The self-proclaimed "world’s most powerful console" has been around for more than a year now and, while it is still the world's most expensive too, has matured into a very fine games machine.

It is the only console on the market that consistently presents games in native 4K HDR and, considering the rapid growth of Ultra HD TV adoption, its potential user base has never been higher.

There are a couple of hurdles, however. Its main rival, the PS4 Pro, is also pitched as an ideal companion to a 4K TV yet significantly cheaper. And then there is the Xbox One S at less than half the price.

So, no matter how powerful, does the Xbox One X justify its hearty price tag? Or should be casting your gaze towards less expensive alternatives?

Design and connections

  • Measures: 300 x 240 x 60mm
  • Weighs: 3.81kg
  • HDMI 2.0 output (to get HDMI 2.1 update)
  • HDCP 2.2 support
  • Three USB 3.0 ports
  • Ethernet and dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac)

Even though Xbox's flagship console has far greater processing power than the Xbox One S, in both CPU and GPU, and will technically generate more heat, it is in a smaller box than its predecessor. It is the smallest Xbox One ever, in fact, and nicely tucks away into an AV cabinet.

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You can stand it on its end, with an optional vertical base, but we prefer it as a stealthy in-cabinet device. Being black, it also better hides from view in comparison to a bright white One S.

On the rear there is a HDMI 2.0 output (with HDCP 2.2 support so it can handle the latest 4K content without limitations) plus a HDMI 1.4 input to put your Virgin Media or Sky+ box through the console – just as before. This enables the Xbox One X to be the central hub of your home entertainment thanks to the built-in OneGuide electronic programme guide (EPG). Unfortunately, it still doesn't seem to work with the Sky Q box, nor 4K content from other devices, but there are still some out there who might want to plug their set-top-boxes into it.

Three USB 3.0 ports are on offer for connection to an external hard drive or two, or a keyboard. Ethernet internet connectivity is offered alongside dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac).

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The machine is compatible with all former Xbox One accessories, including older controllers. You get one of the new ones with more stable connectivity in the box though, which is in the same colour as the console itself (usually black, but white if you buy a special edition Xbox One X).

Serious specification

  • Custom CPU @ 2.3GHz, 8 cores
  • Custom GPU @ 1.172GHz, 40 CUs, 6TF
  • 12GB GDDR5 RAM
  • 1TB HDD

The magic behind the Xbox One X really happens inside rather than outside the box. Its nearest rival is the PS4 Pro, as previously mentioned, but the One X is considerably higher specced. It has six teraflops of processing power on its graphics SoC, in comparison with the PlayStation's 4.2. And the One X's octa-core CPU runs faster at 2.3GHz over the Pro's 2.1GHz.

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In normal terms, this means the flagship Xbox is more capable at running games at native 4K resolution, even up to 60 frames per second. There have been many examples over the last year of developers reaching full Ultra HD visuals without dynamic scaling, often when the PS4 Pro equivalent doesn't. Red Dead Redemption 2 is one of those that looks considerably better on the One X.

The CPU offers the added benefit of all-round faster speeds too, with the user interface, loading times and general operation. In comparison to an Xbox One S, you will immediately experience speedier access to games and apps. Even the menus zip along quicker, getting you to the Xbox Store, for example, in less time. The One S isn't a slouch – certainly in comparison with the original Xbox One – but the X is just so much faster to use.

We have also ran our Xbox One X for many hours at a time, playing graphical intensive games, and haven't noticed heating issues at all.

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In short, this is a very highly specced machine – almost on a par with a hand-built PC gaming rig – yet which still works and runs like a home games console. That's very impressive and is of huge benefit to lounge and bedroom gaming – especially if you match it with a quality 4K HDR TV.

Entertainment on tap

  • 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player
  • Dolby Atmos support for games and films
  • Netflix in 4K HDR and Dolby Vision
  • Amazon Prime Video in 4K HDR
  • HDR10 compatible

Before we get to the games themselves, it's worth noting that the Xbox One X is by far and away the most rounded, most capable entertainment machine available.

