|As people start seeing the advantages of HDR on their mobile displays, the demand for HDR on TV's is likely to increase. |
HDR movies arrive on iPad Pro, and they look great
As if you needed another reason to get iOS 11
by Sam Byford@345triangle Sep 15, 2017, 8:00am EDT
When Apple announced the new 10.5-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro back in June, the company touted their HDR video-compatible displays without really going into detail on what that meant. Now, 4K and HDR content is rolling out across the iTunes Store in time for the arrival of the new Apple TV 4K that was unveiled on Tuesday.
Apple didn’t make any mention at this week’s event of whether these 4K HDR movies would see any benefit on the iPad Pro, however. The short answer is yes, HDR works. But there are a few caveats.
First of all, you have to be using the latest version of iOS 11 on the public beta track — if you haven’t been using the beta, you’ll have to wait until the final release on September 19th. Once you’ve updated your OS, a new option appears in the Video section of Settings letting you download the HDR version of movies.
Unfortunately, there’s no way to download the movies in 4K resolution — you just get 1080p files with HDR color and contrast. The iPad Pro doesn’t have a 4K screen, no, but the panels in both models have resolutions greater than 1080p to the point where you’d notice a significant difference in quality from a 4K file.
There’s also seemingly no way to download these 4K files on a Mac running the latest version of iTunes, even one connected to the Apple-approved LG UltraFine 4K monitor. It's not clear whether the 4K or 5K iMacs will be able to play 4K movies from iTunes, either.
But with all that out of the way, how do HDR movies look on a new iPad Pro? Pretty great, actually. Mobile HDR solutions aren’t going to match what you’ll get from a 70-inch 4K OLED TV, of course, but the iTunes movies deliver on the promise of expanded dynamic range that better shows off what the display can do.
THE DIFFERENCE IS OFTEN STARK
I watched scenes from Logan, which supports the HDR10 format, and Kong: Skull Island, which is in Dolby Vision, on a 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Next to a 2015 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which doesn’t support HDR, the difference was often stark. The harsh Mexico sunlight in Logan’s early moments is far brighter in HDR, for example, while dark parts of the frame deliver much greater contrast. Skull Island, meanwhile, is a much more colorful movie in general, and effectively demonstrates the wider gamut of the 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s display. In comparison, the image on the older 12.9-inch iPad Pro appears washed out and flat.
That flat profile does have its advantages, however — dark scenes in HDR can be difficult to see in a brightly lit room, whereas movies encoded in standard dynamic range don’t crush the detail as much. The 10.5-inch iPad Pro’s LCD is best in class, but it can’t compete with OLED when it comes to black levels and contrast.
Still, if nothing else this is likely to be the best way to watch movies on a plane for the foreseeable future. And it raises the question of why the iPad Pro hasn’t seen more — or any — HDR content until now. Netflix and YouTube haven’t updated their apps as they did for certain HDR-compatible Android phones, though the former service does say it’ll support the iPhone X as well as the LCD iPhone 8, which hasn’t even been advertised as offering HDR.
Apple’s implementation of 4K HDR movies isn’t perfect — the lack of flexibility in what file you end up downloading is disappointing (if unsurprising). But HDR is a legitimate improvement on the new iPad Pro, and perhaps the most immediately impressive way to make use of its advanced display technology.