The gaming console market has always had a fierce rivalry between Sony and Microsoft. When we talk about the previous gen, the Xbox 360 clearly had the upper hand against the Sony PS3. But then the tables were reversed when both the companies brought about their current gen consoles, the PS4, and the Xbox One. The PS4 beat the Xbox One out of the park, scoring huge sales numbers, and leading Microsoft to question their marketing strategy. Later on, Microsoft did introduce the Xbox One S to compete against the PS4 Slim, though that was a competition in which there was no clear winner. Now, 4 years since the launch of the original Xbox One, Microsoft has brought about the Xbox One X, the next-gen console, which goes head-to-head with Sony’s PS4 Pro.
The biggest selling point of these next-gen consoles is the ability to play games in native 4K resolution. While the PS4 Pro does pack in quite a punch of hardware, the Xbox One X puts it to shame with the best gaming hardware on a console we’ve ever seen. But at $499, is that console really worth your money? Let us take a deeper look at the world’s most powerful gaming console, and see whether you should go for it or consider other options:
What’s In The Box
Before starting off with the review, let us see what all contents are there in the official packaging. Apart from the console and its essential peripherals, Microsoft has also included codes for their Live Gold and Game Pass, which is a really nice touch. See below for the entire list of contents:
- Xbox One X Console
- Wireless Controller
- HDMI Cable (4K Capable)
- AC Power Cable
- 14-Day Xbox Live Gold
- 1-Month Xbox Game Pass Subscription
Xbox One X Specifications
The Xbox One X has been given the tag of the world’s most powerful console, and simply by looking at the specs, one can say that the tag is indeed just. Packing in some of the best hardware, the One X puts most gaming PCs to shame as well. Here is the full detailed list of the Xbox One X’s specs:
|x86-64 2.3GHz 8-core AMD custom CPU
|6 TFLOPS, AMD Radeon-based Graphics Clocked at 1172MHz
|4K UHD Blu-ray
|HDMI 2.0b out, HDMI 1.4b in, Three USB 3.0 ports, IR out, S/PDIF, Gigabit Ethernet
|IEEE 802.11ac dual band (5GHz and 2.4Ghz), 2x2 wireless Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi Direct
Design and Build Quality
Right off the bat, the Xbox One X is the smallest gaming console that Microsoft has ever made. While it might resemble the Xbox One S in some ways, the overall design quality has actually improved. Going back in time, I remember holding the original Xbox One, and while that device did look great in itself, it just wasn’t as aesthetic as the PS4 of that time. Now, 4 years later, Xbox’s design language has completely changed, while Sony has been busy just adding horizontal bars to their console. Also, just like its younger brother, the Xbox One X can also be used in a vertical position, so you can basically place it just about anywhere in your living room.
The One X ditches the original Xbox’s capacitive touch power button and follows in the footsteps of the One S by using a physical button. The front houses the 4K HDR Blu-Ray drive, a single USB 3.0 port, and a controller pairing button. On the back side, the console offers HDMI out, HDMI in, two USB 3.0 ports, IR out, S/PDIF, and Ethernet ports.
While the One X is the smallest Xbox by the company, it is also the heaviest, weighing in at 8.4 pounds. That weight comes primarily from the heavyweight (literally) CPU and GPU (more on that later). Overall, the design of the Xbox One X is quite neat and simple. It can be said that rather than being too flashy, the design is rather exquisite, something that when placed inside your room would easily blend in, rather than standing out too much.
The Good Ol’ Xbox One Controller
Now, while the console has a very different design language, the controller remains quite the same. And to be honest, I love it. I’ve always been a fan of the layout of the Xbox controller, and the overall grip of the controller has been great throughout the series. While the 360 had the controller that made me fall in love with, it was the Xbox One’s controller that made that love last. And thankfully, the One X has pretty much the same controller. I did experience some extra grip on the controller though, but I’m not sure whether it’s something new, or just the feeling of a new controller. That being said, the controller looks great, feels great, and is a joy to behold. Also, like the Xbox One S, the Xbox One X’s controller also sports the 3.5mm jack for easy connectivity with your 3rd-party chat and gaming headsets.
If you’ve been a user of the Xbox for some time now, you might be familiar with the Metro/Modern UI, or as the company calls it, “Microsoft design language”. Be as it may, the design was a huge success on the Xbox 360 and did carry on to the Xbox One. That being said, Microsoft did release the much anticipated Xbox One dashboard update in October, prior to the One X’s launch. While I didn’t really like it at first, it is undeniably much better than the previous iterations. The Xbox One X comes preloaded with this interface, and it certainly is a pleasure to use. There is obviously a learning curve to this new interface, but overall, it is certainly much snappier than the earlier version.
