It's confirmed: the new Xbox is fully 4K-capable. This boosts its credentials as a gaming device and of course as a media hub for the best part of the next decade
There was barely a whimper at Microsoft's launch of the Xbox One about its 4K credentials: a strange omission given that 4K is the next consumer viewing paradigm (we think!) and also given that when Microsoft gave a detailed demonstration of the Kinect motion and audio sensing peripheral to journalists in a separate room, they were viewing the proceedings on none other than their gaming competitor's 84" 4K Bravia TV, although we understand that these demos - and all the video/game footage at the launch were in 1080p
Matt Hickey, a contributor to Forbes website managed to grab an interview with Microsoft's Corporate Vice President of Marketing, Strategy and Interactive Entertainment Business Ysuf Mehdi, and asked him "Will the next-gen Xbox work with these next-gen TVs?"
Mehdi responded: “The video and interface portions, absolutely. Games developed for 1080p will run at 1080p, obviously.” It will support up to 4K at launch for things like Blu-Ray, but what about later? “There’s no hardware restriction there at all."
But there's a bit of a mixed message there. It sounds like the Xbox One can certainly output 4K video, although if it only has a single HDMI 1.4 socket (the current release) then it will be unable to output more than 24 or perhaps 25 frames per second.
The comment about Blu-Ray? We're really not sure what that means, because Blu -Ray doesn't currently support 4K in any shape or form. What this might imply is that there is a 4K upscaler in the Xbox, which would be, well, pretty cool, if it was a good one.
But it does sound like there is no architectural reason why games shouldn't run in 4K resolution. Remember, though, that just because a game can output 4K pixels, doesn't mean that the details (the textures, models and lighting effects) will be in 4K resolution as well. That would demand an extraordinary increase in power, which some might think would be better used improving gameplay, physics and in-game effects.
We now know a little bit more about the Xbox's 4K capabilities. K. Stewart writes:
As to 4K… when introducing the 360 to developers, Microsoft gave every attendee a Samsung HDTV to emphasise it being the first HD console. This obviously didn't happen this time for 4K and it looks increasingly like 4K can't be an integral part of this console generation, at least for gaming. The target for games will be full 1080P at 60fps, a significant step up from the 720P at 30fps which is typical of this generation, but obviously not 4K. Video playback for 4K should be possible (with 24p only supported by HDMI 1.4), but as the big news in the Blu-ray camp is 'mastered in 4K', rather than delivered in 4K, there seems little to no chance of any next gen console shipping with a true 4K drive. In press briefings following the May 21 event, a little more information has been revealed by Microsoft. Xbox blogger Major Nelson 'AKA Larry Hryb' confirmed Xbox One 'supports BOTH 3D and 4K' in a live Yahoo chat while Microsoft's CVP of Marketing and Strategy, Yusuf Mehdi indicated, "There's no hardware restriction there at all," regarding 4K gaming. The latter is a slightly different emphasis from Sony, whose president of worldwide studios Shuhei Yoshida, clarified "PS4 supports 4K output, but does so for personal content like photos and videos, not games. PS4 games do not work in 4K." Given the similar horsepower of both machines, the distinction seems largely theoretical / marketing related. The possibility of 4K gaming is a long way from the reality of it.
A more likely application is 4K streaming video and the degree to which these machines can replicate Sony's $700 FMP-X1 4K Media Server remains to be seen. Xbox One will come with an integral, non-replaceable 500Gb drive - so there's certainly not much space to download 4K content, but USB 3 means adding terabyte storage shouldn't be an issue. The US Autumn launch of Sony's 4K media service will likely be the point at which we properly realise the potential of the games consoles as 4K media players when Sony defines its 4K message and Microsoft responds.