In case you didn’t notice, Microsoft made quite the song and dance about the Xbox One X being “a true 4K console”, during E3 2017. Those were the words of Xbox head honcho Phil Spencer, who, in a battle cry towards Sony, said: “I look at PS4 Pro as more of a competitor to the Xbox One S than I do to the Xbox One X.” As it turns out though, the Xbox One X is actually utilising the very same checkerboarding and dynamic resolutions the PlayStation 4 utilises.
Dynamic resolutions have long been a solution for console developers, allowing the resolution to scale downwards on the fly in order to maintain a steady frame rate. A game may be in 2160p, yet drop down to 1800p during an intensive scene. Checkerboarding meanwhile is tech that came to prominence with the Sony and the PS4 Pro. It’s a technique designed to simulate 4K image quality, rendering at 50% of the native resolution before using advanced reconstruction techniques to effectively guess the missing pixels, eventually rendering at the target 4K resolution.
This is all fair enough, of course, there’s nothing wrong with checkerboard rendering and it does produce almost indiscernible image quality differences, however, it does fly in the face of the true 4K claims.
“This is a true 4K console,” said Spencer this week. “If you just look at the specs of what this box is, it's in a different league than any other console that's out there.”
The Xbox One X is indeed more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro, somewhere in the region of 40% faster thanks to the higher spec GPU and an extra 4GB GDDR5 memory. As Ashraf Ismail, Assassin’s Creed Origins’ director said though, this doesn’t necessarily translate into a true 4K machine. AC Origins uses both checkerboard rendering and dynamic resolution in order to hit its 30 FPS target, the same as the PS4 Pro. The difference is that the Xbox One X will be running at higher resolutions more consistently, while PS4 Pro may have to take more dips.
In practical terms, the end result isn’t going to make much difference to the gamer. Where checkerboard or not, Assassin’s Creed Origins is going to look fantastic on a 4K TV. But, if you do want to play AC: Origins in true 4K, there is only platform truly capable - the PC. I just dreaded to think of the graphics horsepower you may have to throw its way.