How To Fix When Your Xbox Series X's HDR Is Too Bright (Or Too Dark)

If your monitor or TV supports it, enabling the Xbox Series X's high dynamic range (HDR) feature will result in far better image quality — assuming it is calibrated correctly. Microsoft anticipated issues with HDR being too bright or too dark at times and baked a calibration feature called Auto HDR into its Xbox Series X|S consoles as a result. With this, anyone can turn on the feature and then let the console optimize the HDR output on its own, which is certainly the fastest and easiest method.

However, not every game supports automatic HDR adjustments, and the resulting image quality in some titles may not be to your liking. Microsoft notes in a support document that there are "no right or wrong picture settings, but rather how the picture settings affect the look of the HDR image." This means you may need to manually experiment with the HDR settings to get the game looking the way you want. Microsoft has simplified this process with a product it calls the Xbox HDR Game Calibration App.

Turn on the Xbox Series X Auto HDR feature

The first thing you should try if the HDR image quality on your Xbox Series X isn't great is also the simplest potential solution: turn on the Auto HDR feature. Both the X and S models of the latest-generation Xbox have this feature, but it is, of course, dependent on using a display that also supports HDR10. Assuming you have a supported display, you need to: 

  1. Press the Xbox button on the controller.
  2. Select Profile & system, followed by Settings, General, TV & display options, and then Video modes.
  3. Within the Video modes menu, select Auto HDR to enable it.
  4. Reopen your game to see whether the image quality has improved.

 There's a solid chance this will fix your problem, but there's a catch: Microsoft explains that not every game supports the console's Auto HDR feature. If the game you're playing doesn't have the support, enabling this setting won't fix the problem, and you'll instead have to manually tweak the HDR output. To determine whether the game supports Auto HDR, wait for it to load, then press the Xbox button on the controller. Look under the clock in the top-right corner of the screen; if you see the Auto HDR badge under it, then the feature is supported. If not, give the Xbox HDR Games Calibration App a try instead.

Use the Xbox HDR Game Calibration App

The Xbox HDR Game Calibration App is a feature found within the console's settings that aids the user as they manually adjust the image quality. Before tweaking the HDR settings, you'll first have to pull up the calibration tool. This can be done by navigating through a few menus:

  1. Press the Xbox button on the controller.
  2. Select Profile & system.
  3. Select Settings, General, TV & display options.
  4. Click on the Calibrate HDR for games tool to launch it.

Within this menu, the tool will launch with the title "HDR Game Calibration" at the top and some brief instructions below it. The first thing to look for is the note that says whether or not your display is in HDR mode; if it isn't, you'll be prompted to turn it on before proceeding. You'll also be advised to switch your TV into Game Mode if it has one and to turn off any display sharpening settings it may have enabled.

With that out of the way, you'll be presented with boxes on the screen and instructions on how to adjust the image settings. For example, during one part of the calibration process, you'll see a black box and will be told to adjust the slider until the checkered pattern within is just barely visible. The process is essentially the same as the one presented when initially setting up a newly installed game that prompts you to adjust the light and dark sliders until the game's logo is barely visible.

Make sure HDR is enabled on your TV or monitor

This may seem obvious, but if the shadows in your game look too dark or the highlights look too bright, it's possible that HDR isn't to blame — it may simply be a case of not realizing the HDR feature isn't even enabled. The entire point of HDR is to boost the dynamic range, meaning that shadows and bright spots should be muted and more details should be visible. If, for example, windows in a game look more like bright white squares rather than portals to the outside world, it's possible the high dynamic feature is off and you're seeing the game environment under the standard dynamic range.

The exact method used to turn on the HDR feature will depend on your TV or monitor; there's no single menu, as each manufacturer will use its own interface and may even use different variations of it between models. You should look for the HDR feature by opening your display's settings — it may involve, for example, pressing a settings button on a remote — and then look for picture settings. If your monitor or TV supports HDR, the feature will likely be listed within a menu called Dynamic Range, High Dynamic Range, or simply HDR. If you can't find the feature but you're certain your TV or monitor supports it, consult its manual or ask the manufacturer's customer support team for help.