Xbox’s Clarity Boost Is Sharp, but Not Magic

Microsoft’s glow-up tech works best with older titles

Key Takeaways

  • Clarity Boost is available for Microsoft Edge Canary and will release for Edge users in 2022.
  • The feature enhances sharpness in games on Microsoft’s Xbox Cloud Gaming service.
  • It can boost perceived image quality, but it’s not without drawbacks.
Xbox Cloud Gaming as it appears on the Xbox Series X


Microsoft has a way to wipe away blur from its Xbox Cloud Gaming service.

Clarity Boost is a feature of Microsoft Edge that promises a sharper, clearer image when playing Xbox Cloud Gaming titles. Currently available only in Edge Canary, the web browser's preview build, it will see a full release in 2022. 

"Based on my experience, Clarity Boost is certainly impressive," George Jijiashvili, Principal Analyst at OMDIA, said in an email. "It visibly improves the fidelity of streamed games."

Clarity Boost in Forza Horizon 5

I put Clarity Boost to the test so you can see the difference.

I’ll start with Forza Horizon 5. The latest from Playground Games combines impressive cars with a large, expansive game world packed with detail.

forza horizon 5 with clarity boost on and off

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

Clarity Boost makes a good first impression. The full-size screenshot, captured at 1440p resolution on a desktop wired to a gigabit internet connection, shows a noticeable boost in clarity. 

The car contrasts better with the road, and the road has more texture detail. I also see a boost in sharpness on the license plate. The difference is not dramatic and, depending on the size of the display you use to view this image, might be hard to notice. But it’s there.

However, a close look reveals some flaws. 

close up of forza horizon 5 with clarity boost off and on

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

Clarity Boost adds a noisy look to high-contrast areas, such as the treeline on the hill and banners across the street. The added noise is obvious in motion because the pattern of the noise changes frame-by-frame. 

I would leave Clarity Boost off while playing this game. The extra detail is nice, but the noise around high-contrast details is distracting.

Clarity Boost in Halo Infinite

Halo Infinite is attractive but simple in its presentation when compared to Forza Horizon 5. Smooth gameplay takes priority over image quality.

halo infinite with clarity boost full size

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

I think Clarity Boost scores a win in this full-size, side-by-side comparison. The stairs and ladder appear sharper and contrast better, the diamond-cut metal platform has more detail, and the Assault Rifle’s readout is crisp. The game’s HUD is also more defined.

close up of halo infinite with clarity boost on and off

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

But Clarity Boost still adds noticeable flaws to the image. Areas of the rifle that had a uniform look now show noise. Consider the area below the ammo readout. It’s smooth with Clarity Boost off but takes on a speckled pattern with it on.

Still, I’d leave Clarity Boost on for Halo Infinite. I like the sharper interface, which looks too soft with Clarity Boost off, and the extra texture detail.

Clarity Boost in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite are newer games, but how does Clarity Boost perform in an older title like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim?

elder scrolls v: skyrim with clarity boost off and on full size

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

This is a win for Clarity Boost. I don’t think anyone would argue the game looks better with it off. It enhances texture detail and adds contrast around vegetation, which isn’t distinct from the terrain with Clarity Boost off.

close up of how clarity boost affects the elder scrolls v: skyrim

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

Clarity Boost holds up on closer inspection, too. The noise visible in other games is here, but not as obvious—we can thank the game’s aging graphics for that. Skyrim is attractive for its age, but there’s less fine detail to trip up Clarity Boost.

This is no contest. I’d play Skyrim with Clarity Boost on.

What Is Clarity Boost Doing, and Why Is It Exclusive?

Microsoft says Clarity Boost "uses a set of client-side scaling improvements" to enhance visual quality. That's a vague description, and Microsoft didn't immediately respond to a request for more detail.

Still, the description rules out machine learning like that used by Nvidia's DLSS. Clarity Boost likely upscales the video stream and adds a sharpening filter. This approach, unlike machine learning, doesn't create new information in the frame, which is why noise is sometimes introduced.

Gears Tactics with clarity boost side-by-side


Why is it exclusive to Edge, though? It's client-side, which means it's a feature of the Microsoft Edge browser, not the Xbox Cloud Gaming service. However, it's possible other browsers will eventually gain support for the feature in the future.

"Edge browser is based on Chromium, so it technically should be possible to bring Clarity Boost to Chrome, for example," said Jijiashvili. "If Microsoft truly intends to bring the best possible Xbox gaming experiences to the masses, I'd expect this and any other enhancements to eventually roll out to other web browsers."

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