Posted November 3, 2017 by Adam Ghiggino in Feature

Xbox One X Review – X Gon’ Give it To Ya

For the last few generations of consoles, the game has basically remained the same. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would release their entry into the great console marketplace, and let it thrive or flop, potentially revising the hardware to be slimmer towards the mid-point or end-point of its life-cycle. But this generation, things are different. Both Sony and Microsoft are launching significant hardware revisions, immensely boosting the power of their base consoles, while still playing the same software. Sony beat Microsoft to the punch with the PS4 Pro last year, but Microsoft have taken their time in releasing what they describe as “the world’s most powerful console.” At AU $649, it’s a big step up from the $299 Xbox One S. The question is, is it worth it?


What’s the difference?

The Xbox One X boasts 6 teraflops of graphical processing power, alongside 12GB of DDR5 memory, and a custom 2.3GHz 8-core CPU. The general upshot behind all this is that the Xbox One X is built for 4K. If you have a 4K television with High Dynamic Range, then you’re the exact target market for the One X. However, the true benefits of 4K will vary depending on the game you’re playing. Certain titles that have already been released are being patched with 4K support for the Xbox One X, along with other enhancements depending on the title. For instance, Killer Instinct‘s patch enables 4K play at 60 FPS, while Quantum Break not only gets bumped up to 4K resolution, but gets a 4K texture upgrade as well.

Playing Gears of War 4 post-patch really showed off the differences these upgrades can impart. On Xbox One X, you can choose from two new rendering modes: Visuals and Performance. Visuals uses new ‘Ultra Quality’ textures from the update and plays at the same 30fps the original played at. However, if you choose Performance, it prioritises maintaining a consistent and notable 60fps, while using some of the enhancements in the Visuals option. For my money, playing on a 4K monitor, the Performance option delivered the more visually pleasing experience, as even the visual upgrades it had felt more noticeable and significant at the higher frame-rate. While apparently running at full resolution, Gears 4‘s Visuals mode still appeared a little soft. Titles like Forza Motorsport 7 have looked a lot crisper in preview events I have attended, but as of yet the One X patch is not available.

Of course, HDR is the new buzzword going about both the TV and gaming industries, and to be fair it can make a significant difference. In Gears 4, the sunlight in some of its areas can be virtually blinding, but detail can still be made out in the surroundings, while in Disneyland Adventures and Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure, colours seem to pop off the screen far more in HDR, and not just in a way that makes it seem like the saturation knob has been turned all the way up – but truly vibrant visuals.

The Xbox One X won’t magically make every game you own look better though. Imagine upgrading your PC with the latest graphics card, but then realising that none of your games have any options to increase the graphics level. That’s more or less the situation here – if a game had an unlocked frame-rate you might see improvements, and in general speed increases here and there, but games upscaled to the 4K resolution can appear a little soft and ‘smudgey’ when getting close to the image, although from a normal sitting distance they’re certainly fine.

Going forward, developers will have the option to update previously-released titles or develop with the Xbox One X’s tech in mind. Box-art on games will include new labels signalling if a game is ‘Xbox One X Enhanced’, whether it supports 4K and HDR.

The Game DVR function has also received an upgrade, now capable of capturing 4K content at 60FPS. However, at the moment when choosing to ‘Record Now’ on the console, clips are limited to 30 seconds in length, and when shared are scaled down to 1080p, although they can be played back at 4K on the console itself.

However, all that aside the most immediately noticeable thing about the Xbox One X is its form factor. Capable of standing horizontally or vertically, the size of it is incredibly surprising, especially compared to the VCR-esque juggernaut that was the original Xbox One. It’s barely bigger, in terms of length and width, than a couple of controllers, and through all our tests it didn’t heat up to any noticeable degree either, nor did it suddenly spin up noisy fans. It’s a smooth running, slim beast.

What are the specifications?

CPU Custom 2.3GHz, 8 cores
GPU Custom 1.172 GHz, 40 CUs, Polaris features, 6TF
Memory 12GB DDR5@325GB/s
Flash 8GB
Internal HDD 1 TB
Optical Disc Drive 4K UHD Blu-Ray
Weight 3.81kg
Dimensions 30cmx24cmx6cm

Do I need a 4K TV? What if I just have a HDTV?

Put simply, yes. To get the most out of the Xbox One X, and to justify the purchase, you should have a reasonably large 4K HDR TV.

