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Windows 11 will use Xbox’s ‘auto HDR’ feature for enhanced graphics in games

The feature updates games' lighting and colour with "no effort required from players or developers"

Age of Empires Definitive Edition

Microsoft today unveiled its first peek at Windows 11, the next generation of its ubiquitous operating system. In a segment devoted specifically to what Windows 11 will do for games, a Microsoft executive explained a bit about auto HDR, a feature found on the latest generation of Xbox consoles that will be included in Windows 11 and will reportedly allow more than a thousand games to take advantage of high dynamic range screens without requiring any additional development.

Corporate vice president of Xbox Sarah Bond briefly explained auto HDR in the Windows 11 livestream. “Games can look better than ever on Windows 11 thanks to auto HDR, which automatically updates your games’ lighting and colour to high dynamic range,” she said. “We introduced this tech in our Xbox consoles, and got an incredible response from creators and players. It’s just awesome to bring this to Windows 11.”

Bond showed some side-by-side footage of Skyrim running in both SDR and HDR, demonstrating the enhanced colour saturation and contrast in the high dynamic range version – although it’s impossible to fully see those enhancements without a screen that supports the feature. Still, as Bond says, “the results can be dramatic,” and they’ll be particularly noticeable on any of the best gaming monitors.

It’s currently technically possible to use HDR in Windows 10, but it’s not much fun if you’re trying to play games on a TV screen. You have to switch whatever device you’re viewing on to HDR mode first, because the majority of Windows games don’t support it without that feature enabled.

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On Xbox, Microsoft currently tests games for HDR issues before including the option to enable auto HDR, and you can toggle it off in an options menu if you don’t want to use it. From the sounds of things, that’s how it’ll work in Windows 11, too.

“It just works,” Bond said of auto HDR, a bit of a playful jab at Bethesda Games Studios’ Todd Howard, who – along with his development studio – now works for Microsoft.

In addition to Skyrim, Bond mentioned Age of Empires: Definitive Edition, Rocket League, DayZ, and Doom 64 supporting auto HDR on Windows 11.

We’ll have more information on Windows 11 when the free upgrade lands later this year, but the DirectStorage API and Android apps in the Microsoft Store already look promising for gamers.