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Xbox One X 4K UHD Review: One Monster of a Game Console

by on November 9, 2017
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Overview

The anticipation has been enormous but after over a year of mystery about its name and design and then months of waiting for pre-order and shipping availability following its big reveal in the summer, the Xbox One X is finally here and ready for shipping. Best of all, it really doesn’t disappoint on most of what Microsoft promised for it. This is without a doubt a true 4K ultra HD-capable console of the kind we could only dream of when just the Xbox One S and the PlayStation 4 Pro were available. Both of these former consoles had their merits but they never delivered on the promise of real 4K gaming capacity. In the case of the One S, it was because it only offered upscaling without making a claim to native 4K gameplay and in the case of the PS4 Pro, because it simply didn’t deliver the necessary power for any really detailed UHD gaming.

Not so for the Xbox One X, not only is it an enormously robust platform for genuine high level gameplay in 4K with HDR at fairly decent frame rates, it also improves performance for nearly any Xbox game played on almost any kind of TV, 4K or not, across the board. In other words, while the Xbox One X isn’t without issues that we’ll cover in the sections below, it absolutely soars high on performance if used properly in a wide variety of situations.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Positives

  • Overwhelming power boost for numerous games, including older Xbox titles
  • Native 4K HDR gaming fully supported
  • PC GPU-like graphics card
  • 4K UHD Blu-ray support
  • Compact and well built
  • Improves gaming on non-4K TVs

Negatives

  • 1 TB internal storage limit, no larger model available
  • 4K games often don’t reach close to 60FPS
  • Many non-4K gaming features available in Xbox One S for much less money
  • Internal storage gets full quickly with big games
  • Low native 4K game selection

Bottom Line

Microsoft’s Xbox One X goes extremely far towards fulfilling the prmises made about it by Microsoft in recent months. This truly is a 4K ultra HD-capable platform with some tremendous power under the hood. Best of all, much of this power translates over to non-4K gaming on non-4K HDR TVs and that’s a great benefit for those of you who aren’t yet ready to jump into the full 4K gaming/TV experience. We can also safely say that despite some quirks and frame rate reductions with native 4K gaming, the overall experience delivered is fantastic in most respects, especially with HDR enabled. Do we recommend the Xbox One X? Absolutely if you’re serious about an accessible 4K HDR gaming experience and have the kind of TV which can squeeze the most out of this console. Non 4K TV owners on the other hand might want to stick with the also highly capable but much cheaper One S or Sony PS4 Pro platforms for the time being. The One X’s extra price won’t quite be worth its higher cost in these cases.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Check out the Microsoft Xbox One X 4K HDR console (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews

The Good

There are so many good things about the new Xbox One X that it’s a bit tricky to figure out where to start. This really is a major improvement over its predecessors (including the One S from late last year) and it takes performance to a whole new level for certain particular gameplay aspects. The chief aspects of the One X that we like the most are its design and internal hardware power, the console’s native 4K HDR support, its 4K UHD Blu-ray support, the way in which the console manages to boost the performance of even non-4K games on ordinary HDTVs and the overall feel of the console in general use, which is pretty damn good too. We’re going to cover all of these in the subsequent sections before moving onto what the console fails to impress with (it’s less than stellar characteristics).

Design

Despite its huge power and hardware boost, the Xbox One X is actually smaller than the Microsoft Xbox One S that is its most recent predecessor. However, amusingly, it weighs two pounds more than the One S. In other words, this is one seriously dense little console with everything packed into it quite tightly. As you can see from the numerous images throughout this review, the One X is essentially a smooth matte black box settled on top of a slightly smaller matte black box with almost nothing along its front except for the white power button. The console’s optical drive is also in the front of the box but hidden away almost invisibly below the lip of the larger upper part of the One X. On the other side of the bottom part of the front there’s a single USB 3.0 port and that’s pretty much it for the front of the console aside from the Xbox logo. A device this powerful obviously needs vents as well but in the case of the One X, in order to preserve its minimalist look presumably, they’ve been placed along the back and sides of the device instead of along its top as well, as was the case in previous models.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

The back of the One X is where the gritty externals are all hidden away. This is where you’ll find dual HDMI ports (in and out) two more USB 3.0 ports, an IR out port, optical audio and network ports and a little socket for the console’s standard two-pin power cable connection (this console comes with its own internal power supply, just like the One S did). As for the controller for the One X model, well it’s basically the same job as the Xbox One S controller was. Nothing has really changed on this front.

