HDR Movie library in TV app on iPad Pro

HDR Movies on iPad Pro

In my previous post I told you about my favorite film bundle on iTunes. The bundle is remarkeable because it includes “4K Dolby Vision” versions of all included films at no extra cost compared to the HD version. I was able to enjoy the higher quality video on my iPad Pro and I go into a few technical details of the experience below.

Supported devices

Apple’s support document ↗︎ about movies with ” 4K badgeHDR badge, or Dolby Vision badge ” reads:

iPhone 8 and newer, iPad Pro (2017), and Apple TV 4K can play HDR10 and Dolby Vision content.
Apple TV 4K, connected to a 4K-compatible television, can play 4K content.4 4K video, especially with HDR10 or Dolby Vision, requires an HDMI cable compatible with these formats.

iPad Pro 2nd Generation, iPhone 8/X and Apple TV 4K. That’s right, iTunes for Mac doesn’t (as of this writing) let you download or stream the “4K” versions of films even on iMac 5K!

Additionally, a swift internet connection is required to stream 4K content:

Apple recommends a minimum speed of 25 Mbps for 4K streaming.

If your internet connection doesn’t meet this requirement, your device will stream lower resolution video automatically. Oddly enough, Apple doesn’t permit downloading 4K content to watch later – the download is maxed out at 1080p:

You can download a local copy of an HD movie to your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Mac, or PC, and you might be able to download HDR and Dolby Vision versions to your iOS devices, but you can’t download a 4K version.

My experience of HDR on iPad Pro

I watched five Mission: Impossible movies in “4K Dolby Vision” on my iPad Pro 12.9” (2017). The video quality is impressive! I haven’t found mention of how the HDR effect is achieved on the iPad, so I decided to find out myself. I filmed my iPad Pro that was playing a Dolby Vision movie in 240fps using my iPhone 7. Watching the slowed-down clip confirms that there’s no interlacing used to create a fake HDR perception, this is native HDR thanks to the iPad’s exceptional display. Bonus: ProMotion technology allows the iPad to display the 24fps movie at native 24 Hz, which eliminates tearing produced by conventional displays that run at fixed 60 Hz refresh rate. Awesome!

The best movie experience in the home

Using “Apple TV 4K” connected to a 4K TV with Dolby Vision support using proper HDMI cable, you can actually achieve full 4K (3840 x 2160) HDR playback quality as demoed by Apple on stage during the “Apple TV 4K” announcement keynote.

A few technical limitations that should be mentioned:

  • iPad Pro and iPhone are limited to 1080p Dolby Vision renders of the movie, not 4K as advertised in the store both on iOS and macOS. On the flip side, the difference in resolution is probably not noticeable even on the 2048p display of my iPad Pro 12.9″.
  • “iTunes Extras” content is in SD for older movies and HD for more recent ones – no 4K/1080p HDR, a downgrade that is immediately noticeable after viewing the full blockbuster in 1080p HDR!
  • Interruptions of HDR: anything displayed outside of the video playing will temporarily prevent HDR from working its magic. The transition is mostly smooth. However even subtitles and notifications caused my iPad to briefly switch to non-HDR mode.

Funny enough: the brief interruptions of HDR allow you to consciously notice the added video quality.

Summary

iTunes “4K Dolby Vision” offers a truly cinema-grade visual experience, both on Apple TV 4K and on iPad Pro (2017). The team behind the Apple ProMotion display deserves highest praise! 👏