Xbox One X Review – A Technical Marvel

The Xbox One X is a huge accomplishment. Right out of the gate, after being given the option to calibrate the console to my 4K TV, I was stunned by the notable improvements to the picture quality. While the PS4 Pro certainly made games look better, it was lacking that certain “umph.” On the other hand, I booted up Forza Motorsport 7 and genuinely said “Oh, wow” out loud after watching hyper-realistic rain puddles spray out from beneath my car’s wheels. I live in Britain, and the Xbox One X somehow made me say “wow” while looking at rain.

The Xbox One X has been greeted by more than a few upturned noses from those who have already experienced 4K gaming via PC. While playing games in 4K is certainly not new, Microsoft has hailed the Xbox One X as the first “true 4K” console, with the implication being that the PS4 Pro doesn’t really compete in terms of raw power. This is true, with Microsoft’s console able to run its games at a resolution of 3840 × 2160 pixels and a 60fps frame rate, while the PS4 Pro can push out the same resolution albeit at 30fps.

The latter hardware makes use of checkerboarding and other such techniques in order to improve image quality, offering a relatively small selection of games that run at 4K and 60fps. On the other hand, the Xbox One X struggles far less with putting that extra power behind its games, with there being around 80 games currently boasting the ‘Xbox One X enhanced’ label and many more set to launch just over the horizon.

User unfriendly

Being able to play in 4K right out of the box is a benefit that some PC gamers don’t seem to grasp, as while the technology contained inside the Xbox One X can indeed be bettered if you take the time to build your own desktop, some people want to simply tear up the 4K tarmac in Forza 7 without putting in the research or fitting their own GPU.

Jumping straight into 4K gameplay on the Xbox One X is made incredibly easy by way of the console’s intuitive guide upon start-up, with it recognizing the capabilities of your TV before changing around its options for you. However, this simplicity is undermined by the console’s incredibly confusing user interface, which remains a problem for the Xbox One despite repeated updates. Compared to the simplicity of its peers, navigating the Xbox One X’s various menus is a complete nightmare, with apps and games buried beneath piles of Windows-esque tiles, every menu screen loaded with information and the user being left to fight with the console in order to carry out certain tasks.

Second Opinion: Xbox One X Should Have Been a New Console, Not an Upgrade

I’m sure that by now many Xbox One owners have grown accustomed to the frequent headaches that the console’s UI provides, but as someone who played with the Xbox One far less than every other console this generation, I find it pretty astonishing that it’s still this much of a mess three months removed from launch. Microsoft has stated that they’ll release a more streamlined Xbox One UI for a while now, but have never actually delivered upon this promise. I can’t see this changing at any point in the future.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The Xbox One X is truly a stunning achievement on paper, and even the games that don’t boast native 4K and High Dynamic Range support receive a significant graphical boost by virtue of its sheer power. I was incredibly surprised to learn that Star Wars Battlefront 2, one of the most visually impressive games I played on the console, was only running at upscaled 4K considering how good it looks. While it doesn’t exactly look like a dog’s dinner when running on the PS4, the differences are immediately noticeable on the Xbox One X, with infinitely more realistic lighting, water and particle effects combining to make it look like you’re actually playing through action scenes ripped straight out of the movies.

For comparison’s sake, here are two screenshots taken in near identical locations in the game. The first screenshot was taken on the PS4:

And the second taken on the Xbox One X:

Notice how everything from the green glow of Luke’s lightsaber and the shadows cast across the Millennium Falcon, through to the lush greenery of the trees in the distance and the absence of sepia hues in favor of neutral, more realistic tones makes Battlefront 2 not just look better, but that it was being played on a console from a different generation altogether.

But while the Xbox One X isn’t Microsoft’s Xbox One sequel, with it instead being an iterative upgrade to the 2014 console, it does suffer from a major issue that typically accompanies a new console launch — a lack of games.

Xbox One X specs
Memory: 8GB Flash Memory, 1TB HDD Internal Storage, 12GB GDDR5 at 326 GB/s
Video: 4K UHD Blu-ray Optical Disc Drive, HDMI 2.0, HDR 10 support
Audio: DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, TrueHD with Atmos
Processor: Custom 2.3GHz AMD Jaguar 8-core
Graphics: Custom AMD Radeon 1172 MHz, operating at 6 TFLOPs

Now, there are still a lot of multi-platform games you can enjoy on the Xbox One X. There are also some older exclusives that are worth your time, such as Gears of War 4 or Halo 5: Guardians (both of which have received the enhanced treatment), and the aforementioned Forza 7 was also recently released. However, if you have yet to feel compelled to go out and buy the console, Microsoft hasn’t released any major exclusives in recent months that would change your mind. The likes of Sea of Thieves and Crackdown 3 are on their way, but there’s nothing in the Xbox One’s near future that really demands you go out and buy yourself an Xbox One X.

If you currently get a lot of mileage out of your old Xbox One or Xbox One S, then the significant upgrade the Xbox One X provides would likely make it a worthy investment. Equally, if you’ve always been interested in buying an Xbox One but was put off by how relatively under-powered it was compared to the PS4, then rest assured the Xbox One X now makes it the most powerful console currently available. With that being said, the console could have really benefited from being released during a time in which the Xbox One was experiencing a landslide of great exclusives, not at the tail-end of a drought that has seen it become the least talked about home console currently available.

Should you buy the Xbox One X?

The Xbox One X is a fantastic console that is also let down by the same issues that hold back the Xbox One in general. If you’re not bothered by the console’s lack of exclusives, then this is the best hardware outside of a souped-up PC to play your multi-platform games, even if its UI continues to be unwieldy and irritating.

Disclosure: Xbox One X console and games provided to GameRevolution by Microsoft.