What Is A Wide Color Gamut Monitor?

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What Is A Wide Color Gamut Monitor?

A picture of a bird on a wide color gamut monitor

It’s likely you’ve heard of these before, so it’s only appropriate that we address it now; what is a wide color gamut monitor?

Well for starters, you could say it’s the future. It takes everything we know about our current screens, and ramps it up to 11.

Now the concept of color is one of those little things in life that’s often taken for granted. I mean think about it, when was the last time you wondered how it’s possible that we can perceive color?


Unless you happen to be an artist or into digital photography, it’s just not something that would really cross the average person’s mind. But the reality is we’re one of the few lucky few beings on the planet capable of visualizing the entirety of the color spectrum.

With that being said, how much of the spectrum do you think current television sets and monitors are able to display? 90 percent?


Surprisingly it’s a number much lower than that. The fact is, standard displays are only capable of producing 16,777,216 colors out of potential billions!

So it’s obvious that we’re missing out on a huge amount of visual information. Knowing this, industry leaders have managed to come out with displays that can reproduce a majority of those missing colors, giving a much more vibrant and life-like image. How exactly do these work though, and better yet, should you get one?

Let’s find out!


How We Interpret Color


How Do Standard Color Displays Work?


How Do Wide Color Gamut Monitors Work?


The Advantages Of Wide Color


The Disadvantages Of Wide Color


What Is the Best Wide Color Computer Monitor?


What Is The Best Wide Color Television?


Should You Calibrate?


Final Thoughts





How We Interpret Color

So to really understand these new displays, it would only make sense to first have a firm grasp on how average screen today shows colors.

To start, a typical screen makes use of what’s known as the RGB color space model (RGB standing for Red, Green, and Blue respectively)

They’re most commonly referred to though as primary additives.

What’s that mean?

Basically think of it as a way of saying you can create any resulting color from a combination of these original 3.

For example by adding the right amount of red and blue together, it allows them create magenta. If you add them all together in a certain way, you can create white.

By utilizing different combinations for each pixel, what you ultimately get is a full picture. The technical side of it is talked about more here if curious. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/RGB_color_space#Intuition

But here’s the real question though; why red, green, and blue of all colors?

Well the answer to that has to do with how we as humans see. In each of our eye balls, we have what are known as rods and cones.

These are the structures responsible for regulating the amount of light that comes into contact with the eye along with our spatial awareness.

From there, within each of these little cones you have proteins known as opsins (weird name) that interpret the visual information.

Since we’re human, we have 3 different types of opsins on our cones that are the most sensitive to red, green, and blue.

So basically, all of the colors that we perceive come from some sort of combination of these 3.

This is what is known as trichromatic vision (tri meaning 3, and chromatic relating to colors)

Due to this, manufacturers originally decided that using these 3 would make the most sense since our vision is based off of this trio. The rest as they say, is history.


How Do Standard Color Displays Work?

Now believe it or not, there are different color models in existence as well; ranging from things like CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, & black) used for printing, and Adobe RGB  for digital editing which uses a greater variation between the primary colors.

But for the average monitor or display, sRGB is the widely accepted standard (with the s meaning standard) This is then implemented with what is known as 8 bit color depth.

Think of a bit as stored information, and depth as how many colors it can render.

The more bits you have, the more information you can store. So without making this too complicated (because it can get pretty in depth), if you have the standard 8 bit color, there’s 256 colors for each red, green, & blue value, or 16,777,216 total possible colors overall.

This is also known as Rec. 709. More on that here if you’re curious about the science behind it. https://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/bit-depth.htm

Over 16 million sounds like a lot though right? Well the problem is, even with the potential of displaying that many, there are still millions more that aren’t represented.

That brings us to the next topic at hand..


How Do Wide Color Gamut Monitors Work?


Wide Color! Cool.. what is it?

Besides being commonly referred to as Rec.2020, think of wide color as any device capable of displaying more than the usual 16 million colors. They’re relatively new, and were introduced with the intention of improving overall the viewing experience by ways of offering colors unable to be shown prior.

Now it’s important to keep in mind that when the term wide color gamut is mentioned, what is typically being inferred is 10 bit color; more specifically DCI-P3. That’s the standard that wide gamut displays use right now.

While Rec2020 is the golden standard technically, it’s also indicative of the entirety of the visible color spectrum, which is something that our current technology isn’t quite up to snuff with just yet.

So when you see screens that tout 100 percent color accuracy, they’re talking about within the DCI-P3 spectrum, not Rec2020 which is a common misconception. Though you can certainly bet your bottom dollar that this is undoubtedly being worked on as we speak.

Even though they aren’t out as of right now, they are coming at some point; likely years from now.

