This week, Microsoft offered some in the gaming press in-depth previews of its upcoming Xbox Series X games console. And while the focus is naturally on games, improved graphics, and fancy hardware, cord cutters may want to keep an eye on the console if they’re considering a new TV purchase in the near-future.
The Xbox Series X is, of course, a video game console, so many of its biggest selling points focus on overall power — Head of Xbox Phil Spencer said it has eight times the processing power of the original Xbox One. Many of the headlining features, including fast load times and 4K resolutions, should appeal to those with fairly recent TVs, however some of its cutting-edge tech may require a brand-new display to truly enjoy.
Case in point: HDMI 2.1 — the latest version of the venerable HDMI connection we’ve been using for years. In addition to dramatically increased bandwidth, Microsoft says the Xbox Series X will leverage HDMI 2.1 to offer features like Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR). With ALLM, TVs can automatically switch to their “game mode” to improve responsiveness while playing. Meanwhile, VRR allows TVs to sync their refresh rates to the frame rate of the game being played for a potentially smoother experience.
Microsoft also says HDMI 2.1’s 4K/120 Hz support should allow for quicker frame transmission times between the console and the display. And while information on Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 5 console remains sparse, most expect the rival console to offer similar next-gen features when it arrives for the holiday season.
Unfortunately, TVs that support HDMI 2.1 are still relatively new — some of LG’s 2019 sets, for example, support the new standard, while others don’t. And, as Polygon pointed out, even if the TV boasts an HDMI 2.1 port, that’s no guarantee that it will also support all specific features like ALLM and VRR.
All things considered, it’s still very early days in the realm of “next-gen” video game consoles. In fact, we’re still waiting for Sony to discuss its PlayStation 5 in great detail. So for those looking to kick off their next console purchase in style, there’s plenty of time to see how support among TV manufacturers plays out. Of course, those with modestly recent TVs should still have plenty of fun with these newest consoles, since many of the most tangible upgrades (better graphics, more advanced physics and AI) won’t require the absolute bleeding edge in display tech.
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