In November 2020, the Xbox Series X|S consoles launched with the Auto HDR feature which automatically upgrades your backwards compatible games from SDR to HDR to take advantage of this amazing display innovation and provide a richer visual experience even on already-released games.
Today we’re excited to bring you a preview of Auto HDR for your PC gaming experience and we’re looking for your help to test it out. Jump to the How to Enable Auto HDR section to get started! When enabled on your HDR capable gaming PC, you will automatically get awesome HDR visuals on an additional 1000+ DirectX 11 and DirectX 12 games!
What is Auto HDR and What Does it do for My Game?
HDR is a video/imaging technique where the lights and darks in a digitally reproduced scene can be shown with more detail than before. In video games, the increased range of color and luminance of HDR enables a more immersive, realistic experience. You’ll be able to see the details of haunting movement in dark shadows rather than just black. The bright sun will be a more radiant, warm yellow rather than a flat saturated white, but unless the game is displaying on your monitor with that improved dynamic range, you won’t get the benefits of a more immersive experience even if you have an HDR capable monitor.
While some game studios develop for HDR gaming PCs by mastering their game natively for HDR, Auto HDR for PC will take DirectX 11 or DirectX 12 SDR-only games and intelligently expand the color/brightness range up to HDR. It’s a seamless platform feature that will give you an amazing new gaming experience that takes full advantage of your HDR monitor’s capabilities. The Auto in the title implies how easy it is for you to enable the feature; a simple settings toggle flip will let you turn the feature on and off.
Let’s take a look at a visual example of how SDR, Auto HDR and native HDR implementations compare. Gears 5 has a fantastic mastered-for-HDR native implementation which makes it a perfect candidate for demonstration purposes showing that while native, game-studio implemented HDR is the best quality experience, for games that don’t have a native implementation, Auto HDR still brings you a vastly improved experience over regular SDR.
The left side is running in SDR, the middle running in Auto HDR, and the right side running in Gears 5’s amazing native HDR. Grayscale is used to represent all the areas of the scene which can be fully represented by traditional SDR displays while the rainbow colors show areas which are only displayable on HDR capable displays.
Notice on the middle and right-side images that the highlights on the goggles and helmet show an increased amount of detail. HDR and Auto HDR are not just about boosting brightness but really about emphasizing the details in a scene leveraging the increased range: darkening shadows and illuminating highlights. Looking at Auto HDR and native HDR, you can see the similarities in how the details in the shadows and highlights are much improved using luminance ranges beyond SDR. SDR simply doesn’t have the ability to show the same range of color and luminance the way native HDR and Auto HDR can.
How to Enable Auto HDR
Getting the Right Hardware
From a PC hardware perspective, if you have an HDR monitor equipped PC, then you’re good to go! If you’re looking to get an HDR monitor to try Auto HDR, we strongly recommend you acquire one that is HDR certified.
Joining the Windows Insider Program
Auto HDR for PC is currently a preview feature only available in the Windows Insider Program (Dev Channel). To experience this feature now, you’ll want to click here to join and get access to build 21337 or above.
Global Feature Toggle
Once part of the Insider Program (Dev Channel), if your PC monitor is already configured to use HDR, you will automatically receive the Auto HDR PC gaming experience. Otherwise, to explicitly enable/disable Auto HDR, look no further than the Windows HD Color Settings page