The advent of UHD 4K resolution has been a major boon to gaming, as it brought crisper resolutions and finer detail to graphics. However, while 4K is an appreciable upgrade, if you’re not playing with High Dynamic Range (HDR) enabled you’re not getting the full experience from your 4K TV or games. Both of Sony’s current consoles — the PlayStation 4 and the 4K-ready PlayStation 4 Pro — support HDR, provided you have the proper display and the right setup. We’ve put together this guide on how to set up HDR gaming on your 4K/HDR TV and PS4 or PS4 Pro consoles for more colorful, vibrant games.
A quick note: While both the PS4 and PS4 Pro are capable of HDR you’ll need to make sure you’ve updated the firmware to 4.0 or higher. If you happen to need help setting up HDR on an Xbox One S or Xbox One X, we can help with that, too.
Set up your TV first!
- Make sure your console is connected to an HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2-compliant port on your TV. You might think that because you have a 4K/HDR TV, all ports would be usable, but in most cases only one or two ports are HDMI 2.0a/HDCP 2.2-enabled. What is more surprising is that the compatible HDMI port you need is not necessarily HDMI 1. Sometimes TV manufacturers label the ports so you know by looking, but even those labels can be misleading. To be absolutely sure, check out the specs section for your TV’s model at the manufacturer’s website to determine which HDMI ports support HDMI 2.0a, and use one of those for your console.
- Open your TV’s settings menu. Head to the picture settings section, then look at the presets to find your TV’s “game mode.” This mode will cut down on picture processing, and your picture quality may appear to take a slight hit in the process (we’ll be fixing that, too), but it will also reduce input lag, so if you’re a competitive gamer, using Game Mode will keep you competitive in multiplayer matchups. If you typically play single-player games (or if you value graphics and picture quality over performance), go ahead and pick whichever preset suits your eyeballs best — we typically prefer “movie,” “cinema,” or “standard” modes.
- Next, you need to enable HDR on your television. Go back to the picture settings menu. From here, it depends on what type of TV you have. Some televisions have HDR settings right in the main picture settings menu while others will list them under “input settings” “advanced picture settings,” or even the main options menu. You’re looking for a setting like “HDMI HDR,” “HDMI Color Subsampling,” “HDMI HD Ultra Deep Color,” “HDMI UHD Color,” “10-Bit Color,” or something similar. You need to enable this setting (aka switch it to “on”) for the HDMI port where the console is plugged in. If you’re not sure where to locate your TV’s HDMI HDR settings, consult your user manual or check the manufacturer’s website.
- Your TV is now set up to accept HDR content from your game console, but you may want to fine-tune the picture quality. We suggest adjusting brightness and contrast controls to taste, but before you start tweaking these settings, you want your TV to be displaying some kind of HDR content. This could be an HDR game for your console, or a movie or TV title in HDR via Netflix, Amazon, or Vudu. Once you’re playing HDR content of some sort (many TVs confirm this by putting an HDR logo on the screen), your TV will be in HDR mode. At this point, go into the picture settings to make adjustments. By making adjustments while in this mode, you are adjusting picture quality only for the TV’s HDR mode — this will not impact picture quality settings for those times you are watching SDR content, be that a non-HDR movie on Netflix, a standard Blu-ray disc, or good ol’ over-the-air broadcasts.
Set up your PS4 or PS4 Pro
Once your TV is set up, you’re most of the way there. All that’s left to do is enable HDR on the console itself. While the PS4 and PS4 Pro will usually auto-detect that HDR is enabled on your TV and adjust the settings itself, it doesn’t always, and it’s a good idea to double check regardless. Here’s how to do it.
- After you’ve properly plugged the console into your TV, turn it on on and navigate to the settings screen. In the System Information tab, make sure HDCP is checked.
- Next, open the Sound and Screen menu, then select Video Output Settings. On that screen, set the HDR option and Deep Color output to Automatic.
If you followed the above step correctly, you should now be able to play in HDR. Should you need further help, consult Sony’s video guide.
Finding the right content
Finally, you’ll need to have the right content to play and/or watch.
There is a long list of HDR-enabled video games on the PS4, and more are being released all the time. Plus, there is a plethora of HDR video content you can access on Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime.
Here’s a quick selection of some HDR-ready PS4 recommendations:
Make sure the picture looks great!
Now that you’re all set up and playing an HDR title, the picture quality should be stunning and gorgeous. But what if you aren’t impressed? Perhaps it actually looks worse? What now?
Unfortunately, this may mean that your TV is not well-suited for HDR, even if it says HDR right on the side of the box. To pull off HDR well, a TV needs to be able to achieve high-contrast ratios and expanded color. If your TV can’t pull off the contrast necessary for impressive HDR, your picture could end up looking either dark or washed out, with a lack of detail in either dim or bright areas, depending on your picture adjustments. If this ends up being the case, we suggest you disable HDR and play in a standard mode. If the picture quality looks much better as a result of reverting back to HDR, just stick with it.