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Review: Microsoft Xbox One X

By Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

In a way, the Xbox One X is a time machine. It is built for an ultra-HD future,while enhancing current games available today. It is also bringing gamers back in time with the ability to play older Xbox games without missing a beat.

Microsoft's Xbox One X is being touted as the 'world's most powerful console,' the long-awaited gaming console definitely leapfrogs its predecessor and seems to be built for a 4K and HDR gaming future.

What makes the Xbox One X so powerful? Microsoft has built-in a custom 8-core AMD CPU clocked at 2.3GHz. This is backed by 12 GB of GDDR5 graphic memory. Xbox One X's GPU is capable of 6 Teraflops. A teraflop is a unit of computing that represents a trillion floating-point operations per second. Hit jump for a full review.

If this sounds insane, that's because it is. We're talking about supercomputer on steroids performance on tap. This means smoother graphics, faster game loading times and eventually a larger power pipeline for past, current and future games to exploit. 

For games with the Xbox One Enhanced Logo will have more detail, be more immersive, and offer steadier framerates as well as have assets that can take advantage of 4K and HDR technology and playback.

Unboxing and Onboarding

As an Xbox One gamer, I marvelled at home much smaller the Xbox One X was compared to its predecessors. More importantly, it doesn't have an insanely large power brick. Microsoft really designed this product well and engineered it to be just the perfect size.

The matte black case is smooth and uber minimalist. It has some detail on the grillwork of the vents but Xbox One X is otherwise a spartan slab of polycarbonate. And boy, is it heavy. It looks and feels dense, like a dwarf star, with unlimited untapped power. 

Once Xbox One X slipped into my Ikea TV console it became invisible. Firing up Xbox One X for the first time reminded me that this was no ordinary console. The vivid images and stunning colours filled the display in 4K and then had to go set-up my games.

I should really have backed up my Xbox One S games, but I couldn't find a large enough external hard drive to fit them, so I had no recourse but to install from disc (slow), or download from the Xbox online store (hella slow, even with fast Internet). Note that for games that support 4K, there will be additional files and assets to download in order to play back at the highest resolution. Xbox One X ship with a generous 1 Terabyte drive but if you're investing in the 4K games, I see an externald hard drive in your future.

The hours required to download all the games put a bit of a wrench in my gaming plans. Thankfully, I had the good sense to download Cuphead first so at least I could spend time getting killed by giant carrots and potatoes while the rest of my games transferred to my new console. 

Gaming Experience on Xbox One X

Loading times are cut down substantially by Xbox One X. You feel it on older games like NBA 2K15 which usually plays part of a song before you can get a game started. With the Xbox One X, the game is good to go in less than half the time.

Xbox One X Enhanced games, like Gears of War 4 and Forza 7, look and feel amazing. Forza 7, is specially impressive as the level of detail on the cars as well as the tracks and even the real-time weather instances are more lifelike than ever. 

In terms of performance, you can see action unfolding at full resolution without missing a frame and the move between in-game action and cinematic cutscenes is more fluid. Because of the focus on enhanced 4K gameplay, Xbox One X is ideal for power but also for refinement.

Aside from Cuphead, Gears of War 4 and Forza, I spent time with Super Lucky's Tale, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Star Wars: Battlefront II. I'm currently installing Call of Duty:WW2 and will be back with my impressions on that standout title.

Super Lucky's Tale is an endearing platform game from Microsoft Studios. It recalls titles like Crash Bandicoot but adds various elements and levels of control that are quite immersive. Thanks to 4K and HDR playback, we get ultra-vivid images, wider colour gamut and the blackest blacks while preserving the action and intensity of the games. 

4K and HDR capability is the price of admission

Using Xbox One X on a 1080p HD TV will give you a good experience, you will feel the faster loading times and the increased response bandwidth. Is this $500 console worth it for 1080p HD TV owners, that's a really good question. You may have the most powerful console but you're using only a fraction of its capabilities so, really, you might be better off with Xbox One S.

To really enjoy what the Xbox One X can do, you need to plug it into a 4K TV, better if it supports HDR playback. Granted, these are few and far between, which means that for most users, this might not be a compelling upgrade given the costs required to get the 4K sets.

If you just bought a 4K set, however, then this is a perfect add on. Not only does it support 4K and HDR from services like Netflix, Xbox One is also getting Amazon Prime Video (in Canada), which means even more (but not that much more) streaming content.

Built for the present, future and past

What I admire most about the Xbox One X strategy is that it is definitely built for the future and works well with current titles. By making original Xbox One titles available, longtime Xbox fans or retro-game enthusiasts, can get more mileage from some earlier generation titles. Microsoft didn't have to do this, but it was a wise move that shows they're playing the long game.

In a way, the Xbox One X is a time machine. It is built for an ultra-HD future while enhancing current games available today and even bringing gamers back in time with the ability to play older Xbox games without missing a beat.

The Xbox One X is a triumph of console design. A minimalist box that actually represents a staggering amount of technology and innovation as well as a nuanced approach to gaming. Xbox One S or XBox One owners satisfied with their current setups will likely give this a miss until they've got the right 4K or Ultra HD TV.

Early adopters and 4K enthusiasts will relish the improved visuals, the larger performance bandwidth and the palpable increase in speed on tap.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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