(Pocket-lint) - The talk of the town is 4K HDR, arriving with force in 2016, and changing just about everything about home entertainment. 

It appears in a number of guises and forms, but more importantly, perhaps, than the resolution race of recent years, the HDR side if things brings with it a great deal of excitement.

But what is 4K HDR, how does it work and what content is there available to watch?

What is 4K HDR?

HDR means high dynamic range. You might have heard that expression before, because it first appeared as a popular technique in photography and is now common on smartphones. 

In home entertainment, HDR is very much the same thing. The dynamic range really means the achievable difference between bright highlights and dark shadows. In the real world, your eyes are very good and balancing out highs and lows and 4K HDR does exactly that: it brings realism by being able to produce visuals to better reflect what you'd see with your own eyes.

For televisions, like the Sony XD93, HDR goes hand-in-hand with 4K, resulting in a TV that will show you incredible detail and this wider range of realistic colours. For example, you might have the brilliance of the setting sun on the horizon, and the foreground painted in rich colours, all realistically balanced.

The result of 4K HDR is brilliantly detailed images, with lots of clarity, increased contrast and better colours than have previously been available on your television. For those creating content, 4K HDR allows movies to looks closer to the director's original vision, because television are able to display much more than ever before.

How does 4K HDR work?

In a television, you need to have a panel (screen) that's compatible with 4K HDR to work. The resolution side of the deal (the 4K part) is fairly simple. It's a panel with a resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. This is also called Ultra HD, or UHD for short, and has been appearing in TVs over the past few years and is now common on flagship TVs from a range of manufacturers. 

On the HDR side, this is where things get more technical. For HDR to work, the panel has to be able to capably show both very dark and very bright parts of a scene. In simple terms, this has been achieved by allowing to the panel to display a much higher peak brightness than before.

But this isn't uniformal brightness, it's cleverly controlled, so that, for example, the burning flame of a candle is white hot at the centre, smoothly transitioning through reds and yellows, but set in the inky darkness of the unlit room. Sony's Slim Backlight Drive handles this on a TV like the XD93, giving a great HDR result, but without the screen getting too thick.

What 4K HDR content is there?

This is where things get really interesting, because once you have the TV to view 4K HDR, you need something to watch. Content is already being produced in 4K HDR and with major studios now working to this new standard, there's going to be some great content appearing.

With the first run of 4K HDR televisions in 2015 there was little to watch, but in 2016, we're enjoying the content boom.

Streaming services

Netflix and Amazon Instant Video were among the first services to make 4K HDR content available on your TV.

As the Sony XD93 is an Android TV, it offers access to both Amazon and Netflix with a range of both 4K and 4K HDR programmes available. One of the headline shows for HDR is Netflix's Marco Polo.

Even if the HDR aspect isn't available, there's an increasing selection of 4K or Ultra HD content for you to watch. If you're looking at a 4K HDR TV, you'll be streaming plenty of content.

Ultra HD Blu-ray

For those serious about movies, there's only one place to turn: Ultra HD Blu-ray. This is the next standard of optical disc, packing in 4K HDR, with staggering results.

It's early days for Ultra HD Blu-ray, launching in early 2016, so there are only a few players available and they come at a premium price. But as time passes, there will be more to choose from and at more aggressive prices.

The selection of movies is also expanding. Big releases like The Martian and Max Max: Fury Road are wowing already and new releases, like The Revenant, are joining the list every day.

HDR Gaming

Not often mentioned, but gaming has always been part of the HDR plan, adding to the visuals to create more realism and more immersion in games. Landing later in 2016 is the Xbox One S, which not only offers 4K HDR streaming and Blu-ray, but will give you HDR games too.

Although not initially offering full 4K gaming, that's set to come in the future too - expected by the end of 2017 in future consoles from Xbox and PlayStation.

Why do I want 4K HDR?

To get started enjoying 4K HDR, you need a TV like the Sony XD93, with a very capable 4K HDR display and all the smart skills and connectivity. Not only will it make your standard and HD content look great, but you'll be all set to enjoy the very best of the future of entertainment too.

HDR makes a huge visual difference. It adds richness and contrast that we've never had on TVs before, making everything look more realistic. It's being executed with jaw-dropping results, no matter which source you're pulling it from.

The best thing about buying a 4K HDR TV is that you're getting the complete package, with a great panel, so even when you're not watching the latest blockbuster movie on Ultra HD Blu-ray, you can bask in some of the best-looking images you'll have ever seen on your TV.

Next read our article on: Seven cool features of the Sony XD93 TV

If you are looking for a 4k TV, we'd suggest taking a look at the Sony XD94 / XD93 series