Games on Windows 11 will look better and load faster thanks to Xbox tech
One big advantage Windows machines have over Macs is that they’re more suitable for gaming, and Microsoft is looking to further that lead with a series of new improvements coming to Windows 11. At today’s big Windows event, Microsoft’s corporate Vice President of Xbox, Sarah Bond, took to the virtual stage to announce a host of updates to PC’s gaming performance.
One of the major features included in the free Windows 11 update is Auto HDR, which as the name implies, automatically converts a standard dynamic range (SDR) source to an HDR image. Microsoft has employed a machine learning model to properly tone map the color and luminosity data.
This technology debuted with the new Xbox Series X|S and has been in testing with Windows 10 Insiders but is graduating to stable status with the release of Windows 11. Bond said more than 1,000 games built on DirectX 11 or higher will automatically be enhanced on Windows 11 devices without the player or developer needing to do anything. Of course, players are expected to have an HDR-capable monitor or television to take advantage of the improved colors.
Another feature from the Xbox Series X|S coming to Windows 11 later this year is the Direct Storage API, which is part of the DirectX 12 Ultimate API. With this feature, games will have faster load times and enhanced graphics, as it will be quicker for them to load assets to the GPU without bogging down the CPU. Other improvements made possible by this technology include larger draw distances and more texture variety, allowing game makers to expand the scope of their game worlds.
The Direct Storage API requires a high-speed SSD drive in order to meet the throughput requirements to redirect I/O calls for 3D graphical assets to the GPU. Specifically, you’ll need a “1 TB or greater NVMe SSD to store and run games that uses the ‘Standard NVM Express Controller’ driver” according to Microsoft. As ArsTechnica points out, the Xbox Series X|S rely on drives rated for PCI 4.0 speeds, so it’s unclear if an NVMe PCI 3.0 drive will be compatible.
Besides a faster SSD, you’ll also need a GPU that’s compatible with DirectX 12 Ultimate. NVIDIA’s RTX 2000 and RTX 3000 series are compatible as are AMD’s RDNA 2 line.
Microsoft says that “DirectStorage Optimized” Windows 11 PCs are configured with the hardware and drivers needed to enable this feature, so look out for that branding in the months to come.
Xbox Game Pass and Cloud Gaming Integration
Windows 11 will also integrate the Xbox app deeper into the system, including integrated support for the Xbox Cloud Gaming service so users can stream games directly to the PC. You’ll still need an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription for cloud gaming, of course. Microsoft has notably recently started using a fleet of Xbox Series X consoles to enhance the fidelity and reduce the latency of its cloud gaming service.
This article was updated at 3:54 PM ET to include more information on the Direct Storage API.