ideal hdtv settings for xbox 360

My XBox 360 broke, and since my new one supported HDMI, I reworked the connection to the TV (a Samsung PN50A450 plasma). It’s tricky to get the best performance out of the combination so I wanted to mention it here.


Even though the HDMI connection is digital, both the XBox and the TV have hardware scalers that degrade the signal. The conversion chain works like this:

Game resolution (for Battlefield 3, 704p) → XBox HD resolution (for standard HD, 720p) → TV native resolution (for this Samsung, 768p)

Remember the XBox is essentially a Windows PC and games can choose whatever resolution they please. Now, in a normal PC, the resolution requested by the game would be transmitted directly to the monitor, and the monitor’s scaler would scale it. If the game chooses the monitor’s native resolution then there is no scaling.

Also remember that a 720p-labeled TV doesn’t necessarily mean the TV’s native resolution is 720p. It’s just 720p “class”.

We can’t eliminate scaling entirely because we can’t change the game’s resolution, but we can still remove one scaler from the chain by having the XBox scale to the native TV resolution. When that happens, the Samsung shuts off its internal scaler (which also handles some post-processing effects). This gives us much sharper detail and reduces the notorious HDTV display latency.

How to do it:

  1. Connect the XBox to the TV via HDMI on HDMI channel 2.
  2. Go into SettingsConsole SettingsDisplayHDTV Settings on the XBox and choose 1360 x 768. If the setting isn’t available, it means you’re connected to the wrong HDMI port.

Crispy pixels! This configuration also works for VGA output if your XBox doesn’t support HDMI.

You can also tell that you’re running at the native resolution via the TV’s menu, because the Detailed Settings option will be grayed out. This is because the TV’s scaler is not running.


Now we need to open up the color response range of the TV while it’s in native resolution in order to return to high contrast. Since the scaler/post-processor is not running, my TV at least can’t do the usual 16-235 levels remapping for video signals.

Go into the service menu on the Samsung. (Dangerous! Stay away from anything that says “calibration” or your TV can become unusable).

  1. With the TV off, press MUTE 1 8 2 POWER on the remote.
  2. Using the up and down menu keys, choose ADC Target.
  3. Use the following settings for 1st PC, 2nd PC, and 2nd HDMI:
    1. Low: 0
    2. High: 255
    3. Delta: 0
  4. Press MUTE MUTE POWER on the remote to save your settings.

Go into SettingsConsole SettingsDisplayReference Levels on the XBox and set it to Expanded. Also set HDMI Color Space to RGB.


Also note that the Samsung service menu will display the resolution the TV is running at, which is handy.