It might look nearly identical bar a change of color, but the Xbox One X is a very different beast from the Xbox One S that preceded it.
The souped up console leaves its predecessor in the dust in terms of raw graphical horsepower, and this extra grunt is used to push a resolution that’s four times as large as a result.
The downside, inevitably, is price. At £449 the new console costs around double of what you’d expect to pay for its predecessor, and although it’s able to play all of the same games, it’s got to have some pretty interesting tricks up its sleeve if it wants to convince us.
Thankfully, so far, this seems to be the case.
Before we get down to the hands on review proper, first check out T3's exclusive walk-around video of the Xbox One X:
A whole lot of power in a small package
Microsoft is confident about the specs of its new console, to say the very least. It’s so confident, in fact, that it’s made sure that everyone under the sun is aware that the new console is packing 6 teraflops of graphical horsepower, which is roughly equivalent to a mid to high-end PC gaming GPU costing almost as much as the Xbox One X itself.
If this was a piece of PC hardware it would be a steal price-wise, but the more important fact is that this power absolutely smokes the console competition. Sony’s top-of-the-line hardware, the PS4 Pro, packs just over four teraflops, making the One X 50% more powerful in the “Fight of the ‘flops”.
Surprisingly, it packs all this power into a chassis that’s actually smaller than the Xbox One S that preceded it. Granted, you’d need to see the two consoles side-by-side to actually appreciate the difference, but it’s nice to know that you won’t have to make any extra space on your AV shelf to accommodate its latest entry.
Our one gripe with its looks is the color. It won’t quite be black enough to blend in with the rest of your setup, and nor does its color make a statement in the same way the Xbox One S did with its clean white look. We can see where Microsoft is coming from - space gray looks great on iPhones after all - but we think it doesn’t feel at home on a console.
Those are some big numbers, so what do they do?
Having this edge in the power department over the PS4 Pro means that the Xbox One X is much more capable of producing the 8 million plus pixels that are required for native 4K, while its competitor makes do with some, admittedly clever, upscaling trickery.
The biggest advantage of this 4K resolution is detail. With four times the amount of pixels, even the smallest details are clearly visible, and even the most distant objects are distinct.
When we watched a segment of Gears of War 4 being played for instance, the detailing on the back of the protagonist was exceptionally sharp. The same was true of the track in Forza Motorsport 7, where every crack in a rock face was clearly visible at the side of the road.
Forza’s cars also showed off the benefits of 4K to seeing objects in the distance, which remained clear when at a lower resolution they would have become fuzzy due to the smaller amount of pixels available.
Embracing the next generation of TVs with 4K also presents the opportunity for the console to utilise HDR, or high dynamic range, which is probably the most boring name for the most interesting piece of screen technology of the last few years.
Put simply, HDR increases the maximum brightness and darkness a television is able to display. With this increase in contrast, images not only have more pop to them, but brighter areas have more sparkle to them, and darker areas have more detail.
The value of HDR was made immediately apparent in our Gears of War 4 demo when the blindly light sun broke through the clouds for the first time. HDR lets a TV get so bright that against the darkness of the rest of the image, it’s almost like peering at the sun itself, albeit without the risk of ultraviolet rays playing havoc with your eyes.
Sounds good to me
Microsoft have also upped the audio chops of the console. The Xbox One X will offer support for Dolby Atmos, the company’s newest audio format, which has sound come down from above you, as well as in front and behind.
It sounds excessive and, to be honest, it is. But there was something really cool about suddenly hearing a helicopter flying overhead in Gears of War 4. After the amount of time we’ve spent straining trying to locate the source of a pair of enemy footsteps in Player Unknown Battlegrounds in recent months, we couldn’t help but think how great Atmos support would be in those kinds of games.
Oh, and it’s also still the only console to offer Ultra HD Blu-ray
With all the steps forward Microsoft is taking in the gaming department, it’s almost easy to forget the console is also a fantastic media player in its own right, and is still the only console to support Ultra HD Blu-ray, which allows you to watch 4K movies without having to worry about internet buffering.
The console can’t quite compete with a high-end dedicated player since it lacks advanced features like a second HDMI-out for sound, but for most people the hardware should act as a competent media player, especially combined with its well-stocked app store, filled with streaming services.
...but you’ll need the setup for it
The Xbox One X is a powerful piece of kit, and it’s capable of producing images that are truly stunning to behold, but you’ll need a premium set-up to be able to fully benefit from it.
On the television side you’ll need a set that supports both 4K and HDR, and although these technologies have firmly entered the middle-range of the market, they’ve not quite made it into the realm of supermarket tellies just yet.
Yes, if like most people, you’re still enjoying your HD television then your games will look better due to the new console’s use of ‘supersampling’, but the benefit you’ll see will pale in comparison to what an Ultra HD set is be capable of.
Meanwhile on the audio side you’re going to need a decent, Dolby-equipped soundbar or home cinema amplifier to get the benefits of vertical, object-based audio. Although some high-end TVs are now building this technology in, they’re still very much in the minority.
But that’s kind of the point of the Xbox One X. It’s a console that’s designed to make full use of the most high-tech home theatre setups, to really push them to their limits and make use of all of their bells and whistles.
This is a premium piece of kit, and you’ll want a premium set-up to truly appreciate it. If you’ve been looking for a console to finally catch up to your home cinema setup, then this is it. If you’re not that person though, at this stage it’s looking like you might want to make your upgrades elsewhere before investing in the most powerful console around.