Review: Xbox One X — A worthy upgrade

Over the past few weeks it’s inevitable you’ve seen countless Xbox One X reviews. Unlike a traditional review where we list the product’s specifications, this will be much more personal. How does it feel to live with the Xbox One X? What enhancements does it offer to the average consumer? Are the leaps in resolution even noticeable if you don’t want to buy a 4K display? We’ll answer all of these questions and more in our review of the Xbox One X.

The Xbox One X is unbelievably small. If you own an original Xbox One or a PlayStation 4 Pro, you’ll immediately notice the difference. Those who own the base PlayStation 4 will probably think of them as roughly the same size. What’s most impressive is that a box that is smaller than the PlayStation 4 is as powerful as the PlayStation 4 Pro and PlayStation 4 combined. This is a testament to Microsoft’s engineering team because they have managed to outdo Sony in terms of power and form factor this time around. This is the design philosophy the company should’ve implemented when engineering the original Xbox One. Hopefully this will continue in future products because it’s quite mind-blowing.

The Xbox One X packs 6 TFLOPS of power and features 12 GB of GDDR5 RAM. It’s by far the most powerful console on the market and beats the PlayStation 4 Pro by almost 2 TFLOPS. Many of you may be following the comparisons Digital Foundry has been doing over the past few weeks. In all of them the Xbox One X version beats the PlayStation 4 Pro. Games like Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus can hit native 4K on Microsoft’s system but in comparison look rather blurry on Sony’s machine. This is even true of old titles like Final Fantasy XV because it runs at native 1800p on Xbox One X and checkerboard 1800p on PlayStation 4 Pro. If you want the best visuals and want to game on a console, then the Xbox One X is the only real choice. Every enhanced third-party game looks better on it.

Gamers who have 4K displays will see the most benefits when they’re playing a native 4K game or one that runs close to that resolution. However, the majority of games aren’t optimized for the console so they still look best on 1080p televisions. There are other titles out there that run at 1440p or some other resolution close to that mark. These experiences look a little blurry on a 4K display because the image is being upscaled to a greater degree. However, if you have a 1080p display, the game is being supersampled so everything looks smooth and clear.

We were blown away by titles like The Evil Within 2 and Final Fantasy XV on a 1080p screen more than a 4K one because supersampling makes these games look so much better. A lot of these titles also have modes which lock the resolution at 1080p and boost the frame rate to 60 FPS. Frame rate is by far the most important factor so playing Rise of the Tomb Raider at 60 FPS is sublime. Until there are more games that achieve 4K resolution on Xbox One X, it’s hard not to recommend using a 1080p display especially if a game boosts the frame rate.

Have you ever tried watching a low-resolution movie on a 1080p display or even a 4K display? Some of the games look like that on a 4K monitor. If you were worried about not getting the complete benefits an Xbox One X can provide because you don’t own a 4K television, you shouldn’t. Games will look amazing no matter what. The only reason you should get a 4K display right now is if it supports HDR. This enhances colors dramatically even though many of the games don’t take advantage of 4K resolution.

Existing games like Destiny 2 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt also look better on Xbox One X. Both of the games use dynamic resolution on Xbox One but when you play them on the new console, the added power makes it so they maintain the best visuals. We played both titles on the Xbox One X and they definitely look sharper. Many of their performance issues are also gone, especially The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. If you want your existing games to run better and hit their target frame rates if they had problems to begin with, then the Xbox One X is the console for you.

The main reason why Xbox One X games look better isn’t the resolution, but the textures they use. Many Xbox One X Enhanced titles use 4K textures. The millions of added pixels make everything from guns to floors much more detailed. A game can run at the highest resolution but if the textures don’t receive an upgrade, it’s not going to blow you away.

The Xbox One controller which comes with the console is great but if you want the best experience, you’ll want to upgrade to the Xbox One Elite Controller. It’s just more accurate and durable. The bumpers and buttons feel premium and it makes playing games feel more precise. Even if you aren’t using the paddles and other features, the controller itself offers an advantage even at default settings. It would be nice if it were included with the Xbox One X.

The 4K Blu-ray player in the console is a nice addition but the device isn’t a great experience. Despite a patch which came out recently, the Xbox One X has strange black levels compared to other 4K Blu-ray players on the market. It’s not a dealbreaker by any stretch but it would be nice if Microsoft focused on that aspect too. Hopefully future updates will continue to optimize picture quality.

Overall, the Xbox One X is a great machine even though it’s a little expensive. It’s the best console on the market but it would be better if it had a snappier interface like the PlayStation 4. Aside from that, there isn’t much to fault. It’s quiet as well despite being so much more powerful. If you want to play third-party games at the highest resolution and frame rates, this is the only choice if you’re a console gamer.

However, the issue remains that Microsoft doesn’t have great first-party games anymore. In order to make the Xbox One X the best all-round console out there, even when it comes to games, the company needs to increase its investments in first-party studios and exclusive franchises. Right now they’re lagging behind Nintendo and Sony. If there’s one major weakness that this console has, it has to be the lack of compelling exclusives. Having more power can only take you so far, there needs to be a better reason to get any Xbox One in the first place. For gamers like us who already own almost 1,000 games on Xbox One, it’s definitely worth it.

9/10

Xbox One X

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