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Xbox One S to support HDR color via HDR10 standard

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If your TV only has Dolby Vision, you may be out of luck

During its press conference at last week's E3, Microsoft announced the Xbox One S, a 4K-compatible version of its Xbox One console with an additional selling point: the inclusion of high dynamic range (HDR) color support.

While there continues to be a debate as to the ability of most people to notice a difference between the now-common 1080p standard and 4K resolution — more precisely referred to as 2160p — at typical television sizes and viewing distances, the apparent merits of HDR color are less debated. Netflix has been vocal about the advantages of HDR in talking about its own plans for the HDR standard, calling it "the next big thing" back in February. HDR-capable sets can display color that non-HDR televisions cannot, and HDR also improves image fidelity by reducing macroblocking and gradient artifacts, thanks to less compressed color data. (See image below, courtesy of The Solid Signal Blog's explanation of HDR.)

However, there are two "formats" or standards of HDR: Dolby Vision and HDR10. After some confusion last week, Polygon has been able to confirm with Microsoft that the Xbox One S will support HDR10 when it launches in August. The company was silent on support for Dolby's standard.

A brewing format war between the two rival HDR standards means some recent 4K set buyers may be left out, even if their set technically supports the feature. HDR10 and Dolby Vision are not currently cross-compatible, and many sets only support one of the two.

Sony and Samsung are pushing the HDR10 format agreed on by the UHD (or Ultra HD, an industry term for 4K video) Alliance, an open standard established by members. Vizio, LG and a number of smaller manufacturers have signed on with Dolby, a standard that offers better HDR performance but requires licensed Dolby hardware in both the media player and the 4K television used to display the content. (Vizio is promising an update to its M- and P-Series 4K televisions later this year to support HDR10 as well as Dolby Vision.)

Microsoft's lack of comment on Dolby Vision likely means the Xbox One S will not support the standard. The additional cost of the Dolby-licensed hardware required would likely cut into Microsoft's margins on the machine.

Microsoft plans to support the Xbox One S console's HDR capabilities with Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 this fall, both of which will ship with support for HDR. You can read more about 4K and what it means for gamers, including a brief explanation of HDR color, here.