The idea behind the new HDR calibration system that’s now joined the Xbox’s settings menus is that it lets you calibrate the way your console outputs HDR to your TV, rather than you having to do it separately for each game. The set up tools include a thoughtfully presented checkerboard screen to help you set the console’s maximum luminance to best suit the brightness capabilities of your TV, and a handy final screen that uses side by side images of a sunset over a moorland setting to let you compare your calibrated picture with the previous uncalibrated one. 

Xbox One X and S
Xbox users on the Alpha Skip Ahead ring just got a cool new HDR feature. PHOTO: THE XBOX ONE X AND S (MICROSOFT)

It’s worth noting that this final screen states that the two comparative images might look very similar depending on your TV model and set up – with better quality TVs likely enjoying smaller improvements due to their innate HDR processing prowess. Recommended For You

So far, the main benefit being reported by people who’ve tried the calibration menu out appears to be slightly less clipping (bleached out tones and shading in the very brightest parts of HDR images).

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As well as taking much of the hassle out of the HDR set up process, the new calibration system appears to be the first results of Microsoft’s membership of the HDR Gaming Interest Group. 

The HGiG was set up in 2018 with a comprehensive set of ‘best practice recommendations’ for optimizing the HDR gaming experience. An experience which was then, and to some extent still is, pretty ‘wild west’ in terms of its consistency. 

Xbox HDR Calibration
This is the new Maximum Luminance Xbox console HDR calibration interface. SCREENSHOT COURTESY OF ADAM FAIRCLOUGH, AKA TWITTER USER @EVILBORIS

As well as Xbox, the HGiG membership list includes Sony PlayStation, most of the big-name TV manufacturers, and many of the biggest games publishers. In fact, the Xbox’s new HGiG-inspired console HDR calibration system isn’t the first HGiG-related feature we’ve seen. 

The PS4 got a similar console HDR calibration menu back in 2019, and LG’s 2019 and 2020 OLED TVs all carry HGiG picture presets. These TV presets should be selected if you’ve set your console up using their HGiG calibration menus, so that the TV doesn’t apply secondary HDR tone mapping to images that have essentially already been mapped via the console calibration screens to suit the TV.

Xbox HDR Calibration screen
The final ‘before and after’ screen, so you can see what a difference the calibration has made. PHOTO: ADAM FAIRCLOUGH, AKA TWITTER USER @EVILBORIS

With the new HDR calibration menu only seemingly appearing so far for Xbox Alpha Skip Ahead members (please let me know via the Twitter account at the end of the article if you’ve found it on another Xbox preview ‘circle’), it could be some time before the feature rolls out to all Xbox owners. But it definitely feels like another step in the right direction for HDR gaming.

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