We go hands-on with the most powerful home console to date.
Xbox One X Console Review
Welcome to Twinfinite’s review of the Xbox One X! Before we get started, here’s just a few notes that you’ll want to be aware of before we dig in. This review will be assessing whether or not the Xbox One X fully realizes its goal of being the most powerful home console on the market and whether it’s worth ponying up more cash for it. This review is going to stay away from direct comparisons to its competitors here and just judge the Xbox One X on its own merits. We did some comparisons for you though in case you already own one of the other home consoles currently on the market and just want to see how they stack up and whether or not you should make the jump or add the Xbox One X onto what you already own. Here are the links for those if you want to check those out:
One last thing. If you want a closer look at the Xbox One X and what came in the box when we got it, you can view Yami’s unboxing video below. I’m not going to spend any time discussing stuff like how the matte feels and how cute and small it is. Let Yami tell you.
Without further ado, let’s dig into the meat and potatoes of this review… the review. The way this is going to go down is that we’re going to break down the most hyped up features and whether or not they live up to the bill, and then deliver our overall verdict.
The Power of The Xbox One X
From top to bottom, the Xbox One X is a significant upgrade over its predecessor, the Xbox One (S), at least on paper. No one here on the Twinfinite staff is going to pretend to be a computer expert. The numbers are higher, and we’re pretty sure that’s a good thing. We’re not capable of breaking down how exactly the increase in Teraflops is going to make your Halo 5: Guardians experience significantly more enjoyable. We’re just regular ol’ gamers like you, so what we care about are the things we actually notice.
All of the increased horsepower under the hood of the Xbox One X does lead to some noticeable improvements in your day to day gaming life. The Xbox One X when in Instant On mode boots up pretty damn fast. By our measure, it was about 12 seconds from being powered off to being at your dashboard, compared to roughly 30 seconds for the same feat on the PS4 Pro (I know I said no comparisons, but we gotta compare it to something to hammer home the point here). Games will also startup and load fast as well. Gears of War 4 took about 20 seconds from hitting A to start, to getting to the developer intro animations.
Clicking around the Xbox One X’s UI is also much smoother as well. You press buttons and icons, and it just goes, like, really fast. Even if I’m in a game, I can use the Guide button to switch over to the Xbox One storefront in an instant. Community features like Mixer and posts from Clubs and friends pretty much load instantly as well without significantly slowing anything down, even with a game open.
Whether or not these are life changing features for you is entirely down to personal preference. I can’t imagine there’s anyone who would prefer their console to be anything but as fast as possible. However, some people are patient and don’t care about waiting a little longer for stuff to load if it will save them a few bucks. Some people buy SSDs for their computer to have it boot up and load as fast as possible, while some are fine with old school disks and prefer to not pony up the extra cash.
And finally, even with all of this extra power, the Xbox One X is smaller than the original, and is almost completely silent. Assuming you’re playing with volume on, you’ll probably never notice any of the teeny-tiny noises your Xbox One X is making while you’re playing a game.
True 4K, HDR, and 60 FPS Through “Enhanced” Xbox One X Games
Likely more important, or at least hyped up, is the Xbox One X’s potential to display true 4K resolution at 60 FPS (frames per second) while taking advantage of TV sets that have HDR. Assuming your TV set checks all the necessary boxes, games that developers choose to enhance either via an update or during development will look as good as they will probably get this generation (on a home console anyway).
It’s a difference that videophiles like myself will definitely pick up on. I play video games usually for hours a day, on most days. So if you’re someone like me and jumping into 4K/Ultra HD for the first time, you’ll definitely be able to see how crisp and vibrant your games look. That said, don’t expect miracles. Games were already pretty on the original Xbox One. The Xbox One X isn’t a next generation console, it’s still current-gen. It’s a souped up version of what was available before. Like I mentioned, I noticed and appreciated it, but my live-in girlfriend, who watches me play games all the time, couldn’t tell the difference and didn’t realize I was playing at 4K. She may be an extreme example, but if you’re the type of person who didn’t get wrapped up screen resolution before, 4K likely won’t change your mind.
What did blow my girlfriend away, however, was the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray quality. Our review kit came with a copy of Planet Earth II to check out on the Xbox One and sure, while that is probably the best, most stereotypical video they could have sent me, it doesn’t make it any less impressive. It was incredible looking. Unrestrained by the complexities of getting games to look realistic, just straight up video playback is able to effortlessly take advantage of the TV + Xbox One X combination. It wasn’t something I didn’t realize I actually cared that much about until I saw it with my own eyes in my living room. My TV finally looked like the ones you see in the department store playing something extra pretty looking in order to sell the set.
Less impressive was the 4K streaming which, even with a 4K TV, HDR, and a subscription to Netflix’s 4K UltraHD streaming service, didn’t look all that different. Internet speeds are likely the culprit there though. If your internet can pull it off, I’m sure the Xbox One X is more than capable of holding up its end of the bargain based on what I saw out of the 4K UltraHD Blu-ray playback.
