There are two major visual developments happening in TVs today: Ultra-high definition (UHD) and High Dynamic Range (HDR). These video formats can work in conjunction to provide content that’s not only sharper but also richer in color and contrast. However, one of the big challenges for HDR technology is the lack of content. TVs which support this technology are still fairly uncommon, and many content providers are still not investing their time in supporting HDR video. Netflix has a growing library, but there aren’t too many individuals who benefit.
This question of HDR supported media players extends beyond TV sets to devices like Android TV set-top boxes. To help encourage the adoption of HDR by content providers, Google added support for the three biggest HDR standards in Android 7.0 Nougat: HDR10, Hybrid Log-Gamma (HLG), and Dolby Vision.
Currently this only is in effect for videos, not apps or games yet. Their documentation states:
In Android 7.0, initial HDR support has been added, which includes the creation of proper constants for the discovery and setup of HDR video pipelines. That means defining codec types and display modes and specifying how HDR data must be passed to MediaCodec and supplied to HDR decoders. HDR is only supported in tunneled video playback mode.
This doesn’t have any bearing on whether certain devices will get updated to Android 7.0 or will support HDR if it does get updated. One device which was originally supposed to support HDR, the TCL X1, has the hardware capability but it has not been exposed in the software. It is likely that the Dolby Vision support will be added with a firmware update along with an OS update.
Even with the slow software update process, it is good to see Google’s adoption of multiple standards which should ultimately provide a better viewing experience for users.