In basic terms, we like the One X’s design. It’s minimalist, fairly elegant and the mix of smaller size and greater weight lends the whole device a sort of “gravitas” that makes it feel as premium as it performs. Now let’s move onto internal hardware, where the real magic of this new platform starts to happen.

Hardware & Connectivity

Beneath the hood of the Xbox One X there is a truly ferocious bundle of technology that makes this console so genuinely powerful and actually, capable of 4K UHD gaming at a decent level of smoothness. Microsoft has given the One X a massively powerful six teraflop AMD Radeon CPU that matches the capacity of many of AMD’s PC GPU models for 4K gaming. This is a big damn deal for a TV console since even the One X’s closest rival, the PlayStation 4 Pro “only” offered un 4 Tflops of GPU power. Those extra two amount to more than the total GPU power of the Xbox One S console, for a bit of perspective. In other comparative terms, the One X offers just a bit less GPU power than Nvidia’s GTX 1070 graphics card, and that’s quite impressive. Additionally, the console’s hardware features include a 12GB GDDR5 RAM (3 more GB than found in the PlayStation 4 Pro), a 2.3GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU.

Put another way, the One X’s GPU and other hardware specs combine together to make the console a solid 4 times as powerful as its Xbox One S predecessor and comfortably at least 30% more powerful than the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro platform. Microsoft has also given the One X 4K HDR Blu-ray player (just like in the One S) but we’ll get to more details on that particular feature shortly.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Of course, with so much heavy duty hardware like the above packed into a box that’s more compact than any previous Xbox version, the One X needs to keep itself nicely cooled. This is manages quite nicely even when used for the most intensive gameplay as far as we can tell so far, and even after several hours a day over several days of intense gaming, not only does the console stay at a reasonable temperature, it also manages to run as silently as a whisper. The effect is quite impressive indeed when you consider just how noisy many PC GPUs can get as they try to crunch 4K UHD games at 30+ frames per second. The console is definitely louder than the Xbox One S is and its back side can get fairly hot indeed but on both counts nothing goes too far on heat or noise. Just to be safe though, we’d definitely recommend keeping this device in a relatively open, ventilated space.

HDR Support

In 4K TVs, 4K PC monitors, content sources and any other display device that supports HDR, we can safely say that high dynamic range makes a serious difference in terms of visual appeal. It’s possibly even more notable and important than ultra HD resolution itself. This applies especially to gaming and the majorly improved color vibrancy along with deeper blacks/contrast that HDR brings to 4K or HD games truly can create a much more immersive, visually beautiful experience for the fantastic worlds of these digital adventures. If anything, the vibrant fantasy element of today’s console games makes them one of the best mediums for expressing high dynamic range with the right kind of display at hand.

The Xbox One X absolutely helps this process out with its powerful processing and GPU technologies. It is in fact a console that has been built with 4K HDR support as one of its central features. Thus, for both playing HDR-mastered games and playing ultra HD Blu-ray discs inside the console on a high dynamic range 4K TV, the One X does a generally admirable job of delivering the goods. While Microsoft hasn’t given the console support for the superior Dolby Vision HDR format, its HDR10 support is what’s most widely used in 4K gaming and movie content as well so most users will be perfectly happy with this spec.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Now obviously, in order to take advantage of the Xbox One X’s true best performance via HDR with 4K ultra HD resolution, either in gaming or just watching movies via its Blu-ray player, you’ll need a 4K HDR TV. These are getting cheaper but the most affordable HDR 4K models worth their salt and actually capable of displaying full HDR start at a little over $600 (the best and cheapest examples being TCL’s P-Series model or maybe Vizio’s P-Series 4K TV). If you already have a full 4K HDR TV, than you’ll get the best possible benefits of the One X console. If you don’t, it’s your decision if you want to also spend on one. If not, the console does offer other benefits to non-4K TV owners but we’ll get to these slightly further down.

4K Gaming Support

The single biggest promise of the Xbox One X has been its support for “real” native 4K UHD gaming. Thus the biggest question about this console’s performance is obviously whether it delivers this effectively or not. The Sony PlayStation 4 Pro certainly didn’t, at least not anywhere near consistently but this console outperforms it by nearly 40% overall and its own Xbox predecessor by at least four times, so we’re obviously talking about a new level of power here. To answer simply and this is something we really respected about the Xbox One X, yes it is finally a true 4K gaming console and very much capable of handling 4K ultra HD games at at least decent frame rates. The One X’s power is roughly comparable to that of a high end GTX-10 GPU, maybe somewhere between the GTX 1060 and GTX 1070 NVIDIA models in terms of performance, but with the added benefit of its games having been optimized to play as smoothly as possible on it.

