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Lifewire / Zach Sweat
4K graphics and enhanced visuals for Full HD
Blu-ray drive for movies
Super quiet while running
Cost of getting initial setup high
No SSD, still a hard drive
Only improves certain games
The Xbox One X is the current king of gaming console hardware, but to really take advantage of it, prepare to open up your wallet.
It’s been several years since Microsoft debuted the original Xbox One console (2013 to be exact), so when they announced the significantly upgraded Xbox One X in 2017, people were eager to get their hands on something a little more modern. Microsoft didn’t disappoint. The Xbox One X is quite a bump up from its predecessor.
It’s much more powerful and feature-packed than the newer Xbox One S, packing in 6 teraflops of computing power, 4K graphics, HDR support, a Blu-ray player and more. All of this adds up to create the most powerful gaming console ever, which is no small feat. The X is approximately 50 percent more powerful than even the PS4 Pro, but how does the behemoth of gaming perform in the real world? We dug into what the Xbox One X is all about and see if it’s the right choice for you.
The design of Microsoft’s top-of-the-line console is much sleeker and smaller than the original, bulky Xbox that had a glossy black frame with small chrome accents. Oddly enough, upon taking the Xbox One X out of its box, it looks a bit similar in size and shape to a PlayStation 2 (good company to keep). Rather than using the easily scratched glossy plastic on the original, this Xbox is made entirely of matte black plastic with a slightly rough texture that feels great to the touch. This is the same type used on the S console, and it definitely feels more premium than previous iterations.
The main thing that stands out is the size. The One X is compact and dense, even a bit smaller than the S, which is impressive considering the power that's packed inside. You can orient it either vertically or horizontally, both worked great.
Another major design change on the console is that now the vents are shifted to the rear, versus the top. This looks much better in our opinion, giving you the ability to stack the console horizontally (free from overheating issues) with other electronics if you have limited space.
Aside from the performance aspects of gaming, the Xbox One X is also perhaps the best home media player you can purchase.
At the front, the console has a flat face with a single Xbox button for powering it on. Thankfully, this button is now physical and no longer capacitive or touch—a nice little change that solves the issue of consoles turning on/off by themselves or being accidentally bumped. The disc drive is tucked away directly underneath this lip. Just below this, you’ll find the eject button, a sync button for controllers, an infrared receiver and blaster for remotes, and a single USB 3.0 port. The sides of the console are the same material, but perforated for additional venting.
At the back of the One X, you’ll find the majority of the ports and a large vent for cooling. Note that you’ll want to ensure it has some space to breathe back there, unlike before where the top vents did the work. It’s also worth noting the X was largely designed with cooling in mind. Since this will ultimately determine the life of the console, it needs to be solid. In this case, it definitely is. While the original Xbox sounded like a hovercraft, the X is extremely quiet in comparison and never became concerningly hot under load.
For the ports, you’ll find one 2.0b out and one 1.4b in HDMI, two additional USB 3.0 ports, a gigabit Ethernet port, IR out, SPDIF digital audio and, of course, the power supply, which has ditched the brick and now features an internal design. As with the One S, the One X has no port for the Kinect, which means if you want to use one, you’ll need to purchase an extra adapter for $40.
For the controller that’ll be included in the box, you’ll be pleased to know it’s the more recent S version that has some notable upgrades over the original. The One S not only features a 3.5mm jack for headphones and headsets, but it also has Bluetooth connectivity. What that means is you can use it not only with your Xbox, but also things like your PC or even an Android phone without needing an annoying adapter. The only real design difference is that the controller’s faceplate is made of one single piece of matte plastic, getting rid of the old design that was made of multiple pieces. It’s also still powered by two AA batteries, but there are lots of options out there for cheap if you want to add a rechargeable solution.
Setting up your new One X console is fairly easy, much like older versions of the Xbox. First, ensure your console is plugged in correctly (power, HDMI, Ethernet, etc.) and then tap the power button on the front. Make sure you’re on the right source for your TV and you should be greeted with the initial setup guide. Pop in some fresh batteries to your controller, hit the Xbox button on it, and then simply follow the on-screen instructions for setting up WI-FI (or use Ethernet). The last step is logging into your Xbox Live profile, but you’ll likely first need to download and install the latest updates for the console during this setup. Stick to the instructions they give you and it’ll finish relatively quickly.
