The 4K Box: Microsoft’s Xbox One X reviewed

Microsoft’s update to the Xbox One is here, and with new hardware made for Ultra HD TVs, Microsoft’s Xbox One X may as well be the 4K Box.

Friends, Romans, gamers, lend me your ears! The time hath come for Pickr to educate the masses on one of the biggest developments in gaming history: 4K gaming! Did anyone else hear PC users chuckling in the distance?

Yes, the 4K-friendly Xbox One X has finally been released, and yours truly, was lucky enough to get the opportunity to review the new console. Is it everything we had hoped and more?

Design

Microsoft’s newly released Xbox One X starts as all Xbox models have thus far, with the logical inclusion of a “box”, because that’s where it always begins.

A box, or in this case, the Xbox, follows much the same plastic boxy design we’ve seen in the Xbox One iterations of the original and the Xbox One S. It lacks the curves of the original 360, and this is far more box than it ever has been, cutting back on plastic and pushing the whole thing into a black box that is somehow thinner, and yet also a little heavier. She was beautiful before, but now she does feel more confident and happier with her appearance, resulting in a pleasing design altogether.

The Xbox One X (left) compared against the Xbox One (right).

There’s also no power brick protruding from this model, with the Xbox One X getting a mere figure-eight plug to plug in, ready to go whenever. This is more a slow clap for the engineering team who I’m sure spent many an hour celebrating the demise of the once powerful brick god! No longer will I sometimes notice you sitting behind my console and not really caring, a clear triumph for all concerned.

Features

A slightly revamped design isn’t all gamers will find here, because while the box is smaller, the hardware inside is bigger in nearly every way.

You see Microsoft’s Xbox One X takes the basic template for what worked in the Xbox One and Xbox One S and super-sizes it, adding more grunt across the board.

There’s a newer and slightly different eight-core chip from AMD, and a faster graphics chip delivering a staggering six (6) teraflops, increasing the performance by a magnitude of at least four, while upping the graphics memory by 4GB to 12GB total, and improving a whole heap of things, including memory performance, graphical shader amount, and focusing the Xbox One X’s energy on hard core power.

Yes, power is the name of the game here, and the Xbox One X is loaded with it, equipping this new machine for all the grunt of a brand new generation of video games consoles will need, complete with a low-noise fan and water-cooling system to keep everything running without noise.

A solid 1TB of storage provides plenty of space to install things, while support for Blu-ray is also provided with 4K Ultra HD discs, something we’re still confused on why the Sony PlayStation Pro lacks.

But support for modern formats is one of the big things for the Xbox One X, packing in HDMI 2.0, support for Ultra HD’s 2160p out, HDR10, and even AMD’s FreeSync technology, if you happen to have a monitor that comes packing that.

There’s also Dolby Atmos, DTS 5.1, WiFi, infrared, three USB 3.0 ports, the HDMI input that lets you plug another source into your Xbox (like another console or an Apple TV), and no special Kinect port because that thing is dead.

Really, the Xbox One X is about powerful hardware plain and simple, and that’s what you get.

Performance

With new hardware under the hood and what is undeniably not just Microsoft’s most powerful console, but also one of the world’s most powerful altogether, it shouldn’t be surprising to find the hardware flies in 4K supported games.

Really, the graphics are stunning, offering incredible clarity, visuals that just come to life and bring to mind that idea of “Uncanny Valley” once more, offering pictures of humans inside the in-game engine that approach a lifelike feeling that is impossible to shake.

You will stare at the screen and at times have to remind yourself between the camera focus pulls and the fact that you’re pressing X to make the players do something that these aren’t human puppets you’re controlling like some sort of demented puppet master, but digital recreations that just so happen to look and feel like the real thing.

“Shadow of War” on the Xbox One X

That’s not a real conversation you’re watching between two people: that’s a digital one, and you get the feeling like you did when you wanted games to look like their teasers and trailers all those years ago, with imagery that allows the game to be experienced in the most blistering of lifelike ways.

Understandably, the new hardware is what makes this tick, but the new hardware also has something else going for it: overheating seems to be a thing of the past.

Depending on how long you’ve owned an Xbox for, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced the burden of the Xbox console and its heating failures. These things are built so much like computers in a self-enclosed box that it’s not thoroughly surprising when you find that they — also like computers without good ventilation — stop working because they get too hot.

Fortunately, the Xbox One X handles its own beautifully, resisting the urge to shut down and surviving the heat tremendously.

Hey, we left it on for three days straight, and while it stayed hot, it didn’t overheat or shut down. We’d call that a success, except for the whole electricity bill thing, but we’ll deal with that later.

A slimmer design, and yet the Xbox One X handles power better than its predecessors ever did.

A 4K difference

Part of the reason you need to leave the Xbox One X on for so long, however, is the 4K difference, something that the Xbox One X is built for.

Quite simply, the games you’ve bought or installed in the past were made for 1080p Full HD, while the new titles — and the newly refreshed titles — are being built for 4K Ultra HD.

You might think “this is just a different resolution, what could I end up seeing?” Well, prepare to be surprised.

“Gears of War 4” on the Xbox One X

With more resolution on offer, the difference with 4K is easily noticeable, and in the games with 4K assets available, you get sharper and crisper visuals, not to mention some more lifelike imagery.

