The Xbox One X is Microsoft's attempt at a more powerful Xbox One, promising 4K resolution and HDR support in a body sporting a fresh coat of paint as well as some other cosmetic changes. The Xbox One X was revealed at E3 in June last year and it went on sale in November 2017 in the US and other select markets, with India getting it in January this year.
We have been using the Xbox One X since its international release and shared our review of Microsoft's most powerful console almost exactly a year ago. With the first line of bugs and issues taken care of, and the Xbox One X getting some compelling additions such as enhanced backwards compatibility support, should you buy one right now? Here's what we've learned from using the console all this while.
Xbox One X build quality
The Xbox One X looks a lot like the more affordable Xbox One S, which isn't a bad thing. Its rectangular shape fits well in most entertainment centres while being durable and portable enough to move across work and home safely on a regular basis. The power and disc eject buttons still have a nice click to them and none of its many ports — be it USB, HDMI, or LAN — ever felt loose either. A year later it holds up just fine.
Thanks to its matte black finish, dust is less of a concern than it is on devices featuring glossy, shinier material or the white Xbox One S. And when dust did build up, there was nothing a wipe down with a dry cloth didn't fix. This built to last, easy to use design applies to the Xbox One controller it ships with; its reinforced grips and sturdy analogue sticks are a far cry from some of the issues we've faced with Sony's controller this generation.
All in all, the Xbox One X doesn't just look sturdy, it stays that way too a full year after its release.
Xbox One X OS and lag
Since the Xbox One's release back in 2013, the user interface has undergone several improvements both small and big. From removing dependencies on Kinect to adding light and dark themes, there's a lot that's changed.
After a year of almost daily use we're yet to encounter any slowdown or lag on the Xbox One X. It is telling, however, that this is the only Xbox One console that can run Microsoft's OS without any sense of sluggishness — something that the original Xbox One was notorious for and the Xbox One S was prone to on occasion, with the extra memory and processing power seem to be making all the difference.
But if the Xbox One OS needs 12GB RAM to run smoothly, it's evident that Microsoft may need to optimise that OS just a little bit.
Xbox One X missing features
Speaking of the OS, some basic features are still lacking. You can't copy recorded gameplay video or screenshots to USB pen drive. Instead, you're forced to rely on uploading them to Xbox Live or OneDrive. Even the YouTube Xbox One app — which earlier let you upload videos to the service directly — has removed that feature.
The single concession Microsoft has made is to allow you to record video of your gaming adventures to an external hard drive or pen drive directly while you're playing, provided it has a capacity of at least 256GB. This is an infuriating half-step measure, particularly if you're a casual gamer (rather than a full-time streamer with dedicated hardware for the task) just looking to share your gaming moments without a fuss. Sure these issues exist on the Xbox One and Xbox One S as well, but they shouldn't five years after the original Xbox One first released.
Xbox One X game download sizes and performance
In our Xbox One X review at launch, we lamented at how Microsoft's download system needed some work what with some games forcing us to download them all over again instead of just obtaining their Xbox One X updates that brought 4K, HDR, and a smoother frame rate to the table.
With more games getting Xbox One X enhancements we've seen this change. Titles like Overwatch, for example, have had their Xbox One X patch size clock in at around 600MB, while others such as Destiny 2 had a 6GB update. Granted that's a huge variance, but over the year we haven't seen download sizes for Xbox One X-enhanced games ever hit triple digits as they did for Halo 5 and Gears of War 4.
And the performance gains that these enhancements have brought have been tremendous. Whether we were staving off hordes of mercenaries in Assassin's Creed Odyssey or exploring the Wild West in Red Dead Redemption 2, games on the Xbox One X looked better and played smoother as compared to Xbox One, Xbox One S, PS4, and even the PS4 Pro.
This was the case across the entire slate of games released through the year. Be it epic role-playing games like Divinity 2: Original Sin Definitive Edition or running and gunning in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4's Blackout mode, the Xbox One X version always came out ahead in terms of visuals and felt smoother to play as well.
Naturally, Microsoft-developed games like Forza Horizon 4 take full advantage of the Xbox One X's hardware, making races through the British countryside feel exceptionally immersive. However, Microsoft's own output in terms of new games to harness the power of the Xbox One X has been sparse this year. With Crackdown 3, Halo Infinite, and Gears 5 in development, perhaps this will change. But if you're looking at the best way to play games without having to splurge on a brand new PC, the Xbox One X has you covered.
