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A Generational Leap – Xbox One X Impressions
Post by KostaAndreadis @ 06:10pm 03/11/17 | Comments
We bring you our early impressions of the final Xbox One X hardware

At AusGamers we’ve been lucky enough to have had early access to an Xbox One X console for just over a week. But with the November 7 launch still around the corner, this has meant that the number of ready-to-play Xbox One X Enhanced titles has been limited to mostly first-party family friendly offerings. So, we’ll be bringing you our full review next week, when we’ve had the chance to fully check out all the biggest first and third-party titles in 4K HDR. And download all the updates too, because we’re talking about hundreds of gigabytes – thank the Space Pope that we’ve got an unlimited data plan.

But, that’s not to say that we haven’t been impressed with what we’ve seen so far, far from it, the first Enhanced title that we tested was Gear of War 4. In native 4K, with the high-res texture pack, and with HDR enabled. To say that it looks incredible would be an understatement. All credit goes to the technical wizards at Microsoft and developers The Coalition for taking an already impressive Xbox One title and transforming it into a technical showcase. If pure game performance info is what you’re after Gears of War 4 runs in either visual mode at 4K 30fps, or performance mode at 4K 60fps.

Yeah, the Xbox One X right out of the gate got a AAA release to run at 4K 60. Impressive.

A Beautiful Box

Right, so let’s talk aesthetics. The Xbox One X not only does away with the external power pack like the Xbox One S revision, but it also manages to pack in a sizable hardware upgrade in a more compact size. It’s not tiny, but next to the original Xbox One, the new matte finish and minimal design is a definite improvement. It’s also quiet.

What’s under the hood though is every bit the beast that you’ve heard it to be - and it’s remarkable that the RRP is only $649 in Australia. And even though inevitably people will begin comparing performance to that of a PC, bear in mind that at this price there’s just no way you could build a PC that could even come close – or even for double that amount.

  • Eight custom CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz
  • 326GB/s of memory bandwidth
  • 1172MHz GPU - with 40 customised compute units
  • 12GB GDDR5 memory
  • 1TB HDD
  • 4K UHD Blu-ray disc player
  • 4K gaming support

It’s clear that the Xbox One X has struck a chord with the gaming market, and that makes perfect sense. It’s not a brand-new console, but it feels like one. We’d go so far as to say that the Xbox One X could very well be the beginning of a new generation, albeit one that’s different. Instead of starting fresh, keep the existing game library, leverage the increased power to provide additional benefits and quite possibly upend the traditional console cycle.

Technical Wizardry

With vapor chamber cooling, impressive memory, and so much more going on under the hood even after experiencing both Xbox One X enhanced titles and those still waiting on patches there was one aspect of the X that took us by surprise and solidified it as the next step forward for Microsoft and Xbox.

And that is how it handles backwards compatibility.

Okay, so playing Xbox 360 titles on an Xbox One is a cool feature but not something that you might call essential. On the other end of the spectrum it’s a forward-thinking feature that preserves history and a catalogue for future generations of hardware. Yeah, we fall into the latter category. And what Microsoft has been able to do with the Xbox 360 emulator on the One X is nothing short of astounding. On the Xbox One X games like Fallout 3 and Halo 3 run in native 4K with improved texture filtering without any changes required to the games themselves.

Do they still look like older titles? Sure, but they still impress to no end and represent a version of history that does away with the usual response whenever you fire up and old game, “Oh boy, I don’t remember it looking this bad.”

It’s the sort of emulation tricks that could only come from the sort of passionate coders whose simple goal is to make some classic titles look and run well on modern hardware. For the Xbox One X and the future of Xbox it puts a firm flag in the ground for a future where backwards compatibility is treated with the utmost respect. And really, blurs the generational hardware lines to a point where you start to see part of Microsoft’s big picture.

Back to Gears of War 4 for a second – because we’re still waiting on the 4K update for Forza 7 to go live. Again, it looks incredible on the Xbox One X. In 4K the texture detail is crisper than we’ve ever seen on a console, and by a huge margin too. The implementation of HDR and advanced lighting and particle effects is jaw dropping. As suckers for visuals, it has in our minds put the core Xbox One console firmly into our rear-view mirror. The same one that still contains a tiny reflective spec representing the Xbox 360.

Other titles we’ve tested include 4K resolution and performance bumps for both Diablo 3 and Path of Exile, two titles that look considerably better on the new console but in the same way that a simple resolution increase does. Which is why we’ll be reserving our full thoughts and confirmation that yes, this is everything we wanted it to be, when we can see the difference in titles like Assassin’s Creed Origins, Middle-earth: Shadow of War, and several other current games that will be enhanced in time for launch.

The Only Complaint We Have

Downloading all the 4K updates and games and content for our Xbox One X has been an almost non-stop process at AusGamers HQ. In fact, our download queue is still going - with barely a dent made into Call of Duty: WWII. And there’s five other games still lined up after that.

Which brings us to our one complaint with the Xbox One X. For all of its forward-thinking design and impressive hardware that has no trouble rendering a number of titles in native 4K, the 1TB drive is a little small. Gears of War 4 on the console weighs in at around 100 GB. Same goes for Forza 7 and Halo 5. And even though the OS and loading games is faster than the original Xbox One, we would have loved to see some form of SSD Hybrid drive used. Because having almost instantaneous loading and transitions between the dash and games would have been quite the thing.

And we say this because anyone who games on PC has gone the SSD route years ago – and it’s one of things where once you make that leap there’s no going back.

More to Come

Right, so even though we’ve got a lot more Xbox One X testing coming up over the weekend and throughout next week you might be wondering if we’d recommend it as an upgrade over the Xbox One. The short answer to that is, yes. It’s worth it. Even if you don’t have a 4K TV with HDR the console goes so far as to super-sample the image for a crisper and more detailed 1080p image. Sure, the added benefit of 4K and HDR is a game changer and a core part of the One X allure – but the hardware upgrade over the Xbox One S brings an almost generational leap in quality.

Then there’s the inclusion of a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive, and support for 4K streaming. Both great features. Even though the Xbox One X didn’t launch alongside some brand-new killer app or AAA first-party release, the timing feels spot on. Prices for 4K displays have come way down, and as console gamers we’ve been feeling a little underwhelmed with how games look on the Xbox One for a little while now. Well, that’s me speaking. Someone who just got a brand-new gaming PC, that’s now trying to figure out which platform to play Assassin’s Creed Origins on.

So far the Xbox One X has been nothing but impressive, so stay tuned as we bring you more coverage over the course of the next week.