But still, 10 bit is certainly nothing to scoff at. Remember how I previously said that 8 bit screens were capable of displaying 256 possible colors for each red, green, & blue pixel?

Well in the case of 10 bit, this is bumped up 64 times to 1024. So If there’s 1024 for each possible pixel, that means there’s a total of 1,073,741,824 colors. That’s over a billion, which is absolutely insane!

What’s even crazier is the fact that an even newer, lesser talked about format exists called 12 bit color.

With this, the total is bumped up to an even more impressive 68 billion.

Yeah, pure madness.

But believe it or not, there is actually a method to the madness.

By now, you’re probably wondering what the point of that many colors even is to begin with, so let’s get to the numerous advantages that a wide color monitor does have to offer.


The Advantages Of Wide Color

#1 More Overall Colors

Obviously the jump from 16 million to over a billion colors is an extremely big leap in terms of capability. So with this many to choose from, images are able to be much more vibrant and dynamic than they ever could be before.

Take it from somebody who has one already; you’ll notice the difference immediately as it really is night and day honestly.



#2 More Accurate Colors

This is a picture of a desert

Truth be told, I think this is the biggest draw when it comes to a wide gamut display; accuracy. With 10 or 12 bits of color as opposed to 8, the amount of visual information they can relay is improved tenfold.

In other words, the screens utilizing this technology are incredibly more accurate than before since there’s more hues and shades to choose from per pixel.

What do you get as a result of this?

Images that are much more realistic and true to life. So for example if there’s a scene with a rainforest, instead of using 100 shades of green, it might be able to use 1000 shades of green just for that particular tree.

Come to think of it, it’s actually similar to HDR in that regard; in that colors are much more nuanced and gradated.

That brings us to the next advantage..


#3 Less Banding Resulting In Smoother Images

An example of color banding in a TV

It’s hard to convey what banding looks like without seeing it for yourself, but I’ll give you an idea by offering an analogy.

Let’s say you have a scene where there’s a blue sky that goes from light blue, to dark blue.

Now in person, that transition from light to dark would look gradual right?

Well imagine that instead of that smooth transition, there was a distinctive separation between each shade of blue. This is where the term banding comes from. Instead of one cohesive image, there are separate bands of a similar color that make up the picture.

This is actually what is happening on the average screen.

With wide color however, there are plenty more shades to choose from so that change has a lot more gradation and nuance.

It also happens to be why 4K and HDR pair so well together with it since that combination of additional pixels and additional color gives you a supremely clean image.


The Disadvantages Of Wide Color

Of course, there are certain drawbacks that you should aware of as well should you be interested in getting one for yourself.


#1 Sensitive Eyes May Find It Uncomfortable

Due to the fact there’s a lot more dynamism introduced, images will be dramatically more lifelike and colorful.

However that could be part of the problem for some people. If you have really sensitive eyes, or you’re not particularly used to it, chances are you may not like it.

For people with really sensitive eyes, it could run the risk of coming off as a bit too much so keep that in mind if that sounds like you.

This could also be exacerbated in relation to the amount of blue light exposure you’re getting as well.




#2 Things Originally Recorded With RGB In Mind May Look Odd On The New Format

This isn’t something of a certainty since it’ll honestly depend on the content, and that individual’s eyes.

But do keep in mind that with one of these new displays, there is a chance that old content may look a little off or even odd.

I never personally noticed that at all, but again, everyone’s different.


What Is the Best Wide Color Computer Monitor?

Winner: LG 27MD5KB-B Ultrafine 27″


So with all of this, let’s say you were interested in getting a new extended color monitor (because even a quality desktop monitor is a part of home theater which I’ll be covering in later articles)

Which one would be the best to get?

If I had to recommend just one, it’d probably be the LG 27MD5KB-B Ultrafine 27″

I seriously couldn’t say enough good things about this one, it’s really that good. Besides supporting awesome picture clarity, it also has 10 bit support as well.

That means you’re getting over a billion colors and the support of a wide color gamut with this one; so movies, shows, etc. will be incredibly immersive and enjoyable.

It even has wide viewing angles, meaning people off to the side of the display won’t suffer from a degradation in picture quality.

It’s also 27 inches in total, which is pretty big for a computer screen.

Even for gamers, it has a fast response time which makes games feel much more responsive and fluid.

All of this makes for an all around amazing performer.


LG 27MD5KB-B Ultrafine 27″



What Is The Best Wide Color Television?

Winner: Samsung 50-Inch Class QLED Q60B Series


Now if we switch over to the TV side, that’s a tough one. All things considered, I’d have to say one of them is definitely the Samsung 50-Inch Class QLED Q60B Series

This is a particularly unique television in that it uses what are known as quantum dots.

