unlikely story of a PC gaming enthusiast and the Xbox Series X that seduced him…
It started innocuously enough. Most of my recent PC gaming adventures do before they inexplicably snowball into a hellscape of technical misfortune. I simply wanted to play some Halo Infinite multiplayer on my PC. Nope, not on Linux (it’s still not possible as of this writing). Not even on Windows 11. I wanted to play on my pricey (but not remotely exotic) Falcon Northwest Talon.
Pretty standard stuff, really. Windows 10, an ASUS ROG 4K monitor, AMD Ryzen 3900X and a Radeon RX 6800 XT. Halo Infinite had been surprise-launched for about 72 hours, so I figured the game-breaking bugs might be smoothed over.
I fired up Steam, eagerly anticipating the gloriously comedic mayhem of Big Team Battles.
Then this happened:
I switched HDR on and off, but it made no difference. I rebooted. I rolled back my Radeon graphics driver. I rebooted again. I lowered the graphics quality and switched between windowed and borderless. No amount of troubleshooting or tweaking or praying to Almighty Gaben brought forth a solution.
I threw up my hands in frustration and decided to try another approach.
From The Office To The Living Room
My trusty gaming PC brought no joy. But I had recently slapped a clean installation of Windows 11 Pro on my Ryzen 5800H + Nvidia RTX 3080 laptop.
And here’s the crucial part of this story: I planned to connect that laptop to our brand new Samsung 4K/120Hz HDR TV (it’s this 55″ Q80T model). This was our first TV upgrade in seven years. Understandably, I was drooling just thinking about how stunning any modern PC game would look on that beauty.
The Q80T even has a dedicated “Input Signal Plus” HDMI port for connecting gaming-centric 4K/120Hz hardware. You know, like your PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X, or ridiculously expensive gaming laptop…
What could go wrong? 🤣
Suffice to say, the combination of Windows 11 and a shiny new TV was even more disastrous. Out of consideration for you, dear reader, I’ll consolidate hours of troubleshooting and hair-pulling into a short list:
- Windows 11 refused to acknowledge that the TV was HDR-capable.
- Despite my best efforts, it refused to go beyond a 60Hz refresh rate.
- Windows 11 also refused to respect my choice of only displaying output to the TV.
- Activating the TV’s “Game Mode” (which turns off various image boosting features to reduce input lag), resulted in a lost connection with the laptop.
- This, of course, was the only time Windows 11 respected my decision to not use the internal display, forcing a reboot!
- Several HDMI cables later, I established a 4K/120Hz/HDR picture but the display flickered black every few seconds.
Do you ever start troubleshooting something and find yourself dizzy with anger and confusion, wondering what you could possibly try to solve the problem? Wondering why on earth the solutions you’ve already tried didn’t work? That’s where I was on this fateful evening.
I simply wanted to spend the short hours I had left that evening unwinding with one of my favorite game franchises. At roughly 1am, tired and bleary from the ordeal, I finally accepted the flickering and trudged through a few matches.
I submitted to the reality that a combined $4000 of hardware was giving me the finger, refusing to behave. And there was nothing I could do about it.
We poured a couple of local English Porters and he plugged in his console using the very same HDMI cable.
On his way back to the couch, he powered up the diminutive Xbox. In turn, the Xbox powered on my TV. Then my TV proudly acknowledged it had detected an Xbox and auto-switched to Game Mode.
Within literally a few more seconds we were at the main menu of Halo Infinite, courtesy of the console’s Quick Resume feature.
I watched in equal parts awe and indignation as my friend happily played a round of Slayer in 4K HDR. He also bounced between 60Hz and 120Hz to demonstrate the game’s Quality and Performance modes).
He didn’t touch as much as one setting.
He didn’t even need to turn on the TV.
It took mere seconds.
If I’m being honest, it looked comparable (but not identical) to the picture quality I’d get from my $800 Radeon graphics card.
Ticking Away, The Moments That Make Up A Dull Day…
The Halo Infinite debacle isn’t the first losing battle I’ve had with PC gaming; it’s only the most recent. As games get more and more complex and the dizzying amount of PC hardware combinations continue to multiply, it seems like the potential for error skyrockets.
To that end, I don’t envy game developers. Not. One. Bit.
Don’t misunderstand me. I adore PC gaming. There’s no denying the raw appeal of tweaking and customizing and upgrading your hardware. Truly personalizing it.
And I appreciate the sheer power present in modern GPUs and the accompanying software that provides such useful quality-of-life features (hello Nvidia Broadcast). I respect the jaw-dropping photorealistic graphics my own system is
perfectly sometimes capable of.
However, as a gaming enthusiast in his 40’s, I value one other thing above all else: TIME.
Now I’m forced to consider how much of that precious commodity a console like Xbox Series X could save me over the next several years. How many fewer technical headaches? How much more gaming enjoyment?
If this experience is any indication, probably enough to matter. Probably enough to justify the purchase. And I have a hunch I’m not alone in this.