Xbox One X
For our initial impressions and thoughts on the Xbox One X, head here
The ‘World’s Most Powerful Console’. A clear marketing line if we’ve ever heard one. But, it’s also the best way to describe the Xbox One X. And if we’re being totally honest - whilst also showing our age - we haven’t been this impressed with a console in terms of raw high-end game performance since the days of the Neo Geo. But whereas that beast from the 1990s was the opposite of affordable, the Xbox One X offers the equivalent output of a high-end gaming PC at a fraction of the cost.
A revelation, that alongside a 4K HDR capable display provides a generational leap over the existing Xbox One. Assuming of course, the title you’re playing is Xbox One X Enhanced.
Design and Features
There’s just something impressive about a well-designed piece of hardware. The Xbox One X not only looks sleek with its small form factor and matte black finish, but also impresses with just how well optimised it is under the hood. And the lengths the engineering team at Microsoft has gone to ensure that it would provide a sizable leap in quality over the base Xbox One and Xbox One S. A console that when compared to the PlayStation 4 was noticeably inferior. Not by much, but enough that certain games that ran in 1080p on PlayStation 4 had to make do with 900p at best on Xbox One.
The Xbox One X is the sort of engineering feat you notice without having to open or take apart a piece of hardware. When gaming in 4K, a resolution that’s several magnitudes higher than both 1080p and 900p, the Xbox One X stays whisper quiet. Barely making its presence known – sound-wise. Now, this may come down to the pretty impressive vapor chamber cooling system for the main hardware components, or the subtle well-placed vents at the back. Both of which work their magic to keep overall temperatures down. Whatever the case may be, it’s an engineering feat worth celebrating. Small, sleek, powerful, and quiet.
Compared to the Xbox One S power usage and temps on the Xbox One X might seem like something’s gone wrong, with the X being both the hottest and most power-hungry Xbox to date. But compared to a gaming PC, it’s a miracle. Forza 7 running in native 4K at 60 frames-per-second without drawing obscene wattage or fans going wild making noise results in the Xbox One X staking its claim as one of the best designed bits of hardware for 2017.
- 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
Now, one of the reasons why the One X feels like a generational leap over the base Xbox One is the fact that in terms of numbers - those being memory bandwidth, GPU clock speed and cores, and even the CPU upgrade - we’re talking about an increase in power that you could ballpark in the four or five-times range. Compared to the original Xbox One. Which is staggering, and results in even non-Xbox One X Enhanced titles looking better and running smoother thanks to automatic enhanced filtering and V-sync capabilities out of the box. And with titles that employed dynamic resolution scaling on the Xbox One, on the Xbox One X they won’t budge or struggle to keep up with the on-screen action at the maximum targeted resolution.
Of course, the Xbox One X truly comes into its own is when all that power is unleashed on Xbox One X Enhanced titles. And in 4K. And with HDR.
The Library of Enhanced Titles
Now that the November 7 launch of the Xbox One X has come and gone the number of Xbox One X Enhanced titles has grown to the point where you’d be hard pressed not to find a bunch of games that will showcase the vast improvement in visual quality and performance over the base Xbox One model. To highlight the improvements, we’ve picked three games that best showcase the additional power of the Xbox One X right out of the gate.
Gears of War 4
- Originally released a year ago, Gears of War 4 was already a showcase for the latest Unreal Engine and the same over-the-top action spectacle that the series is known for. On the Xbox One X you get two enhanced options – visuals which not only bumps up the resolution to 4K, it also uses new 4K assets and advanced visual effects. The only catch that it runs at a solid 30 fps - which is fine. Secondary to that there’s performance mode, which keeps the 4K resolution but utilises mostly the same effects as the core Xbox One release, but increases the frame-rate to 60 fps. And in case you were wondering the original ran at 1080p 30 fps. The campaign is best experienced in visuals mode, where the new 4K textures and truly jaw dropping HDR lighting effects propel this to being one of the best-looking games around. Period.
Forza Motorsport 7
- Built from the ground up for the Xbox One X and it shows. And to put it in a way that doesn’t sound too insulting, if you’re playing Forza 7 on a 4K screen without an Xbox One X but upscaled via an Xbox One S the difference is like looking at a game on the Xbox 360 versus the original Xbox One. Yeah, crisp and fast and smooth in a way that racing games have never been, presented in 4K at 60 fps. Now, to put that in perspective – getting any game on a high-end PC to run at a stable frame-rate at 4K isn’t easy and requires some expensive gear. For the Xbox One X to do this immediately with Forza 7 is not only impressive, but intimidating. That generation comparison between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One wasn’t a joke, and Forza 7 proves it. And it doesn’t stop with the cars or the frame-rate as it also features some of the best weather effects ever put into a racing title.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
- One of the flagship titles to showcase the Xbox One X, Assassin’s Creed Origins may not run in native 4K for its duration, nor hit a frame-rate higher than 30, it still looks stunning. Utilising checkerboard rendering means the resolution fluctuates across the horizontal plane to keep the frame-rate at a steady clip, but even so stays within reaching distance of native 4K for the most part. Compared to the PS4 Pro release the raw pixel count sits anywhere between 50-70% more being rendered depending on what’s happening on screen. Oh, and there’s the whole thing about it being the glorious return of Assassin’s Creed in a setting that – Egypt- we’ve always wanted to visit. A big, huge, and gorgeous open world that on the Xbox One X means we’re content to simply walk around and stare. At the horizon, trees, water, structures, and people going about their day.
Currently the Xbox One X Enhanced list supports most if not all the major 2017 releases with more being added every week. Being enhanced usually means higher quality textures, and as such larger installation sizes with a few titles hovering around the 100GB mark. Which brings us to the first and probably only major problem with the Xbox One X, in that it requires an external drive. The internal 1TB solution may load games faster and present a smoother dashboard experience, but it’s simply not enough storage for games. Compared to the rest of the design, a 2TB drive, with a hybrid SSD solution for the dashboard and key files would have made more sense. And really, if it did we’d gladly give the X it’s Roman numeral score – a 10.
Finally, on the game library front it’s worth mentioning perhaps the Xbox One X’s secret weapon – backwards compatibility. In addition to running every Xbox One title, select Xbox 360 games have also been given the enhanced treatment – with improved texture filtering and a resolution bump to 4K. For Xbox 360 titles like Mirror’s Edge and Fallout 3 the results are incredible. Games that were never intended to look this good, now look better than ever. It points to a very cool future for Microsoft consoles one where libraries will both continuously grow, and older titles will be refreshed and enhanced to take advantage of advanced hardware.
A 4K and HDR Showcase – The Future is Now
Up until this point you may have noticed that all performance we’ve talked about so far is in relation to the 4K output and stuff like HDR. Of course, there will be benefits for those with 1080p displays. Thanks to the X’s super-sampling capabilities games will look a lot better even in that state. But, the increased resolution and HDR features are a big part of the allure of the Xbox One X and you’d be hard pressed to take the plunge without owning a 4K screen. The difference is night and day. We’d go so far as saying that every 4K TV purchase made by anyone interested in gaming should be made alongside an Xbox One X. It’s probably the best console released so far to truly sell the technology as something to, well, pine for. That is, for those looking for the best visuals and the most impressive presentation.
The future is now.