As we continue to roll up to the release date of Xbox One X on November 7, you’ve no doubt heard us talking a lot about feature terminology: 4K, High Dynamic Range (HDR), supersampling and others. Just a few weeks ago, Major Nelson sat down with Albert Penello to cover many of your questions about Xbox One Enhanced, what that means, and how game developers look to harness the power of Xbox One X. It’s a great piece and we highly recommend you check it out.
The simple fact is that all your games will look and play better on Xbox One X. Yes, your picture will look sharper on a 4K screen. Yes, your brights are brighter and more detailed thanks to HDR. Xbox One X will still deliver faster performance, better loading times, and greater framerates — these are all features Xbox One X will bring into your living room regardless of your TV.
Today we’d like to take a trip back down terminology lane, just to keep everything fresh in your minds and perhaps educate a few more of you about these buzzwords you’re seeing today — because you’re going to keep seeing them in the months and years to come — and we’re here to help.
What is 4K?
Simply put, it’s a higher resolution than that of a 1920×1080 (1080p) television, coming in at a crisp 3840×2160 (2160p). This means any supported television programming or game can run at a higher resolution than the previous standard of 1080p, so you have an even sharper and more detailed picture.
Xbox One X is the only console that can deliver the crisp and clean 4K resolution for your supported games, streaming video, and when pairing a 4K screen with the built-in Ultra High Definition (UHD) Blu-ray drive, you’ll get cinema-like picture quality in your living room.
Bonus: you can sit even closer to your 4K television screen than your 1080p display before the image starts to break down. But be warned: your parents will still be upset with you if they catch you sitting that close to the TV.
What is UHD, 4K UHD, Ultra HD, and Others?
It’s kinda the same thing as 4K. They both play in the same high-resolution ballpark, but the term UHD and other variants of it is used largely with consumer brand televisions. So, if you see one of those labels on a television, you’re still getting a 4K television. It’s just that different manufacturers are choosing to go with their own terminology over others, thus creating a great deal of confusion.
What is HDR?
This is money. While higher resolution is great and gives us a sharper, clearer picture when playing games, it’s HDR that really helps with emersion thanks to deeper colors — blacks and whites in particular — and a rich contrast allowing for greater detail in all parts of the image. Obviously, it’s easier to see this effect rather than describe it, but I’ll give it a shot.
When looking at a bunch of thick clouds against a bright blue sky, imagine not being able to make out the shading they make upon one other. You’ll wind up with giant flat white objects floating in the sky. Now add the shading element back in, making it easier to see the shapes and bulbs of clouds floating in the sky. That’s essentially what HDR brings to your games and movies, a greater level of contrast to objects, helping you see a better distinction between brightness, shadows, shading, and more of those subtle bits of an image you may have been taking for granted all this time. HDR makes images look more natural, more detailed, and more realistic.
What is Supersampling?
If there’s one thing I’d love for you to take away from all this information is this: a 4K screen is not required to play great games on Xbox One X. Your games will still look and run much better on Xbox One X than any other console on the market regardless of your television and that’s thanks to supersampling. Supersampling also helps to reduce “jaggies” around the edges of objects and other staircasing-like effects
Think of supersampling as the cousin of upscaling. Instead of taking a lower resolution image and blowing up (creating a distortion) like upscaling’s effect, supersampling takes a high-resolution image and scales it down to your television’s native resolution — be it 720p or 1080p — to bring all the information that Xbox One X is pouring into its games and beaming to the screen.
But supersampling is more than just resolution as any Xbox One X Enhanced title running on at 1080p television is still taking advantage of the power of the system. That makes your draw distance better, greater special effects, and everything else that’s running under the hood of the world’s most powerful console.
Yes, a 4K screen will deliver a sharper and clearer image, and HDR will bolster the light and dark features of your game, but supersampling does an effective job of letting you play your games best on Xbox One X regardless of your screen.
What is Xbox One X Enhanced?
This is a term to let you know that the game developer has tapped into the power of Xbox One X. It means faster loading times, higher resolution textures, higher framerates — but it’s up to the developer to decide the best way they want to utilize that power.
So, when you see Xbox One X Enhanced mentioned on your favorite game’s product page or game box, it means there has been some special care taken to utilize the Scorpio engine. We recommend following up for more info on our recently launched Xbox One Enhanced site that has a deep dive on this feature.
How do I know if the Xbox One X Enhanced game updates are on my console?
By the time Xbox One X launches on November 7, some of your favorite games may still be getting ready for the Xbox One X revolution. The best way to know when Xbox One X Enhanced Updates are ready is to keep an eye on those game’s social media channels and official sites — they’ll be one of the first to let you know there is an update available. You can also check out our Xbox One X Enhanced Games list found here, which will be updated daily.
On the console, if you have Automatic Updates on, your console should update when new versions are available on the service. To see which games have been updated, go to My Games and Apps, then My Games, and filter for Xbox One X Enhanced — if the game is listed in this section, it has been updated. If the game is not included in the Xbox One X Enhanced section under My Games and Apps, the game update is either not live yet, or you haven’t installed the update. If the update hasn’t been installed yet, the fastest way to update it is to launch the game – you can only play online when you have the most recent version of the game available.
If you don’t have Automatic Updates turned on, go to Updates to check for the latest available game updates. You can also sort “My Games and Apps” by “Last Update” to see a list of recent updates.
We hope this article helped bring a new level of understanding to some of the terms you’ve been seeing lately. We honestly can’t wait for you to play games on Xbox One X so you can see the difference for yourself, and perhaps come up with a better analogy about HDR than cloud shapes.