Xbox One X - Unboxing and Review
Officially announced at this year’s E3 conference, Microsoft finally gave a name to gaming’s worst kept secret. Known widely as “Project Scorpio” and teased at last year’s E3, the XBox One X became a reality at last. Some, including ourselves, were somewhat disappointed that they didn’t keep the Scorpio moniker however they did release a limited run of Project Scorpio badged One X consoles. There’s not much to distinguish them from stock One X consoles other than the green “Project Scorpio” writing on the front and on the bundled gamepad along with a gradient paint scheme on the console and an included vertical stand. Matched against Playstation’s PS4 Pro, the One X, as Microsoft’s Phil Spencer puts it, is for those gamers who are looking for a premium experience. Given the £400+ price point for the console it doesn’t come cheap either and if you’ve already invested in a current generation console is the One X worth the upgrade?
Unboxing the One X you instantly notice two things: the size and the weight. It’s significantly smaller than the original XBox One and a touch smaller than the One S. It is, however, much heavier than any of them. The build quality is exceptional and you really feel a lot of time and effort has gone into its design. The gradient on the Scorpio edition is understated but stylish with it being hardly noticeable until you’re up close. When you turn it on for the first time you’re treated to a special, One X only, startup. You’re taken through steps to configure and, if you want to, migrate from your old console. If you’re planning on trading in for the One X, make sure you transfer all your games to external storage. Otherwise, if both consoles are on the same network, the One X will transfer things across from your old console. The process is pretty painless and we opted for copying games to our external storage. However, not all games came across for us successfully. Forza 7 refused to accept it was installed and insisted on downloading itself all over again and a few others required DLC to be downloaded again too. If you’re on a metered connection downloading games again, especially those with 4K assets, is no small order.
When we loaded up our first full 4K with HDR game (Forza 7) we were treated to a visual delight. Colours popped, framerates were smooth and everything just felt that little bit better. It’s not surprising as first and foremost the One X is, on paper, exactly what Microsoft said it was and that’s the most powerful games console on sale today. There are no ifs or buts here, its custom eight core Jaguar CPU is matched with twelve gigabytes of GDDR5 RAM cranking out six teraflops worth of power to deliver, in supported titles, 4K HDR gaming. However, it’s not all about the here and now. This extra oomph also benefits all titles by allowing them to tap into the extra grunt the One X has over the standard One and One S consoles. In some games it’s quite noticeable. Assetto Corsa for example, would frequently stutter and cause some interesting framerate issues. This has been completely eliminated on the One X, replaced by a smooth and consistent framerate. It was a revelation as we were finally able to play it without the worry of a framerate drop or stutter at an inconvenient moment.
You’d think, then, that with all this power comes lots of heat and therefore, lots of noise from the fans. In the case of the One X you’d be very, very wrong. No matter what load we put it through it stayed whisper quiet throughout. Whether it was playing a full 4K HDR game or a backwards compatible title, the One X just seemed to take it on and not bat an eyelid. It’s as if it was staring us down whilst saying to us ‘is that the best you got?!’ It seems to just do whatever you ask of it effortlessly. This is doubly impressive when you realise that some backwards compatible titles also get a facelift when played on the One X. Here, improved assets are injected into the game during emulation which is no small feat. Even then, the One X barely makes a sound. The loudest noise it’s made so far is the startup jingle the, now physical, XBox button makes. That’s a stark contrast to the original XBox One which often sounded like an aircraft taking off whenever it was asked to run a backwards compatible title.
So far, so good then? Well, sort of. When it gets the chance to flex all of its muscles and show just what it can do when playing a 4K game with HDR without missing a beat it’s fantastic. However, the list of enhanced titles is still a little thin on the ground. Microsoft’s own curated list shows many as “In Development” or “Coming Soon” and whilst the list of titles with enhancements continues to grow, it’s a trickle rather than a constant flow. Not to mention that elephant in the room which is, if you’re going to lay out the money for a One X, then to get the most out of your new purchase a 4K TV is a must. Whilst is true that, even if you don’t have a 4K TV, the One X will supersample the textures and deliver a crisp image and have power to spare, you know it can do more. The same could be said of the PS4 Pro, but that at least has VR as its current ace in the hole which doesn’t care whether you have a 4K TV. Microsoft is, according to rumour, pursuing VR, but its focus is still on the Augmented Reality Hololens headset. All this puts pressure on the buyer having a 4K set already or being prepared to acquire one in the near future.
The extra kit isn’t our only gripe with the system either. It’s old news now but recently Microsoft finally did the dignified thing and officially ceased the Kinect sensor. The One X, like the One S, has no inputs for the device. When the One S was released, however, purchasers were offered the chance to acquire an adapter so those who use the Kinect could continue to do so. The same offer has not been handed to One X owners. Whilst is uses has always been fairly limited, as a father of two small children the other side of the world to their grandparents, a Skype call on the TV was an easy way to keep in touch. With the sensor now just a hunk of plastic on top the TV with adapters hard to come by it’s frustrating to see the adapter out of stock on Microsoft’s website with no word on whether more will be made available. Finally, despite the premium nature of the console, the bundled controller is just a standard XBox One affair rather than the excellent Elite pad. It’s likely this omission was to keep costs down but doing so brings things down a notch or two.
Realistically whether you want to buy one will all come down to preference. For some, it will be important, 4K TV or not, to have the latest console. Others who may have a 4K set will want to see it used to its fullest. Others may see it as a fad and will sit back and wait to see how it will all play out. What’s undeniable, however, is that the One X and the PS4 Pro mark a shift in how console manufacturers see the market. Until now the only acceptable upgrade during a console cycle was to a slimmed down model which often came with power or thermal efficiencies. Today we’re seeing both Microsoft and Sony testing the waters as to whether a more iterative approach, updating every few years with subtle improvements, will slide with today’s console gaming public.
In the end though, the question as to whether it’s worth it is a tough one to answer. If you skipped the One S knowing the One X was on its way then the upgrade, if you have a 4K TV, is a no-brainer. It’s more powerful, it’s more capable and goes about its job with a confidence which reassures you that, no matter the title, you’re playing the best possible version on console. Where it gets murkier is when you don’t have a 4K TV or have picked up a One S recently. If you’re in the latter camp the upgrade won’t be quite as noticeable and shelling out for another console which offers little other than power over your current model is probably a harder argument to win. If you don’t have a 4K TV but, say, are still playing on an original XBox One then there are real tangible benefits to the upgrade. The extra horsepower and supersampling means there’ll be a visual upgrade as well improvements in performance. It won’t be quite as wowing as it would if you went straight to a One X on a 4K TV but it will still be a revelation on a full HD set. The harder sell is to those who don’t have a 4K and are new to the market. In this case the One S is the more likely victor given its enticing price point over the One X. It’s hard to make a choice between the two and this indecision among consumers could be costly in more ways that one.