Windows 11’s new HDR shortcuts and capabilities are a boon

A car from Forza Horizon 5

Screenshot: Forza Horizon 5

HDR, or High Dynamic Range, is something you take for granted on consoles and TVs, because once you press the switch, it just happens every time you use it, forever. On PC the technology has been a little more complicated.

What is HDR?

HDR is “the set of techniques used to reproduce a wider range of brightness than is possible with standard photographic techniques”. That means your photos have “manifold color performance, deeper saturation, more diverse contrast, brighter highlights and darker shadows”.

On the PC, Windows users – those with compatible monitors at least – have generally needed a switch to turn HDR on and off all the time. This is because the brightness and settings used by the gaming feature are completely unsuitable for sitting close to a screen while browsing / doing work. I need these eyeballs, thank you very much, and if they are burned to ashes inside my skull, they are not very good for online shopping or for reading news articles or writing blogs for a website.

Previously, it involved a switch inside the Windows 10 settings menu, where if you wanted to use HDR, you had to open that menu, flip a switch, play the game, and then when you were done, go back and turn it off again. I know it sounds quick and easy to read like this, but any PC player who has experience with the feature will know that it was so easy to forget, and a strange amount of clicks and menus to come to for such a simple option. that it often ended up being underutilized, if not completely overlooked.

Not anymore! While Windows 11’s taskbar and folder changes have got all the headlines, it has also quietly introduced a few HDR settings that are of great benefit to PC gamers with a compatible screen.

The first is a simple keyboard shortcut. Users can press Win + Alt + B at any time and instantly switch between HDR and standard screen, something I know sounds like it should have been in Windows for years, but which somehow just got in. This is great for not just quickly turning the feature on and off, but for being able to do it quickly from within a game so you can see what a difference it makes.

Xbox Game Bars HDR settings menu (by clicking

Xbox Game Bar HDR settings menu (clicking “ADJUST HDR INTENSITY” opens a slider that allows you to move and see the effects in real time)
Screenshot: Kotaku

The other is the inclusion of some HDR options in the Xbox Game Bar. From the “Gaming Features” section of the Game Bar’s settings menu, you can now ask Windows to automatically turn HDR on and off at startup and shutdown of a recognized game (very useful for the reason of “burning eyeballs” listed above), and once on , you can also adjust the intensity of the effect with a slider. Even better, in games that do not have their own HDR capabilities, Windows 11 itself will take a turn to adjust the levels, and it does a excellent job. I have tested this with a lot of games and found that it worked every time and that the slider was always best set to its maximum.

Although these settings actually debuted earlier this year for testers and have been available to everyone since Windows 11’s release last month, they had received so little fanfare that I figured I would write about them today. You do not even have to install anything, just try it now, see how you like it!


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