When you buy a game, you get both versions, but if you have the Xbox One X, you get to see more, and that means you also get to see more from Blu-ray as well.

With 4K Ultra HD supported, Microsoft has seen fit to include 4K Blu-ray support, something that we’re beginning to see more support for, making it a proper 4K powerhouse of technology, great for people who’ve just spent so much money on a new TV (like me!)

Value

The value, however, is the problem, because at $650, the Xbox One X arrives at a price not everyone is going to agree with.

Let’s get a few things straight here: the Xbox One X is a fantastic console, delivering all the power gamers could want for the next few years, or until we find a way to make games even more realistic than what we’re seeing here.

It’s about as pure a gaming experience as you could ever need, especially if you’ve bought one of those 4K TVs and are struggling to work out what to do with it.

But at $650, you need to really have a 4K TV to get the most out of it, since the upgrades are really geared at Ultra HD, not standard Full HD.

In Full HD, the Xbox One X looks great, but switch to 4K Ultra HD, and it’s the equivalent of turning it up to eleven, boasting more resolution and colours thanks to the improvements in resolution and high-dynamic range (HDR).

It’s an image quality you can see in the Xbox One X enhanced games, of which you can find quite a few today, but you’ll want to check the Microsoft website to see if your gaming library is supported.

If it is, great, but if not, you may not see the differences you hope for.

What needs work?

There’s little doubt that Microsoft’s hardware does some impressive things, and making mincemeat out of in-game graphics to showcase beautifully on a deliciously delightful 4K Ultra HD screen is one of them, but the interface is an area Microsoft really needs to work on.

Everything is clearly laid out, but the experience feels convoluted, forcing you through page after page to find what you want, when all you really needed was on the left side, a menu showing you the games and apps you want to play, not this long-term flow of everything available, including the kind of useless community page, not to mention the option to buy and rent entertainment, which you may or may not want.

I’m quite content with my Smart TV’s application capability, so I will not be downloading Netflix twice thank you very much!

In fact, the more we played with the latest Xbox dashboard on the Xbox One X, the more we realised the whole thing just felt too complicated, with too much investment needed to personalise the Xbox experience.

And what if you don’t even want to personalise the dashboard? What if you just really want to play? I think Microsoft wants the Xbox to be an entertainment system, instead of a console used primarily for gaming. Unfortunately,if you create a 4K console that requires a 4K TV, you’re competing with the very thing that permits your product to perform at its fullest capacity. In many ways, the Xbox’s attempt to be a jack of all trades undermines this, more or less asking you to pick where you’ll be controlling media: the TV or the console.

Ultimately, the Xbox One X offers power, but where it loses that power is in its menu, delivering a screen that is unnecessarily complicated when all you wanted was a simple screen to let you get stuck into your gaming ASAP.

Would you buy one?

We can actually look past these issues, though. We really can, because the world of 4K TVs that we need a console that can handle the new generation of raw graphical power we’re dishing out and developing. That doesn’t even touch on the need for virtual reality, something we’re sure Microsoft will throw support for later on, and something that the Xbox One X — formerly Project Scorpio — will need to handle if it is released.

This machine — this Xbox One X — is the source of power for a gaming generation hell bent on getting the best of the best in a time when TVs can truly take advantage.

Except that’s also the rub: this console is only worthwhile if you have a 4K TV.

The reason we buy consoles is so that we can enjoy our entertainment, as these consoles are truly entertainment packages. They play games, movies, support apps, and so much more. They are computers and consoles and communication mechanisms to get to know anyone you have in your life.

Consoles can be your way to talk to the world, to see and experience what it has to offer from the comfort of your own couch and living room, and the Xbox One X just so happens to be the most powerful example of that.

But it’s also made for 4K TVs, and for folks who demand the best quality being displayed on their new Ultra HD screens. If that’s you, there’s no doubt you’ll love what Microsoft has crafted, but if not, you might be able to save a good $400 for the privilege of having on-screen players a little less pretty.

Final thoughts (TLDR)

For gamers who have been constantly teased for not being a PC gamer, this is a great way to experience this level of quality.  In fact overall, the Xbox One X is a powerful console that gifts beautiful visuals and seamless gameplay, affording beauty that is not only digitally generated, but through the physical, with a sleek aesthetic that fits beautifully into any living room desired.

However $650 is quite the investment for a single console, especially if you don’t own a 4K TV. The console can only offer its best performance with the right partner, so we recommend investing that hard earned cash into a new television, the sort that comes with an equally new resolution, the 4K Ultra HD screens you’ve been advertised for a few years now, and that we’re reviewing.

For the lucky ones who already own a 4K TV and wish to rub it in the faces of their coworkers of former PC bullies, go right ahead! In your case, the Xbox One X is this year’s necessity for your TV and the 4K box to have, an excellent gaming and media machine that will have you crying tears of great joy as you decapitate zombies, save the world or win the English Premiere League. Recommended.

Design
Performance
Ease of use
Value
Readers think...2 Votes4.65
The good
Exceptional graphics if you have a 4K TV
Sleek design, smaller (but heavier)
Powerful and perfectly suited to the new gaming era
Supports 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays
The not-so-good
Expensive
Dashboard interface needs work
Not THAT different from the older Xbox One, Xbox One S models
4
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