As you shop for a new Ultra HD TV this year--or a new Ultra HD Blu-ray player and discs, for that matter--you may see a small logo like the one pictured here that says "Ultra HD Premium." What does it mean, and how important is it?
Ultra HD Premium certification, first introduced by the UHD Alliance at CES 2016, confirms that an Ultra HD product meets certain performance benchmarks in the areas of resolution, dynamic range, and color. The UHD Alliance's goal was to give consumers a clear logo to assist in the shopping experience.
The specification actually includes benchmarks for devices (such as a TV or Blu-ray player), distribution channels (such as a streaming service like Netflix), and content mastering. If you see the Ultra HD Premium logo on a certain device or disc, then you know you're getting (at least) the following performance attributes:
• Image resolution: 3,840 x 2,160
• Color bit depth: 10-bit
• Color gamut: Content masters and distribution channels must support Rec 2020 color representation. Devices must accept Rec 2020 signal input, and displays must be able to re-create more than 90 percent of the P3 color gamut used in theaters. (No display can reproduce Rec 2020 yet.)
• High dynamic range: The product must support the SMPTE ST 2084 electro-optical transfer function. An HDR-capable display device must offer one of the following brightness/black-level combinations: more than 1,000 nits peak brightness and less than 0.05 nits black level OR more than 540 nits peak brightness and less than 0.0005 nits black level.
The reason for the two different contrast benchmarks is simple: The first one favors LED/LCD displays that can get very bright but generally don't perform as well in black level, while the second one favors OLED displays that aren't quite as bright but produce much deeper black levels. The UHD Alliance includes manufacturers of both display types, so naturally the group had to come up with a certification process that does not favor one display technology over another.
Looking for the Ultra HD logo is a good way to ensure you that the UHD products you shop for meet some basic performance criteria, but as always there's a catch. The certification process is not mandatory; it's optional. Like THX certification, not every manufacturer will choose to participate in the process. Just because a certain product lacks the logo doesn't necessarily mean it fails to meet the benchmarks.
One major example of a manufacturer that has opted out of the process is VIZIO. VIZIO is not a member of the UHD Alliance that developed the Ultra HD Premium spec, and the company takes issue with the benchmarks that were set, going so far as to release an official statement to clarify its objections:
"VIZIO sees value in the industry specifying a premium experience for consumers, but the "Premium 4K" certification program proposed by the UHDA falls short and has serious problems. The UHDA program does not sufficiently detail how to measure for or specify items like peak brightness or black level and, as a result, certifies some products that we don't believe should qualify for a UHD Premium certification and would ignore other products that should be certified.
Specifically, the certification's 1000 nit peak brightness spec does not address any limitations of blooming or haloing artifacts, which can dramatically affect dynamic range (contrast) and overall picture quality. The testing requirement only measures the center brightness point of a test pattern and does not measure how the surrounding black level is affected. To maximize contrast, the peak brightness should be measured at the same time, with the same pattern as black level, as is done with ANSI contrast measurements.
Similarly, the certification only states two specifications for Dynamic Range, or peak brightness vs. black level with the LCD version specified at 1000 nit brightness with 0.05 nits black level. When looking at dynamic range of the specification, 1000 nits to 0.05 nits gives you a 20,000:1 contrast ratio. VIZIO's Reference Series gives you an 800,000:1 contrast ratio, but in theory does not meet the UHDA "Premium 4K" spec. VIZIO's focus is performance and true dynamic range, which is a balance between brightness and black level.
As a result, VIZIO remains focused on the Dolby Vision format at this time, as we feel it is technologically superior and has substantially better picture quality resulting from a proper implementation of high dynamic range and extended color gamut."
VIZIO certainly raises some valid concerns, and it's important that you don't make too many assumptions about a product's performance based solely on the presence or absence of the Ultra HD Premium logo. A TV without the logo may actually perform better than a TV with it. Enthusiasts should still research the products they're thinking about buying and (naturally, wink wink) read reviews when available.
Nevertheless, Ultra HD Premium certification should prove to be a valuable tool for average consumers as they navigate the complex new era of UHD and HDR.
• Dolby Vision vs HDR10: What You Need to Know at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• CES 2016 Show Report and Photo Slideshow at HomeTheaterReview.com.
• Six AV Trends We're Thankful for at HometheaterReview.com.