Microsoft’s Xbox One X has enjoyed a strong worldwide launch, with its first week of sales exceeding 80,000 units in the UK alone. This was similar to the UK performance of the Nintendo Switch during its first seven days. By contrast, Sony PS4 Pro’s UK launch week lagged behind, only clocking up 50,000 sales during the same period and taking a full month to pass 80,000 units. The UK is not alone when analysing Xbox One X’s strong sales performance, with similar (relative) outcomes across Europe and North America.
Following Sony’s move with PS4 Pro last year, the Xbox One X also constitutes a similar mid-generation upgrade that provides a compelling jump in both features and performance. Microsoft had been teasing Project Scorpio since E3 in 2016 with good reason. It is clear that the Xbox One X is the most powerful package seen in a living room console to date. It is fully backwards compatible with Xbox One and Xbox One S accessories and games, and it launched with a MSRP of £449 ($500 / AU $649).
Central to the new console is the Scorpio engine. It is an Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) with both the CPU and GPU on a single die. The Xbox One X Scorpio engine boasts an 8-core CPU running at 2.3GHz, which is 550Mhz higher than the original Xbox One. This is paired with a Radeon RX Polaris-based GPU, consisting of 40 compute units running at 1172MHz and providing 6 teraflops per second.
The Xbox One X also features 12GB of Samsung 1700MHz GDDR5 memory with a bandwidth of 326GB/s on its 384-bit bus. This trumps both the original Xbox One and PS4 Pro, both of which only utilize 8GB of shared memory across the CPU and GPU. Approximately 9GB of the new console’s 12GB will be made available to games, with the remainder reserved for the operating system.
Microsoft claims that this significantly improved console hardware will allow games to be rendered natively at 4K resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR) color support. These will be combined with both improved loading times and increased framerates (up to 60fps) to form a very enticing and well-rounded package from the team at Redmond.
The exterior of the Xbox One X has a very clean, simple and minimalist design, bearing some similarities to the Xbox One S. However, where the Xbox One S has a very striking black and white color scheme, the Xbox One X instead settles for a more muted full matte black aesthetic. This look does help to reflect a more premium and smart-looking device.
The front facing panel of the console has a physical power button and 4K HDR Blu-Ray drive. It also has an eject button and IR receiver on the lower left corner, and a USB 3.0 port plus controller pairing button on the lower right corner. Moving from left to right on the rear I/O, we get power, HDMI out, HDMI in, two more USB 3.0 ports, an IR out, S/PDIF, and a gigabit ethernet port. This is essentially the same as the Xbox One S.
Cooling has clearly been a priority for Microsoft. The console exhausts air from the rear of the unit. Intake vents are very ample and are situated on both sides, taking up the entire width of upper ‘tier’ of the console, as well as under the overhanging lip on the front panel. The intake vents seamlessly integrate with the overall aesthetic of the console.
Xbox One X dimensions come in at 30 x 24 x 6cm (11.8×9.4×2.3in). This is particularly remarkable given that the power supply is located internally, similar to the Xbox One S. Not having to cope with an external power brick, like with the original Xbox One, is certainly advantageous too. The Xbox One X weighs in at a fairly hefty 3.8kg (8.4lbs) and this is in spite of the smaller chassis.
The Xbox One X’s main appeal obviously stems from the graphical enhancements provided by the improved internal hardware specs. The console’s primary selling point is being able to render supported games both in 4K and HDR. Games which are able to take advantage of the extra processing capabilities will carry a ‘Xbox One X enhanced’ tag.
Providing a 4K 60fps HDR experience allows for a resolution that is four times that of the original Xbox One’s 1080p, as well as offering a wider color gamut with increased black and white contrast levels. Gameplay, on the whole, is much smoother with the hardware capable of pushing a higher sustained frame rate, measured in frames per second (of up to 60 fps).
The console also applies anisotropic filtering at the hardware level to all titles, regardless of whether they are Xbox One X enhanced or not, that will improve the quality of textures rendered in the distance. Supersampling on lower resolution screens also provides a form of anti-aliasing by allowing games to be rendered at a higher resolution and then stepped down to reduce jagged outlines.
Developers do have some freedom to decide how they wish to use the additional processing power. Therefore, some may instead focus on optimizing the experience for lower resolution displays by, for example, improving lighting or shadows. There may also be some performance gains for more taxing titles, that have not yet been ‘enhanced’, by helping them to run more smoothly and at a higher frame rate.
At the time of launch, the availability of Xbox One X ‘enhanced’ titles are quite limited, but many more are on the way, either as new titles or being patched. Updates to existing games will be provided for free and can include, but are not limited to, 4K, high-resolution textures, anisotropic filtering, and HDR. However, it is worth noting that not all games will be enhanced.
Current updated games include Ashes Cricket, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls – Ultimate Evil Edition, Disneyland Adventures, FIFA 18, Gears of War 4, GRIDD: Retroenhanced, Killer Instinct, L.A. Noire, Mantis Burn Racing, Need for Speed Payback, Outlast 2, Rush: A Disney-Pixar Adventure, Sonic Forces, Super Lucky’s Tale, Super Night Riders, Transcripted, and World of Tanks. The total number of games slated to receive updates, over the coming weeks and months, currently sits at over 100.
Boot & Load times:
The Xbox One X includes a 5400rpm Seagate 1TB hard drive, with 128MB cache and a data transfer rate of up to 140MB/s. It is claimed to be 50% faster than the previous generation, and this should help load higher resolution textures more quickly. Real-world benchmarks do reflect a benefit with some clear (but not major) reductions in system boot and some game loading sequences.
