It’s Okay To Not 4K; Your Xbox One X Television And Audio Guide
Over a year ago, the world heard leaks that Microsoft was putting together the most powerful console ever made. It would be a console that would give couch gamers a 4K canvas at a blazing 60 frames per second. The name “Project Scorpio” would linger around until E3 this year where the system would be unveiled as the Xbox One X. As gamers waited for the opportunity to pre-order the system, we finally got okay from Microsoft at Gamescom this year and retailers have already been selling all their consoles, just hours after the announcement. With all this power though, I’ve seen there are a ton of gamers that wonder what they need to get the best quality out of this new console. There are Gamers who say “I only have a 1080p TV, why would I want Xbox One X?” We are here to give you everything you need to know about home theater technology and as it relates to the Xbox One X.
First real question, why would you want to listen to me? Well, I’ve spent well over a decade in electronics and engineering for audio and video as well as have a Bachelor’s degree in Game Design and Simulation. I’ve used a lot of this technology many times and have seen first-hand what it brings and does for both 4K as well as 1080p.
So let’s go over the key points Microsoft keeps throwing down your throats. Xbox One X is a 6 teraflop machine that is 40% faster than any other console ever made. There is no need to really break this down. Teraflops are simply a calculation of how many floating-point operations a computer can perform per second. The more teraflops, the more complex virtual objects a system can render. This isn’t just a measurement of pure power though. There is a lot more than just processing power. Things such as GPU build, frame buffer size and speed as well core speed. The Xbox One X’s 8-core CPU with a clock speed of 2.3 GHz, the 12GB of GDDR5 graphics memory with 326 GB/sec speeds are what give the console all that power. This isn’t about all that though. This is really why you should care about Xbox One X if you aren’t going to 4K. This guide will help you know what to look for in a television if you want to get your money’s worth out of the Xbox One X as well.
Back when the Xbox One S came out, Microsoft pushed forward on in visual perfection with putting High Dynamic Range (HDR) capability in their consoles. Every TV has a range of brightness, known as contrast, as well as a range of color/color accuracy. These 2 factors believe it or not are the most important things when it comes to overall picture quality. It’s been tested many times and is preached by industry experts such as the Imaging Science Foundation. A 1080p television with a better color spectrum and contrast will outperform and look better than a 4K with worse performance in these categories. This isn’t just opinion, but a fact that has been proven in many tests and comparisons. Before HDR became mainstream, we had Wide Color Gamut. WCG in conjunction with HDR will give you the best performance in a television. These 2 factors alone will create an amazing image on the Xbox One X, even if you still have a 1080p; as long as the TV has these features as well. HDR and WCG operate over HDMI 2.0a and newer. You may need to consult your TV and home theater manufacture guide on which HDMI ports, if any are capable of these features. HDR also suffers from so many companies handling it differently. Off-brand manufactures as well as major companies looking to push basic models will say they have HDR capability but water it down to where it isn’t supported on the Xbox One X. This is why we now have the UHD Alliance; a group of experts that set a standard for HDR capability for all companies to meet to be verified by the panel and get a stamp saying that the TV is UHD Alliance Premium Certified. This is where a lot of people might end up disappointed if they cut corners on price and quality.
The next big thing of course and what everyone is talking about is 4K vs. 1080p. This is a very simple breakdown but there are a few factors you need to consider on what is best for you. First lets discuss what the difference is. 1080p and 4K are pixel resolutions. Every TV screen is made of tiny dots that change color and create an image. A 1080p television consists of 1920 vertical lines of pixels, with each vertical line containing 1080 pixels; known as 1920x1080p. The P simply stands for progressive scanning. Progressive scanning simply means that the entire screen is painted every 1/60 of a second; hence the term 60 frames per second. Older televisions would use interlace scanning, indicated with the letter i, meaning only half of the image was process each 1/60 of a second. For this argument we are only discussing progressive scanning. 4K comes from the idea of 4 times the pixels as a 1080p screen. A 4k screen is technically is 3840x2160p. Do the math and you will see it is indeed, 4 times the pixels. Shouldn’t that mean that a 4K image is always best if both have the same HDR capability? Most times yes but here’s what you as a consumer needs to consider. First thing to look at is the size of the screen. Smaller screens have to have smaller pixels to fit the correct number of pixels on the screen. 4K is typically wasted on smaller screens because the human eye just can’t pick up that kind of detail. If you are going for a television under 40 inches per say, you’d be better off just getting a 1080p television with better color processing than spending more for more pixels that your eyes just won’t fully appreciate or process. Larger screen are where 4K shines. Remember when you were told as a child that you should sit to close to a screen because you’ll go blind? Well, not so much blind but you will get a headache. There is a reason why that is. Your brain sees things and wants to believe that they are real. When it senses something is off, like when you are in something that is moving but can’t see outside to verify that you are moving, you become nauseas and possibly develop headaches and migraines. That’s your body’s reaction to your brain not being able to process through your senses correctly. You are way more okay if setup forces you to sit closer to the television with a 4K as the pixels are smaller make it easier for your head to process. Large 1080p televisions have very large pixels and force you to sit farther away to create a more realistic image. When shopping and trying to pick between these 2 resolutions, 4K is for large screens and closer images. 1080p is better for smaller screens or if you really want a larger screen but can accommodate sitting further away.
