Ladies and Gentlemen. Introducing the Xbox One X. It’s here, it’s real, and it’s pretty cool.
Four years after the arrival of the original Xbox One, and only a year since the Xbox One S, a revised, HDR with 4K Blu-Ray and Streaming version of the system, Microsoft have released what they claim is the world’s most powerful console. Have they managed to deliver on their promise of true 4K gaming? Was their attempt to deliver a system with “uncompromised power, unparalleled compatibility, and excellence in design” achieved? You know what? Yeah, in many ways I think they have.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have a few qualms, but courtesy of Microsoft, for the past week I have been playing around with the Xbox One X (X1X). I’ve been testing and comparing a host of games and applications on it against the Xbox One S, using both my 3-year-old 1080p Samsung 48” UA48H6400 3D LED TV, and my newly acquired Samsung 50” 50MU6100 UHD 4K TV. And you know what my take away has been? The picture quality is really, really good.
The moment I knew something weird was going on though was after I hooked the Xbox One X up to the 1080p TV, and began switching between the X and S. Even from the Home screen I could see a difference in colour quality, but after going into the games, I was surprised to see just how much of a difference there was.
Even though both consoles were using the same content, on the same 1080p TV, with the same display settings, even using the same quality cable, the colours being output from the X were brighter, richer, deeper, and the darks darker. I assume this is due to the Xbox One X’s wider colour gamut and HDR making use of Wide Colour Enhancer Plus tech in this model of 1080p TV, but there is another thing that could be going on.
One of the features that the Xbox One X boasts as a benefit for gamers who have yet to upgrade their display to 4K are that, for games whose developers have opted to enhance their titles, games that render at 4K are automatically supersampled to 1080p, resulting in “high quality antialiasing, better textures, and richer environments,” along with, where applicable, “faster loading times, improved texture filtering, and better framerates.”
From my time with the system, I have noticed some of these things, however, another interesting thing I’ve observed was that Gears of War 4, with the Xbox One X Enhancements installed on both the X and S, resulted in an ever so slightly longer load time on the X.
My guess is that it’s due supersampled assets. When testing other games like Assassin’s Creed Origins, and Halo 5: Guardians (pre-X1X update), the load times did appear to be a few seconds faster on the X, and both the colours, textures, and framerates were noticeably better. I particularly liked the reduced feathering on the ACO character models, and the richer colours in Halo 5 – again when testing on my 1080p TV.
Moving over to my 4K TV and the difference was night and day. For both the non-4K updated titles, and those that had them, I was instantly blown away with the quality I was seeing. The colours were so bright, vibrant, rich, and beautiful that I’m honestly not sure if I can go back to playing on my old TV without constantly seeing a washed-out colour range that “wasn’t” there before. It was like I had been playing games with a filter on for my entire life, and now that the 4K UHD colours had ripped this film off my eyes, it was impossible to not see the poorer quality. I’m ruined, and it’s great.
With regard to the kind of quality gamers can expect, I’d compare it to the different graphical settings on PC. The original Xbox One is like playing your new games on Low, the Xbox One S, with it’s HDR gaming, is akin to playing on Medium, leaving the Xbox One X, with its horsepower and 4K UHD HDR gaming, as the equivalent of playing on High.
Keeping the comparison going, just so you have an idea of what you’d be getting, PC gaming runs the entire Low-to-High gamut, but also have the ability to go up to Ultra and beyond – so rest assured, if you’ve spent a bazillion dollars building the ultimate gaming rig, know that you’ll likely still have the best looking and running version of your games. However, if you want to save yourself some (or quite a bit of) coin, then the Xbox One X is a damn fine alternative for that smooth 4K gaming fix.
Diving in for a bit more detail: Opening the box you’ll find the black 1TB Xbox One X console, a black Xbox One wireless controller, a high-speed HDMI cable (necessary for 4K content), the power cable, and a 1 Month Xbox Game Pass Subscription. At the time of writing this review, there are about 12 games that have their 4K game assets, or some form of Xbox One X Enhancement available for download, with around 150 more either coming soon, or being worked on for the future.
Just because a game receives an Xbox One X Enhanced update, doesn’t mean that all updates are the same. There are several types of enhancements, and any game listed under the enhancements filter in the My Games & Apps area could have one or more of these features. First there is “4K Ultra HD”, which means a game will have a 2160p frame buffer output. Next is HDR, which means the game supports the High Dynamic Range, or HDR10 standard (resulting in a higher contrast ratio between lights and darks). Finally, there is the more generalized heading of “Xbox One X Enhanced”, which simply means that the developer has updated their game in some way to take advantage of the extra power – keeping in mind that specific enhancements could and will vary by game.
Continue reading on page 2.