With HDR (High Dynamic Range) video sources and HDR-capable projectors now both available, it is certain that HDR and UHD resolution can take picture quality up a significant step. However, at the moment HDR is very much bleeding edge, and compatibility problems between sources and displays abound. The industry will eventually work out the kinks, and everything will work together seamlessly without you having to know any details. For now, however, here are some tips on how to navigate the HDR landscape.

First, let's look at important HDR standards, specifications, and guidelines:

  • HDR10: This is the key standard your projector and video devices need to be compatible with.

  • Dolby Vision: Irrelevant for projectors. You can ignore it.

  • Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc specification: All that matters for practical purposes is that the specification defines HDR10 as the "base layer" for video on all HDR UHD Blu-ray discs, with Dolby Vision optional. So if your hardware supports HDR10, you should be able to see the benefits of HDR with any disc that supports it.

  • Ultra HD Premium: Also irrelevant for projectors. It requires a combination of peak luminance and black level that projectors can't provide, both because of inherent limitations in projector technology, and because having any ambient light at all will tend to wash out black levels on screen.

  • BBC/NHK Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG): An HDR standard that is also compatible with SDR (Standard Dynamic Range) displays. HLG is emerging as the probable HDR standard for broadcast TV, and can also be used to add HDR to 1080p TV signals. Despite the current lack of broadcast HDR content in the United States, some HDR projectors include support for it. Those that don't may be able to add it later through a firmware upgrade.

The oversimplification you'll see most often is that there are two HDR standards that you need to match between the video source and display--HDR10 and Dolby Vision--with the assumption that if both support the same one, they'll work together. The reality is that:

1. Dolby Vision, once again, is irrelevant for projectors. There are no models currently supporting it or on the near horizon, and

2. Just because a video source and projector both support HDR10 doesn't mean they'll work together to give you an HDR image. In theory you should be able to predict whether they'll work together based on the signal formats they support. In practice, it helps to have hands-on testing to confirm compatibility, or to get confirmation from authorized resellers.

With that in mind, we've compiled results of compatibility testing reported by all three vendors currently selling HDR-capable projectors that support UHD input and offer either native 4K resolution or 4K-emulation (what JVC calls e-shift and Epson calls 4K enhancement Technology). The test results are on the next page.

HDR Color definitions

Color depth: Also known as bit depth, color depth refers to the number of bits used to define the levels of each of the three color components, Red, Green, and Blue, in a pixel. 8-bit color is common. This is also confusingly referred to as 24-bit color because a pixel is defined by three color components. (8 bits per color times 3 colors equals 24 bits per pixel). A little arithmetic will reveal that 2 to the 8th power gives you 256 different potential values for each R, G, and B component, and 256 x 256 x 256 gives you the 16.7 million colors you hear advertised all the time. So 8-bit color depth equals 16.7 million colors.

We now have the option for deeper color systems using 10-bits or 12-bits per color. By the same logic, these can also be referred to as 30-bits and 36-bits per pixel.

HDR10 color depth: The HDR10 definition specifies 10 bits per color. Some HDR10-compatible devices also support 12 bits per color, which HDMI 2.0 and 2.0a (which adds HDR support) have the bandwidth to handle. However, 12-bit color isn't part of the HDR10 definition.

What HDR? Get a dark room. With projectors, HDR of any variety works best when viewing at night or in a dark room. HDR can give you blacker blacks and more brilliant highlights than SDR for a wider tonal range. However, to see the difference on a projector you must be viewing in a very dark room. Even a small amount of ambient or reflected light will compromise black levels, reduce contrast ratio, and hide much of the difference between HDR and SDR. It doesn't take much light to do that, so to get the full visual benefit, you'll want the viewing space as close to a black hole as possible.