The Xbox One X though isn’t just flexing some visual power. They are also continuing with audio codecs such as DTS X and the famed Dolby Atmos. Along side of the visual images we see looking real, we want to feel like we are in the image we see by using audio to make us think the visuals are around us and not just on a screen in front of us. Traditional 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound speaker systems place speakers around the viewer gives the feeling of objects around the sitting area. Xbox One X, with the use of DTS X and Dolby Atmos, can not only create sound in a 360 degree circle around the viewer but also give sounds height. Using different technologies, these 2 systems can create a full range of sound over an area but they do it in very different ways. First is the easy one to explain, DTS X. DTS X has a traditional 7 speaker setup with a subwoofer. These speakers create the sound around the front, back, and sides of the viewer. The way DTS X creates sound above the user is simply by having another 4 speakers placed above the viewer, typically attached to the ceiling. Most people though really don’t want to run that many speakers. Dolby Atmos remedies this. Dolby Atmos uses 7 speakers and a subwoofer traditionally like DTS X does. The difference is how Dolby Atmos systems create sound with height. In Dolby Atmos system, the front right and left, as well as the back left and right speakers are actually two speakers. Each of these four speakers have forward facing speakers like normal, but also have speakers on top that fire towards the roof. Those sounds are bounced off the ceiling and down to the user to create the effects that they came from above the viewer. Your Dolby Atmos capable receiver will typically configure it properly for you. As someone who uses Dolby Atmos over DTS X, it is an amazing feeling to watch something and hear the sounds above you as well. Keep in mind though that games and movies have to be engineered in these formats to play back in a full environment. Dolby Atmos is being embraced more and more by directors and developers and appears to be the future in audio engineering.
The last question I get asked the most has less to do with the Xbox One X and more with technology itself. This question is what is the big deal with OLED? Organic Light Emitting Diode is a technology that creates the most pure and realistic image possible. Why is that though? It’s a combination of 2 things. What were the two things that we confirmed are the most important thing in image quality? Contrast and color accuracy. OLED’s do these way better than any other technology in the consumer market. First let’s look at what makes OLED different. LED and Plasma televisions create images using a white light and that light gets processed through filters to create color. The problem with this is that since there is a constant white light on, you can’t accurately do dark tones. Have you ever turned a TV on but there is nothing on but a black screen. You know it’s one because it’s still emitting light even though it is supposed to be black. OLED’s don’t have a light inside them. They use electrical pulses to turn on pixels individually instead of the whole screen. Since pixels can turn on and off, they can create the actual color black for example. The pixels just turn off to create black. This allows OLED’s to have infinite color as well as an infinite contrast ratio since everything is done each pixel individually instead of the whole screen. Hands down, an OLED TV will outperform any plasma or LED TV out there but they do come at a price.
Speaking of price, this is the biggest factor that most consumers face when it comes to what TV to get if you are going to upgrade to Xbox One X. One of the worst things that Microsoft could have added was the built in advanced settings test that gives users a checkmark list showing what their setup can technically do. The reason I say that is because there is so much tech inside of a television that processes more for image quality beyond HDR and how many pixels it has. A TV can process HDR but it might only be 8 bit HDR which is not supported by the Xbox One X or it might not have the UHD Alliance Premium Certification for HDR capability. All the tech that makes Xbox One X look good on screen comes at a price. You aren’t going to be the person who strikes gold with a top model priced under 800, its just not going to happen. If price is the biggest factor in a TV purchase, just buy it and if it looks good to you great but know that there is a lot of features and capability you will be missing out on. I promise you that just because two TV’s both say HDR and 4K, but are way different in price, the more expensive one probably has the better tech and quality by far.
We really hope this guide helps you make a smarter decision on what you want out of your Xbox One experience, as well as just your next television purchase. Even with all this information, the most important thing is that it looks good to you and you can afford it. Just remember, you are the one who has to look at it the most. Most importantly don’t let the fact you have a 1080p TV stop you from possibly purchasing the Xbox One X.
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