Forget 4K — Xbox One X also delivers impressive upgrades on 1080p displays

Xbox One X
Xbox One X (Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft's latest video games console, the Xbox One X, is finally available, promising a premium gaming experience with a price tag to match. With 4K, HDR, and other visual enhancements being marketed alongside the device, the console has emerged as the most powerful on the market, surpassing its closest competitors in graphical fidelity.

Although the Xbox One X is best experienced with a 4K HDR display, the device also promises to benefit gamers with 1080p panels. With more consistent frame rates, reworked textures, and improved lighting effects all being common features of "Xbox One X Enhanced" games, many of these can also be experienced without a bump in resolution. Furthermore, 4K games can be displayed on lower resolution displays via a technique known as "supersampling."

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About supersampling and Xbox One X

Supersampling is a feature of the Xbox One X that's implemented specifically for those on lower resolution displays, rendering an output at a higher resolution than the display, before being downsampled down to 1080p. This essentially makes for a clearer image, with much smoother edges and shadows.

When Microsoft briefly discussed the benefits of supersampling at 1080p for the first time at E3 2017, I was doubtful of the concept, expecting little gain for those with full HD displays. While I understand the benefits of the technique and how it can aid the clarity of an image, I still had doubts about how a 1080p supersampled image would translate to a TV.

4K HDR is the biggest selling point of the Xbox One X, and without the aid of the console's flagship features, the talk surrounding the 1080p benefits felt like marketing speak. With Microsoft pushing a jump in resolution that's only slowly being adopted by the mass market, supersampling felt more like a way to market the console to a larger audience, rather than a valid way to experience the console's horsepower. And with Microsoft having scarcely pushed supersampling in its wider marketing prior to launch, my expectations for the Xbox One X in full HD remained dampened.

Star Wars Battlefront II on Xbox One S (left) versus the same scene on Xbox One X, supersampled to 1080p with enhancements (right). Note differences in foliage quality, character detail, and even UI clarity.

In the days since the Xbox One X launch, we've had more time to get familiar with the console in a home environment. And as a part of that, I've briefly used the console with a 1080p display. In the time I've spent with the Xbox One X, my thoughts on its 1080p capabilities and appeal have quickly shifted. After seeing these enhancements in action, the Xbox One X now feels much more appealing through the eyes of a 1080p gamer.

For games that already hit 1080p on Xbox One, the benefits offered by the latest console may not be as outstanding. However, the benefits of supersampling don't only affect aliasing – downscaling a higher resolution image means that games with 4K assets are almost guaranteed to output a consistent 1080p image. And with consistent 1080p on standard hardware being an uncommon sight in the AAA space, this brings a significant visual improvement.

For me, these benefits were best brought to light by Star Wars Battlefront II (opens in new tab) – a game that fails to hit a consistent target resolution on standard Xbox One consoles. With Xbox One X enhancements available for this title, the changes over the standard Xbox One are clear, with general refinements across the board that complement its authentic art style. It's these games where a resolution bump and supersampling go hand-in-hand that show how the hardware's overhead doesn't have to go to waste below 4K. These changes aren't mind-blowing, but they are easy to pick up with a controller in-hand.

Star Wars Battlefront II on Xbox One S (left) versus the same scene on Xbox One X, supersampled to 1080p with enhancements (right). Note differences in environmental details and reflections.

What's it all mean for gamers with 1080p panels?

Upon first making the switch, the differences between Xbox One games on the two devices might not be as apparent. However, you'll soon begin to discover polish throughout games, with much more stable and visually-appealing versions of your existing experiences. They might not be stark at first but upon returning to an Xbox One S, the differences are clear.

After playing several "Enhanced" titles across the two devices, the Xbox One X has the potential to prove itself as a noticeable upgrade on lower resolution displays. Obviously, 4K is still going to offer a superior experience for almost any title, but don't be so quick to dismiss the Xbox One X as a 1080p gamer.

The Xbox One X is an expensive piece of kit, and by investing in it you're aiming to receive the best gaming experience across the Xbox family for your display. As seen with several titles, there are real benefits to be had without a 4K HDR display. The $499 price point is steep, but you'll be futureproofing your console for the years ahead – just maybe not with a dramatic leap to start.

Matt Brown is Windows Central's Senior Editor, Xbox & PC, at Future. Following over seven years of professional consumer technology and gaming coverage, he’s focused on the world of Microsoft's gaming efforts. You can follow him on Twitter @mattjbrown.