One can access the game library and various other menus, and the sidebar actually makes much more sense now. I did happen to notice slight lags while downloading the games, and trying to browse through multiple tabs quickly. Also, another weird issue I faced was the ridiculously large font size on the WiFi settings menu. That being said, these were just minor hiccups and nothing that would actually destroy one’s overall experience. But, just a side note, as someone who earns his bread by writing how-to’s and tips & tricks, I would have really appreciated if Microsoft would have finally given us the ability to capture menu screenshots, without having to resort to an external solution such as a capture card.
What is Xbox One X Enhanced?
Probably the most talked about point of the Xbox One X is the Xbox One X Enhanced programme. Essentially a tag, it denotes how well can a game take advantage of the powerhouse that is the One X. As stated by the Albert Penello, the official marketing manager for Xbox, “It’s just a simple way that customers can understand this game is doing something special on the Xbox One X.”
A notable thing here is that not all games that are Xbox One X Enhanced are necessarily going to run in 4K resolution. As such, there are 3 different tags, namely – 4K Ultra HD, HDR, and the Xbox One X Enhanced. The Xbox One X Enhanced programme simply ensures that the game will run comparatively better on the One X, while the other two tags denote the superpowers that the game will actually be utilizing. To know more about the Xbox One X, you can read our detailed article on the same.
For any console, the game library defines how many users which actually end up using it. For years, we’ve had the debate of PlayStation vs. Xbox, and while both receive almost equal love from all major game studios, it is the number and quality of exclusives that actually end up becoming a deciding factor for most consumers. As such, PlayStation has always had a better exclusive line-up for its console, with titles such as God of War, Uncharted, Infamous, Gran Turismo, etc.
That being said, Microsoft Studios isn’t that far behind, with games such as Forza, Halo, and Gears of War. Though, sadly, the list effectively ends there. Sure, there are other games such as Killer Instinct, but let’s be honest, who in their right mind would pick that up over Mortal Kombat XL? For me, Microsoft Studios needs to bring out more exclusives themselves, or resort to having 3rd-party games such as Titanfall be exclusive to their console in order to push the sales.
Apart from the exclusives, another noteworthy factor is the actual number of games that can utilize Xbox One X’s horsepower. The Xbox One X Enhanced tag, as discussed above, tells us about how well the game shall run on the Xbox One X. At the time of this writing, there are over 160 games that will be Xbox One X Enhanced, out of which 85 games are already available to play. Truth be told, these are some staggering numbers, and more games are expected to join the list soon. I, for one, have been really amazed how well Microsoft has been pushing the bar for the performance of games on their flagship console, and the entire game library shows for it.
But on the flip side, here’s something that I don’t like. For a console that renders games at 4K native resolutions, the games do come in heavy. And I mean, really heavy. For instance, Forza Motorsport 7 occupied over 70 gigs on my system, while the Halo 5 upped its game by taking almost a 100 gigs of space. As such, the pre-included 1 TB HDD, is certainly going to prove insufficient for serious gamers, who like to have plenty of games on their system. Thus, I’d have to recommend an external storage solution, like the Seagate Game Drive Hub for Xbox that offers an extra 8 TB storage for $195.
One of the best features of the Xbox One X is how it handles backward compatibility with games. It is a feature that hasn’t really been appreciated much but certainly deserves credibility. To start off, the Xbox One X supports both the original Xbox as well the Xbox 360’s titles. So you can literally have fun living all those childhood memories. As of this writing, the Xbox One Backwards Compatibility programme currently supports 13 Original Xbox and 136 Xbox 360 games. Here is the entire list of backward compatible games for the Xbox One. And here’s the crazy part. If you own the original game, you get the update for free.
I own a copy of Bioshock: Infinite for my 360, and I just popped the disc into my One X, and the game runs perfectly. Oh, and being part of the Xbox One X Enhanced programme, the game actually looks better on the new console. If you didn’t catch that, let me try and explain it to you in simpler terms. Thanks to the Xbox One X Enhanced tag, I get a “remastered” version of the game I owned on my previous gen console. Just to put things into perspective, Sony sells remastered retail units of their previous gen success titles such as “Last of Us“, “God of War III“, “Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection“, for as much as $20. Imagine owning a game on your PS3 and now having to pay almost half the price just to be able to play it on the PS4. Such is not the case on the Xbox One X, and boy, do I love Microsoft for that.
