A cool new feature introduced with Xbox Series X and Series S is auto HDR, which adds high dynamic range to non-HDR titles. This works better than expected!
One major feature of the Xbox Series X and Series S is auto HDR. Arriving without much fanfare, it’s an actually useful addition to the operating system that boosts the visual quality of compatible games. So what does auto HDR do and how does it work?
Auto HDR does what you might think it does based on the name. The feature adds an HDR effect to games that lack HDR metadata. While the Xbox Series X and Series S implement HDR very well in games that have high dynamic range built into them by developers, most of the back catalogue doesn’t have HDR.
This includes original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One titles that released before HDR was mainstream. It turns out Microsoft planned for this and has a team dedicated to creating profiles for games that lack HDR and adding auto HDR on a per-game basis. Some titles prove tricky, like GTA IV and its oversaturated colors once auto HDR was included. So those don’t have auto HDR because the team decided the feature would only serve to reduce visual fidelity.
But by and large, older titles with no native HDR get auto HDR.
Generally yes. We’ve experimented with several games, and each one that offered auto HDR did look brighter and more pronounced. It’s not a night and day change like actual HDR, but if you have a good display with 4K, then you’ll notice many games now look better than you remembered them from previous console generations.
Yes. In settings, go to video modes and make sure auto HDR is checked. Otherwise the feature won’t work. Beyond that, there’s no user intervention required. Once enabled, auto HDR works…automatically.
Originally, Microsoft marketing materials made it seem like a prompt will show up on screen when auto HDR kicked in. Perhaps this was deemed too intrusive, because the situation right now is that no prompts or notifications appear on your display. Instead, you can press the home/Xbox button on your controller to bring up the info frame. Once you do that, auto HDR-supported titles will have the appropriate tag appear next to a sun or brightness icon that says "AUTO HDR". That’s how you know the game you’re playing has auto HDR support.
This feature sounds simple but it really isn’t, as the tech team needs to balance their overall algorithm with the graphic peculiarities of each game title. And because of that, some games won’t get auto HDR support. But still, we applaud Microsoft for trying to better accommodate owners of HDR-capable displays of all types, whether TVs or monitors. And that includes 1440p monitors, which are natively supported on Xbox consoles.
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