The console market has changed since the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 first launched, and as time passed, the consoles have adapted to these changes. From Twitch integration to ways to play games outside the consoles themselves, this has been one exciting console generation. But with the advent of 4K, things have gotten even more interesting. With 4K the consoles needed to evolve. They needed to take a half step into a new generation and push more pixels to take full advantage of the new screen in your living room. While Sony worked on the PlayStation 4 Pro, Microsoft took some time, worked on the console, and took feedback to build a machine that surpasses the competition on every account. The Xbox One X is, to put it simply, the most powerful console out today, and if you are in the market and feel the need for 4K HDR, there is no better option this holiday season.
Although it may not seem it, is actually incredibly resource intensive to display a 4K image compared to the 1080P image. With nearly four times the visual information to display, you need computing horsepower from the GPU and the CPU to achieve this feat. While the PlayStation 4 Pro managed it to some extent, it was not uncommon to see screen tearing along with stuttering gameplay on the system while displaying 4K gaming content. It was by no means a deal breaker for what the console could do, but it did show there were limits based on the hardware. This is where the Xbox One X really shows the benefits of a little extra power.
The Xbox One X, spec wise, is the clear winner when compared to all other consoles currently on the market. The 8 core 2.3GHz AMD based CPU is only a bit more powerful than the PlayStation 4 Pro’s 2.1GHz, but where you will see the real performance boost is with the GPU. The 6 teraflop monster, A.K.A. the Scorpio Engine, sitting at the centre of the Xbox One X runs at 1172MHz, with 40 compute cores. This GPU puts it well ahead of the pack at raw computing power.
To compare the Xbox One in PC terms, the 6 Teraflop GPU would be sitting somewhere between the Nvidia GTX 1060 and the AMD 480/580 series of cards. Due to the fact the Xbox One X has a much tighter integration with all aspects of the hardware, players should see results that far exceed the capabilities of these comparable cards. Also, the OS is built from the ground up to have gaming as its main purpose, so the core of the Xbox One X should be more than enough to pump pixels in 4K to your new HDR screen.
|Optical Drive||4K/HDR Blu-ray drive|
|Processor||Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz|
|Video||Integrated AMD graphics with 6 teraflops of performance|
|Connectivity||Wireless IEEE 802.11ac dual band; (5GHz & 2.4GHz); Dedicated dual band Xbox Wireless radio|
|Ports||HDMI 2.0a in/out, 3x USB 3.0, S/PDIF, IR out|
|Size||11.8 x 9.4 x 2.4 inches, the "smallest Xbox ever"|
Raw horsepower is only one part of the puzzle. The ability to ensure the system can process the data, display it, all the while limiting bottlenecks that may cause a slowdown in the process. Thanks to the fast 12GB RAM—9GB usable by games—games and apps run without any issue.
And they run stunningly.
The memory bandwidth of 326GB/s puts it well ahead of the pack, with only the PlayStation 4 Pro coming close at 218GB/s. While it is easy to get bogged down in numbers, it would be pointless if it did not yield real-world results, but throughout the review period, as games came available with Xbox One X enhancements, they all ran as promised: fluid, smooth, and impressively crisp in all it's 4K glory.
But what does all this power cost? Well, it will not come cheap. The system will launch at $499USD—$599CAD—making it the most expensive console currently on the market right now. It is almost double the price of the Xbox One S at $229 USD, and around $100 more expensive than the $399USD PlayStation 4 Pro. For that extra cost, you are getting a much more capable system, one that should be a companion of your new 4K TV for many years going forward.
Now with all this power, it would be expected that the Xbox One X be a bigger console than the previous iterations, yet somehow though engineering and the sheer force of will, Microsoft has managed to make the Xbox One X smaller than the Xbox One S. While it is not a major difference, it is enough that when you stack them next to each other the difference is obvious.
Beyond the size, the next major difference is the look of the system. The Xbox One X has a black, stealth look. It is a modern looking system, fitting in well with most stereo equipment. Despite being a powerful gaming machine, the Xbox One X would not look out of place in a minimalistic loft under a 70-inch TV. The system feels sophisticated and refined, far more than the device from a science fiction film aesthetic of the PlayStation. While both have a great look, Microsoft has managed that fine line of building something that masks its true purpose, yet still keeps the aspects that gamers know and love.
Much like the Xbox One S, the Xbox One X plays UHD Blue rays with the included player. This is one aspect the One X and the One S have over on Sony's gaming options. Even though Sony is one of the founders of Blu-ray, for some inexplicable reason neither system has a way to play the new 4K format. It was an odd move, but I am very happy to see the feature present on the Xbox One X.
