Tuesday, August 31, 2021

The Designed for Xbox Initiative

 By: Patrick Morris

Phil Spencer took over as the head of Microsoft's Xbox division in March os 2014. With each major announcement since the Xbox has increasingly resembled a simplified prebuilt PC. First the introduction of backwards compatibility, then mouse and keyboard support, and now the simplification of utilization of specific display technologies. As Microsoft continues to close the gap between console and PC gaming their new Designed for Xbox monitor initiative makes yet another previously PC feature more accesible to console gamer's on Xbox making high fiedlity gaming more attainable to the masses than ever before. 


Recently Microsoft announced that they would be partnering with display OEM's to add branding to the packaging of specific displays that are capable of utilizing all the new features in the ninth generation Xbox's, that branding is simply called "Designed for Xbox." When seeing a "Designed for Xbox" sticker or badge on a display the consumer will be able to assume that that particular display is capable of a whole myriad of things the most important being supporting a 120hz refresh rate, 4k resolution, some form of variable refresh rate (probably AMD FreeSync), HDR10, and Dolby Vision. About a month after the I got my Xbox Series X I decided to bite the bullet and spend good money on a new TV specifically for my gaming setup. Combing through the pages and pages of spec sheets looking for which TV would check off all the boxes on the Xbox's screen settings page while also trying to be as budget conscious as possible. I landed on the 48" LG CX as it was capable of all of the technological advancements in the Series X and got a glowing recommendation from Linus over at Linus Tech Tips. 


But I wasn’t the only consumer that has had difficulty figuring out which display would be just right for my new Xbox. Since the launch of the new consoles thousands of console gamers have had to familiarize themselves with specs like refresh rates, HDR certifications, pixel response times, and AMD FreeSync. And this entire process is made even more difficult by the fact that at least two of the features the Xbox is capable of are mutually exclusive! Pro tip, if you know your display is capable of Dolby Vision but for whatever reason it's grayed out on your Xbox, that’s probably because you have AMD FreeSync enabled. Those two features are a one or the other type of arrangement. 


When you are choosing between those two make sure to check if your display is capable of HDR10, if it is then you should use HDR10 and FreeSync because while HDR10 is quite as good as Dolby Vision the prospect of having that AND variable refresh rate outweighs Dolby Vision alone, anyway back to the video.


So is this "Designed for Xbox" initiative going to be a success? I think so. I play mostly console games for the same reason I use an iPhone, they just work. They don’t involve any tinkering like overclocking a CPU, GPU, or display, I know I'm never going to run into hardware or software compatibilities, and I will certainly never be missing a driver. Simply put: I'm fully aware of how stupid I am so I use the hardware that suits me. Apple themselves proved this exact concept roughly 15 years ago with their Made for iPod program that later developed into MFI indicating a product was made to be used with either iPod, iPhone, or iPad. And a quick trip to any amazon questions section or hardware specific subreddit will prove that the general public is still disinterested enough in technology that a "Designed for Xbox" sticker will clear up a ton of confusion. 


With all the variables in displays "Designed for Xbox" is a concerted effort by Microsoft to streamline and simplify the consumer's shopping experience, and that is always a great idea that almost always leads to increased success. Even though this wont apply to me personally as I already went through the process of combing through those spec sheets it will undoubtedly make higher fidelity gaming more accessible to a wider audience on Xbox, which could potentially lead to a higher standard of expectation amongst gamers when discussing gaming on Xbox. 

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