Now that you’re finished with updates and initial setups, you need to ensure your new 4K-capable console is fully utilizing its enhanced abilities. Most of the time, the X does a decent job of setting this up during that first series of setups, but you should confirm regardless. If you don’t know whether or not your TV is 4K and HDR capable, try doing some online research or digging up your manual.
Once you know for sure your TV is 4K-ready, go into the Xbox settings and select display and sound, video output, then video modes. Here you can enable HDR and make sure that 4K is allowed. Ours did this automatically, but some TVs may require some extra steps. If you didn’t set things up correctly while running the initial setup (like not using an HDMI 2.0 cable/port), you’ll need to visit the settings to fix that.
To confirm 4K is operating, go to your settings again, then display and sound, video output, advanced video settings, and lastly 4K TV details. You should see green checkmarks to indicate things are correctly working. You might need to do a bit more online research to determine how to set things up on your TV’s settings. We did exactly this for our TCL TV and it was just a quick few changes to enable Game mode and HDR. Overall, this process is pretty stress-free.
Now that you’ve got your Xbox One X properly set up and 4K-ready, it’s time to see how the high-end specs of this console beast really perform. Before we dive in, you’ll want to consider a few major things to get the most out of the One X.
All of this adds up to a much more beautiful and consistent gaming experience no matter what you’re playing.
The main thing is that not all games are capable of 4K, but all games will benefit from the beefed-up One X. What we mean is that the console will essentially enhance normal games by super-sampling them and rendering them in Ultra HD. From there it scales them down to Full HD so you get that extra sharpness. Basically, it means the Xbox will shrink the 4K images down to 1080p, thus smoothing the edges of jagged graphics. This also means that even if you don’t have a 4K TV, you’ll still see improvements from the upgraded console. You can find many lists online that’ll showcase all of the 4K and Xbox One X enhanced games if you want to get the most from the One X, so begin there.
We booted up a few different games during our testing but started with the obvious choice of Gears of War 4. Over the course of the One X’s life, first-party games like Gears have continued to get the royal treatment for getting the most out of 4K, and they look simply stunning. Gears 4 not only supports 4K and HD textures, but HDR10, which gives a much-improved bump in color depth and contrast.
Titles like Gears also feature what Microsoft has dubbed “enhanced graphical features.” These subtle enhancements really boost the experience and immersion of games, most notably with things like lighting or particle effects. Gears also benefits from a noticeable increase in frame rate—one of the most coveted advantages of PC gamers. While this also works with many other games, in Gears 4, it allows you to get up to 60fps.
Another game we tested heavily was For Honor. On PC, the game is gorgeous, but it has always suffered a bit while being played on console due to things like low frames or stutters. Well, no longer. On the One X, a third-party game like For Honor gets the 4K UHD resolution bump and the One X enhancements. These combine to bring a much-improved experience with online play and we noticed significant gains in frame rate and far fewer stutters.
For other games like Forza Motorsport 7, Sea of Thieves and many more, we truly felt like the One X performed flawlessly and noticeably better than older consoles. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s in your face, but the enhancements will easily be noticed by even the tech ignorant. There are definitely times when you may not see a big difference, perhaps during scenes of major action, but thanks to the One X’s dynamic scaling, it can temporarily reduce the resolution to ensure solid performance and frames per second. This really distinguishes it from the competition, and it’s all thanks to those hardware improvements providing guaranteed smooth frames.
All of this adds up to a much more beautiful and consistent gaming experience no matter what you’re playing. It’s obviously better when you’ve got something like a first-party game utilizing 4K and HDR, but even indie games just plain run and look better. The One X also feels like it struggles a lot less to bring you an enhanced gaming experience. During prolonged gaming sessions, the Xbox should average about 110 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a solid temp. The PS4 Pro typically averages around 10 to 15 degrees higher. It is also insanely quiet compared to the original Xbox, which is a great improvement as well.
As for game selection, the Xbox still suffers a bit in the exclusive department compared to the PlayStation or Switch, but Microsoft has been working on closing this gap, with many notable releases on the horizon.