Xbox One X employs a technique called supersampling to downscale the 4K resolution of its games to regular 1080p, like most HDTVs run. This has the benefit of making games appear anti-aliased, and of course they run as fast as they would on a 4K TV, meaning that you’ll often get smoother frame-rates. However, it is a little disappointing there’s no ‘performance’ mode exclusively for HDTVs. With most of the One X’s power being focused towards pushing a 4K image and related effects, it’s a shame there’s no plan to run games in regular 1080p, but with ultra or high-end settings – something PC gamers would be familiar with.

Aside from visuals, the Xbox One X does run faster overall than its predecessors. I did notice that games will boot quicker in general and load times are cut down, not only on newer games but older titles and even 360 Backwards-Compatible titles as well.

The fact is the benefits of the Xbox One X are lesser on a regular HDTV – it’s a slightly smoother, slightly faster Xbox One. Whether that’s worth the extra cash if you don’t have access to a 4K TV, that’s up to you to decide.

What about Ultra HD Blu-Rays?

This is one area where the Xbox One X has quite an advantage over its rival, the PlayStation 4 Pro, with its puzzling omission of the capability to play 4K UHD Blu-Rays. When your 4K TV is properly calibrated, and you have a decent quality title like the amazing Planet Earth II documentary series, the detail in UHD movies can be simply stunning. Any movie or documentary that’s packed with fine details or lots of action on-screen at once are where the technology shines. It doesn’t do anything unusual as a player compared to other Ultra HD players out there, but if you’re looking for an all-in-one entertainment solution for your new 4K telly, it does make the Xbox One X even more enticing.

I’ve been hearing a lot about Dolby Atmos, how is it?

Xbox’s support of Dolby’s latest audio wizardry is welcome, although taking advantage of it depends on your set-up. Dolby Atmos has been defined in cinemas as creating a more immersive experience by adding speakers into the ceiling of the theatre. At home, this effect can be replicated with special sound-bars that project sound onto the ceiling, which then bounces back to where you’re sitting. With the right home theatre set-up, it can definitely add a layer of immersion, although unfortunately I was unable to test it for this review.

However, what I was able to test was the far more accessible option available in Dolby Atmos for Headphones, a software-based solution that requires downloading an app from the Store. While it costs $14.99 for the license, the difference is actually surprisingly remarkable. With a decent pair of headphones, whether you use the 3.5mm jack, wireless or HDMI/Optical, you can definitely hear a difference – not necessarily the same overhead experience you get from the other Atmos solutions, but definitely an effective 360 degree virtual surround. It should also be noted this is also available on the Xbox One S, and that the Xbox One X

What do you get in the box?

Inside its slimming black figure, the Xbox One X comes with a regular Xbox One controller, HDMI cable, power cable, a trial 14-day subscription to Xbox Live Gold and a 1-month subscription to Xbox Game Pass.

Should you buy one?

And here’s the $649 question. If you were hyped for the ‘world’s most powerful console’ from Day One, you’ll likely already have snapped up a Project Scorpio edition pre-order, and you’ll be happy knowing you’ve got what’s on paper the best home console out right now. And there is an element of knowing you’re future-proofed with the Xbox One X; with the advent of mid-generation updates like this and the PS4 Pro, it’s not entirely clear when the next generation will begin, or if we’ll continue seeing incremental-generational jumps like this.

If you have a 4K television, then yes, absolutely the best way to get the most out of your set-up will be with the Xbox One X. While patches for older games like Gears of War 4 and Quantum Break (which brings its filesize to a whopping 175GB) do help show off the capabilities of the system, it’s really future games that are developed with the Xbox One X in mind that will take full advantage of its beastly specs. As it stands, there are potentially quite a few games at launch (not all of which have been patched yet, which I can’t comment on) that will benefit from the bump in resolution and texture quality, and it’s worth looking at the list of Xbox One X Enhanced games to see if your favourite titles are on there. The inclusion of a UHD Blu-Ray player is also a welcome addition.

If you just have a 1080p HDTV, then the marginal performance enhancements aren’t really worth the upgrade at this stage. While games can run faster and the console itself, with its slick new UI, will run smoother as well, you simply won’t get the benefits that I think would justify the purchase.

The Xbox One X’s specs have a lot of potential, and how that potential plays out is something I’m really looking forward to. Right now, as a premium product it’s definitely a sleek, well-performing console that ticks all the right boxes, but really shines as part of a new high-end home theatre system. If you’re planning on getting a big new 4K telly, and you’re excited about Xbox’s upcoming franchises, then the One X is definitely worth considering.

Adam Ghiggino

Owner, Executive Editor of Rocket Chainsaw. I also edit TV, films and make average pancakes.