prices are coming down quickly, note that a 4K TV that is too cheap may have questionable quality and may not be deal at any price.

Check out these technology trends, as they can help make your home more enjoyable and convenient. Can’t wait to see what 2018 has in store. Happy New Year!

Home Tech Updates

Fall is a big time for home tech updates, as there are two tech shows that companies use to launch products. This year’s IFA in Berlin and CEDIA in San Diego revealed some great products. Here are some highlights that we thought were good additions to the world of home tech.

4K projectors

Projectors are finally catching up with TVs.  We’ve had great and affordable 4K TV options for a couple years, and now reasonably priced projectors are starting to appear. While Sony’s VPL-VW285ES cinema-grade 4K HDR projector isn’t cheap at $6,500, its an amazing projector for the price. Just last year you had to spend over $12,000 to get a Sony 4K projector! You should look at Epson’s PowerLite Home Cinema 5040UB is an ‘enhanced’ 4K (not really 4K but does a great job pretending it is) if you’re hoping for one for about $4,000. While these clearly aren’t bargain basement prices, they’re great value if you’re craving a 4K home theatre.

Lighting automation

There were all sorts of great lighting and automation announcements, but one that created a bit of a buzz was Lutron’s RA Select. Lutron’s Caseta is excellent value for small, simple projects, but you had to step up to the pricier RadioRA2 for more sleek controls and dimmer options. RA Select is designed to fill the gap with ready made scene keypads and dimmer options similar to RadioRA2. If RA Select delivers on Lutron’s reliability and functionality, it could be pretty interesting.

Aesthetic friendly gear

Another trend this year was finally tech gear that didn’t look like tech gear. There were speakers like Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound Shape speakers that looked like wall art, but a show highlight was Samsung’s The Frame TV. Although announced earlier this year, they definitely made a splash at CEDIA. It can display art or your own photos. It fits close to the wall, goes into low power mode when no one is around, and has decor friendly frame options. Its a premium TV, but its within range of us mortals with the 55″ version starting at $2600.

IFA and CEDIA had lots of interesting gear and gadgets announced at these events. If you’re interested in checking out more, you should give them a Google. Perhaps some of these home tech updates will fit well into your home.

Planning outdoor music speakers

Adding music to your outdoor spaces can make those places more enjoyable. The trick is choosing the right outdoor music speakers. You want to provide the right sound level without blasting yourself (and your neighbours) with loud music, or making it look like an outdoor concert venue. Your wireless speaker may be okay in a single spot, but you’ll want a wired speaker system for better outdoor music coverage.

Your first step is to decide if you want to use a conventional system (like a home stereo) or 70V outdoor music system. If you’re only using a couple outdoor speakers close to your home, a conventional system may work. Otherwise 70V systems are often best for larger spaces as they are easier for multiple speakers and longer wire runs (you can brush up on speaker system differences here).

Regardless on outdoor music speaker system you’re using, there are many styles of speakers to choose from

  • Garden speakers: These speakers are intended to be placed along your landscape features. They come in brown and green colour tones to blend in with plants. Garden speakers are usually ‘mushroom’ or dome shaped. You can leave outdoor speakers exposed to the weather when installed properly.
  • Decorative garden speakers: Outdoor speakers are available in shapes like plant pots, statues and rocks. They can be more subtle when placed in visible areas – or it you prefer a whimsical conversation piece – you can choose something like a frog statue speaker.
  • Conventional cabinet speakers: If you want to mount your speakers under eaves or on poles, then cabinet speakers can work for you. These usually come in black or white, but some are available in various colours. The ‘box’ shape allows manufactures better control of sound quality, and are available over wide price and quality ranges.
  • In-ceiling speakers: Some in-ceiling speakers are weather tolerant for mounting under an eave. These speakers are available in a range of quality levels as well. In-ceiling speakers are limited to outdoor spaces that have buildings with eaves though. The speaker grills usually come in a white colour but are easy to paint to match with the colour of your eaves.
  • Subwoofers: If you’re looking for more bass, you can also choose an outdoor subwoofer. Some come in dome or box shapes to place in a garden or on a patio. To minimize visual impact, use a sub designed to be partially buried. Keep in mind though that outdoor subwoofers usually require their own dedicated amplifier.