One small thing we disliked about this console is that despite all the hefty upgrades over its predecessors, it still uses an outdated hard hard drive for storage rather than a much faster SSD. While it is 1 TB, doubling the old 500 GB, it’s sluggish. We’d have loved to see an SSD on the One X, even if it was smaller. For those who don’t know, an SSD provides benefits like faster load times and quicker transfer speeds, but it seems like we’ll have to wait for the next generation of consoles to see this tech make its way to gaming consoles. It’s not a dealbreaker by any means, but that improvement in hardware would have really made the One X next-level.
The Xbox One has always been touted as a home media powerhouse, more so than other current-gen consoles. This still holds true with the One X, which is mostly the same user experience, software, and UI as previous Xbox consoles. Microsoft has done a bit of work to improve the menu system of the One, but while it has improved over the years with incremental updates, we still find it to be a bit clunky at times. Digging through menus is annoying, but any Xbox veteran will feel right at home, and it doesn’t take too long to learn how to navigate it for newcomers.
Aside from the performance aspects of gaming, the Xbox One X is also perhaps the best home media player you can purchase. Not only can you get all of your favorite streaming apps (even more than Apple TV), watch your favorite old DVDs, listen to CDs or music from a hard drive, but you can also watch UHD movies thanks to the built-in Blu-ray player. This is something the PS4 Pro can’t even match, so it’s nice Microsoft opted to include it in the One X.
Another cool feature that further enhances both the media and gaming experiences is the inclusion of Dolby Atmos. What this new audio tech does is simulate sounds while you’re wearing headphones to make it seem like effects and music come down from above, in front, and behind you. This effect creates a very immersive experience and is perhaps the best option for getting the most of quality headphones.
As for game selection, the Xbox still suffers a bit in the exclusive department compared to the PlayStation or Switch, but Microsoft has been working on closing this gap, with many notable releases on the horizon. That said, the Xbox One X is the best choice for console gamers looking to get the most from third-party blockbusters like Call of Duty, Battlefield or something like Assassin’s Creed. While PlayStation (and sometimes the Switch) also have access to these games, the increased horsepower of the One X gives it a genuinely noticeable experience compared to the competition.
We’ve finally arrived at the biggest deciding factor for most people considering an Xbox One X—the price. Originally when it debuted, the One X was packing quite a high price point at $500. Since then, it’s come down considerably and now mostly hovers around the $400 mark. However, the console frequently goes on sale, and if you’re patient, you can find them for around just $300. For that, you’ll get just one controller and the necessary cables and such. There are also some good bundles out that include a game and some other codes for free Xbox Live and a trial with Microsoft’s awesome Game Pass. The Game Pass also includes most of Microsoft’s 4K and Xbox One X enhanced games, so it’s a no-brainer at only $10 a month.
Considering that you get all this packed into a $400 UHD gaming box that has the power to rival even some mid-range gaming PCs, the price is reasonable. You will, however, need some additional hardware, like a proper 4K TV, in order to take full advantage of the X’s enhanced capabilities. A TV that can really utilize the X will probably run you about $500, so consider that as well. It does work just fine on a regular HD TV to enhance the experience, but it may not be worth the upgrade if you’ve already got an Xbox One S.
The obvious competitor to the One X is the PS4 Pro. Both consoles feature 4K UHD gaming, but there are some major differences between the two. Now, before we dive in, obviously most people are pledged to one system or the other, so that will largely determine what you choose. If you’re a complete newcomer or maybe even just a person who listens to both sides of the argument before making a purchase, consider these points.
First off, price. The PS4 Pro is significantly cheaper on average by about $100. It also has an arguably better lineup of exclusives. The Xbox, however, still has the better online gaming system, though Sony has done a lot to improve theirs. In addition, the One X is quite a lot more powerful, by about 50 percent. This is probably the biggest factor when deciding between the two, and the One X definitely has a noticeable edge. We tested the two side-by-side playing the same titles and while the Pro looks great, the One X is better, sharper, and quieter by an obvious margin. Either to boost sales of their Blu-ray players or to cut costs, Sony also decided to dump the Blu-ray player on the PS4, so that’s another benefit of the One X to consider.
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The most powerful console for 4K gaming.
All in all, the Xbox One X is an impressive device. It’s the most powerful gaming console ever released, and it lives up to expectations. If you’re looking to upgrade your current Xbox, bolster your gaming lineup or get into 4K, the X is the top choice as far as console hardware goes—just make sure you’ve got the TV for it.