Recently, Microsoft made Windows 11 official in a livestream, revealing that the new OS will arrive sometime during Fall 2021 and will be offered as a free upgrade to existing Windows 10 users. Featuring significant performance enhancements for general computing, a snazzy new look, and more, Windows 11 is exciting for all PC users — including PC gamers that want to elevate their gaming experience to the next level. Here's a look at three features coming to Windows 11 that PC gamers should be excited about.
Auto HDR will significantly enhance visuals
One of the most exciting features that will arrive with Windows 11 is Auto HDR, which will automatically enhance any game built on DirectX 11 or higher that previously only used standard dynamic range (SDR) by allowing them to render the much wider spectrum of colors and brightness levels provided by high dynamic range (HDR). This will make many modern SDR-only games such as A Plague Tale: Innocence look better instantly by adding more depth to what's on your screen, all without affecting performance.
Microsoft originally debuted this feature with the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, so it's awesome to finally see it arrive on PC with Windows 11. It will be fun to see how much better SDR games built on DirectX 11 or higher will look with Auto HDR, and I'm excited to test the feature out later this year.
DirectStorage will load games faster than ever
Windows 11 is also bringing support for DirectStorage, which is another technology that Microsoft originally introduced with the Xbox Series X and S. The DirectStorage API can handle many more data requests at once than previous APIs could, resulting in the crazy fast loading times that have been experienced with the new Xbox consoles — even when playing massive open world games rich with oodles of high quality models, textures, and effects. This means that you'll be able to spend a lot less time staring at a loading screen and a lot more time actually playing your games.
To take advantage of Windows 11's support for DirectStorage, Microsoft says you'll need "a high performance NVMe SSD and the proper drivers." We'll have to wait until Windows 11 arrives before we can get the drivers, but check out our roundup of the best SSDs for some awesome NVMe drives you can get now in order to prepare for the arrival of DirectStorage.
Easier access to the Xbox ecosystem is coming
Lastly, Microsoft is making some of the best parts of the Xbox ecosystem more accessible than ever with Windows 11. PC gamers will be able to experience Microsoft's all-you-can-eat style Xbox Game Pass for PC service through the Xbox app that will be built directly into Windows 11, making it easier than ever before to enjoy the 100+ games in its library. Xbox Cloud Gaming (also known as xCloud) will be available directly in the Xbox app, too, allowing players with entry-level rigs to enjoy high quality modern titles like the upcoming Halo Infinite. Xbox Cloud Gaming will also be available via browser if you're a subscriber to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
It's true that easier access to things like Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Cloud Gaming won't benefit every type of PC gamer, but more options are never a bad thing. And when you consider how much excellence there is throughout the Xbox ecosystem, I think it's awesome that Microsoft is making sure PC players can be a part of the fun.
What do you think of Windows 11's PC gaming-focused features and improvements? Let me know in the comments. For more on Windows 11, check out why Satya Nadella wants Windows 11 to be the center of an open tech ecosystem. Also, make sure to give Xbox Game Pass Ultimate a look, as it offers a ton of value for an affordable monthly subscription.
Best of the best
Xbox Game Pass gives you access to countless games for one monthly fee. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also adds Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass for PC to the package so you can play online with friends.
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