Product Compatibility

As with any newl standards, manufacturers can interpret the details of HDR10 differently. This can lead to outright incompatibilities between products or just make it a little harder to get them working together than it should be. Fortunately, there are only a handful of HDR-capable projectors, UHD Blu-ray players, and game consoles available--or soon to be available--at this writing, which makes it easy to compile a list of what works with what. The information presented here is based on testing results reported by Epson, JVC, and Sony.

One type of HDR source material that has not been thoroughly tested is streaming video from Netflix, Amazon, and Sony Ultra, all of which support HDR10 with UHD. (VUDU limits itself to Dolby Vision only). The problem is that 4K HDR compatibility testing with streaming sources is complicated by the extra hardware that connects the source to the projector. A projector might show a 4K HDR signal from Netflix through one device but not through another. So compatibility testing with streaming sources is a lot more complicated than testing with Blu-ray players or game consoles that interface directly to the projector. In short, if 4K HDR is on the bleeding edge, streaming 4K HDR is on the leading edge of the bleeding edge.


HDR Projectors and
Source Device Compatibility




The HDR projectors covered in this overview are:

Epson HDR Models:

Home Cinema 5040UB
Home Cinema 5040UBe
ProCinema 4040
ProCinema 6040UB.

JVC HDR Models:

DLA-RS400
DLA-RS500
DLA-RS600
DLA-RS4500
DLA-X550R
DLA-X750R
DLA-X950R.

Sony HDR Models:

VPL-VW5000ES
VPL-VW675ES
VPL-VW665ES
VPL-VW365ES


Source Device Compatibility

All of the native 4K or 4K enabled projectors above are compatible with 4K standard dynamic range (SDR) signals. It is when you go to 4K HDR that it gets dicey. The following 4K HDR source devices have compatibility with the projectors listed above as follows:

MS XBOX ONE S:

  • Epson models: Epson says testing is in progress with the Xbox One S. Based on published specs Epson believes their projectors will accept 4K SDR signals in either 24p or 60p from the Xbox One S, but not HDR.

  • JVC models: It has not been tested but it should work with all JVC models at both 24p and 60p for both HDR and SDR.

  • Sony models: Tested and does work with the VW5000ES and VW675ES at both 24p and 60p. The VW365ES and VW665ES will work only with SDR.


PANASONIC DMP-UB900:

  • Epson models: Tested and HDR does work at 24p. It will connect at 60p with SDR only.

  • JVC models: It has been tested and HDR does work at 24p. Not yet tested but should work at 60p based on the specs.

  • Sony models: Tested and HDR does work with the Sony VW5000ES and VW675ES at both 24p and 60p. On the Sony VW365ES and VW665ES, HDR does work at 24p but with 60p you get SDR only.


PHILIPS BDP-7501:

  • Epson models: All models are HDR compatible at 24p. With 60p input you get SDR only.

  • JVC models: Not yet tested but based on specs all models should connect with HDR at both 24p and 60p.

  • Sony models: Tested and does work with the Sony VW5000ES and VW675ES at both 24p and 60p. On the Sony VW365ES and VW665ES, HDR does work at 24p but switch to 60p and you get SDR only.


SAMSUNG UBD-K8500:

  • Epson models: All models are HDR compatible at 24p, but with the potential for occasional subtle banding on all but the 540UBe when using a WirelessHD Connection. This may have been resolved with the K8500 firmware upgrade of 10/16, but it has not been tested. All models are SDR only at 60p

  • JVC models: Tested and all models work at 24p, all models should work at 60p base on specs but not yet tested.

  • Sony models: Tested and does work with the Sony VW5000ES and VW675ES at both 24p and 60p. On the Sony VW365ES and VW665ES, HDR does work at both 24p and 60p but it is not recommended because it is BT.709 color space only.


SONY PS4-Pro:

  • Epson models:Compatibility unknown, testing in progress.

  • JVC models: Not yet tested but based on specs all models should connect with HDR at both 24p and 60p.

  • Sony models: Tested and does work with the Sony VW5000ES and VW675ES at both 24p and 60p. It will connect only with SDR on the VW365ES and VW665ES.