Around the back of the unit, things look very similar to what you would see on the Xbox One S. You have HDMI In, HDMI Out, two USB Ports, Power, Ethernet, an IR out port, and an optical audio port. Basically, everything we have grown to expect from an Xbox One. For anyone holding out hope, no, the Xbox One X will not have a Kinect port, and with Microsoft killing that accessory, I don’t’ foresee this changing in the future.
The Xbox One X, while a step into the future, manages to maintain compatibility with the full line of the Xbox One family. This includes all games currently on the Xbox One but also includes the new backwards compatibility for original Xbox games, and all the Xbox 360 lineup of games that have been ushered into the backwards compatibility lineup to this point.
It is a staggering amount of content, although to really enjoy the power of the One X, you need the Xbox One X enhanced games. While the library is rather small right now, the lineup is quickly growing, with most new releases offering some level of Xbox One X enhancements going forward. While not all the games will have the same level of enhancements, expect all the releases that take the Xbox One X into consideration to run smoother, look clearer, and ultimately be a better way to play the games thanks to the power the Xbox One X has on offer to developers.
For players, these enhancements are where the Xbox One X will show its true power. Yes it is there for developers to use, but if they neglect it, or simply do not take advantage of what is offered, the experience will look little different from what you experience on an Xbox One S. This is why that list of enhanced games is so important.
Take, for example, Gears of War 4. While the HDR is also available on the S, the higher quality visuals and sharper level of details allow the sunsets and vistas to be breathtaking. Many times through a playthrough for this review I stopped to simply marvel at what was on the screen.
While playing Forza 7, the simple level of detail displayed on the screen as I was racing around corners was absolutely staggering. From the look of the interior of the car, to the way the rain looked falling on the wet roads, to the way reflections looked as you drove past at 100 m/h, allowed the power of the X to be on full display. This is a console that, when utilized properly, can push what you thought possible on a console. It is “the” way to play Forza 7, and has made it hard to go back.
Now even if you are using a 1080P TV, you will still be able to enjoy many aspects the Xbox One X is pushing out. As Microsoft explained, while the console will push out 4K images, if it is only displaying images on a 1080P TV, the system will scale it down, offering a super-sampled image. And while in testing this worked, it should be noted that the real excitement of the One X is seeing your games in 4K. While it manages the task, it would be like using a Ferrari to go get milk from the store. It does the job, sure, but you’re missing out on much of the fun under the hood.
Games like Middle Earth: Shadow of War—a third party game —demonstrated what a properly enhanced game could offer. The clarity and smooth visuals as I played through the early sections of the game made it feel far more fluid and the fidelity of the images, were staggering. The level of detail you could see, even as things moved into the distance, was astounding. This is the way Shadow of War is meant to be played, and it was a blast.
With games such as Doom, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus, Assassin's Creed Origins, The Evil Within 2, Star Wars: Battlefront 2, and Call of Duty WWII all coming out or out with patches by the time the Xbox One X launches, there will be plenty to play that offer a 4K enhanced experience. While it may not make up the full Xbox One lineup, most of the major games from 2017 will be enhanced or are already enhanced, so there will be countless hours to play and a full spectrum of games on offer.
When it comes down to it, the Xbox One X is built for the player or buyer who wants to take advantage of what 4K can offer. There are many options that work on 1080P, and the Xbox One S is a great choice in that space, but if you are looking to take advantage of that brand new TV that's mounted on your wall, the One X is the best choice currently on the market.
My only concern about the Xbox One X at this juncture, just prior to launch, is the library of enhanced titles. While there are some great games already available, compared to the full Xbox One library, the selection is a bit sparse. While some titles have managed to achieve 4K 60fps, that is not true of the full-enhanced lineup, and ultimately it will be up to individual developers to make the most of the hardware on offer.
The power it has under the hood and the attention to detail by Microsoft has made the Xbox One X a staggering piece of technology. Microsoft has learned from their past mistakes, and has moved away from the all-in-one living room device. They have built a system that puts gaming first, with media as a bonus, as it should be for a system at this level. There are plenty of streaming boxes currently on the market that will give me 4K Netflix, but when I want to jump into a racing game and have the track wiz by at 4K 60FPS, this is when a system like the One X comes into the picture. It is a system that shows how listening to the consumer can result in something worthy of your time and money. If they can build the enhanced lineup quickly, the Xbox One X will be a must own this holiday season. As it is right now, if you have a 4K TV and love gaming, the One X is the perfect companion to enjoy all the 2017/2018 gaming lineup.
A retail console was provided by the publisher. You can find additional information about CGMagazine's ethics and review policies and procedures here.
Liked this article and want to read more like it? Check out more of Brendan Frye’s work such as his interview with EA Motive about Star Wars: Barttlefront II, and his in-depth look at the Equifax Hack!
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