Windows 10 PCs are getting Xbox Series X's Auto HDR functionality

Polycount

Posts: 2,843   +575
Staff member
In brief: One of the Xbox Series X and S' main selling points was the inclusion of Auto HDR; a feature that sought to bring HDR functionality to games that might not ordinarily support it, including much older, backward-compatible titles on the original Xbox and the 360. After a few months of console exclusivity, Microsoft is bringing Auto HDR to Windows PCs.

Well, Windows 10 PCs, as the title says -- Microsoft hasn't said whether or not the feature will be available on other operating systems, but it isn't very likely. Regardless, when enabled, the functionality promises to bring an "entirely new range" of high-intensity colors to over 1000 DX11 and DX12 PC titles.

Microsoft admits that true, native HDR implementations (from a game's developers themselves) will almost always be superior to its automated, algorithm-based solution, but Auto HDR should still offer a superior color experience over SDR. The following comparison image shows some of the color intensity differences you can expect to see in a typical game (in this case, Gears 5 Hivebusters):

To access the new Auto HDR preview (and it is a preview, so expect some bugs or broken functionality), there are a few steps you'll need to follow.

First and foremost, you have to have an actual HDR-ready monitor -- there's no getting around this one. Windows won't even let you switch on the HDR toggle without such a device. If you already have one, though, the next prerequisite is joining the Windows Insider program. Doing so is free, and it should only take you a few minutes.

After that, just access the Program's Dev Channel and grab the latest build. You can see a changelog for the build (which includes information on Auto HDR) right here.

So, you're a member of the Insider Program and you have an HDR-capable display device. Now what? Just perform the following steps:

  • Open up Windows 10's Settings menu.
  • Visit the "Display" sub-section.
  • Select Windows HD Color Settings.
  • Make sure your HDR monitor is selected in the first drop-down box, and then toggle "Use HDR" to "On."
  • Scroll down further until you've found the Auto HDR toggle, and switch that on as well.

And... that's it, you're done. You can disable this feature at any time, of course, so if you don't like the way it looks or if it causes system instability, you're in the clear. We're not sure when Microsoft will roll Auto HDR out to all Windows 10 PC users, but we'll update you when we find out.

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Toju Mikie

Posts: 178   +159
PCs are "better" for most things, but there are some things that seem to always be better supported on consoles. HDR was always one of these things, and also I think 4k Blu-ray support is nonexistent on PC but works fine on console.

EDIT: forgot to mention raytracing support as well. The support seems to be better on console, but for PC, I think the only game that you can do raytracing on if you don't have an RTX card is Crysis Remastered.
 

duckofdeath

Posts: 290   +392
PCs are "better" for most things, but there are some things that seem to always be better supported on consoles. HDR was always one of these things, and also I think 4k Blu-ray support is nonexistent on PC but works fine on console.

EDIT: forgot to mention raytracing support as well. The support seems to be better on console, but for PC, I think the only game that you can do raytracing on if you don't have an RTX card is Crysis Remastered.
Blu-ray support costs money. They used to sell the support as an add on. Too few bought it so they stopped completely.
HDR is problematic in a super open system where you can install virtually any software made the last couple decades.
I can't agree with that RT claim. It only works on brand new consoles you can barely get your hands on and it's rendered at a low enough resolution for AMD GPUs to be able to do it at a very low refresh rate.
 

texasrattler

Posts: 1,124   +523
Consoles dont do anything better than a PC. Not a single thing is better on console. Things can be easier on a console not actually better.
 

envirovore

Posts: 149   +344
TechSpot Elite
PCs are "better" for most things, but there are some things that seem to always be better supported on consoles. HDR was always one of these things, and also I think 4k Blu-ray support is nonexistent on PC but works fine on console.

EDIT: forgot to mention raytracing support as well. The support seems to be better on console, but for PC, I think the only game that you can do raytracing on if you don't have an RTX card is Crysis Remastered.

Teardown is rendered entirely in software RayTracing.
Then there's this project, which also has raytraced audio:

 

Adhmuz

Posts: 2,117   +922
PCs are "better" for most things, but there are some things that seem to always be better supported on consoles. HDR was always one of these things, and also I think 4k Blu-ray support is nonexistent on PC but works fine on console.
I have a compatible Blu-ray drive in my PC and a 4K monitor that I can watch 4K movies directly off of a disc, if I connect my PC to my HDR TV I can watch with HDR there too. Although admittedly getting that working is not the most straight forward of experiences...
 