SONY UBP-X1000ES:

  • Epson models: Not yet on the market, will test when available next spring.

  • JVC models: Not yet on market but based on specs all models should connect with HDR at both 24p and 60p.

  • Sony models:All models will be compatible at both 24p and 60p.


Match Specifications to Determine HDR Compatibility

It is possible to research specs and try to make sure the source device and projector match in order to determine compatibility. Most buyers won't want to do this. The easiest way to deal with this will be to ask a professional authorized reseller for the latest info. They are likely to have the most updated information about specific compatibility for either the devices above, new source players that will be coming onto the market in the future, or compatibility with streaming sources.

If you want to attempt it yourself and the combination of projector and video source you're considering isn't on the previous page, you can still tell whether they should work together for 4K HDR--or 4K SDR--by looking at the specifications for each. First, for HDR to work, they both have to be HDR10 compatible. Beyond that, they need to both support the same chroma subsampling levels at the frame rate and resolution you need.

The resolution in this case is 4K. The two frame rates that matter are 24p, for UHD Blu-ray discs, and 60p, if you're interested in 4K HDR games.

The color depth can be 8-bit, 10-bit, or 12-bit, with 10-bit the only choice that's actually defined by HDR10.

You don't need to know what the subsampling levels mean. Just note that the choices are identified as 4:4:4, 4:2:2, and 4:2:0. You need at least one of those supported by both products at the resolution (4K), frame rate (24p, 60p, or both), and color depth (10- or 12-bit for HDR) that you plan to use.

One thing to watch out for: The ability to support any combination of resolution, frame rate, color depth, and chroma subsampling level is basically a bandwidth issue, with higher levels of each adding more bits of data that requires more powerful chipsets that can handle the additional workload. So you would expect a projector that can handle a high bandwidth combination would also be able to handle any combination that's less demanding. However that's not necessarily true. Make sure that both the projector and potential video source specifically say they support HDR with at least one combination that matches.

Some Troubleshooting Tips

If you've confirmed that your projector and video source are compatible according to the manufacturer's test results or by matching specifications, but you're still not getting a 4K HDR image--or aren't sure if you are--here are some troubleshooting steps to try.

Make sure all of your devices are updated with the latest firmware.

Check to see if the projector recognizes the input as 4K HDR:

  • For Epson models: Choose the Menu's Info option. If the projector recognizes the input as an HDR signal, the Color Format entry should show the color space and the text HDR, with a number from 1 to 4 to indicate the HDR mode.

  • For JVC models: Go to the menu's Input tab. It should show the resolution as 3840x2160, the color as either 10 bit or 12 bit, and HDR as Yes.

  • For Sony models: With the latest firmware at this writing, the Information Menu will show HDR if the projector detects HDR content. (Some models will not show this with older firmware.)

If your projector is indicating that it is receiving 4K HDR input and you don't see the effect, try making the room as dark as possible. Keep in mind that ambient light will wash out dark areas to reduce contrast ratio and hide much of HDR's advantage.

If your hardware has more than one HDMI port and they're not all HDMI 2.0a, make sure the cable is connected to an HDMI 2.0a port.

Make sure your HDMI cable can handle the bandwidth. Most standard HDMI cables are not UHD certified.

Make sure you're following the projector manufacturer's setting recommendations, if any, for HDR content.

Epson offers a FAQ here.

In addition, Epson recommends using the Bright Cinema setting for HDR content in most lighting conditions. It also says that with the current firmware at this writing, and the default setting of Auto for Dynamic Range, the projector uses its HDR 2 mode with HDR input. However, you should also experiment with manually changing the setting to HDR 1, HDR 3, and HDR 4. To change the setting, choose Signal, Advanced, Dynamic range, and then pick the setting you want.

