Microsoft has announced that the Xbox One will get 120Hz-display refresh-rate support in a software update for the consoles. Support for higher refresh rates opens the door for smoother gameplay, both in terms of performance and input responsiveness.
In a news post on the Xbox website, Microsoft briefly described the 120Hz feature, along with several other updates, and said they are coming this May.
Earlier this year, Microsoft added support for AMD FreeSync 2 to the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. FreeSync is a variable refresh rate (VRR) technology that reduces distracting screen tearing on many displays without impacting game performance. FreeSync, along with 1440p resolution support that was added in the same update (and now 120Hz support), all expand the Xbox One S and Xbox One X’s compatibility with computer monitors. Microsoft is positioning the Xbox One as an alternative to a gaming desktop, even if your preferred setup is in the home office rather than the living room. That said, many TVs also support 120Hz.
Let’s manage some expectations here, though: you won’t be able to play 4K games at 120fps in the upcoming 120Hz update, because the HDMI 2.0 standard used in the Xbox One S and Xbox One X isn’t capable of that. That won’t be possible until HDMI 2.1, which likely won’t be available in consumer TVs or future Xbox models until next year. For now, the Xbox One S and Xbox One X will only support 120Hz at 1080p and 1440p resolutions.
Microsoft’s news post doesn’t clarify whether 120Hz support will come to all Xbox One models or just some, but we’ll be surprised if we see it in the original Xbox One (that is, the one that precedes the more recent S or X models), because the original Xbox One uses HDMI 1.4a, which is even more limiting than 2.0.
It’s also important to note that, while the console itself will support 120Hz, the games won’t necessarily support it. There are benefits to running a game at 60fps on a 120Hz monitor, but game developers will have to update their games to offer 120fps modes to take full advantage of the technology. In most cases, the standard Xbox One and Xbox One S won’t be able to hit that target, but the Xbox One X could manage that at 1080p and 1440p for many games, should developers choose to support it.