The boot and load times are helped by the 8GB of onboard flash (on the rear of the motherboard) which is used both for housing parts of the operating system, and acting as a fast cache for the hard drive. The hard drive is suspended on elastic housing so that any vibrations from the drive should limit noise or interference with the rest of the system.
One potential drawback may actually come down to the size of the included storage itself. Game titles which are enabled for 4K play have very large file sizes and also take a lot of time to download on slower connections. Most Xbox One X enhanced titles are over 80GB in size, with some hitting over 100GB. Users could quickly find themselves running low on space, although fortunately there is still support for external storage via USB 3.0. This will, of course, add cost.
Cooling & Noise:
The Xbox One X‘s APU (CPU and GPU) plus memory are cooled by one large vapor-chamber cooler. This cooler has an area at the bottom containing liquid that naturally evaporates upwards to the cooler areas of the copper plate, before dissipating the heat through aluminium fins. Vapor-chamber cooling is typically only found on high-end desktop graphics cards.
The VRMs are also cooled by this heatsink assembly, but do not take advantage of the vapor-chamber cooling process. Instead they are connected directly to the aluminium fins via an aluminium plate.
All of the airflow from the console is generated by a single 112mm blower radial fan enclosed in a shroud that is mounted onto the heatsink and exhausts through the rear of the unit. The console runs near silently while idle and the sound levels only increase to a slight hum once load is applied and the fan spins up.
As far as operational temperatures are concerned, it is easy to understand why Microsoft apparently invested more effort into the cooling aspects of the console. The Xbox One X does still run quite hot while gaming, at 65+ degrees Celsius, which is significantly warmer than the PS4 Pro’s 47 degrees Celsius under equivalent load. Definitely consider placing the console somewhere it can breathe, ideally in an open environment, as a lot of heat is exhausted out of the back.
The power supply is mounted internally, similar to the Xbox One S. However, at a wattage capability of 245W, this is over double of its predecessor. The PSU receives redirected airflow via the shroud from the single aforementioned 112mm blower radial fan. The console utilizes a four-phase GPU VRM plus a one-phase CPU VRM. Power draw at the wall while gaming peaked at around 180 watts.
Besides the usual number of 4K HDR streaming apps, the Xbox One X also features support for 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray playback (unlike the PS4 Pro). The inclusion of the player undoubtedly increases the overall cost of the unit, but it is worth noting is that an equivalent standalone 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray player can itself cost hundreds.
On the audio side, there is also support for Dolby Digital 5.1 Audio with TrueHD and Atmos, allowing for more a more immersive object-based audio experience. This, of course, assumes that you own the audio-visual equipment to support these features. While our audio tests were limited, the visuals are very crisp with accurate color reproduction on supported TVs.
The original Xbox One struggled with the performance of its dashboard at launch and Microsoft has been incrementally trying to improve it ever since. Coincidentally, the dashboard has recently been revamped yet again in the lead up to the launch of the Xbox One X. Although this has resulted in a faster navigational experience, that assessment is a relative one because some marginal slowdown was still apparent when jumping through menu tabs quickly.
The home screen now has a more horizontal layout with more prominence given to your recently played games and apps for ease of access. Also enhanced is the functionality of the popup menu, accessed by the home button on the controller, with shortcut improvements to the game library and settings. One other key dashboard development facilitates the filtering of game titles to show those that are enhanced for the Xbox One X.
- CPU: AMD custom, x86-64, 8-core, 2.3GHz
- GPU: AMD Radeon-based, 6 Teraflops, 1172MHz, 40 compute units
- RAM: 12GB GDDR5, 326Gb/s bandwidth
- Storage: 1TB HDD
- Optical: 4K UHD Blu-ray
- Ports: HDMI 2.0b Out, HDMI 1.4b In, 3x USB 3.0, Gigabit Ethernet, IR Out, S/PDIF, Power
- Wireless: IEEE 802.11ac Dual Band (5GHz & 2.4Ghz), 2×2 Wireless Wi-Fi plus Wi-Fi Direct
- Power consumption: 245W
- Dimensions: 30 x 24 x 6cm (11.8×9.4×2.3in)
- Weight: 3.8kg (8.4lbs)
Check the latest pricing: Xbox One X
- Xbox One X console with the above specs
- Standard Xbox One controller
- 1.5-meter (5-foot) long power cord
- 1.8-meter (6-foot) HDMI cable (necessary for 4K HDR)
- 2x AA batteries
- 14-day free Xbox Live Gold trial
- 1-month free Xbox Game Pass subscription
From a hardware perspective, the Xbox One X represents the most powerful console we have seen yet. However, the higher price point pushes this console more towards the enthusiast end of the spectrum. This is especially true once the need for a high-end TV is considered, as without one you will be unable to take full advantage of the features on offer.
Perhaps the less expensive Xbox One S would be sufficient for the majority of people, and particularly for those that game on a 1080p TV and have no immediate plans to upgrade to a 4K set. Although there are still some graphical and performance improvements to be had with an Xbox One X, the benefits will be very limited without a 4K HDR television to pair it with.
While the hardware is certainly impressive for a console, the Xbox One X is slightly held back by the lack of ‘enhanced’ games at launch. This issue should remedy itself over the coming weeks as more titles receive free updates, but this might be a fully justifiable reason for delaying any purchase. Expect to also need to purchase extra external storage as the internal drive fills up fast.
On the whole, if you own a 4K HDR TV and have the disposable cash then the Xbox One X is a very compelling machine, especially if you do not own a current generation console. Not just for improved graphical fidelity and performance in supported games, but also for the ability to double up as a full-fledged 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray player.