Toju Mikie

Posts: 178   +159
Blu-ray support costs money. They used to sell the support as an add on. Too few bought it so they stopped completely.
HDR is problematic in a super open system where you can install virtually any software made the last couple decades.
I can't agree with that RT claim. It only works on brand new consoles you can barely get your hands on and it's rendered at a low enough resolution for AMD GPUs to be able to do it at a very low refresh rate.
I mostly agree with your statement, but you also can barely get your hands on RTX cards at the moment so I'm not sure why you talked about availability. I would love to get an RTX 3060 or 3060ti to replace my GTX 1070, but just can't right now. Maybe I'm more impressed because the new consoles have more power than my 1070, which is an aging card.

I would definitely take ray-tracing that is at least quarter resolution like on Crysis Remastered than no ray tracing at all. The list for ray-traced games on console is getting large fast, and while on PC we have more titles (for now) with ray tracing, the console list will be larger than the PC list eventually (I think)
I can't think of a good reason why some titles, like NBA 2K21, can have ray tracing on consoles, but the PC version doesn't have any ray tracing.
 

Kirby1

Posts: 79   +120
Since many people here don't know this, I'll just state... Just about any ray tracing capable GPU is better at RT than consoles. The new consoles have extremely limited RT capabilities that only works at low resolution with heavy upscaling. They're about on par with a geforce 2060, the weakest RT gpu you can buy.
 

Puiu

Posts: 4,489   +3,320
TechSpot Elite
Blu-ray support costs money. They used to sell the support as an add on. Too few bought it so they stopped completely.
HDR is problematic in a super open system where you can install virtually any software made the last couple decades.
I can't agree with that RT claim. It only works on brand new consoles you can barely get your hands on and it's rendered at a low enough resolution for AMD GPUs to be able to do it at a very low refresh rate.
AMD's RT implementation can work fairly well if the devs implement the proper optimisations for it. It still won't be at Nvidia's 3000 series level, but it can be better than what we have now on PC. This is why consoles use it at good enough resolutions even though the GPU isn't that big.
 

Thretosix

Posts: 68   +82
Consoles dont do anything better than a PC. Not a single thing is better on console. Things can be easier on a console not actually better.
I agree with you mostly. Quick resume is nice. I do believe consoles are really good about having a UI that is gamer focused. It doesn't make a console better, just in some cases they feel more convenient. Cost can be another factor depending on how high end you want your PC to be. Of course if you want the best in resolutions, framerates or tailoring your experience with settings, PC is always going to offer the most.
 
It doesn't make a console better, just in some cases they feel more convenient.

Agreed on that front. It's not convenient to start but you can do that with a PC these days using another program. Great if you're willing to put the initial time and cost toward it, but it's certainly not for everyone.
 

Theinsanegamer

Posts: 2,397   +3,476
This was true in the PS2 and PS3 days, but now there are just some things that PC has no support for.
Like what, exactly? PC has more choices for VR, high refresh rate settings, HDR, resolution options, supports controllers from all 3 major consoles, and is still backwards compatible with decades of hardware and software.

Consoles are more convenient, but lets be fair, there is nothing a console does that a PC cant also do.
 

Toju Mikie

Posts: 178   +159
Since many people here don't know this, I'll just state... Just about any ray tracing capable GPU is better at RT than consoles. The new consoles have extremely limited RT capabilities that only works at low resolution with heavy upscaling. They're about on par with a geforce 2060, the weakest RT gpu you can buy.
That's fine if it doesn't look that good yet, the point is that most new titles on PC don't even support it. I'd much rather have low-res ray-tracing with low performance impact than a static cubemap. It's already been shown that if you have a GTX 1070/GTX 1660 Ti/Vega 56 that you can get a good result with low performance impact. It won't look as good as RTX, but it doesn't need to, yet.
 

Toju Mikie

Posts: 178   +159
Like what, exactly? PC has more choices for VR, high refresh rate settings, HDR, resolution options, supports controllers from all 3 major consoles, and is still backwards compatible with decades of hardware and software.

Consoles are more convenient, but lets be fair, there is nothing a console does that a PC cant also do.
VR and high refresh and resolution options and controller compatibility and software and hardware compatibility yes, but HDR, no. There are less options and movie and video playback options are sub-par. There is still no way to play a 4K Blu-ray movie on PC. You need to buy a console or dedicated Blu-ray player to supplement that unfortunately.