Xbox One X Console Review
A look at Microsoft's newest console, the Xbox One X, including what you get for your money and what it takes to set it up.
The Xbox One X is Microsoft's newest game console, and with it comes full 4K HDR support for Xbox gaming. This article will take a look at the console and what it takes to install it, both for existing Xbox owners and those new to the console.
The Xbox One X packs a lot of power under the hood, so even if you don't have a 4K TV you'll see benefits from the console such as faster load times and higher frame rates. The graphics hardware is capable of 6 teraflops, or 6 trillion floating point operations per second, which is as fast as it sounds. Paired with 12GB of high-speed GDDR5 graphics memory and you've got a console that is quite comfortable running games at 4K UHD resolution at 60 frames per second.
Inside the Xbox One X box you'll find the console, power cord, an HDMI cable, a game controller and batteries for it. The Xbox One X gets rid of the power brick that came with older Xbox Ones which makes it easier to run the power cable to an outlet. The Xbox One X also gets rid of the built-in Kinect port, so if you're upgrading from an Xbox One you won't be able to use your Kinect any more unless you purchase this USB adaptor. Making matters worse, it's expensive and you'll need another outlet for its power cord. Also, the Xbox One X comes with only two USB ports on the rear panel so you'll be giving up one of those for your Kinect. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but if you're going to be plugging in two external hard drives (more on why you'll want to do that in a bit) you're going to be a port short. Now there's a single port on the front of the console, but using that for an extra hard drive will mean that you lose the port that you'll want to keep open for things like Skylanders or LEGO Dimensions portals. To open up more ports on the back, I picked up a USB hub. If you do so, make sure that it is a USB 3.0 powered hub like this one.
If you're moving to an Xbox One X from another Xbox console and you don't have an external hard drive, now might be a good time to get one. First, you'll probably want the extra storage. The Xbox One X comes with a 1TB internal hard drive which may sound like plenty of storage at first, but the system will take almost a quarter of that, leaving you with less than 800GB of storage. Games that include 4K and HDR support, which is the reason for upgrading to an Xbox One X in the first place, can take up to 90GB each leaving you with space for about ten games. The other reason you'll want to have an external hard drive is because it will make moving to the new console really easy. Just back up your system information to the external drive (Settings -> System -> Backup & Transfer -> Back up my settings) and have it plugged into your new console when you start it up for the first time and you'll be ready to go in moments. If you pick up an external drive, make sure that it is a USB 3.0 drive. The Xbox One X will support up to two external drives with a combined total of 16TB of max storage. I use this drive on my system because it offers a good amount of storage for the money.
If you hook up your console straight to your TV, then the HDMI cable that comes in the box is all you need. If you're going to run the console into a receiver, then you've got two things to be concerned about. First, you need to be sure that your receiver supports 4K Ultra HD. If it doesn't, you'll still get a picture, but you'll miss out on an Ultra HD picture. The next thing you'll need are HDMI cables that are 4K UHD HDMI 2.0 ready and support 18Gbps throughput. I used these cables with my system. If you don't use HDMI cables that are 4K capable, again you'll still get a picture but it won't be 4K UHD. The theme here is that everything on the chain from your console to your TV has to support HDMI 2.0 and be 4K UHD compatible or you won't get a 4K picture, and in some cases no picture at all. This includes cables, ports, and any switchboxes that you use.
Once you have everything hooked up and have turned on and either set-up your new Xbox One X as a new console or transferred your settings from your hard drive, you still might not be ready to game in 4K. If you have automatic updates enabled, then your console will start downloading 4K updates for any games that you own that support 4K and/or HDR color. If you don't have automatic updates enabled, you probably want to do that so that your console can do all the work of figuring out which games support 4K for you and update them automatically (System -> Updates -> Games & apps). Next you will need to ensure that HDMI 2.0/4K mode is enabled for the ports that you are using on your receiver and TV. These settings will vary depending on brand and model, but don't assume that everything is ready to go out of the box. I had to manually enable HDMI UHD Color support for the HDMI port I was using to connect to the TV, an option that was in the expert picture settings menu.
Once you think that everything is set, you can verify your setup on your Xbox One X console. Go to Settings -> Display & sound -> Video output -> Advanced video settings. Ensure that the Allow 4K and Allow HDR settings are both checked and then select 4K TV Details. You should see a green check next to each supported mode. If you don't and you're sure that your TV supports 4K UHD and HDR color, then you missed a setting on your TV (and/or receiver) or you're not using HDMI 2.0 cables. Consult the manual for your TV to verify that you have all the right settings enabled and then return to the 4K TV Details screen to verify any changes. TVs should make this easier, but unfortunately that's not really the case.
The first thing you should do once everything is hooked up and checks out is to go to the Xbox Store and download the free Insects demo. This demo has a video sequence of ladybugs in a field of flowers that will let you see the difference that 4K resolution and HDR color make in games. You can toggle 4K and HDR support independently at any time, or split the screen in half with different settings on each. The extra resolution and color depth make a remarkable difference and this is a really good way to see what you've gotten in terms of gaming graphics for your upgrade. The Insects demo isn't something that you'll keep coming back to, but it is something that you'll be able to show to friends who are deciding whether or not to upgrade to 4K UHD gaming.
As for games, you can find a full list of those that support UHD and HDR gaming here. The support that you'll see will vary by game, especially since most of these games were given enhanced patches after their release. Generally, you can expect most of these games to support increased draw distances, those marked as 4K Ultra HD to feature sharper graphics and those marked as HDR to feature an enhanced range of colors. I tested a variety of Xbox One enhanced games and the improvements in some games were more noticeable than in others (I had previously played all of the games on a Day One Xbox One console and an HD TV for comparison). If you're looking for the game that's available now that best shows off the capabilities of 4K UHD HDR gaming, that game is Forza Motorsport 7. Run a race through a rainstorm at dusk and you'll be lucky to finish the race because you'll be completely distracted by how incredible everything looks, from the cars up to the clouds in the sky. This is a game that truly shows off what 4K gaming is all about and that will make you excited about the games still to come to Xbox One X.
The Xbox One X will also play UHD Blu-ray movies as well as games. To see what UHD video is like on an Xbox One X, I chose to watch Planet Earth II. The scenery in the episodes on this Blu-ray was simply jaw-dropping ' it was like looking out a window at real landscapes. The level of detail is amazing, too, you can actually see the individual hairs on the animals as they walk by the camera. 4K video is also available from streaming services as Netflix and Amazon video which you can run as apps on the console. After watching video in 4K UHD, it's going to be hard to watch regular HD ever again.
Overall, I've had a really good experience with the Xbox One X console. I wish that it included a Kinect port, but its absence is a good indication that there won't be anything new coming for the Kinect in the future anyway. A larger hard disk is needed and more USB ports would be convenient as well. Setting your system up for 4K UHD and HDR support may take a little work, but that's a factor that's outside of the console's domain ' enabling 4K on the console itself is rather simple, and if you have automated game updates enabled it will even know which games to update to their 4K versions. All of the setup work that you do will be worth it, as the Xbox One X delivers 4K gaming and video in spectacular fashion. I'm really looking forward to what will be coming to 4K gaming in 2018 and beyond.
Transmitted: 2/18/2018 12:45:34 PM