To put it briefly, quantum dots are microscopic particles that glow a certain color when light is shined through them.

By applying these to every single pixel, you basically get a display capable of a lot more vibrancy and accuracy.

I did an entire article on it if you’re curious about that. https://easyhometheater.net/what-is-samsung-qled-technology

Simply put, this is one of the best TVs I’ve ever seen. The image quality is just impeccable.

Then on top of that, you of course get the standard features you’d expect from a high quality set like high dynamic range and UHD.

If you’re in the market for a top of the line TV, this is certainly a solid choice.

Samsung 50-Inch Class QLED Q60B Series



Should You Calibrate?

So after you’ve gotten you’re new screen, you’ll definitely want to calibrate it. If you don’t, the colors will likely be off, and it simply won’t be accurate.

Now there are a few ways to do this, so if you’re on a PC, there’s actually a built in calibration tool that’s free to use.

The instructions for that can be found here.

If you plan on doing most of your watching on a television however, then you’ll want to check this out since I did a separate article on that as well. https://easyhometheater.net/how-to-calibrate-your-tv


Final Thoughts

Hopefully with all of this being said, you now have a firm understanding of what a wide color gamut monitor actually is.

While it certainly hasn’t around for too long, they’ve undoubtedly left their mark as this technology is already being touted as the next eventual standard in video formatting.

That is until the potential emergence and adoption of Micro LED technology or even 8K!

It remains to be seen whether this will be the case though. But with all the ineffable benefits they do offer, I can’t see why they wouldn’t be at some point at least.

So with that, what do you think will come next?

I’m genuinely curious. Let me know down in a comment below because I’d love to know.

That just about does it for now though.

Until next time my friends; make it easy, keep it simple 😉


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22 Comments so far:

  1. Hi Jay, thanks for a very detailed and informative understanding of our perception of color. You really sold me on the 32-inch VA LED Monitor. I now get why some screens look so much better than others and it has to do with so many factors that one isn’t aware of.

    Great read! Brian

    • Yeah there definitely is a lot but a display capable of this is definitely one you’ll want to consider. And awesome man, let me know how it is when you get it.

  2. 16 million colors and I’m not seeing the true picture?! That’s astonishing. I can’t believe how thrilled I was as a kid in my grandparents basement, twisting a wire coat hanger around trying to get a clearer picture on a little black and white TV.

    Thanks for the hard work of making something so complex so easy to understand. You truly have a gift.


    • Thanks man! I’m serious I really appreciate that. But yeah it’s insane. Wide color displays are beyond belief in person.

  3. Wow, thanks a lot for all the info. It felt like I’m back at IT university.
    I am interested in technology as almost every guy but I haven’t yet heard of this new technology…
    So thank you for the explanation and I really need to get one of those VA LED monitors to my flat.

    Take care!

  4. Thanks for this blog – really insightful, you explain it really well so easy to understand, I now understand why some tv pictures look worse than others, incredible detail.

  5. Technology just keeps on going. It is like when we think we have seen it all something else pops up. I don’t think that it is that important to me though because what I look at now really satisfies me. Especially since I know the upgrade will probably cost an arm and a leg.

    • See you would think that, but that’s not the case at all. If anything, it’s even more accessible now since it’s starting to become the norm as time goes on.

  6. Man-I’ve been using color monitors all my life without questioning how much work goes into each one. Thousands upon thousands of pixels…that’s astounding.

  7. Pretty cool article there. easy to understand. maybe you should do a “for Dummies” section. lol cuz even I understood what you are saying. I will definitely have to check it out and thanks for the warning for sensitive eyes, I will keep that in mind. and if you can do all that with 3 colors, why worry about all the other color profiles like CMYK??

    • Lol I’m glad you understood it. And because it works differently with video editing and printing. Within the article there are some links if you’re curious about more on that as well.

      • Thanks,I’ll check them out. I’m actually looking at designing things for clothes and need a program that will save and work in CMYK, not RGB.

          • Thank you so much, downloaded it and I think it will work between my other program and that one. I know gimp2 is free and suppose to support CMYK, but you have to install things and add plugins, was too confusing for me. and Paint.net is suppose to be free and uses it too, but my computer only supports vista and I need 8.1 to run it.
            thank you very much
            if it is okay with you I will share your site on my profiles.

  8. The VA LED monitor really blows my mind. Over a billion colors, that’s insane! You explain the ins and outs of these displays very well. Also, I already figured that unless older films, shows, and such are remastered they won’t have as good of a picture as the new ones. Am I figuring right on this?

    The monitor and the television both look awesome and want to add them to my rec room.

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