The video below really shows off the enhancements that the Xbox One X brings to many games:

Thus, with many of the expected or already here 150+ games that will be “enhanced” for the Xbox One X, you’ll definitely get some fantastically smooth performance and in the case of those games among these 150 or more with native 4K UHD resolution (and HDR) results will vary since some games are much heavier on details than others but all should handle on your Xbox One X at least 30FPS, which is pretty decent. Gameplay at a consistent 60FPS in 4K resolution is much less likely for many cases but some games are definitely optimized to pull this off, though some of them are a bit older, like “Gears of War 4”. Others are new and perfect fits for the maximum potential of the Xbox One X. A perfect example is “Forza 7 Motorsport”, which we’ve covered before here on our site. As we can now see in live practice, the game is basically designed to run with the best of all One X benefits and delivers high frame rate performance in full 4K while also packing in the richness of HDR. Unfortunately, not all of Xbox’s games are going to deliver this much perfection. Some take a middle ground in which resolution increases only dynamically so that frame rates can consistently be kept high. An example of this is “Titanfall 2”, which is optimized to deliver maximum 60FPS gaming but will sometimes drop down to 1080p graphics and you might notice this if you focus on the graphics intensely.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

The fundamental thing to bear in mind with 4K, HDR and general gaming on the Xbox One X is that a game developer-designed balance will be at work. Some games will feature 4K and HDR but no performance enhancement modes for higher frame rates or dynamic supersampling and so forth. Other games will be focused more on native 4K resolution with HDR and they will look stunning if you’re using an HDR TV even if their frame rates aren’t consistently 60FPS or even close to it. You as a game buyer will have to decide based on what you’re finding yourself liking or not liking during One X gaming. Bottom line though, yes it supports real 4K gaming and it does it well for the most part, certainly better than any other console in existence, though not quite as well as the best 4K PCs and GPUs. However such PC/GPU combos are going to cost far more than the $500 price tag of the One X. The Xbox One X also almost consistently makes any existing Xbox game look and play notably and often gorgeously better than it would in any previous version of Xbox, and remember that all previous Xbox games can indeed be played on this console.

Most importantly, the console really delivers smooth gameplay across the board even if 4K sometimes has to go. In this regard, the One X is fantastic for console gamers.

Benefits to Non 4K TVs

Most interestingly, prior to release, Microsoft claimed that the Xbox One X has been tested quite heavily on some of the oldest, shittiest non-4K TVs to see if its developers could make the console deliver performance improvements that are worth paying for even if you are not a 4K HDR TV owner (the majority of targeted Xbox One X customers probably aren’t quite yet). As it turns out, the console does indeed offer such benefits through its beefy specs. HDTVs or even older models, or possibly 1440p monitors that you might have around the house will all deliver a gaming experience that includes more stable frame rates, superior lighting/contrast effects and dynamic superscaling for better aliasing-free graphics despite a lack of 4K display resolution. With many games, played with a 1080p TV via the Xbox One X, the overall performance is simply smoother.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

4K Blu-ray & Entertainment Options

A cool additional benefit of the Xbox One X is that it actually comes with a 4K UHD Blu-ray player that, almost needless to say, supports HDR just like the rest of the console. The 4K blu-ray player alone is definitely not a good only reason to buy this console, since you can get the same 4K Blu-ray support via the much cheaper Xbox One S but it is a useful extra of this $499 console. The One X’s 4K Blu-ray drive also happens to support Dolby Atmos sound pass-through if you’re lucky enough to have a sound system capable of handing it and it can be used to smoothly play back older media formats like HD Blu-ray, DVD and even CDs just fine. We can also note here that this is one feature the Sony PlayStation 4 lacks.

Besides its 4K blu-ray drive the Xbox One X interface also comes with Microsoft’s own Xbox store, which comes with some 4K UHD movie options (these only for U.S customers). Besides these, there are also apps for Amazon Prime Instant Video, Netflix and YouTube for other kinds of streamed 4K UHD content. Additionally there are numerous other general media apps such as HBO Go, Hulu Plus and so forth, and you can even connect the Xbox One X to a third party streaming media platform like Google Chromecast Ultra or Amazon Fire TV 4K through the consoles HDMI ports. Cable TV can also be watched via a connected set-top box with the help of the Xbox OneGuide.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

In other words, the Xbox One X is a superb and versatile home entertainment platform outside its also highly robust 4K, HDR and HD gaming capabilities.

