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PSA for PC gamers – Ensure you’re getting the best colours from your HDMI connection

PSA for PC gamers – Ensure you’re getting the best colours from your HDMI connection
Carl 'Malkaurai' Phillips

PCs can be fickle things. When everything goes smoothly they can provide unrivalled gaming experiences with the right hardware, but so many issues can arise on the software side. I’ve lost count of the number of times my rigs have suffered driver problems over the years, but the problems are usually obvious –  frame rates being unexpectedly low; games repeatedly crashing, or not even loading in the first place. This is on top of fine tuning your settings, be it for overclocking your hardware or installing 3rd party apps to make everything look absolutely shiny. It can often feel overwhelming to newcomers and even veteran PC owners, and some often assume that everything will work as intended once hardware and updates are installed.

However, over the last 24 hours I’ve discovered that my graphics cards have been limiting the dynamic range of my HDMI cables. In layman terms, it means that the way colours have been broadcast to my monitors has been washed out or dulled, and it probably has been that way for years. While I’m an nVidea user this also affects AMD customers as well, so I wanted to make sure this info on the problem – and how to fix it – reached as many people as possible.

amd_nvidia

As explained in this very helpful article, the problem arises from your graphics card designating your screen as a TV instead of a monitor, regardless of its make or age. Some of you may well be using a TV as a monitor (I do, at least) but the reason this designation is a problem is because the end result causes your on-screen colours to be “washed out.” In other words, blacks aren’t as black as they should be and different shades of white just blend into each other instead of showing as individual colours.

While this setting is often default with every driver update (ugh) it turns out it’s easy to recify. For nVidia users, all you need to do is go to the nVidea Control Panel and find the Resolution settings. From there, scroll down until you find the “Output Dynamic Range” dropdown menu, and change it from Limited to Full. It’s really that simple, and upon doing it I immediately noticed a huge difference in the way colours are shown on my screen. It was even more noticable when I reloaded Dishonored 2 (review coming soon, FYI.) The game already looked fantastic, but the full dynamic range gave it a much more vibrant feel even in darkened areas.

Not sure if you need to change anything? Use this picture as a guide – if you can’t see four distinct colours (or can only just make each one out) you need this fix.

hdmi-colour-fix-test

You can find a detailed explanation of the problem and a full walkthrough of how to fix it by reading this article, which also explains how to fix the issue on AMD graphics cards. Yes, I can appreciate that richer colours isn’t the most pressing matter, but I gurantee you’ll be greatful for the advice once you’ve given it a go and load up your game of choice. A more vibrant Overwatch, Rocket League, or Civilization VI? Hells yeah.

A huge thanks to Gareth Harmer for pointing this out on Twitter, Deathwalkx on Reddit for the signal boost, and PC Monitors for the detailed solution.