Color depth has always been important, but with the rise of 4K resolution and HDR, the ability to display color gradations and matrices more accurately has become even more essential. Of course, the higher the color depth, you can imagine the better the picture quality, but we will explain it to you in depth to understand it better.
What is color depth on a monitor?
We mentioned earlier that with the increase in 4K resolution and HDR, this parameter has become more important; when 1080p was dominant this was already important, but this distinction carries more weight as images become denser (more pixels with increasing resolution) and more loaded with metadata. The color depth of a screen really means how much information about the picture is displayed accurately on the panel or screen.
We just mentioned the metadata, which generally refers to additional information beyond image basics such as resolution and frame rate; HDR is included in the metadata, and the more information a panel displays, the better and more accurate the image will be. You can see this clearly in the following image where we can see a gradient from black to white on a scale of 1 to 14 bit.
The bit depth and effect of the specification on color rendering is particularly appealing to enthusiastic users. Color fidelity is highly valued by gamers, film and TV enthusiasts, photographers and video professionals and they know that every part matters, so this setting is especially important for them as it gives us a precise idea of that. color representation on the screen.
Calculating bit depth
Knowing the color depth very quickly becomes mathematical, but we’ll try to save you from the boring calculations; Since modern display panels use pixels controlled by digital processors, each pixel represents one bit of data and each bit has a value of zero or one value for each primary color (red, green and blue, RGB). Therefore, an 8-bit panel has 2 values raised to 8 per color, or 256 gradations or versions of red, blue, and green, which are calculated as 256 x 256 x 256 for a total of 16.7 million colors possible.
For 10-bit panels, each pixel displays up to 1024 versions of each primary color, in other words 1024 increased to 3 or 1.07 billion possible colors. Thus, a 10-bit panel has the ability to render images with exponentially greater color accuracy than an 8-bit panel. A 12-bit panel goes further, with 4096 possible versions of each primary color per pixel, or 4096 x 4096 x 4096 for a total of 68.7 billion possible colors.
8 bit, 10 bit, 12 bit, what’s the real difference?
In fact, the difference is quite large; While 8-bit panels can display lifelike images, they are also considered the bare minimum in terms of modern input sources. The vast majority of 4K and 8K content is created with a depth of 10-bit or even more, which means that an 8-bit panel will not be able to display the content as intended by its creators. An 8-bit panel receiving 10-bit or more content must “crush” details and color gradients to accommodate.
While to normal users the difference might seem acceptable, if you really care about the content you view, the difference is noticeable. An 8-bit panel has much less range than a 10-bit panel and cannot display the rich variety of colors, resulting in a duller, paler, and clearer image overall. The lack of variety is most often manifested in dark and light areas; for example, on an 8-bit screen it may only appear as a bright spot with very bright bands of light emanating from it, while a 10-bit panel will show it as a progressively bright object with no obvious bands.
A quick historical perspective can help: 8-bit color depth was designed for VGA displays decades ago and only goes down to the RGB color gamut. As such, 8-bit monitors cannot handle larger color spaces like Adobe RGB or DCI-P3, and they also cannot display HDR content properly (you need a minimum of 10 bits for that).
Is greater color depth better for gaming?
Really, of course, it’s better, although it’s not necessary. As we just said, 8-bit is very 80 and VGA screens, a time when 4K resolution and HDR were not even in the dreams of the engineers who developed the technology. Now in the age of 4K and HDR content, a 10-bit display certainly brings huge benefits to the modern content viewing experience.
Contemporary PC and console games are rendered at 10-bit minimum and HDR is becoming more and more universal. Sure, they’ll work fine on a low-cost 8-bit panel, but you’ll be missing out on a lot of the details as we saw in the previous section. Even the most expensive 8-bit monitors and TVs that support HDR have limitations: for example, on Xbox One X, a blurry 8-bit screen (simulating 10-bit at best) can only work with the base HDR10, while the most suitable screens open up the options of Dolby Vision and HDR10 +.
In this sense, games are no different from movies, streaming, photography, or video editing. For all this, the source content continues to increase in detail and quality, and obviously the screen used must follow the content and not get stuck in the past, otherwise you will miss a lot of detail. This means that today 10 bits or more is what we should be looking for for games.