Xbox One X review

The Xbox One X is a beast of a videogame console, there?s no doubt about it. Microsoft went back to the drawing board and equipped the super-powered Xbox One X with what they codenamed the Scorpio Engine which boils down to “6 teraflops of graphical processing power, 12GB GDDR5 Memory, and 326GB/s of memory bandwidth” according to the product literature. At heart, the X is still an Xbox One of course and will continue to play all Xbox One games (backwards compatible titles too) and utilize all Xbox One accessories.   The console is just a member of the family that’s significantly more capable than the original Xbox One we first met a few years ago.   Gamers who want/need the most powerful piece of console hardware in their entertainment center, without a doubt, it’s the Xbox One X. Is the upgrade worth it for existing Xbox gamers or those who have yet to jump into the Xbox One family?  Yes! Though that answer is still highly dependant on a player’s preference for software and online ecosystem.

Let me give a little background regarding my gaming habits over the past generation so you can see where I?m coming from in my coverage here. First of all, I have zero interest in stepping back into the realm of PC gaming. I don’t have the patience nor the funds to keep up with the myriad of powerful/pricey PC hardware upgrades these days — no matter the potential for amazing visual performance that can be squeezed out of a custom rig. Secondly, full disclosure, I?m more of a PlayStation 4 gamer than an Xbox One gamer these days, which mostly has to do with the game library, more active friends list and (up until now) somewhat better multiplatform game performance — in that order. I have indeed upgraded to the realm of 4K HDR gaming with a gorgeous Samsung KS8000 UHD set and a PS4 Pro over the past year and do not regret the decision at all. So in terms of 4K gaming on a console, I have some experience now.

Oh and just to get it out of the way.  The Xbox One X console and Xbox One X enhanced games were supplied by Microsoft for evaluation purposes.  See our unboxing article/gallery, here.

The Xbox One X Hardware

The Xbox One X has to be Microsoft?s most well-engineered piece of console hardware yet. They’ve stumbled in the past, with some odd design choices and some faulty hardware, and I think they’ve finally found their way for sure. The Xbox One X console is unexpectedly small at ?11.81? x 9.45? x 2.36?  and  surprisingly weighty at around 8.5 lbs (around 2 lbs more than the Xbox One X S). Some of this weight, we?re assuming, is due to the more advanced liquid cooling system and centrifugal fan in the tightly packed form factor.  Well, so far, that cooling setup seems to be working since the thing is generally whisper quiet  — at least based on the somewhat limited supply of Xbox One X enhanced games that are available at the moment. At worst, I felt some warm air and hot spots on the top of the case here and there after an extended play session with many GBs of downloads happening in the background. And this is with the X stacked on top of another component in a somewhat airflow restricted cabinet.  So thumbs up so far!

As for the console’s design, the Xbox One X is a clean, nice looking system — don’t get me wrong, but It?s probably a little more function over form in terms of overall aesthetics. It?s a solid matte black rectangle with some strategically placed cooling holes and the familiar light up Xbox logo power button; and to be honest at first glance, no one is going to know it?s an Xbox One X. It’s lacking sex appeal, though it’s far from ugly.  Considering that it?s just another component in a cabinet in my personal home entertainment center, that?s fine by me. It?s definitely beautiful on the inside so that?s all that counts.

The Packing and Interface

Microsoft is marketing the Xbox One X as a premium product, and one which costs nearly two times the going rate for a halfway decent good Xbox One S deal or bundle, so I maybe had some odd expectations on the packaging and presentation for some reason. The box is a little flimsy and I would have appreciated maybe a packed in headset like the good old Xbox 360 days, so the very first impression you get of the console doesn’t scream “premium” to me.  It’s not something to lose sleep over, though it was worth commenting on at the very least. Also, that 1TB HDD isn’t going to last all that long, since some XB1X enhanced games are already topping 100GB.

In terms of dashboard performance and load times, I haven?t noticed a measurable difference thus far.  I?m still not super, super fond of the new Xbox One interface although it?s functional and customizable enough.  The dashboard is not silky smooth and occasionally suffers from some of the usual quirks and hitches which we assume has more to do with fetching and rendering Xbox Live online data than a lack of  processing power.  As for upgraded features on a system level, the ability to record gameplay clips in 4K resolution at 60 frames per second is a great enhancement for those who produce videos or livestream.  I’m still of the mind that Microsoft should have held back their 4K video streaming and Ultra HD 4K Blu-ray capabilities for the Xbox One X since it would have been a bigger differentiator over the Xbox One S, although that ship has obviously sailed.  4K HDR video seems to be identical to what the Xbox One S can output, via apps or the Ultra HD Blu-ray drive itself.  We had the opportunity to check out the gorgeous Planet Earth II on Ultra HD Blu-ray, and damn, is that some damn fine looking 4K nature footage.

So Microsoft is all ?4K this? and ?4K that? as a major selling point for the Xbox One X. As a number of developers have displayed to us already on the PC and PS4 Pro, gaming on a 4K-capable game platform isn?t just about the raw pixel count however. Games running at 4K (rendered natively or via other techniques) look clean and sharp, especially when the proper anti-aliasing solution is being utilized, but there?s more to the Xbox One X than that. Gears of War 4 being a great example.

The Xbox One X Enhanced Games

With Xbox One X enhanced games and game updates popping up nearly every day (keep an eye on the official list, here), we only had the opportunity to get our hands on a few other enhanced titles which are noted below. Many games will not see their updates roll out until next week, on or around November 7th, so keep an eye on the list.

