Meet the world’s most powerful game console
Microsoft’s high-performance, mid-generation Xbox One X console has arrived. It’s the most powerful gaming console ever built, capable of producing true 4K graphics and uncompromised game performance. Read on to learn more about Microsoft’s newest and most powerful member of the Xbox One family of consoles.
Xbox One X: Welcome to true 4K gaming
4K TVs have been around for years but until recently console gaming hasn’t taken advantage of this higher resolution. The reason is simple: rendering 4K images with stable 30/60 frames per second gameplay takes an incredible amount of horsepower. Horsepower the Xbox One X possess in spades.
All this hardware muscle shifts the balance of power in Microsoft’s favour—with Xbox One X even outperforming PS4 Pro. It’s not by a small margin either, Microsoft claims the X is 40% more powerful than Sony’s high-end model. Naturally this number is hard to prove when actually playing games on the console, but certainly games do look better. After spending the past week testing the X, it’s impossible not be impressed with what Microsoft has accomplished here.
Xbox One X key specs
As you’d expect, Xbox One X boasts some pretty impressive specs. This monster of a machine contains an 8-core Jaguar “Evolved” CPU running at fast 2.3 GHz. Its GPU is a custom “Scorpio Engine” with 6 teraflops of power and an impressive 1172 MHz clock speed. Looking at memory, it has 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and a custom silicon architecture capable of transmitting a whopping 326GB/s.
With all these super-powered components working in tandem to render rich 3D worlds, you might be wondering about heating issues. But fear not as Xbox One X features vapour chamber cooling—tech normally reserved for high-end gaming PCs. In fact, it’s the first ever gaming console to feature this advanced cooling system. Having used the console extensively, and sometimes for 4-6 hours in one sitting, it never went above moderately warm. Compared to other gaming consoles on the market today, the X stays the coolest over long gaming sessions.
The only physical component that underwhelms is the 1TB hard drive, which fills up far too fast. While regular Xbox One games are generally in the 25-50GB range, downloading 4K assets takes up much more space. As examples, Forza Motorsport 7, Gears of War 4, Halo 5, and Quantum Break all come in between 80GB-110GB. Overall, I was able to store about 15 games, whereas 1TB holds at least double the games on Xbox One. Essentially this means you’ll likely need to buy an external hard drive, unless you’re okay with deleting to make space. The good news is it’s super easy to connect an external HDD, and also costs keep on coming down.
Xbox One X improves games
It’s important to know that all games played on Xbox One X are improved in some ways. For example, the hard drive is 50% faster so your games will load faster. It doesn’t necessarily translate to 50% faster loading times, but you’ll notice a reduction in most games. The majority of games I tried loaded 5-15 seconds faster, which adds up the more you play.
Other improvements you’ll find in most games are improved texture filtering and better framerates. While the former makes your games look better, that latter makes them run smoother. Games that previously had variable framerates, like The Witcher 3, now run at a near locked 60fps. It’s a significant upgrade, and enhancements like these apply across the entire Xbox library of games. And yes, this even includes Backward Compatible original Xbox and Xbox 360 games.
Xbox One X Enhanced Games
The bigger improvements can be found in specifically upgraded games, called “Xbox One X Enhanced Games.” There are over 100 Enhanced Games already announced, and you can always find the most up to date list here. Also, starting this fall you’ll see right on a game’s physical box if it’s been Xbox One X Enhanced. A good example is Forza Motorsport 7, in the top right-hand corner you’ll see icons for 4K, HDR, and Enhanced.
Right out of the gate Microsoft has released Enhanced patches for many of their biggest games. This includes Forza Motorsport 7, Gears of War 4, Halo 5, Halo Wars 2, Killer Instinct, Quantum Break, and more. The enhancements vary by game, with say Halo 5 hitting 4K resolution, while Forza 7 gets 4K and HDR.
For me, the biggest improvements can be seen in Gears of War 4 and Forza 7, which both look stunning. HDR, or high dynamic range, gives both games more visual depth and a much wider contrast of colours. The 4K resolution, which is 4x the pixel count of a 1080p image, adds tremendous new details to textures. Of course, in order to see all these improvements you’ll need a 4K TV with HDR capabilities. [Note: Xbox One X supports HDR10, and does not support Dolby Vision. If you’re buying a 4K TV for Xbox gaming, make sure it uses the HDR10 standard.]
Xbox One X Backward Compatibility
Xbox One games are not the only ones receiving “Enhanced” versions: Microsoft is also beefing up some Xbox 360 games. This includes Halo 3, which has been given an up-res patch with 9x the original pixel count and wider colours. For a 10-year-old Xbox 360 game it looks stunning, and I’m impressed with Microsoft’s commitment to enhancing its back catalogue.
Additional older Microsoft games receiving 4K patches include Disneyland Adventures, Rush: A Disney Pixar Adventure, and Zoo Tycoon Ultimate Animal Collection. These are all kid-friendly titles that have been lightly upgraded to run better on Xbox One X.
I should point out that third-party publishers are also enhancing select Xbox 360 games. Bethesda patched Fallout 3 and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and Ubisoft has enhanced the original Assassin’s Creed. The low polygon counts and modest texture upgrades still remind you these are 360 titles, but they’re still fun and now look even better.
Xbox One X or Xbox One S: which model is right for you?
So you’ve made the decision to get an Xbox console this holiday, but which should you choose? There’s the high-powered Xbox One X model we’ve been discussing, and the lesser powerful (and less expensive) Xbox One S.
The first thing to know is both models run all Xbox One games and are compatible with all Xbox One accessories. No matter what console you choose you won’t be limiting the games or accessories you can use. For home theatre enthusiasts, both models features 4K Blu-ray media playback, 4K video streaming, and Dolby Atmos support. In other words, both consoles offer similar features when it comes to media playback.
The real difference comes in power: Xbox One X offers true 4K gaming and is the more future-proof option. If you own a 4K TV, or plan on upgrading your TV soon, Xbox One X is the better choice. Don’t worry if your TV upgrade happens down the road either: Xbox One X offers benefits for 1080p TVs. Using a technique called supersampling the console takes 4K images and converts them to fit on a 1080p screen. This smooths out pixelated edges (called “jaggies”) and gives the overall image a cleaner look.
On the other hand, if you’re less concerned about 4K graphics and simply want to jump into the Xbox experience, Xbox One S is for you. It’s an excellent console, and while less powerful than Xbox One X, games still look great on it. With Xbox One S you’ll have access to 100s of games (sold separately), including hits like Halo 5 and Gears of War 4. Plus, there are plenty of fantastic paid services such as Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass.
Xbox One X lives up to Microsoft’s promise: it is indeed the world’s most powerful gaming console. I tested the console on a 4K HDR TV and the games—particularly the “Enhanced” ones—look stunning. If you want your console games to look the best they can, Xbox One X delivers just that. It’s a premium console at a premium price, but well worth the investment if you’re serious about your gaming.