HDR 2 is the default because Epson considers it the choice most people will prefer with most lighting conditions. HDR 1 gives a brighter image, which you might prefer in a room with more ambient light. HDR 3 and 4 give a darker image, which might be your preference in darker rooms. Of the four choices, HDR 4 is actually closest to the HDR10 specification according to Epson, but in our experience it is too dark even in a dark room with a small screen.

The disadvantage of setting HDR to one of its alternative modes with Epson's current firmware is that the projectors will then use that mode for all input signals, including SDR content, which messes up SDR image color and contrast. To avoid that happening, you need to manually switch the Dynamic Range setting back and forth between Auto and HDR 1, 3, or 4 as needed. Epson is also planning a firmware update that will let you change the HDR mode for the Auto setting to be any of the HDR modes. Once you change the HDR setting for Auto to user, you won't need to change the Dynamic Range setting manually when switching between HDR and SDR input.

JVC's recommendations are available here.

Sony doesn't have instructions online, but says their projectors need HDR set to Auto (the preferred setting) or On. With the latest firmware for all Sony projectors at this writing, the projector will detect the color space actually being used. If it detects BT.2020 in the data stream (as distinct from what the header says), it will automatically switch to it with no option to change the Color Space setting. Otherwise, it will use the current setting for Color Space, but you can manually change it by going to the Picture Menu, choosing Expert Setting, and then Color Space.

Sony says this is needed to give you better color quality with early HDR discs, many of which include a header indicating that they're using BT.2020 but were created from files using Rec.709 without adjusting the color values. The new firmware also lets you change the average picture brightness when viewing HDR content. You can adjust it to taste with the HDR Contrast setting in the Picture Menu.