Microsoft moved somewhat away from the "home entertainment hub" marketing it employed before the launch of the original Xbox One, realising that the target audience was mostly interested in its gaming prowess. But, thanks to the improved tech under the hood, the Xbox One X is a console that can once again be seen as an all-in-one solution.

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The company added 4K HDR streaming and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player to the Xbox One family with the One S last year, but the One X by far and away does all of that even better.

Amazon Prime Video and Netflix apps are available, both offering 4K HDR video shows and movies where available and, while they also do so on the One S, the speed of the processing matters on the X. Not only is the experience of wading through either app smoother and quicker, the adaptive video streams adopted by both jump into their Ultra HD formats faster. You still need capable broadband, of course, but, in our experience, the console outperforms our TV's built-in equivalent smart applications, which is impressive considering we use an LG 65-inch 4K HDR OLED with webOS 3.0. 

Since launch, Dolby Vision was also added to the mix, which means compatible Netflix shows and films adopt it if you have a supporting TV. Sadly, early LG OLED TVs, such as ours listed above, do not - even though they are Dolby Vision sets - but many others do.

Also, Dolby Vision is so far restricted to Netflix. We await the tech being adopted for 4K Blu-rays too, but that is surely only a matter of time. HDR10 is a very capable alternative, however.

Dolby Atmos audio support is more universally available, thankfully, which many 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays offer. If you have a Dolby Atmos surround sound system or soundbar then you'll get the extra height channels support through the Xbox One X. You just need to download the Dolby Access application.

It will also add Dolby Atmos support for certain games, with the list expanding over time. And if you pay a one-off fee, you can also use virtual Dolby Atmos over a pair of headphones.

4K Blu-ray playback is enhanced generally on the Xbox One X. The discs take a fraction of the time to load when compared to the One S and, indeed, some that fail to start at all on the older machine now do so without fuss. They also seem to sport better pictures, with less artefacts on screen. We can't be sure if it is the new GPU or just better handling of the Blu-ray emulation software, but movies definitely look better in our opinion.

The app was even updated after launch to provide more solid picture performance, and we've been thoroughly impressed no matter what disc we spin.

As we're still waiting for Dolby Vision to hit 4K Blu-ray playback, it's not yet a bone fide alternative to a dedicated deck for an AV enthusiast. But considering the main rival console won't even spin Ultra HD Blu-rays, it's hard to grumble too much. And when it does, it will surely be on a home cinema fan's radar.

The games

  • Up to 2160p @ 60Hz support for games
  • Xbox Live needed for online play
  • Xbox backward compatibility now includes original Xbox games 

Of course, the Xbox One X's main raison d'être is to play games – and to play games very well.

There is an ever-growing library of enhanced games - even some Xbox 360 games are enhanced through backward compatibility - and you really can tell the difference between the same games running on Xbox One X and the One S.

Some of the enhancements are resolution, some HDR. There are many that also adopt both and they are, on the whole, truly stunning. Forza Horizon 4, for example, has particularly spectacular 4K HDR graphics.

It runs in 4K and at 60 frames per second, which is a highly impressive feat and leaves you awestruck at times, especially when the dynamic weather effects and rain kicks in. It shows just how capable the One X is and releases seem to be getting even more ambitious all the time.

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We also like that fact that, in some instances you can also forsake the 4K visuals for a better frame rate.

Even some of the backward compatible Xbox 360 games benefit from this, with higher frame rates and dynamic resolution scaling showing them at their very best. Often better than they've ever looked before.

It really is a joy to see an enhanced game pop up in your library, whether it is an Xbox One title or otherwise - you are guaranteed a visual feast at the very least.

Verdict

Somebody said to us that the games industry is akin to the smartphone market these days. Mid-generation upgrades are similar to phone replacements in that they tweak rather than completely overhaul the former model. And that's the case with the Xbox One X.

In all aspects, it is an Xbox One. It has the same user interface as the One S and is, therefore, both familiar and possibly less exciting to those upgrading from a standard version. But, with an expansive enhanced games library and better 4K Blu-ray and video streaming performance, it is becoming more compelling by the day.

It is still pricey, even today, and the cost needs to come down for wider adoption, but the Xbox One X undoubtedly provides the best console gaming experience available right now. And for the immediate future at least.


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