When you plan your outdoor music solution, keep in mind that more speakers are usually better. Once you decide on speakers, your can figure out your amplification requirements and music source. You can mix and match speaker styles, but 70V systems likely make this easier. With more speakers, you can have individual speaker volumes lower while still hearing the music levels evenly throughout your space. This allows you to avoid loud spots or leakage to other properties. Your family and friends will be able to enjoy the tunes, and your neighbours may not even notice it.

 

Is mesh Wi-Fi right for your home?

Good Wi-Fi and wired networks are fundamental to home technology solutions. Our best practice is to ensure that all devices with an Ethernet port are connected to a wired network. Wi-Fi can then be used for devices like smart phones that can’t be wired to your network. But what happens if your home is older and doesn’t have a properly designed wired network? Maybe you just want to make your current home network work better without construction. Its possible that a mesh Wi-Fi network might meet your needs.

Mesh Wi-Fi

A mesh Wi-Fi network is a collection of Wi-Fi network devices, or nodes, that work together wirelessly to provide more consistent Wi-Fi for your home. The Wi-Fi nodes are close enough together so they have strong WI-Fi connections to other nodes. This way they can pass your data along through each other. How close or far apart the nodes are depends on how easy it is for Wi-Fi to get around your home. You connect only one of the nodes with a Ethernet cable to your Internet router.

The number of these Wi-Fi nodes needed depend on your home. Remember that not just home layout, but also building material (like concrete and metal studs) impact your Wi-Fi coverage. Most kits start with two or three nodes, and you can add more as you need them. Manufacturer’s websites give you an idea of what you’ll need for your home, but like many things in life, milage may vary, and it may take some experimenting to get it right for your home.

Mesh Wi-Fi system features

Google Wifi isn’t officially available in Canada, but other mesh Wi-Fi devices like the D-Link Velop and Netgear Orbi are. Depending on the system, there are various features that help make good Wi-Fi:

  • Smartphone apps that help you configure your Wi-Fi and place the nodes in good locations for strong Wi-Fi coverage (this is the crucial part to get these systems to work)
  • Nicer looking devices, as they will likely be in various areas of your home (while ‘nicer looking’ is subjective, most of these easily beat out the usual Wi-Fi black boxes with random blinking lights and antennas poking out)
  • One Wi-Fi network SSID and passcode to make it easy to roam around your home without having to switch Wi-Fi network
  • MIMO (multiple antennas) and beam forming which help create strong Wi-Fi to devices
  • Convenience features like Wi-Fi pause (get to bed kids!), prioritizing certain data (e.g. streaming Netflix), and remote management

Nothing beats a wired network, but in lieu of wires, you may benefit with a mesh Wi-Fi system. They may stabilize your home networking without having to cut open walls to install network wiring. With careful research and setup, you can step up your home’s network.

What to look for in a smart doorbell

smart doorbell with smart phone app

A smart doorbell can smarten up your home with convenience and security.

With a smart video doorbell you can be notified of a visitor via a smartphone app. You can then see and talk with them using the camera and two-way audio. There’s lots of different features available, so here are some features to consider if you’re shopping for a smart doorbell.

Basics – There is no point in looking much deeper into features if the basics of a particular doorbell won’t work for you.

  • Power: If you have existing doorbell wiring (two wires) at the right spot, then you’ll probably want to look at ones like that use them. Battery powered options are convenient up front, but they’ll need charging or replacing batteries when they die out. If you choose one that is powered by a wall power supply, then you’ll need an outlet nearby and have to deal with a power cord. If you’re building or renovating, also consider one that allows to be powered by POE (Power Over Ethernet).
  • Aesthetics and fit: Assuming you like the looks of the doorbell for your home, you’ll have to make sure it will work in the space. Some have different August Doorbell Camface plates, while others like Ring Video Doorbell, August and DoorBird have different coloured models. Your smart doorbell will need to physically fit near your door. Once you have sizing confirmed, you can determine how it will be installed. Many doorbells can be retrofitted by surface mounting on a wall, while others can be recessed into the wall. Ones like DoorBird have both options available.
  • Communications: Many of smart doorbells use Wi-Fi, so if you’re going that route, you’ll have to make sure your Wi-Fi is strong at your door. If building or renovating, then consider running Ethernet cable to optionally use doorbells that support wired connections. This will not only avoid possible issues with Wi-Fi, and you can also use POE for power (as mentioned above). Some are also some compatible with Bluetooth, Z-Wave, ZigBee and Cellular, so if your other devices are compatible with these, they may work for you.