  • The images are having problems even on the WC Android app. So it's not really a problem of ad blockers.
  • They're slideovers that's probably why. You'll need to use the browser. The images have a slider on them so you can compare the One S and One X versions of the same image next to each other at any point on the picture.
  • Been using this site for years, i have now disabled my adblocker for this site as i feel it is a great source on information.
  • It's a great source, but beware some of their ads are horrible resource hogs.
  • Been rocking my X on my 1080p until Christmas (when I'm planning to upgrade). Needless to say I've been shocked at the gains. Games look amazing. It's ability to super sample at a system level for all games for 1080p users is a silent killer feature that puts it head and shoulders above the PS4pro.
  • I agree I'm in less of a hurry for a 4k tv now
  • Question...and I'm not trying to be smug...or a PC Elitest...I want the Xbox does the 1080p on a X compare to 1080p on a PC on Ultra? Framerates etc...etc...I was thinking of investing in a X or picking up another NVidia Shield TV (to stream my PC to it (which with the one I have does it wonderfully))...where is my money best spent...
  • Frame rates are still behind PC. At least as far as I can see it's still topping out at 60fps. That said, Forza 7 detail seems close enough to my eyes between the two. If you don't really play Xbox games right now it's a tougher question. The experience will probably be better than streaming to a Shield, but you'll be buying new games for it (apart from the Play Anywhere stuff in the store).
  • I have a Day One Xbox One. I like the media capabilities of it. However, I LOVE the media capabilities of the NVidia Shield TV. The streaming from my PC looks amazing, I'm running a CAT6 cable to it so I see very little in the way of graphical issues i.e. pixelation, stutter, bad I do play Xbox, just not as often. The FPS hurdle of the X (not reaching consistent 60) is an issue for me. I hate to be that guy, but I've gotten used to 60fps...and it is tough to go back to it...oddly enough on my daughters Switch, I don't notice it as much. Once I bump to a 4K TV, I could get a X but again the Shiled outputs to 4K (only streaming though) maybe as a highend Ultra Blu-Ray player the X would work with the added benefit of 4K gaming...I think I just answered my quesiton...LOL. I'll wait for the 4K TV, Halo 6, and Crackdown 3...LOL.
  • Unless you're running 2 titans in your rig then xbox x is going to give you better 4k and at a far lower price  
  • Disagree.
  • I've purchased an X that is currently set up on a 1080p TV (Upgrading to a 4K TV after Xmas) do I need to download these 4K assets to make games look more pretty for the games that support 4K assets or does the console do this automatically? I'm just confused and need further clarification.
  • If you have an X then the games will update to the enhanced versions automatically. The option to download was for the OG One/S so that you could transition smoothly to the X.
  • 4K is part of the enhanced assets. It's just like on a PC game, you can play those at different resolutions but all inside the same package.
  • When you initally install the game, within a few seconds it will ask you to update. Choose yes.  You need the downloaded 4k assets.
  • U cant forget 4k and going back to 1080, if u play once in 4k.
  • The difference between the Xbox One X and the base Xbox One are MASSIVE on 1080p TV's.  I capitalize massive because few writers truly explain how big the difference is, even this writer.  The Xbox One X is almost five times more powerful than the S or base system.  There is so much more to graphical fidelty than resolution.  There is texture filtering, shadows, high or low res textures and so forth. There is a Youtuber who did a blind test with the X and S.  He did the test with a 22' and 23'  1080p monitors.  When he viewed Assassins Creed Orgins on the monitors he said " What the - - - -".  The difference was so massive, he was confused. Even his wife who is not even a gamer said come on, it's so obviuos which one is the Xbox One X.   He planned to do the blind test with two 55 in 4kHDR monitors too, but changed his mind when he realized if the difference was that big on two small 1080p monitors, the difference would only get bigger and more obvious. If you own a quality 1080p monitor, make no mistake the difference is huge.  Night and day!    
  • I see some difference in the first picture not much in the second. 
    The real question is that are these small difference worth the $500 price tag? I really needede to look closely to see the difference. Honestly in the middle of the action that's not something I focus on. 
    Personally I don't think it's worth the price. This was marketed as the "4K" machine. People paying full price and not owning a 4K tv are missing out on the full experience and on what MS have been marketing the most. 
  • I agree. Xbox One X Enhanced games look great and run buttery smooth on my 1080p TV.
  • Dead Rising 4 looks AMAZING on the One X on my 1080 tv, it's imo jawdroppingly different
  • This thing is a BEAST!!!!
  • Exactly, games look drawdroppingly different on the One X even in 1080p. It is not even close. I played DR4 recently, and the jump in graphics quality made me feel like it was a game for a new console generation compared to the base X One.
  • I preordered Project Scorpio edition, now gaming on the 10y old FullHD TV. The improvement in visual quality is great. I'm not really coveting for 4k, my eyesight is not at par for this resolution. But I still may want to upgrade to get HDR, better contrast. From what I saw in the electronics store this weekend, this would probably make a real difference to me.
  • Same here, playing with Scorpio Edition on my 65" HD and the visuals are quite noticable but also is the smooth framerates, being far more consistant and load times are much better. The extra memory and bus bandwidth of the system in general is very evident. I intend on upgrading my 65" (only 3yrs old), in 2018. The main reason being HDR as the key reason to upgrading. 4K is fine, but the significance to what HDR provides makes all the difference. Be sure the TV you purchase has HDR10, (two standards HDR10 and DolbyVision), but from what I'm seeing most midrange to highend TV's are supporting both standards. Buyer beware. HDR10 is the standard that XboxOneX supports.