It is finally here. Proudly labelled by Xbox as the world’s most powerful games console, the Xbox One X has two clear objectives.
The first is to usher in a new generation of visually stunning video games in true 4K resolution. The other of course is try and level the playing field against Sony who have, it’s fair to say, utterly dominated in terms of sales since both the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 were first released in 2013.
Of course to actually succeed in both of these areas the One X will need to tick a lot of boxes, and while we can certainly address some of them with this review, others will simply be a matter of time.
Microsoft, and in particular Xbox, have been on a roll in this arena. In our opinion the Xbox One S was easily the best-looking games console and the One X continues this tradition.
Whereas the PS4 Pro is a towering hulk of plastic, the Xbox One X is actually smaller than the Pro and remarkably, smaller than its lesser-powered sibling the One S.
Instead it is a compact, incredibly dense, block of pure minimalism. Looking at it, it’s hard not to be reminded of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
The One X then doesn’t scream power, rather it radiates it with the same gut-wrenching thud of a black hole.
On the back you’ll find just about every port you can think of, all neatly arranged in a single line.
Aside from the console itself little else has changed. Xbox has only made subtle changes to the controller since the first Xbox One and you won’t be getting anything new here. If we’re being honest it’s not our favourite controller in the world as it still feels a little plasticky but then again, everyone’s going to have a favourite and we’re not getting into that debate now.
It’s also utterly baffling that it still uses AA batteries so before you do anything, invest in this and do the environment a small but meaningful favour.
Every component inside the Xbox One X is geared towards it being able to achieve two things: games at 4K resolution, and games that play at 60fps.
The 4K resolution is important because it allows games developers to pack in incredible levels of detail through the TVs we use today.
On the other hand, playing at 60fps allows games to run with an almost life-like degree of smoothness, allowing for a more immersive experience while making it easier to make split-second decisions while playing.
Now achieving just one of those things is fantastically hard.
Consider for a moment the astonishing levels of detail that go into today’s video games. Every time you perform any action in a game, the console then has to somehow generate millions of shapes and colours, shadows, lighting, water effects and then do it all without you even noticing that it’s happening.
Now imagine doing that at twice the speed and you’ll get some idea of just how powerful the One X needs to be.
As such the hardware is powerful.
To help explain just how powerful we must first explain what a teraflop is. In layman’s terms a teraflop is a relatively heavy-handed way of describing how many calculations a computer can make per second.
The Xbox One X runs at a staggering 6 teraflops per second (tfps). As a means of reference, the original Xbox One ran at just 1.2tfps.
The result of this is that the Xbox One X is the first games console that can comfortably run a video game at a 4K resolution and at 60fps.
Of course the next step is finding a game that can actually offer both of these things.
In the week that we’ve been using the Xbox One X we’ve found that the reality will often result in you having to make a choice between one or the other.
You see the Xbox One X isn’t replacing its predecessor, instead it will run alongside previous Xbox One consoles. Developers then have the opportunity to offer enhanced graphics and features for gamers who do own Xbox’s more powerful console.
In playing these ‘Enhanced for Xbox One X’ games we’ve found that many developers have decided to go down three paths.
The first is 4K resolution. Shadow of War, for example, lets you play the game in native 4K resolution making everything look crisp and clear on your 4K TV.
The second is graphical fidelity. This drops the resolution slightly below 4K, but instead offers you a game that looks far more lifelike.
Finally some developers will let you play the game with it specifically tailored to running at 60fps. This gives the game an unprecedented level of smoothness and pace and in the case of Gears of War 4, it also comes with some significant graphical enhancements thrown in as well.
Despite going in different directions all three of these paths offers a significant leap in what we’ve been able to experience before. Gears of War 4 for example looks utterly stunning on the One X no matter which setting you choose.
Of all the games we played, only one was able to offer us all three. Forza 7 is a game that not only plays at 4K resolution but also at a rock solid 60fps. The results are unsurprisingly breathtaking, especially when combined with a good set of surround sound speakers.
Other games will simply offer an all-round improvement in the way they look. Assassin’s Creed Origins is an astonishing technical achievement on standard consoles but on Xbox One X the world of Ancient Egypt actually feels like it’s alive.
Watching reeds cause tiny ripples in the water, or looking out over the dunes surrounding the Nile, it’s a level of visual immersion that has until now been something reserved those willing to spend a lot of money on gaming PCs.
Now this could just be a matter of taste, but for us the Xbox’s biggest day-to-day weakness has been the Xbox Dashboard.
Constantly evolving, the dashboard has gone through so many transitions that it sometimes feels like it’s hard to get used to one interface before Xbox drastically changes it and tries out another.
We can see what they’re trying to do and in terms of customisation the Xbox One’s software is unrivalled. The problem is that the delivery always feels a little clunky.
This latest version is by far and away the best they’ve come up with so far and manages to keep the main home screen focused on the games themselves.
Elsewhere you now have easier and quicker access to menus and the general layout of where everything is feels a bit more logical.
It’s still not a patch on the simplicity of Sony’s software but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.
The problem at the moment is quantity not quality. There are just a handful of new games that really take advantage of the Xbox One X’s power and with Sony showing off a dizzying array of exclusives there’s pressure for Xbox to provide the games.
At the start of this review we said that the One X felt like it had been created to meet two specific requirements. In ushering in a new generation of visually stunning games the One X has absolutely achieved this, and it has done so effortlessly.
Whether or not it can finally bring Xbox level with Sony is something that can only be determined through time. We believe Xbox have absolutely done enough on their end to both justify the need for a 4K games console and even justify its £449 price tag.
The problem is whether or not games developers will believe in Xbox’s console and in turn produce games that really take advantage of its power.
Who should buy the Xbox One X?
This is truly the world’s most powerful games console and so for anyone who wants to experience proper 4K gaming without forking out for a gaming PC, this feels like a must-buy. While it lacks in exclusive franchises like The Last Of Us or Death Stranding, Xbox have done enough to make you believe that you need to play a game in 4K.
Who shouldn’t buy the Xbox One X?
Sony’s list of exclusive games are a problem. While Xbox has done enough to give you the right hardware, it will need to work hard over the next 12-months to secure the right games. If your choice of console is driven by these games then it might be worth waiting, £449 is a lot of money after all.
The Xbox One X is available now for £449.