Just the other day, Kevin Tofel over at About Chromebooks came across an internal document from Google entitled HDR on ChromeOS and Beyond and in it, we get some interesting details on some upcoming software and hardware changes the Chrome OS team is eyeballing for the future. That future isn’t years away, either. Instead, it seems the entire effort to bring HDR to both the software and hardware sides of Chrome OS are well underway and being slated for a stable release with Chrome OS 86.
I’d point you over to Kevin’s very detailed rundown of HDR and what it needs to function if you are into those types of details. For the purpose of this article, however, it is enough to know that HDR stands for High Dynamic Range and the content served in this format to hardware that can display it simply looks fantastic. Just like the photos you regularly take on just about any smartphone these days that also use HDR, these videos have the ability to push deeper blacks, more contrasted colors, and much wider – well – dynamic range. According to the document Kevin found:
Upcoming ChromeOS hardware has new capabilities. In particular:
– Very wide (more than P3) gamut
– High-ish dynamic range (~600 nits)
– 10-bit color per channel
– A funky new transfer function for HDR content
As it stands right now, the only Chromebook with an HDR-capable screen is the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook, but it clearly doesn’t qualify as “upcoming Chrome OS hardware.” Instead, this document is pointing us towards another big upgrade in high-end Chromebooks that will come with the hardware capability to push these sorts of HDR video specs. Knowing that these Chromebooks are coming down the road is exciting, but it is even more exciting when we talk about a release target for this new feature. If logic follows, the team is hard at work pushing HDR compatibility for upcoming hardware and aiming it for general availability in Chrome OS 86. That’s only 12 weeks from now. The original target of Chrome OS 85 is less than 6 weeks out, but I’d assume that was a best case scenario with 86 being closer to the arrival of new hardware that will need this feature.
We talked just yesterday about a new Chromebook on the way from Samsung code named ‘Nightfury’ that will come packing Samsung’s latest QLED display tech and will clearly be HDR capable. We also know that HP’s upcoming Elite C1030 Chromebook will come equipped with a staggeringly-bright 1000-nit screen that may also be able to take advantage of this new HDR functionality. My bet is there are more devices on the way that will also take advantage of HDR as well, and that simply means better screens across the board for Chromebooks in the near future.
Finally, it is also worth noting that this entire HDR experience will be possible via USB Type C to an HDR-capable external monitor as well. That’s a pretty big deal since many users won’t be in a position to go out and buy a brand new Chromebook just for a better display tech. If you happen to have an external monitor that supports HDR playback, you’ll be able to push that signal through the USB Type C port on your existing Chromebook and enjoy all the benefits of HDR without any new purchases.
We’d expect to start seeing this option appear soon in the Canary and Developer channels of Chrome OS. We’d expect the toggle to appear for the Samsung Galaxy Chromebook first as it is mentioned frequently in these code changes, but we’re not currently in possesion of one at this time. If you have one and feel like hopping into the Developer Channel for a bit, you may find yourself as one of the first users out there to experience HDR playback on a Chromebook. If you do, let us know, and remember that moving to the Developer Channel will clear your local storage the minute you decide to head back to the safe, more-reliable Stable Channel.