Enjoy 4K Video with PlayStation and Xbox

With the proliferation of 4K resolution TVs, Sony and Microsoft have introduced 4K—and the amazing picture it produces—to their gaming consoles.

Both the PlayStation 4 Pro and Xbox One S can stream content in 4K, which is 4 times more detailed than the exiting standard: 1080p. It requires a 4K TV (which are dropping drastically in price) to display, but the image is much clearer and realistic. You’ll have a tough time spotting the individual pixels on a 4K TV, unless it’s an extremely large screen and you’re extremely close. All this means that you don’t have to sit so far away from big TVs to enjoy them.

Both also introduce another new standard: HDR (high dynamic range). 4K refers to the number of pixels and HDR refers to the colors. With HDR, you will experience a broader range of colors that are more realistic and vivid, with brighter whites and deeper blacks. Without HDR, you may see only a shadow. With HDR, you see what’s hiding inside the shadow. The colors are more natural and life-like, and you see more of what’s in the frame.

One thing to keep in mind: there are two HDR standards and both consoles only support one of them—HDR10. If HDR is important to you, make sure your TV is HDR10 compatible.

What if you have a library of 4K Blu-ray discs? If you don’t already have a 4K Blu-ray player, you may want to stick with the Xbox One S. The PS4 Pro doesn’t play 4K Blu-ray discs, although it will upscale DVD and standard Blu-ray discs. Additionally, Sony has stated that it is not possible to issue a firmware update to the PS4 Pro to allow it to play 4K Blu-ray discs—they’re betting that streaming is the future.

Neither console plays games in native 4K—the cards capable of doing such a thing are currently prohibitively expensive for a gaming console. The PS4 Pro renders games at about twice the resolution of 1080p and uses a couple of algorithms (best-in-breed temporal and spatial anti-aliasing algorithms) to upscale it even further to approach 4K quality. The Xbox One S also upscales to near 4K quality. Although not true 4K, both consoles see appreciable graphics improvements over their predecessors.

Just make sure the game you’re playing is optimized for 4K and HDR.