Specs – Once the basics are covered, dig into the deeper features of the devices to compare various models specs

  • Camera: You’ll want to have adequate video quality for your coverage area to clearly see who’s at your door. Smart doorbell cameras range from 960H to 1080P video. Higher resolution helps you see more detail. If you have a security event, the camera-resolutionsdetail may also help you better identify the person. You will also want to match the camera’s field of view to cover your front entrance. Also consider other areas like your sidewalk and gate. Unless you have a tight space to view, look at ones with a 180 degrees viewing lens. For low-light or night-vision video, check for low light and/or Infrared LEDs.
  • Motion sensor: Some smart doorbells have Ring Video Doorbellautomatic motion sensors that can record video or notify you even before someone rings your doorbell. This can be handy or vital for security.
  • Intercom and audio quality: For smart doorbells with intercom support, ensure that it has a good microphone and speaker, so that both you and and you visitor can be heard properly.

Deeper features – If you’re looking for a more capable smart doorbell, you’ll can look at other supported features

  • Usability: If you want to go beyond using just your smart phone, you can check other options are available. Some have support for Apple’s HomeKit or can talk to other smart devices. For example August’s doorbell will work in tandem with their lock.
  • Integration: If you’re looking for integration with DoorBirda custom home control system like RTI, then you’ll need to look at doorbells like from DoorBird. Some doorbells also have relays to control parts like gate openers or door strikes. Some also supper features like ONVIF to ease the integration with a surveillance or security system.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you’ll probably want to keep it simple.  Look at a model that you can use your old doorbell’s wiring, Wi-Fi and the native smartphone app. For deeper smart home magic, you may want to reach out to a technology consultant for assistance. Either way, you’ll be ready when someone’s at your door.

Holiday home tech gift ideas

tech gift ideas - wireless speaker

 

The holiday season is upon us, so its a good time to review some home tech gift ideas. While some home tech comes with big ticket prices, many devices can be had at more moderate costs. From 4K TVs to home automation, let’s take a look at some of our favourites.

4K TVs: One of the bigger ticket themes that is very popular this year is 4K TV. With good reason too – there are some really nice 4K TVs available at reasonable prices. For example, you can find a name 4K TVbrand 40” 4K TV on sale for around $500-$600. While there is still a premium over HDTV, the cost difference is narrowing quickly. This way you can get great picture quality for HD and 4K content. When shopping for a 4K TV (or any gear for that matter), keep in mind that you get what you pay for. If a certain TV seems wildly cheaper than similar models, then perhaps its lacking in quality and performance.

Wireless speakers: Wireless speaker systems like Sonos are great tech gift ideas and an easy way to add music in a home. These systems allow for playing music from multiple speakers in various rooms – vs. small wireless speakersingle room solutions like Bluetooth. While you may have heard of Sonos, there are others from Denon (Heos), Paradigm and Bluesound (for audiophiles on your list). Most people just use the standalone speakers (starting around $250). There are also amplifier units that can power existing stereo speakers or built-in speakers as well.

Media streamers: If you want to smarten up someone’s older TV, or they aren’t a fan of the smarts that came with their TV, you can get them a new media streamer. Streamers start at about $40. The goto ones are the Apple TV, Roku and Chromecast. An Apple TV is a good Media streamerchoice if the user is an Apple fan, and the Roku and Chromecast will work for all. If you’re looking for a 4K option, then choose one from Roku or Google’s Chromecast Ultra. The Apple TV and most Rokus come with remotes, but Chromecast works best with a device like a smartphone or tablet.

Universal remotes: Speaking of remotes, most people would love to replace their pile of remotes with a single, simple-to-use one. Expect to pay about $300 and up for a decent universal remote. A simple-to-use remote controlLogitech Ultimate or Ellite remote is a solid consumer remote. If you’re looking for something more customizable, then you can talk with technology professionals like us to help with affordable solutions.