What is perhaps less sexy, but more noticeable and practical is the ability to hit 60 FPS. It’s hard to describe in words, but the higher FPS really does make your experience way more life-like. Everything is just smoother and easier to take in when it’s moving at 60 FPS, and it minimizes any choppiness which can ruin the immersion. What good is 4K if it’s chugging along with low framerate?
Over time, as more games start development from scratch with the Xbox One X’s power in mind, gamers will be in for a real treat when 4K is paired with consistent 60 FPS. In Gears of War 4, one of the Xbox One Enhanced games that was ready to go prior to launch while we were conducting this review, you have to choose whether you want 4K at 30 FPS (visual mode) or 1080p with 60 FPS (performance mode). It’s neat that this option even exists at least where before it didn’t, but it’s too bad you can’t have both. Visual mode of course looked more vibrant than before, while the 60 FPS had that smoothness in gameplay that I mentioned and that’s still not any less difficult to explain in words. You may have to be patient at first as more games become enhanced, but down the road, I have no doubt we’ll see some truly impressive stuff.
The number of enhanced games we had available to us for this review was limited. More will be rolled out starting at launch and over time following that. This includes backwards compatible 360 games of which the list of titles is quite impressive and continuing to grow. If you’re in the market for a new console, and backwards compatibility is something that matters to you, it’s one of the areas where the Xbox One family of consoles is blowing away the competition.
For the review though, I decided to hone in on Gears of War 4, a game that I am very familiar with and would be able to pick up differences easier. There were other games such as Super Lucky’s Tale for example, which did look great, but games with cartoon-like visuals lend themselves to looking good no matter what as long as they are colorful. Just look at how Super Mario Galaxy was able to make the Wii’s 480p resolution seem half-way decent.
It’s tougher to make a dark and brown game like Gears of War 4 look noticeably better. Gears 4 greatly benefits from the wide color gamut and HDR that modern TV sets and the Xbox One X work together to bring. There is more depth to what you’re looking at as lighter colors look more vivid and darker colors look darker, giving the contrast between the two some real pop. Still, we’ll reiterate the point above that if you’re not someone that pays close attention to details like that, you’ll still likely be able to tell that it’s in 4K and not 1080p, but the difference isn’t going to blow you away. The 60 FPS does the heavy lifting in improving the overall experience. We’re still waiting for the perfect AAA game to demonstrate the how effective the combination of 4K and 60 FPS at the same time can be on the Xbox One X.
The New UI
Finally we have the new UI that’s rolling out alongside the Xbox One X. Before we dig in, here’s an unpopular opinion: I’m not all that into the PS4’s dashboard. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s simple and easy to find your games and get going, but community features like live streamers and groups are hidden away. The Xbox One X UI masterfully blends everything together in a way that works way better, and isn’t intrusive if you don’t care about stuff like Clubs and LFG.
When you log in, you’ll instantly be staring right at your most recently played game or app that you can jump into right away. Below that, you have other games/apps you played before that. It’s not that much different than what you have on the PS4 or the Switch. Even though there’s more going on, it doesn’t take me any longer to find what I’m looking for as long as I played it recently. You still need to dig into your game library folder if you’re looking for something you haven’t played in a while that isn’t on a disc, but that’s a small price to pay for what is a more lively dashboard experience.
At a glance, I can see an achievement I’m close to getting and also see how I’m stacking up to friends. With a push of the RB, I’m staring at a livestream of PUBG on Microsoft’s streaming service, Mixer. One more push of RB, and I’m seeing community posts from my friends and clubs that I’m in. Considering I play a lot of less popular/older games like Halo Wars 2 and Battleborn (I know, I know), it’s really nice to have instant access to like-minded players that I could possibly message to team up with. Because it’s so integrated into the Xbox One X’s dashboard and easily accessible, I’m more inclined to look at this stuff where on the PlayStation 4 I don’t even remember the last time I checked out a stream or a went to What’s New (which is just filled with non-interesting updates for the most part).
The important thing to remember here is that, at the end of the day, it’s still an Xbox One. It’s a very fancy and powerful Xbox One, but we’re not talking next generation yet. It still plays all the same games as the original, and has all of the same exclusives. You’re just getting a much more smoother, and visually appealing experience than you would get on any other home console currently on the market. If you disliked the Xbox One before, you’re not suddenly going to like it more just because of the increased power of the console. Unless, of course, simply more power is something that really speaks to you, which I’m sure applies to some of you reading this.
That said, if you haven’t paid attention to the Xbox One in a while because you don’t own one or whatever the case may be, the release of the Xbox One X is good reason to give it a second look. Since the original’s launch, the console has evolved in really positive ways. Xbox Live and Games with Gold is very competitive with the excellent PlayStation Plus service. It has arguably the best gaming subscription service via Xbox Games Pass’s ability to let you download straight to your hard drive a lot of solid older games. And, like we mentioned above, it has put genuine effort in creating vibrant and inviting community features that can tempt me, a person who usually doesn’t care about any of that stuff and wants to be left alone, into participating.
Finally, if you’re someone that’s in the market for your first current-gen console, you have to at least consider the Xbox One X. It’s the most future proof home console you can buy, and as long as you won’t miss the exclusives seen on other platforms, you’re going to get everything you could possibly want out of a video game system.