Xbox One X Review – Is it worth it?

The Xbox One X, is it revolutionary? Is it evolutionary? Is it a new generation of console? Well, it’s absolutely a safe bet to classify it as a mid-generation spec boost, but I don’t think that gives the system enough credit. It is a different experience than gaming on the Xbox One or its other revisions. Titles load faster, graphics look better, frames per second are far more consistent. Much of this power comes from the additional GPU Compute units and the faster processor clock speed, though a few console firsts do help to push the console to perform better – namely the special Direct X hardware chip, and the vapour cooling. However, before we dig into the nitty gritty of how games run and how they look I want to take you to the moment you first put your hands on its box.

The Experience

Unboxing the Xbox One X is an experience of its own. Microsoft has fully embraced the idea of simple, well thought out packaging. A simple but effective way to bring a premium feeling to the console from the very start. Once you have the console out of the box the first thing you’ll notice is that while it’s very clearly the smallest Xbox ever released, it’s a surprisingly heavy system. Its matte plastic feels of quality, and the console itself has the beautiful touch that Panos Panay has brought to all of the more recent hardware that Microsoft has released. From the subtlety of the hidden disc drive, to the look of the vents, even the choice of using matte black as its primary colour; this system is beautiful, easily the best-looking gaming console on the market.

 

Upon boot-up you’ll be greeted by something that actually caught me off guard. The team over at Xbox has added a special start up effect that’s reminiscent of the Xbox 360 days. Featuring the Scorpio engine “powering up” and ending with the signature Xbox One start up animation, this simple addition enhances the feeling of the Xbox One X being a premium product. While you won’t notice it on your initial boot-up, the time from cold booting to arriving at the dashboard is drastically improved. Designed to fit the One Family mantra, the One X utilizes the same dashboard experience as its sibling consoles, in fact, everything barring loading speeds and animation fluidity is identical to its sibling consoles. It’s only once you get into the games that you notice that this Xbox has taken things to a whole other level.

The Visuals

 

The Xbox One X is the most powerful gaming console on the market by a 40% margin. When compared to the standard Xbox One it’s actually an even more significant upgrade. Below I’ve included a simple spec chart to illustrate the enhancements the Xbox One X has received.

 

Xbox One S Xbox One X PS4 PS4 Pro
CPU 8 Core @ 1.75GHz 8 Core @ 2.3GHz 8 Core @ 1.6GHz 8 Core @ 2.1GHz
GPU 12 Compute Units @ 914MHz (1.4 TFlops) 40 Compute Units @ 1172MHz

(6 TFlops)

18 Compute Units @ 800MHz (1.8 TFlops) 36 Compute Units @ 911MHz (4.2 TFlops)
Memory 8GB + 32MB ESRAM

 

5GB Addressable for games

 

68GB/s (218GB/s ESRAM) Memory Bandwidth

12GB

 

9GB Addressable for games

 

326GB/s Memory Bandwidth

8GB

 

5GB Addressable for games

 

176GB/s Memory Bandwidth

8GB + 1GB

 

5.5GB Addressable for games

 

218GB/s Memory Bandwidth

 

At 6 TFlops, the Xbox One X seriously edges out the original Xbox One hardware by a whopping 4.6 TFlops. That’s a lot more power and it absolutely shows. Combine this with 4 extra gigabytes of addressable memory and you have what is the first console that I believe really meets the goal of being 4K compatible. So long as the game you’re playing is Xbox One X enhanced you can expect to see a range of enhanced visuals. 4K Resolution, particle effects, better lighting, and of course textures that utilize the almost doubled memory pool are some of the most noticeable things you can expect to see in most Xbox One X enhanced titles. While titles truly as a whole look much better on a 4K TV with HDR, the experience on a 1080P television is still sublime. Utilizing super sampling, the Xbox One X significantly reduces aliasing that can occur making for an experience with significantly less jagged edges.

 

The addition of 16x anisotropic filtering for all titles is a welcome change. From backwards compatible games, to the most recent enhanced releases, having significantly more detail for textures in the distance really enhances the visuals. Framerates in general are better across the board, often feeling locked in at the top end of what a particular game can run, be it 30FPS or 60FPS. It could just be confirmation bias, but even in places where I typically did not notice major framerate lag, games felt smoother. If you’re someone who cares about framerate this is definitely the console for you. For older titles with variable resolutions the Xbox One X should also hit the top resolution much closer to 100% of the time.

But….

For all of the Xbox benefits the Xbox One X has, is it enough to turn around the Xbox brand and lead it into better waters? That remains to be seen. With a very limited first party lineup, the future of the Xbox One is in limbo. Xbox can not thrive with its mere two major exclusives announced to launch in 2017; Crackdown 3 and Sea Of Thieves.  When compared to its competitiors the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch it will be hard for most people to justify buying into the Xbox brand.  Would you rather have solid exclusives or extra power?  Power is interesting, but it doesn’t move systems like Super Mario Odyssey or Crash Bandicoot. Given time and investment this could change, but it currently doesn’t bode well for the Xbox brand.

It’s also worth noting that at the time of my writing select Xbox One Enhanced titles are experiencing issues. Titanfall 2, the is experiencing both resolution issues and significant aniscropic filtering issues at medium ranges. These issues actually lead to a visual performance that is subpar when compared to the less power PS4 Pro. While it’s likely that this will be patched up by Respawn Entertainment, it’s perplexing that it made it through certification over in Redmond. I can only hope that this was an isolated incident and not a trend.

 

Summary

As of writing this I have 18 Xbox One X Enhanced games installed ranging from Gears of War 4, to Super Lucky’s tale. My sampling experience has been out of this world. I went into reviewing this console as a bit of a skeptic, after all how much better could a mid-generation console be? Booting Gears of War 4 and seeing the detail of the textures, the lighting effects and the particle effects combined with 4K resolution and HDR changed my mind very quickly. Retailing at $500 USD, or $600 CAD the Xbox One X isn’t for everyone. The high retail price is naturally going to limit the number of people who pick the Xbox One X, no matter how good it is. However, if you have a 4K television, appreciate enhanced visuals, or want better performance out of your games it might very well be the console for you. If you read my review and feel you fit one of the criteria above, I strongly recommend picking up an Xbox One X, but if you don’t feel the need to get these enhancements you’re not going to miss out. All Xbox One games are compatible with every console in the Xbox One family.

The Xbox One X will be available on November 7th from many major retailers. For a full list of Xbox One Enhanced games head here.

PROS:

 

  • Enhanced visuals – Better textures, particle effects and lighting make for a visual treat
  • 16X anisotropic filtering – All games receive this wonderful feature
  • The speed – All load times are better than ever.

 

CONS:

  • The price – It’s an expensive console. People were apprehensive to pick up the original Xbox One at $500 and I can only imagine this will be similar.
  • The lack of first party exclusives paints a dark future for Xbox as a brand.
  • Limited availability of Xbox One X enhanced titles at launch

 

Disclaimer: My review unit was given to us courtesy of Xbox Canada. This review comes from my personal experience with the console and its enhanced titles over the past nine days.