Xbox OS

The Microsoft OS is mostly the same as it was in the previous Microsoft Xbox release except that it comes with a little 4K UHD promotional bit right at the beginning of its boot-up.

the interface is basically separated into tiles according to different purposes. There are the normal Home and Store tabs, then there are also tabs for Community, Entertainment, Mixer and other features of the One X. Moving between tabs is really fluid and fast with no freezing or pauses that we could detect. Microsoft has also added a pins feature which lets you add games and apps you particularly like into rows on the home screen where you can access them quickly and keep them in mind.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

There is also a sort of by purpose: there’s Home and Store tabs, which are pretty self-explanatory, but also tabs for Community, Entertainment and Mixer, a Microsoft-owned Twitch competitor. Navigating from one tab to the next is a fast and fluid experience and, to its credit, there’s always something new to look at.

One other cool new addition to the Xbox One X OS is also the ability to record 30 second clips of 4K videos from games. These can be expanded to much larger 60 minute 4K video clips if you’re recording them to an external storage media format through the console. Thus, you can capture the rich details of your live 4K gaming sessions and later share that footage on social media or wherever else.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Check out the Microsoft Xbox One X 4K HDR console (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews

The Bad

Quite simply, the Xbox One X is low on truly bad characteristics. Its biggest defects still leave it well above its competitors or predecessors in terms of overall performance quality and the issues about game selection that have plagued Xbox in the Xbox vs. PlayStation war are basically separate from the actual performance or quality of the Xbox One X itself. The console will play as many games as Microsoft Xbox technology supports so it does its best to be useful on that count. That said, a few details we don’t particularly like are definitely worth mentioning here.

60 FPS Support Difficulties

As we clearly stated above, the Xbox One X doesn’t always deliver 4K ultra HD gaming at 60fps. How games render and at what frame rates depends partly on the consoles hardware limits and partly on what game developers choose to focus on so while Microsoft did promise 4K HDR gaming at 60fps, it’s definitely a selective promise in the sense that it only applies to certain games under certain settings. In other words, you’re not going to get the 4K gaming performance of a hardcore PC rig with something like a GTX 1080Ti or Titan X graphics card packed into it. You’ll get something lighter and more tailored for performance instead of just raw frame rates on a game-by-game basis.

That said, the One X is far more of a 4K gaming console than anything before it in the sense that it does indeed handle 4K gaming wherever it’s available at least so some decent degree.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Games Selection

One of the biggest issues with Xbox and the Xbox One in particular is the basic lack of games with which this console can really show off just how it roars, and maybe more importantly, why it is indeed worth $499. The best performers are only few in number (Forza 7, Assassins Creed and a few others) and no Xbox One X game is really exclusive just to the One X. Some aren’t even exclusive to Xbox as a platform. The enhancements to older games are spectacular and in this sense, the xonsole’s biggest benefit is not so much in what it plays but in just how well it can play everything with the right kind of 4K HDR TV attached to it but again, fundamentally, serious 4K game selection is still on the weak side and no absolutely definitive Xbox One X powerhouse game exists by which you can completely measure how much of a beast this console is. This is where Sony and its PS4 platform really beat the hell out of Microsoft. The PS4 Pro may not have the same performance specs but it does come with several truly huge games like God of War, Spider-Man, Death Stranding, The Last of Us Part II and Final Fantasy VII Remake that put much of what Microsoft offers to shame with their complexity.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

To elaborate a bit further, the Xbox One X excites only with how well it will play all of the old and new games available for it, not so much with anything truly new and just for this console. After all, regardless of how well new releases or older games for the One X play on the console, with HDR, 4K resolution, smooth gameplay in these specs and so forth, they’re all still also completely and often very decently playable on the beaten up 2013 version of the Xbox console you might also have lying around. This sort of spoils the excitement of the latest release.

Storage fills FAST

Finally, the single most irritating problem with the design of the Xbox One X is its 1 TB storage limit. Not only is this annoying because that storage will fill up FAST with only a few downloads of the very big games available for this console, it’s also annoying because we know that Microsoft did this purposely. The company easily had the ability to give the One X a 2TB or even 3TB option during all these months of development and even the much weaker Xbox One S offers a 2TB version. So why not the One X? Instead, you have to use an external storage drive to make extra room and on top of the One X console’s $499 cost, this is one more expense you’ll probably need. Considering that most of the best games for the One X console run at 80 to 100GB in size, you can see why they’ll help fill your 1TB quite quickly when all other storage needs in the One X are considered. We’re hoping for a second 2 or 3TB option later in 2017 or into 2018 but it would have been nice to have right as of the console’s worldwide November 7th to 12th release dates.

