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Xbox’s Auto HDR support comes to Windows PC

Available in a preview program right now

Kait aiming a pistol at the camera in Gears 5
Gears 5 is a natively-rendered HDR game, but those that aren’t will get a huge boost with Auto HDR support coming to Windows 10.
Image: The Coalition/Xbox Game Studios

The Auto HDR feature that Xbox Series X users have been enjoying since the console’s launch in November is coming to Windows PC gaming, giving about 1,000 games a boost to high dynamic range lighting and color.

HDR provides deeper contrast, richer color luminance, and a wider range of colors to a picture. You need an HDR-enabled monitor to take advantage of it, of course. There are natively rendered HDR games for PC already; Auto HDR upgrades the visuals of games mastered in standard dynamic range with DirectX 11 or DirectX 12.

Auto HDR for PC is currently a preview feature available in the Windows Insider Program (join the program here if you don’t have access). When it rolls out fully, PC gamers with an HDR-equipped monitor can access the feature with a toggle in the Windows HD Color Settings page.

Microsoft program manager Hannah Fisher notes in the announcement post that an Auto HDR picture isn’t as detailed as games with native HDR, but it is a “vastly improved experience over regular SDR,” Fisher writes. This “luminance heatmap” gives a sense of the difference in contrast and color range among SDR, Auto HDR, and native HDR:

a comparison showing the differences among standard dynamic range, auto high dynamic range, and native HDR Image: Microsoft DirectX Developer Blog

Right now, Auto HDR also has an “only for development and evaluation” feature that will enable a split-screen mode that shows both original, SDR-rendered content and the Auto HDR picture side by side. Fisher says that trick is “only for advanced users,” but offers instructions in her blog post for how to make it work.

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