Windows 11 removes the historical baggage of previous Windows versions while bringing new gaming technologies to PC only seen on Xbox consoles so far. From subtle improvements to major next-generation features, Windows 11 is set to make gaming better.
Superior Game Pass Integration
Game Pass is clearly Microsoft’s flagship gaming product, offering day-1 first-party releases and a huge library of third-party games that come and go over time. On Xbox consoles, Game Pass is a seamlessly integrated experience that works flawlessly, but on Windows 10 systems it felt clunky and a little slapped-together. We and other Windows 10 users have experienced many bugs and problems related to corrupted game files, strange Windows Store integration problems, and failed game uninstallations that fail to give back storage space.
Microsoft has patched much of this on Windows 10 and continues to make it better on the older version of the operating system, but PC Game Pass and the rest of the new Microsoft gaming ecosystem have been built into Windows 11 from the outset. Our own experience of using Game Pass on Windows 11 has been free from the performance problems and bugs exhibited under Windows 10. Of course, that’s not everyone’s experience, but the key point is that Microsoft hasn’t added Game Pass to Windows 11 as an afterthought. It’s very much one of the key pillars of the operating system.
Improved Performance and Efficiency
Windows 10 includes a “Game Mode” which certainly helped with gaming performance issues early in Windows 10’s lifecycle. Windows 11 also includes a Game Mode, but it’s been refined and present from the outset. Microsoft has learned a few lessons when it comes to Game Mode.
Windows 11’s Game Mode deprioritizes non-game processes to help you get the most out of your hardware. PC Gamer published an in-depth comparison of Windows 10 and 11, and there are some minor performance differences—generally in favor of Windows 11, but not always. We expect that Windows 11 will continue to pare back the overhead between software and the “bare metal” to something more like a gaming console can achieve.
Auto-HDR for Existing Games
Auto-HDR is a much-celebrated feature on Xbox consoles that adds HDR to games that only support SDR. It does this by applying some fancy math to the SDR image and calculating what it thinks the HDR values would have been, resulting in an image that’s perhaps not quite as good as native HDR, but provides significantly more “pop” to SDR games.
How well Auto-HDR works depends somewhat on each individual title, but it’s certainly breathed new life into older Xbox games viewed on modern HDR TVs. Auto-HDR on Windows 11 does exactly the same thing but can be applied to all your PC titles. However, it only works with games that use DirectX 11 or DirectX 12. So the many classic DirectX 9 PC games won’t benefit.
Windows 11 offers a generally impressive improvement to HDR as a whole compared to the dismal state of HDR support on Windows 10. Check out our guide on turning on HDR in Windows 11 for information on activating Auto-HDR and accessing Windows 11’s HDR settings.
DirectStorage for Faster Storage Speeds
One of the biggest leaps the latest gaming consoles offer over those that game before is high-speed storage. Video game loading times have been cut down dramatically and the in-game performance of games that use asset streaming has also received a massive boost.
PCs simply can’t take advantage of the speeds that modern SSDs offer, but DirectStorage brings that technology from Xbox to Windows 11 computers. It’s a feature of the operating system that lets the GPU accelerate transfer speeds while also relieving the CPU from some of the overhead involved. The end result is a much speedier data transfer experience in games.
Unfortunately, you need some very specific hardware components for DirectStorage to work, but eventually, all computers will meet those requirements. Initially, only 1TB SSDs could use DirectStorage, but that requirement was later removed. At the time of writing, you need an SSD that uses the NVMe protocol and a DirectX 12 GPU with shader model 6.0 support.
Whether you have a computer capable of DirectStorage today or not, Windows 11 sets the stage for a new generation of games that can really push data throughput.
It’s the Future of DirectX
Both Windows 10 and Windows 11 support DirectX 12 Ultimate, Microsoft’s latest API packed with the latest features developers can use to make eye-popping games. So, for now, Windows 10 gamers can access the same feature set assuming they have the right hardware to support it, but that won’t be true for long. Windows 10 will reach the end of its support life in October of 2025. This makes it a safe assumption that future DirectX developments will be coming to Xbox consoles and Windows 11, with no promise of that happening past the official expiration date of Windows 10.
There’s no rush, of course, since we expect at least DirectX 12 Ultimate updates for Windows 10 until the end of support, but if want to experience the next development in gaming features Windows 11 is the place to do it for the foreseeable future.
Next-generation CPU Support
The latest Alder Lake CPUs (that’s the 12th-generation models) from Intel brings a new hybrid architecture to desktop computers with high-performance cores and efficient cores mixed together for maximum efficiency. This is great for gaming because it means that games have full access to high-performance cores while the efficient cores take care of background housekeeping tasks and gaming-adjacent applications like Discord or streaming apps.
At the time of writing in February 2022, only Windows 11 fully supports these CPUs and the complex task scheduling intelligence needed to make sure the right processor gets the right job.
Xbox Features We’d Like to See in Windows 11
While features like Auto-HDR and DirectStorage are welcome indeed, there are still some features that only exist on Microsoft’s latest consoles. In particular, we’d love to see the Xbox’s Quick Resume come to Windows PCs. This feature saves a snapshot of a game to your SSD and lets you instantly resume a game from where you were last playing. This feature makes more sense on a gaming console where multiple people share the same system, but it would still be nice as an option on Windows 11 gaming PCs!