All The Information You Need on 4K Resolution and HDR For The Upcoming Xbox One S

Xbox One S

Microsoft’s sleeker version of their premiere home console the Xbox One is only weeks away with the highly-anticipated 2TB Xbox One S launch edition set to start hitting shelves in select regions on August 2. Xbox One S is the most compact Xbox yet, 40 percent smaller than the original Xbox One, and includes a built-in power supply.

Xbox One S is the first and only console that allows you to watch Blu-ray movies and stream video in stunning 4K Ultra HD with High Dynamic Range (HDR). That means you’ll get to enjoy your favorite shows and movies in the clearest, most realistic video possible. With HDR support for video and gaming, Xbox One games like Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, and Scalebound will look even better thanks to a higher contrast ratio between lights and darks, bringing out the true visual depth of your favorite games.

What is HDR?

Some consumers that aren’t on the bleeding edge of technology might be scratching their heads at the inclusion of HDR technology. It’s important here to differentiate what version of HDR the Xbox One S will utilise. The Xbox One S will need a HDR10 TV to make use of its HDR technology, not Dolby Vision HDR.

The ultimate aim of all these core characteristics of HDR is the creation of an image that’s more realistic, or more in line with how something would look if you were actually seeing it with your eyes, in person.

With this in mind, HDR-capable 4K TVs (because they’re almost exclusively also 4K TVs) work at creating a maximum amount of specific deeply dark local dimming zones for darker tones and high overall brightness where dimming isn’t activated. With the best LED 4K TVs, the resulting HDR effect can be truly impressive.

4K Resolution

Mike Ybarra, the Partner Director of Program Management at Microsoft, has confirmed on Twitter that the Xbox One S will upscale media content and your games to 4K for use on a 4K TV.

Details on the exact specs of the Xbox One S’s AMD SoC are still unknown and specs leaks haven’t yet emerged but we imagine that AMD SoC (System-on-a-chip) will handle the 4K upscaling of games and media. In the interim between now and the upcoming Project Scorpio (the most powerful console ever made) Microsoft’s Xbox One S is their key to delivering a 4K console gaming experience to users.

4K Ultra HD TVs (also known as UHD TVs) deliver four times as much detail as 1080p Full HD, that’s eight million pixels compared to two million pixels. A 4K display reveals so much more nuance and detail and like the jump from SD to HD, there’s a noticeable difference in sharpness and image quality. 

Having a 4k TV and genuine 4k content isn’t enough. Because there are limits to what the eye can perceive, if you sit too far from your TV (the distance depending on the TV’s size), you won’t be able to see all the detail in the image. That means that if you sit too far away from a 4k TV, the picture will look like what you’d get on a TV with a lower resolution screen.

This chart illustrates the dividing line for normal 20/20 vision. To use the chart, check your viewing distance on the vertical axis and the size of the TV on the horizontal one. If the resulting position is above the line, you probably won’t see a major difference between a 1080p and a 4k TV.

Should you wait for Scorpio?

At the same event that they unveiled the Xbox One S, Microsoft also revealed what they’re referring to as Project Scorpio. Project Scorpio is described as “The most powerful console ever.” and will be packed with 6 teraflops of power which will be capable of powering native 4K resolution games. Scorpio aims to provide high-end VR on top of 4K and HDR game support. It’s going to be more than 5x more powerful than the current Xbox One and will have a sizeable advantage over Sony’s mid-gen upgrade codenamed the PS4 Neo. 

It boils down to whether you’re looking for native 4K games or if you’re content with upscaled 4K games. Upscaling attempts to utilize higher resolution displays without higher resolution content. While this is definitely an improvement over imagery that has not been upscaled, it still does not compare to true 4K resolution. Upscaling can succeed in reducing the appearance of blockiness and jagged edges, but still falls short when it comes to depicting the detail achieved by uncompressed native 4K. 

If you’re an Xbox 360 owner who’s yet to take the jump to current gen because the latest technology isn’t a concern for you then you should definitely go with the Xbox One S, it will run all Xbox One games while being future proofed with the ability to play 4K content at a relatively cheap price as the Scorpio is expected to be more expensive (anywhere in the $400 to $600 range if I were to guess.) However, if you need a 4K player to see you through for a year then the Xbox One S is perfect and you can always trade it in next year to go towards upgrading to the Scorpio. 


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