Home automation: As mentioned before,lighting home automation affordable home automation options are now available. Products like Lutron’s Caseta, kits start at $120 to allow for an affordable dabble in automation. Increasingly they’re compatible with other manufacturer’s products. For example Lutron, in addition to their lighting and shades, can now control Sonos speakers as well.

There are tons of great tech gift ideas for the techy on your list. The right home tech works well for non-techy people too. Well chosen tech gifts keep giving long after the unwrapping. If you’re buying for someone in your home, then you get the benefit of the gear as well – ah, we mean its all who you’re buying for though, right?! 😉

What’s fast roaming, and how does it help with good Wi-Fi?

good wi-fi

These days, good Wi-Fi coverage seems to be as important as the air we breath. You likely need more than just a Wi-Fi router to provide a strong Wi-Fi signal throughout your home. This is especially true since since so many devices rely on good Wi-Fi. Great, so you decide that you’ll use multiple Wi-Fi routers or access points to improve coverage – the issue is that you may still find that your Wi-Fi performance is poor – typically when you move around. The reason is likely that Wi-Fi devices like mobile phones and tablets decide when to switch to a different Wi-Fi signal, but they usually don’t want to let go of a Wi-Fi signal unless its completely unusable. This is where fast roaming can come to your rescue.

You may not think you ‘roam’ around your home, but you likely move around enough that you’re not always close to the Wi-Fi signal that you started with. You get a wide range of Wi-Fi signal strengths to your devices as you walk around your home. This is not only due to size and layout of a home, but also due to building material (e.g. Wi-Fi doesn’t travel well through concrete or metal). Newer devices are usually compatible with fast roaming, but they need help. Better Wi-Fi access points have fast roaming as a configurable option. Fast roaming Wi-Fi equipment (based on IEEE 802.11r and 802.11k standards) negotiates handoff with the device. This way your mobile phone or laptop can be switched to a stronger Wi-Fi signal without you noticing, allowing multiple Wi-Fi access points to work together in your home to handle your Wi-Fi needs.

Make sure you or your tech architect designs your home’s networking to support fast roaming. Its not enough to put a bunch of Wi-Fi access points around your home, you have to make sure they’ll actually work in concert to give you solid Wi-Fi coverage that you’ll appreciate. Happy fast roaming!

What is HDR, and should I get a HDR TV?

HDR example

TV shopping has always been tricky, with endless new terms and features such as today’s buzzwords of HDR TV and 4K UHD TV. We’re at the turning point where 4K TVs are coming down in price and becoming a viable option for everyone. To catch you up, 4K TVs provide more pixels and deeper colour palette for a more detailed picture. Mixed in with 4K TVs is the term HDR, and it offers a further improvement in picture quality.

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, offers more brightness or ‘luminance’ levels in pictures – you get more details in dark sections as well as light sections. High-end smartphones accomplish this by taking multiple pictures and then combining them into a more detailed picture. This way detail isn’t lost in shadows or washed out in bright areas.

HDR is the similar in video. Manufactures are starting to make HDR TV sets available with more dynamic range in the brightness, e.g. 10 times the luminance levels. This brightness range isn’t meant to be just bright, but more importantly, be better at displaying increments of Samsung 4K TVbrightness from deep black to bright white. This should translate into a more realistic, natural picture. For example an outdoor scene with HDR should allow us to see more detail in the shadows below a tree as well as the texture of clouds. With current HDTVs, this would basically be just darkness under the tree and uniformly white clouds.

HDR TV often gets mentioned along with 4K TVs, but it doesn’t necessarily need a 4K TV. Although 4K TVs offer more pixels and expanded colour palette, a HDTV would also benefit by having more brightness or luminance levels. Like most things, the higher end gets fancy new features first, and 4K TVs are the higher end right now. HDR could trickle down to HDTVs, but its unlikely as dropping prices and prevalence of 4K TVs will make this a moot point. HDR is a new technology and the standard is still being figured out, but good sets will apply processing to regular video to make it HDR-like. Streaming services like Netflix are working to provide HDR content, and HDR TVs should also be software upgradable when standards do get set.

Hopefully you understand HDR a bit more now, but the real question you may have is if its worth it paying for. If you have the budget for a new 4K TV, then the quick answer is yes. More and more decent, mid-level 4K TVs have some form of HDR, while the high-end models also include better processors to help regular video look better.