Xbox One owners in the UK trying to watch TV through their new consoles are seeing juddering picture problems bad enough that some are calling it “unwatchable”.
One of the most heavily advertised features of Microsoft’s next generation console, the media passthrough abilities means that TV and video signals from other set-top boxes provided by Sky, Virgin and Freeview TV services can be fed through the console to the television – thus removing the need to switch inputs when going from gaming to TV viewing.
But UK owners who have got their hands on the new device say they have problems. “It’s really bad on sport. Unwatchable. Perhaps the reason no Sky support at launch? Disappointed,” complained a user called Damatris on the official Xbox user forums.
Defaulting to the US television standard
The cause appears to be the difference in refresh rates between UK and US TV sets and services. In the UK, the TV broadcast standard is 50Hz, or 50 frames per second (FPS), which most television set top boxes including Sky, Virgin and Freeview services output. In the US, the standard is 60Hz or 60FPS, and by default the Xbox One is set to the US, not UK standard.
“Assuming the reports are true, this represents a significant issue Microsoft has to address,” Richard Leadbetter of visual testing company Digital Foundry told Eurogamer. “Displaying 50Hz video at 60Hz means that every sixth frame will be a duplicate, resulting in noticeable judder on a lot of material – scrolling text on news channels, fast pans in TV and movies, and the left to right sweep of the camera in football matches.”
Microsoft said that it is aware of the issue, but did not have a comment at the time of publication.
No easy solutions
Leadbetter said that there are no easy solutions to the difference between 50 and 60Hz, and that altering a 50Hz picture to match a 60Hz refresh rate would likely have a detrimental impact on image quality. It is unknown how Microsoft is going to deal with the issue.
A work around has been discovered by a HDTVtest user and verified by gaming site CVG, which involves tricking the Xbox One into outputting video at 50Hz rather than 60Hz. However, this forces the console to use 50Hz all the time – which could cause issues for games that should be played and output at 60Hz.
“This is a major disappointment as the Xbox’s main selling point is its TV / media capabilities, but the reality is it’s broken and doesn’t work,” complained Potty Monster.