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Xbox Cloud Gaming is testing a new feature to improve image quality

New client-side improvements available in Edge

Microsoft are now testing a feature to improve image quality in Xbox Cloud Gaming, their service which lets you play fancy new games through an Internet browser even on a cruddy old computer. Clarity Boost, as they call it, aims to make games look better through some client-side processing fanciness. The feature is currently only supported in a test version of the Microsoft Edge browser, planning to roll out to regular Edge soon.

Playing fancy games even on a rubbish PC is a tempting prospect, but the nature of running a game on a remote server while streaming the display to the player as a video comes at the cost of input latency and image quality. Clarity Boost aims to help with that second issue.

Microsoft's announcement explains that Clarity Boost "uses a set of client-side scaling improvements to improve the visual quality of the video stream." That's all they say, though they do offer a comparison in Gears Tactics:

A demonstration of without/with Xbox Cloud Gaming's new Clarity Boost feature on a Gears Tactics screenshot.
Even through our website compression it's clear, though you can see it uncompressed and full-size here.

Not bad, that. Maybe a bit sharp but not monstrously so. And yeah, it's only available in Edge and that's not my browser of choice, but Windows 10 installs Edge anyway so whatever.

If you game cloudly and fancy checking out the newness, you'll need to download Microsoft Edge Canary, the test version of their browser. From there, start a cloud game as usual, then look for Enable Clarity Boost in the More Actions menu. Microsoft do warn that you might "notice decreased device performance (e.g. increased battery consumption)" if you're using it, though that shouldn't be a surprise.

I have long been sceptical of image-'enhancing' technologies, because they were rubbish when they were first introduced. Too much weird over-sharpening and other ugliness looking like a bad Skyrim 'HD' texture pack mod. Nowadays, Nvidia's DLSS tech is apparently good enough to be a very welcome feature in games for a 'free' performance boost, and I've heard good things about AMD's FidelityFX Super Resolution too. If my ageing GeForce supported it, absolutely I'd use DLSS.

How is Xbox Cloud Gaming, anyway? Any of y'all use it? As my PC grows increasingly decrepit, I am sometimes tempted by vaporous video games in genres that are turn-based or otherwise non-twitchy. I will confess: spare money that I have for upgrading anything is mostly devoured by my bicycle these days. Though the global bike parts shortage is possibly even worse than the global GPU shortage. Point is: does XCG do video games good?

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Alice O'Connor

Associate Editor

Alice is likely in the sea.

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