So you recently bought an Xbox Series S and you’re wondering if it can output 4K. Nowadays most new TVs are capable of 4K and many other features such as HDR and even 120 Hz refresh rates. In this article, I’ll cover everything that you need to know about 4K on the Xbox Series S.
The Xbox Series S is the digital-only version of Xbox’s latest generation of consoles. While it lacks some core Xbox features, such as a Blu-ray disc drive, it makes up for it in other ways.
Can Xbox Series S Do 4K?
The Xbox Series S can only output a native 4K resolution for playback and video streaming platforms. The Xbox Series S’s resolution target is 1440P (also called QHD) at 120 Hz which it can achieve on certain video game titles. The Xbox Series S does not have a Blu-ray disc drive, it’s a completely digital console.
While the Series S has a maximum resolution output of 1440P, a 4K-capable TV can upscale the resolution to 4K. Upscaled 1440P won’t be true 4K, but it can look very good on a 4K TV or monitor.
Bear in mind, that even though 1440P is the target for the Xbox Series S, most of the games that run at 1440P on the Series S will be limited to 30 or 60 frames a second.
The reason for that is the Series S is not powerful enough to render games at that resolution while also reaching peak frame rates. 1080P at 60 FPS is still the ideal sweet spot for the Series S.
If you really want a console that can handle native 4K, I suggest buying the Xbox Series X.
Does Xbox Series S Support HDR?
Yes. The Xbox Series S supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. To use HDR, the console needs to be connected to an HDR-ready TV, and the TV needs to have HDR enabled in its picture settings.
How to enable HDR on Xbox Series S
- Press the Xbox button on your controller
- Scroll down to Settings
- Select All Settings
- Select Display & Sound
- Choose Video Output
- Select Advanced Video Settings
- Enable HDR
To see if HDR is enabled, in your Xbox’s Advanced Video Settings, select 4K TV Details, and take note of the information.
If your TV does not support HDR, there will be a warning saying your TV does not support HDR 10 video. When you see that message, and you know your TV is capable of HDR, it’s most likely because HDR has not been enabled on your TV.
Enabling HDR on Your TV
Use your TV’s remote to open the Expert Picture Settings on your TV and look for a setting called HDR, HDR+, or HDMI UHD Colour. Bear in mind, that certain older TVs will only support HDR on certain HDMI ports, most likely HDMI 1. To solve that issue, make sure your Xbox is plugged into the HDMI port on your TV that supports HDR.
You might also need to enable it in certain games’ graphics settings. Remember, HDR is not the same as 4K, and it can occasionally make the game’s colours look worse, depending on how it’s been optimized.
Gaming at 4K with Xbox Series S
What happens when you try to run Xbox Series S on a 4K TV?
When you play games from an Xbox Series S with a 4K TV, the TV will upscale the video signal (which is 1440P max) to fill your entire 4K TV screen using a technique called upscaling.
People often assume upscaling is the same as stretching a lower resolution image to meet the size requirements of a larger display, but that’s not entirely accurate. A stretched image will undoubtedly look terrible.
Upscaling is a process where a display uses complex algorithms and image processing to enhance a lower resolution video signal. In some cases upscaled 1080P can look very similar to native 4K. The details won’t be better, but image post-processing effects can make it quite close.
The problem is the quality of the upscaled video is determined by the upscaling capabilities of the TV. Not every TV uses the same upscaling algorithms and image processing techniques.
It seems like Sony TVs are known for their upscaling features. However, most modern TVs will offer a decent upscaling experience that will usually look better than native 1080P.
Since upscaling occurs on your TV’s side, you’ll be able to play games normally on your Xbox without worrying about performance issues.
Refresh Rate & Frames with Xbox Series S
The Xbox Series S is capable of outputting 120 frames a second on selected titles. However, to achieve 120 frames a second, the Series S dramatically reduces the visual quality of the games. Halo Infinite just recently received an update that unlocked the 120 FPS mode for the Series S.
However, in my opinion, Xbox Series S games look better at 60 frames a second because the console can reach the target frame rate without reducing the image quality too much. You can test the performance options to see which one works best for you. If you see a game with FPS Boost on the listing it means it recently was optimized for 60 frames a second or higher.
Bear in mind, that while the maximum of the Xbox Series S is 1440P at 120 Hz, very few games are optimized for those features. In fact, most games are still being optimized for 1080P at 60 frames a second.
Can Xbox Series S Do 4K at 60 Hz?
No. The Xbox Series S cannot run games at a native 4K with 60 frames a second. Its maximum is 1440P at 120 Hz. However, the more expensive Xbox Series X can run games natively at 4K at 60 frames a second.
Can Xbox One S Do 4K?
The Xbox One S can only output games at a maximum resolution of 1080P at 60 Hz or 60 frames a second. However, most games on the Xbox One S are limited to 30 frames a second. The reason for that is game developers set frame rate limits to lock the sweet spot between gaming performance and graphics.
Unfortunately, the Xbox One S does not have powerful enough hardware to run games at a higher frame rate. Even if it can, game developers rarely optimized their titles for old console generations.
The Bottom Line
To summarize, while the Xbox Series S is a good console, it can only output native 4K when playing media. You can’t run games at a native 4K with the Series S but your 4K TV can upscale the image.
You can also enable HDR on both your console and your TV to add a colour boost to your games and media. Overall, the Series S provides a surprising amount of features for the price.