Gone are the days when a console could keep Sony and Microsoft fans happy for five or six years. The release of the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro was a sign that the demand for better hardware is moving at a faster rate. Console players want to keep up with their PC gaming counterparts and get access to better visual quality and performance. Microsoft’s answer to that demand is the Xbox One X, which boasts impressive hardware (for a console) and performance to meet the needs of the console gamer. Before its launch on November 7, we spent some time with it to see if the high price tag is worthy of your investment.
What’s In The Box
Apart from the console itself, the package contains the usual offering of an HDMI and power cable. Batteries are included for the accompanying controller, which is nearly identical to the one included in the Xbox One S, save for its matte black finish. Newcomers to the Xbox family can also take advantage of the included 14-day free trial for Xbox Live Gold, the console's premium online service, as well as a one-month tryout of Xbox Game Pass, which gives you access to a collection of Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles for a monthly fee of $10.
The Xbox One X is heavier (8.4lbs) than the Xbox One S (about 7lbs) because of its new internals. In terms of dimensions, it's larger than its predecessor in terms of length and width, but it's encased in a slightly thinner chassis. Its top sports a smooth black matte surface, unlike the Xbox One S, which has tiny holes at the top for ventilation. However, the same multi-hole design is still featured on its sides.
The console has the same ports as the Xbox One S (power, two HDMI ports, two USB 3.0 ports, IR out, S/PDIF, ethernet), although they’re all closer together to save some space. Most of the heat is dispersed through the back, which now features larger exhaust ports. However, you can still feel some warmth on top of the console, specifically near the processor. During E3, we shed some light on the console's so-called "liquid cooling" system, which is actually a vapor chamber system. This makes it more of a heatsink rather than a traditional all-in-one cooler. The Xbox One X also features physical buttons to eject discs and turn on/off the console, an IR blaster, and a USB port in the front.
Gaming In 4K And Full HD
One of the first games we tested was Gears of War 4. The Coalition’s latest game was one of the first titles to receive an update for the Xbox One X. This update allows users to choose between a Visual and Performance option before playing. The former allows you to play the game in 4K at 30 frames per second (fps) and the latter featured 60 fps gameplay at 1080p. The 4K TV we used was a Vizio P652UI-B2, which unfortunately didn’t support high dynamic range (HDR).
According to Microsoft, choosing the Visuals option enabled the use of “Ultra Quality Textures,” and it showed on the first comparison slide. Textures on J.D.’s clothing, hair, and weapons were well defined, and you can even notice signs of wear on the surface of the crate in front of him. There’s also improved reflections in multiple objects, such as the top of the machine on the right-hand side of the image. The increase in image quality brought about jagged edges on most objects, however, which meant the upgrade didn’t include sufficient anti-aliasing methods.
Even with the resolution reduced to 1080p, the Performance option still had a slight improvement in image quality over the Xbox One S version. Once again, textures, such as the crate and J.D.’s hair, are somewhat better on the Xbox One X. However, the main attraction of the option was the frame rate. Even if it meant reducing the resolution to 1080p, playing above the standard 30 fps limit was satisfying. Everything from movement to melee attacks in combat felt faster and more natural at higher framerates. After using that specific option, it felt strange to revert playing on the Visual and Xbox One S versions again.
Even though 4K TVs are decreasing in price, there are some still out there who don’t own a television that supports the higher resolution. However, there’s a Visual option for Gears of War 4 on the new console that allowed for supersampling, which renders the image at a higher resolution, on HD TVs. The slide below showed a slight improvement in visual quality, specifically in textures and reflections. The Performance variant also showed a small (and we mean small) image improvement compared to the Xbox One S version, but its main allure of increased framerates should be enough to attract players to use it.
Another title that received Xbox One X enhancements was Assassin’s Creed: Origins, which came in the form of a 4K resolution and HDR upgrade. We roamed around Bayek’s hometown of Siwa and found a spot that allowed us to compare the beautiful scenery across the Xbox One X and S.
Whether it’s on a 4K or full HD screen, the Xbox One X managed to provide superb visual quality compared to older brother. The lighting was more vibrant and the details on the branches and leaves were well-defined. A look at the Xbox One S screenshot showed obvious pixelation throughout the image. You can clearly see the ringed pattern on Bayek’s shield in both resolutions for the Xbox One X, but you can hardly tell it’s there on the Xbox One S version. Microsoft’s new console is the clear winner in visuals, but both versions still force you to explore Ancient Egypt at 30 fps.
Coming Soon To Middle-earth
One game that has yet to receive an Xbox One X upgrade is Middle-earth: Shadow of War, although it will be available on the console’s launch day of November 7. Regardless, we compared the Xbox One X version, in its current state, to the Xbox One S variant to see if it had any noticeable advantages.
Unfortunately, it seems that we’ll need to wait for the update to see major changes between the two versions. For now, it seems that the game is identical in visual quality across both consoles. The Xbox One X patch includes a 4K resolution upgrade and HDR support.
It All Depends
Microsoft is going all-in with the Xbox One X, and it’s asking for a hefty investment from customers with a $500 price tag. However, we think that the console is worth every penny. You don’t necessarily need a 4K TV to reap the visual or performance benefits (although it helps), which is a sign of relief for those who feel pressured to buy a new TV to accompany the new console. Depending on the game, you can see a wealth of upgrades that include 4K or HDR support, improved textures, or a performance boost in the form of higher framerates at a lower resolution. We wish every title supported by the console gets improvements in framerate, but we know some fans are content with a 4K experience at 30 fps.
It’s only a matter of time until every game coming to the platform will get an Xbox One X upgrade, and with this new console, Microsoft is offering a preview of what’s to come for the next two to three years in gaming. If you have the money now, go ahead and get yourself an Xbox One X. However, there’s also no harm in waiting to see how it all pans out over the next few months.