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Defining Dynamic Contrast Ratio in Monitors

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Updated June 27, 2022

Key Takeaways:

  • Contrast ratio is the difference between the brightest image a display or monitor can create and the darkest
  • Dynamic Contrast Ratio numbers in displays can be used in confusing or misleading ways
  • Native contrast ratio is what a display is capable of as opposed to what an additional image processing chip is capable of

Defining dynamic contrast ratio requires first explaining what native contrast ratio is. Multiple factors come into play when it comes to the maximum image quality a display or monitor is capable of, but contrast ratio – or simply put, the difference between the brightest and darkest image a display is capable of- is probably the most important, as well as the most misunderstood. By the way, we recommend knowing how a monitor works overall as well while you’re learning about individual monitor settings.

Dynamic Contrast Ratio is a term used by many manufacturers without a strict standard, which can make it confusing to consumers and can be used in sometimes misleading ways to make products stand out in the market. Below, we’ll discuss what DCR means and how understanding it can help you choose the best possible fit for your high-performing computer monitor setup.

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What Is Dynamic Contrast Ratio?

Unlike a monitor color accuracy test, the Contrast Ratio (CR) in monitors refers to the ratio of luminance between the brightest white and darkest black the display is capable of producing and is expressed numerically as brightest white: darkest black, so in a monitor whose brightest white is, for example, 1000 times brighter than its darkest black, it would be written as 1000:1- which is, incidentally, considered an excellent CR in a consumer display or a top HDR monitor.

Dynamic Contrast (DC), sometimes also called advanced dynamic contrast ratio (ACR), refers to a setting in DC-supported displays that lessens the power of the backlight lamp while proportionately amplifying the overall transmission through the LCD panel whenever it needs to display dark images, theoretically creating darker blacks than possible with DC disengaged.

The downside is that if the dark image has small portions of super bright light, the overall image will be overexposed. To compensate, the display will try to determine an acceptable degree to which the super bright portions will be blown out with being noticeable to the viewer. Displays with DC functionality generally contain a dedicated processing chip to handle these calculations, and as a rule, are generally LCD displays. You can manually maintain the color accuracy on your display if you learn how to calibrate a monitor.

Dynamic Contrast Ratio in Marketing

One issue for consumers when choosing a display with DC functionality is that it’s now fairly typical for manufacturers to market and describe their monitors listing only their DC numbers and not their native contrast ratio. This can be deceptive because while that number is often higher than the native contrast ratio, a monitor with a higher native contrast ratio will still offer superior overall contrast to a display with a lower native CR but a high DC. Therefore it’s a good idea to always try to find out what the display’s native CR numbers are, and never to compare one display’s DC number to another’s CR number.


Contrast Ratio and Dynamic Contrast Ratio are both numerically expressed as brightest white: darkest black- a CR of 1000:1 means that the display’s brightest white is 1000 times brighter than its darkest black.

Dynamic Contrast Ratio numbers are often used in marketing because they create the impression of better contrast performance than may be actually available in a display.

Dynamic Contrast Ratio capabilities in monitors require a backlit design and a dedicated processing chip in addition to a display’s native capabilities and are generally LCD models.


Defining Dynamic Contrast Ratio in Monitors FAQ

Why is Contrast Ratio important in computer monitors?

Contrast Ratio is the difference between the brightest white and darkest black a monitor is capable of displaying, and a high ratio between the two results in deeper, richer darks and more luminous, life-like brights- thus it's one of the most important factors in a monitor's overall maximum image quality and performance.

Is Dynamic Contrast Ratio important?

While DC can sometimes increase the darkness of the darkest blacks in dark images, it's not a reliable function across all models that feature it, and there are caveats when it comes to the possible overexposure of superbright portions of dark images with it turned on, therefore it's significantly less important than the native contrast ratio if a display.

What does ACR refer to in the marketing of displays and monitors?

ACR refers to advanced dynamic contrast ratio, which is simply another name for dynamic contrast ratio that some manufacturers use in their marketing and product descriptions.

What is a "static" contrast ratio?

In marketing and product descriptions, the "static" contrast ratio simply refers to the display's native contrast ratio, without dynamic contrast ratio settings engaged, if the monitor is DC-capable.
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