Do you need a 4K TV for Xbox One X?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: An interesting feature of the Xbox One X is that at a system level, games that have 4K assets or resolutions higher than 1080p would be supersampled to fit regular full-HD screens. What this means is, even those who don't have a 4K TV can benefit from sharper image quality.
Since this is at a system level, it means that every single game enhanced for the Xbox One X will look great even if you don't have a 4K TV. From Xbox One X titles supported at launch like Shadow of War to newer fare like Far Cry 5, every game we tried looked great on both a 4K and standard full-HD panel.
While the bump in visual fidelity is welcome, HDR has so far been a mixed bag. Some games that support it like Forza Horizon 4 take full advantage with realistic lighting leading to a more natural image, but others like Red Dead Redemption 2 do absolutely nothing to enhance the experience. This is one area of the Xbox One X performance that's far from consistent. However we'd chalk it down to game developers prioritising other aspects of the experience such as frame rate and resolution over HDR rather than the Xbox One X itself.
Xbox One X backwards compatibility a year later
Introduced at E3 2015, Xbox One backwards compatibility has ended up being one of the hallmarks of Microsoft's console line up. On the Xbox One X this means you can play select original Xbox and Xbox 360 games with visual upgrades and enhancements.
Classics like the original Xbox's Panzer Dragoon Orta, for example, run at 4K 60 frames per second on the Xbox One X. Not bad for a 16-year-old game. More recent fare like the Xbox 360's The Orange Box, which contains Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress 2, also run at 4K on the Xbox One X now. Xbox 360 games like Metal Gear Solid HD Collection, Crysis 2, and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow are also playable via backwards compatibility.
All these games look great on the Xbox One X despite not having any bespoke updates for the console and are a great reason to keep playing as your old library of games carries forward. Hopefully this approach is considered for Xbox One titles when the eventual Xbox One successor is revealed.
Xbox One X storage
In our Xbox One X review we noted that the 1TB hard drive it shipped with would be a pain point and you'd need an external drive sooner rather than later. Fast forward to a year later, we've found ourselves filling up almost 5TB worth of Xbox One games across the 1TB internal drive and an external 4TB hard drive.
Between new titles, Xbox One X updates for existing games, and a continuous stream of Xbox Live Games with Gold titles, we're down to our last 10GB or so. Keep in mind though that our use case is an extreme one and not representative of what you might face as we try reviewing all multiplatform games on Xbox One X.
With the Xbox One X 1TB drive storing around 15 to 18 Xbox One X enhanced games, we'd recommend budgeting for at least a 1TB external drive if not more. Reason being, even if you buy games on disc instead of digital purchases, you'll still need to install all the data on the Xbox One X hard drive (or an external drive) — a decision that the company has stuck with since the original Xbox One's launch.
Xbox One X pricing and availability
In the US, the Xbox One X is available for $500 (around Rs. 36,500) though there have been several deals that bring the price down by around $100 and throw in a free game to boot.
In India, however, the Xbox One X launched at a price of Rs. 44,990, which was raised a month later to Rs. 48,490 due to customs duty hike before settling at around Rs. 38,000 on Amazon India for the console and around Rs. 40,490 with a game. Availability was a concern in India early on with sources in the supply chain telling Gadgets 360 that the initial shipments of the console were hard to come by. With wider availability outside of Amazon and Flipkart, chances are you could get a better deal on the Xbox One X at your local game store.
As for pricing in the grey and parallel channels? It's on par with what we've seen for the console officially. Considering you lose out on warranty when you import an Xbox One X or buy one in grey, we don't recommend either course of action at this juncture. Right now, the local pricing is surprisingly good.
Should you buy the Xbox One X?
If you own an Xbox One or Xbox One S and are invested in Microsoft's exclusive franchises like Halo, Gears, and Forza or care about backwards compatibility, an Xbox One X is a no-brainer simply due to the performance benefits over either system. Though if you own a PS4 or a PS4 Pro it becomes a bit more complicated.
While Microsoft has made great strides in improving its ecosystem, it still lacks the quality of games we've seen unique to Sony's consoles. Sure, the Xbox One X plays games the best but it doesn't have the likes of Spider-Man, God of War, Uncharted 4, Horizon Zero Dawn, or Gravity Rush 2 to boast about. If you're the sort who buys a console solely on the basis of its exclusive content, the Xbox One X may not be for you. Particularly in a year that's seen Sony pull off some massive hits like the aforementioned Spider-Man and God of War.
However, if you have a fast Internet connection, want the best possible gaming experience, and aren't concerned about the lack of exclusives look no further. The Xbox One X remains Microsoft's biggest hardware triumph in recent memory.
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