Gears of War 4

The Xbox One X enhanced Gears of War 4 packs in many more gigabytes of super high quality textures, improved draw distances, geometry improvements, better shadows and lighting, the option to favor visuals or performance and the ability to render the game natively at 4K resolution (depending on the option) with HDR. Gears 4 on the Xbox One X very well may be, at times, the best looking console game out there thus far. If it were ?just? capable of rendering at 4K, I probably wouldn?t make that statement, but in conjunction with all of the other enhancements I definitely can and will.  Of course this opinion kinda depends on what you think of the Gears artstyle of course, but that?s another conversation. My personal preference in Gears 4, for campaign at least, has been the “Visuals” Rendering Performance option, which locks the title at 30fps but offer enhanced effects and 4K resolution. “Performance” looks ridiculous too since it seems to hold a pretty stead 60fps, although with less demanding effects and whatnot.  Decisions, decisions. Those only with access to a 1080p display will get all of those other improvements as well, including even better image quality (as compared to a game rendering at or less than 1080p) thanks to supersampled downscaling of the 4K signal. As a side note, with the Gears of War 4 file size clocking in at over 103GB (?!) after the latest patch, that 1TB drive doesn’t seem all that huge anymore!

Killer Instinct

Killer Instinct is starting to show its age, although it?s never looked better. Rendering at a native 4K at 60fps (but with no HDR unfortunately), the game is still quite a looker. It?s worth it to just check out the stunning particles and special effects that?s for sure. The pre-rendered cutscenes look pretty subpar at this point since the real-time scenes are decidedly more detailed.

Super Lucky’s Tale

We have a full review forthcoming, so this is more about the Xbox One X visual enhancements more than anything. On the Xbox One X, Super Lucky?s Tale is crisp, super clean and smooth (with some minor framerate hitches every once in a while), rendering at 4K and 60fps. It started out as a Oculus Rift title so it?s not incredibly detailed, though those looking for a 3D platforming fix or a colorful, family friendly title to show off your new 4K hardware probably can?t go wrong.  Gameplay wise, it’s not up to Super Mario Odyssey quality, nor did we expect it to be.

Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure/Disneyland Adventures

Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure and Disneyland Adventures are both remasters of previously released Kinect-only Xbox 360 titles and they look.. well.. like higher resolution remasters of Xbox 360 games. They are apparently being rendered at 4K with HDR, and at times look very close to the various movies and scenes in which they are based on, but the framerates leave a little to be desired. Like Super Lucky?s Tale, they are clean and jaggy free at 4K and the HDR helps polish up the overall look a bit. Both are cute for kids and Disney fans and there?s now the option to use a controller along with Kinect motion controls.  There?s a number of local and online co-op gaming possibilities, so we like that too. Both titles support Dolby Atmos audio if you happen to have a capable system.

Zoo Tycoon

Like the DIsney titles, Zoo Tycoon is also a remastered Xbox 360 game so it?s a little bit difficult to compare the original to the Xbox One version to the enhanced Xbox One X version. Either way, for a tycoon-style game, it shows off pretty solid visuals. It still tops out at around 30fps, although rendered at 4K with HDR, which certainly makes it the best looking version of the game so far. It?s super addictive to play and some of the animals and their texturing and fur rendering are quite good. In the end, Zoo Tycoon still looks like an extra clean, remastered previous generation title even with the Xbox One X enhancements. The game suffers from some extremely long load times for some reason.

Quantum Break

Quantum Break was a great looking Xbox One title and it?s an even better looking Xbox One X title. Apparently, along with the 4K output (we?re not sure if it?s native or not), it received a very hefty 4K texture upgrade which looks absolutely fantastic. We need to spend more time with this to be honest since it was just patched within the last day. The total file size is now over 83GB without downloading the offline episodes (about another 75GB)

Halo 5: Guardians

We haven’t had time to delve into Halo 5 since the patch was released late last night, although we are excited to! We do know that it will feature visuals ?up to 4K resolution support? but no HDR. It was already a great looking release so the Xbox One X enhancements should be icing on the cake.

Halo Wars 2

Halo Wars 2 is the same deal as Halo 5, although Halo Wars 2/Halo Wars 2: Awakening the Nightmare is enhanced with Ultra HD 4K and HDR support too. We?ll be back with impressions of that in the near future as well since the update was also just pushed out.

Other Xbox One X Enhanced Titles

As of this review, there are still several titles which do not officially have their enhanced updates available to download quite yet. That includes Halo 3, ReCore Definitive Edition, Forza Motorsport 7, Assassin’s Creed Origins, Gears of War 4, and Rise of the Tomb Raider, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, Minecraft, EA Sports titles and others. We?ll be all over those once they are available, including future releases which will also include Xbox One X enhanced visuals and performance as well.  Once again, keep an eye on that list!

The Conclusion

So, to wrap things up here somewhat (so we can get back to evaluating the enhanced games of course), the Xbox One X is definitely a premium Xbox One product at a relatively reasonable price, especially as compared to similarly powered PC upgrades.  There are still a lot of variables to consider before plunking down for any new console so the same school of thought applies here:  Do you require the “best” console version of a multiplatform games?  Are most of your friends on Xbox Live? Are the first party and exclusive Xbox One games in the pipeline enticing enough?  Do you want the latest and greatest piece of Xbox hardware to show off your fancy 4K HDR-enabled display (and/or are too impatient to wait until the next console generation)?  If you’ve answered yes to most of these,  then the Xbox One X it is!

Stay tuned for more coverage and reviews as the flood of Xbox One X Enhanced game updates continue through the November 7th, 2017 launch and beyond.

Eds. Note: Beginning next week, the GA staff will have a couple of Xbox One X consoles to help evaluate future first and 3rd party release, and we will continue to break out the visual and performance enhancements moving forward.