The PS5 has a major problem with how it displays non-HDR content — and there's currently no fix available for it.
While many games and videos these days are designed to be viewed in high dynamic range (HDR) format, it is possible to disable the HDR function on the PS5 and instead view content in SDR (standard dynamic range) format. However research by Alexander Battaglia (opens in new tab) and John Linneman (opens in new tab) of tech analysis brand Digital Foundry has found that doing so will lead to less than optimum results.
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The problem is that in SDR mode, the console renders darks at a significantly higher brightness than it should. The best example of this issue we have comes from YouTuber Tim Rogers (opens in new tab), whose OLED TV looks more like an LCD TV when playing Demon’s Souls on a PS5 set to display in SDR mode.
According to Linneman, responding to Rogers' tweet about it, the issue is that the PS5 uses a reduced color space when operating in SDR mode — and that could explain why the darks look particularly bad when not rendered in HDR. Why the console does this remains a mystery.
Yeah, it’s been a real issue for us. That said, in this case, it’s likely a full/limited RGB issue as PS5 typically crushes darker shades rather than increase the black floor.March 28, 2021
Playing games in HDR is one of the biggest selling points of the PS5, and most televisions released in the last few years include the feature as standard, so this might not be an issue that will impact most PS5 gamers.
What's more, the PS5 automatically enables HDR even for content that doesn’t support a high-dynamic range, so unless you actively go looking for this issue, you shouldn’t encounter the problem.
However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be times when some PS5 owners will want to play in SDR mode. Several streaming and recording services don’t capture in HDR, so this issue could be a particular headache for content creators.
Hopefully, this is an issue that can be resolved via a system update, as opposed to a hardware issue that would only be fixable with a console refresh. So far, Sony has been rather slow to address any PS5 system software issues, so we could be waiting a while for a fix.
While this is definitely an issue, we doubt it will impact the current demand for the PS5. Sony has been struggling to meet the overwhelming demand for the console since launch, so make sure to keep tabs on our where to buy a PS5 guide if you’re still looking to secure one for yourself.