Comments (12) Post a Comment
SimonBG Posted Nov 17, 2016 9:10 AM PST
What a mess! I regret purchasing 4k TV and will not update my other 4 zones for at least 3-4 years. Shame on you manufacturers and HDMI consortium. Your greed has no limits.
Wesley Miaw Posted Nov 23, 2016 7:34 PM PST
I can confirm the Xbox One S will feed a 4Kp60 HDR10 signal to the JVC DLA-RS500U / DLA-X750R with full compatibility with the Xbox One S UI, 4K Blu-ray discs, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon.
hifijohnny Posted Dec 4, 2016 3:05 PM PST
You sure got that right. Consumer electronics has been a hobby of mine since I was a boy. Home Theater is my passion these days. When we purchased our Lansing home, we sought a dedicated space for a moderately sized personal home theater. HDR is not ready for prime time for projectors yet. It's a pain in the *ss trying to keep up with the formats since the inception of HDTV. The industry is sabotaging their own future and retail viability by releasing amazing features every other year. I bought two expensive Sony XBR4 1080P televisions in 2007. 52" for the Lr 40" in the den. These sets were Sony's top of the line in 2007. Beautiful sets with a stylish glass and silver bezel. I fell in love with it the first time I laid eyes on it at Circuit City. Remember them? I gotta say. I was frustrated when less than two years after buying my Sony sets, 3D hits the market. They couldn't introduce both at the same time? Now, retailers want us to ditch our 1080P sets for 4K sets with HDR. . A format that has more than one standard. Remember Blu ray vs. HDD? what a pain in the *ss.I've been researching 4k and 4k really isn't ready for prime time. Especially if you are interested in a 4k Projector. This year I replaced an eight year old Denon AVR that is the driving force of our theater. I replaced it with a Marantz 8802 Pre/Pro and two outboard Amplifiers for 11 channels to bring the Cinema experience into the home. I do have to say that Atmos and DTS-X are a quantum leap in sonics and I didn't expect it to be as dramatic as it is. My Denon was expensive, their most recent high end flagship AVR5308CIA (discontinued) The Marantz Pre/Pro losts it's video output/ Not even a year old and retails for 4000. USD. I picked up a back up all in one receiver. Last years model Marantz 7010 cost reduced by 1100 dollars. What a bargain. We love home theater and so does everyone that gets invited to experience cinema quality in the Home. Every year there are more and more affordable components that are actually pretty darn good performers I half way decent theater can be had for as low as 3000 if you do it yourself. It's not that hard, just a lot of work installing gear. hiding wires in walls. Socket in ceiling for projector. That kind of stuf. But I am a little disillusioned that the consumer electronics industry is running a racket of format changes every couple of years. Audio and video. BTW, 8k TV is on the horizon.
Harry Posted Mar 3, 2017 7:20 AM PST
Anyone knows when can we expect an update on HDR content passed from Xbox one S to Epson 5040UB? Even after the latest firmware update I don't see it working. I now have 4K content but can't really enjoy it to the full extent.
John H Posted Mar 7, 2017 6:49 AM PST
my sony vpl vw675es projector will NOT pass Netflix 4k HDR as viewed thru a Roku Ultra--- maneuvers such as deleting Roku and reloading Roku did not work, running the roku directly to the sony projector did not work, using monoprice premium hi speed hdmi cables did not work, setting the HDMI format to Enhanced did not work, deleting and reinstalling Netflix did not work, watching Amazon prime HDR DID work !!! Working for an hour with a Netflix technical engineer did not work-----the conclusion was that the Sony proj will NOT pass 4K HDR at 60 frames per second----only at 30 frames per second AND a lot of Netflix HDR material is at 60 frames per second
SimonKennedy Posted Jun 7, 2017 12:24 PM PST
FWIW, my Sony UBP-X800 does NOT work with my Sony VPL-VW365ES, and when I called Sony installation support they recommended replacing the X800 with one of the players listed here as they're known to be compatible and Sony knows their own player isn't. Apparently the issue is that the X800 will only output 4:4:4 or 4:2:2, and the VW365ES will only work w/ 4:2:0.
Simon Kennedy Posted Jun 9, 2017 4:05 PM PST
Does anyone know the proper settings for the Panasonic UB900 with the Sony VW365ES? Per my earlier comment, at Sony installation support's recommendation I've bought the Panny, but am having the exact same issues (HDR discs play with colors that are WAY off - sort of like an oil-slick on the screen). Of course, this may not be a setting issue and may in fact be an issue w/ the PJ itself (or some other component...) but I thought I'd at least ask
Sony HDR Posted Jun 17, 2017 10:49 PM PST
Have any Sony vw365es owners figured out which 4K blu ray player actually works with hdr?? I have the oil slick discoloration with philips bpd7501 player, Sony x800 4K player, and Sony x1000es 4K player. HDR failing despite plugging 3 foot cinnamon hdmi cable directly from 4K player into port 2 (HDMI 2.2) in vw365es projector
victor Posted Jul 4, 2017 9:22 PM PST
This is why I am waiting for 4k upgrade till next year see how it is,4k is mess right now so just wait.
Chris Broshar Posted Apr 10, 2019 5:34 PM PST
Can anyone verify if Xbox One X and Epson 6040 HDR work? Netflix?
Margaret Posted Apr 3, 2020 9:40 AM PST
Have you ever had a projector stop being recognized entirely by the receiver? I have a Sony STR DH750 with a Sanyo projector on the HDMI Out. The picture shows a blue screen with an initial “filter warning” then and “No Signal” message. It used to work well with a good picture. The cords have all been tested and work well. I’ve even tried lifting the tabs slightly on the HDMI port to ensure a more snug fit (in the past, I occasionally had to move the cord at the receiver to get a picture). Can this be fixed?
Rob Sabin, Editor Posted Apr 30, 2020 3:35 PM PST
Sorry, this could be a failure of the HDMI interface or the mechanical connection to the port in either component. I'd try plugging a source component directly into the projector to make sure that's not the culprit first, and then try a different HDMI on the projector (if there is a second one) to see if it resolves. After that, maybe try moving the receiver temporarily to a nearby TV and trying the output of the receiver into that to see if it's still outputting a source signal.

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