Essential Specs

  • CPU: x86-64 2.3GHz 8-core AMD custom CPU
  • GPU: AMD Radeon-based graphics clocked at 1172MHz with 40 compute units, 6 TFLOPS
  • RAM: 12GB GDDR5 Memor
  • Storage: 1TB HDD
  • Entertainment Media: 4K UHD Blu-ray drive, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu Plus, YouTube, other streaming apps, Microsoft Xbox store
  • Input/Output: Power, HDMI out, HDMI in, USB 3.0 x 3, IR out, S/PDIF, gigabit ethernet
  • Networking: IEEE 802.11ac dual band (5GHz and 2.4Ghz), 2×2 wireless Wi-Fi with Wi-Fi Direct
  • Power consumption: 245W
  • Size: 11.8″ by 9.4″ by 2.3″
  • Weight: 8.4 lbs/3.8 kg
  • Price: $499.99

Unpacking and Setup

The Xbox One X console comes with a pretty standard package of accessories that includes a 60 inch power cable, a 6 foot high-speed (4K HDR-capable) HDMI cable, the one single included Xbox One controller, dual AA batteries for said controller and a 14 day free trial of Xbox Line Gold. Then there’s also a one month free subscription to Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass.

As for set up, it’s pretty simple too. You stick the batteries into the controller, plug your Xbox One X into your 4K TV (if you have one) via its HDMI cable and if you do have a full 4K HDR TV, then in connecting the HDMI cable, make sure that it goes into one of your 4K TV’s Full [email protected] HDR-capable HDMI 2.0A or 2.0b ports. Some 4K HDR TVs offer this for all of their ports but in many cases, only a couple of the usual lineup of four HDMI ports are designed to be fully 4K HDR capable.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Having also plugged in your Xbox, you can now connect any external storage media you might have either via HDMI or USB 3.0 and turn on the console for logging into your existing Microsoft account (or starting a new one). For detailed instructions on how to set up the console for all of your existing Xbox games and apps, we suggest this page from Microsoft itself. It goes into much more detail on this.

Overall Performance

The thing about the Microsoft Xbox One X is that it only truly shines when used with a 4K HDR TV and preferably a premium model. This really is a console that has been built with this sort of technology in mind. With other 4K TVs and older non-4K TVs it still offers some major benefits on how smoothly games run and how well frame rates handle but the 4K HDR aspect is what it does in the most impressive way.

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Thus, as we said in the sections above, the One X is a truly impressive performer across the board and for those of you who finally want to try out serious 4K HDR gaming of the sort that will leave you impressed as hell, then the One X really won’t disappoint by much. It doesn’t always deliver a solid 60 frames per second but it sticks to reasonably high frame rates and if you want to prioritize gameplay and other graphics like HDR or color over raw resolution, the Xbox One X will handle all of those admirably, even in the absolute most detail-rich gaming environments. The console is also a very robust and fluidly powerful media platform with the ability to play back 4K HDR Blu-ray discs or streamed ultra HD content with HDR mastering beautifully and without flaws from the console’s end. Perhaps the biggest disappointment for the console itself is its relatively small internal storage unit, but this is not a deal-breaker since you can easily attach external storage devices to the One X without hassle. The only other major problem outside of this is one of weak selection for games that really match what the One X is capable of. Microsoft is promising at least 150 “enhanced” games into 2018 but the enhancements of these will likely vary enormously and in any case most of those games are neither here nor there.

Fundamentally though, the game selection problem is not a defect of the Xbox One X itself anyhow. The console’s overall performance is in the most basic summary simply stellar and superior to anything we’ve yet seen in the world of game consoles.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Final Opinion

We absolutely love the Xbox One X in the most essential sense of appreciating its awesome performance capabilities. Yes, it has a few flaws in these areas but they’re very minor and as long as you’re a fan of Xbox gaming and Xbox games, you simply can’t do better than to give the whole landscape a spin with the One X 4K UHD HDR console. However, for truly superb enjoyment of this pricey console, you will need a 4K HDR TV to feel like you’ve gotten your money’s worth. Owners of SDR 4K TVs or non-4K televisions are still probably better off with a much cheaper platform like the Xbox One S.

Price

At the time of this posting, the Xbox One X is selling on Amazon.com and other retailers for a retail price of $499.00. This might change as new deals arrive so click the link below to get the very latest pricing and availability information.

Xbox One X console review 4K HDR

Check out the Microsoft Xbox One X 4K HDR console (2017 Model) on Amazon

4.7 – 4 Reviews

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