We finally get to the main talking point for any gaming device – the gaming performance. If I had to use a single word to describe the One X’s performance, I’d say – Godlike! (Yes, I am an Unreal Tournament fan, deal with it). But being a reviewer here, I have the privilege of expressing my love for this console’s gaming performance in plenty of words, and I am going to do just that. The Xbox One X has been dubbed as the world’s most powerful console, and while the hardware specs in itself are enough to justify that statement, the performance is the live proof of those acclaims. The 8-core AMD CPU clocked at 2.3GHz coupled with 12GB of DDR5 RAM breezes through any game you throw at it.
I tested the console on both a 4K panel as well a 1080p display, and the performance is just amazing. Each and every game that I played on the console ran buttery-smooth, with an unmatched performance. The graphics are amazing, and the 60fps framerate is a pleasure to witness. Oh, and if the game that you’re playing is Xbox One X Enhanced, then boy, are you in for a treat or what. Of course, the best game to be played on the One X is Forza Motorsport 7, and the graphics of that game blew me off my couch. The life-like sceneries and the realistic vehicles, they all just look so stellar, running in native 4K with HDR. Oh, and don’t even get me started about Halo 5. While that game might have received its fair amount of criticism for the storyline, it is undeniably the best looking Halo game ever. And with the Xbox One X, the game seems to look better than ever. The rich environment of the game indeed does give you the simulation of being on a different planet.
While 4K performance was undoubtedly great, I was able to notice improvements on a 1080p display as well. I love playing Mortal Kombat XL on my PS4 Pro as well as on my Xbox One, and I gave it a shot on the new Xbox One X as well. And it took me no less than a second to quickly recognize the smoothness that the One X offered. The way that the characters moved and how quick and responsive the actions were, it seemed to have blown both my original Xbox One as well as its arch-rival, the PS4 Pro, out of the park.
One of the best things about the Xbox One X is that this stellar performance is consistent, even after long gaming sessions. This is primarily because the Scorpio Engine that fuels this gaming performance, is cooled via a vapor chamber cooler, which houses a small amount of water that evaporates into steam when it gets too hot. When the system, later on, cools down, the water also reverts back to the liquid form. Just to give you a reference, these type of vapor chambers are used in high-end desktop graphic cards such as the GTX 1080. Though not as good as the liquid-cooling technology that is present on high-end gaming PCs, it does provide superior thermal performance compared to traditional solid metal heat spreaders. It was a nice touch overall that Microsoft added to the One X.
But Is the Xbox One X For You?
After going through everything that I just said, you might probably be wondering why does the review have a title describe the console as “The Beast You Probably Don’t Want Right Now”. Allow me to explain just that. The Xbox One X is undoubtedly a beast of a gaming machine. It easily puts all previous gaming consoles to shame and manages to perform slightly better than the PS4 Pro at both 4K and 1080p gaming. But here’s the thing – not every developer is going to make 4K content just about instantaneously. And not every consumer is actually using a 4K panel.
If you’re someone who isn’t planning on making the switch to a 4K display anytime soon, the Xbox One X is probably not for you. Granted that the Xbox One X does provide improvements on a 1080p screen as well, those are all marginal improvements. To be honest, you’d be better off with an Xbox One S that costs almost half the price and has backward compatibility as well. Or if you’re really hell-bent on 4K, you can actually get a great deal on the PS4 Pro right now. Yes, that’s right, ‘coz despite the Xbox One X actually being the best gaming console out there, the PS4 Pro actually offers a better value for money. The Xbox One X was designed to be the sheer best, and it has been priced that way. Even Microsoft knows that, and have openly stated that they themselves expect the One S to sell more units than the One X. Get the Xbox One X if you want the absolute best and nothing else. But if you are someone who is a casual gamer or someone who can compromise a bit on the quality, there are definitely better options out there for you.
- Exquisite design language
- Games run supersmooth
- The ever-green Xbox One Controller is a delight to use
- User interface does lag at times
- Is not for everyone
Buy Xbox One X: ($499)
Xbox One X: The Beast You Probably Don’t Want Right Now
To end things, I’d have to say that Microsoft has done a commendable job with the Xbox One X. The console looks beautiful and performs amazingly. It is a premium flagship gaming console, with premium hardware, a premium experience, and undoubtedly, a premium price tag. While it is certainly not for everyone, it definitely is the best gaming console that money can buy. The hardware on it is great, and should easily last you the next couple of years to come. The switch to 4K is inevitable, and if you do indeed get yourself the One X, you certainly wouldn’t regret it.