The New Xbox Is Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger
SINCE THE DAYS of the NES, most every successful gaming console has basically been released twice. You’d get a big, loud, and expensive box at launch, then a few years later, a smaller, quieter, lower-cost version would show up. Recall, for a second, Sony’s svelte Slimline PS2, Nintendo’s Honey I Shrunk The SNES SNS-101, and the Red Ring of Death-proof Xbox 360 S.
But things are changing. Save for the Nintendo Switch, today’s gaming consoles are nigh indistinguishable from gaming PCs. Part of that is due to Sony and Microsoft’s adoption of PC-like components like massive hard drives and AMD chipsets.
In that frame of reference, Microsoft’s new revved-up Xbox One X makes total sense. From its faster CPU to beefier graphics cores, and zippier GDDR5 memory, the X’s spec sheet reads like a gamer took the old Xbox One and modded it with a bounty of parts from Newegg. Sure it’s smaller, but it’s not a typical mid-cycle refresh after all—like the competing PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X is a faster, better version of the Xbox that already exists.
Microsoft might get grumpy if I directly equated the PS4 Pro to the Xbox One X. Admittedly, Microsoft’s boffins have earned their extra credit by making the X faster in every measurable metric while maintaining compatibility with the current Xbox ecosystem. This unit is ready to play current Xbox One games at improved, smoother framerates and more consistent resolutions. The One X will also give gamers the impressive Xbox 360 and original Xbox backwards compatibility experience rolled out over the last year or so.
Think of the Xbox One X as the PF Flyers of console gaming—it’ll let you run faster and jump higher.
Into the Black
When I finally unwrapped the Xbox One X, I wasn’t all that smitten with its build quality. Unlike the eye-catching Xbox One S, this console is deadly serious with a distinctly vacant, matte look. Gone are the signature diagonal slats and subdued two-tone design of 2013’s Xbox One. Nowhere to be found are the dimples of the texturally playful One S.
More than anything, the Xbox One X adheres to the Microsoft Surface design ethos—rather than fetishizing this powerful, dense slab, the X hardware fades into the background. Instead, the focus is what tricks software running on this hardware can pull off.
The star of the software show is greatly improved 4K HDR support for games. The One S brought HDMI 2.0 and a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive, along with the ability to stream 4K HDR content to a compatible TV. One X has 4K and improved 1080p gaming in its sights, but you’ll need to be patient for now.
It’ll take a few months for many gamers to see their favorite games get textures and enhancements that make 4K (or enhanced FullHD) play possible. Microsoft has published a growing list of first- and third-party games that’ll receive patches for the X. I was able to sample titles like Super Lucky’s Tale and Gears of War 4, each with a load of graphical upgrades to make them play and look better on the One X.