Xbox One X Review in Progress

Posted November 3, 2017 by Sean Capri in Nerdy Bits

Xbox Canada kindly supplied We The Nerdy with a trial console for review. A few hours before press time, a large quantity of Xbox One X Enhanced updates were released that will not be included in this review. This writer currently has a Project Scorpio Edition Xbox One X pre-ordered.

The Xbox One X is undeniably the most powerful console ever made. It blurs the line between consoles and PC in terms of its iterative approach to hardware improvements. But in doing so, the X highlights just how much differently games are made for PC. Console games are made for a closed system and running extra power through them results in varying degrees of improvement, not always in direct correlation with the exponential output capacity enabled by the 2.3 GHz processor, 6-teraflop GPU, and 12GB high-speed GDDR5. In some cases, I really had to look closely for improvements while others were more obvious.

No Shame in X

Purely from a design perspective, the Xbox One X is a masterpiece. It is densely packed with power and exudes a true sense of modernity. There’s no need to hide this Xbox behind a couple game cases or in an entertainment cabinet – this is a piece of tech to behold and show off to friends and family. That, and the Xbox One X generates so much heat – and successfully evacuates it out the back – that I made a distinct effort to ensure proper ventilation at all times. Still, its Vapor Chamber Cooling system is whisper quite and shoots hot air out the back. This means pack rats and clutter bucks can (although I wouldn’t recommend) place items on top of the console without blocking important vents. Everything else about its design is familiarly Xbox One. Even the power cord is the same, which is a technical marvel in and of itself. If the power brick were ever to make a comeback it would’ve been with the Xbox One X. It may be safe to say that the power brick is gone for good.

Transferring games from my Xbox One S was made extremely simple thanks to my external hard drive connected to the rear-facing USB 3.0. Also, to compare games between the Xbox One X and Xbox One S, I was able to quickly transfer games back to my S via network transfer. I then played the same games, at the same time, on two different consoles, using two different user accounts – flipping between inputs for the Xbox One X and Xbox One S. My time was spent on a 40″ Samsumg MU6300 4K LED LCD TV (does not support HDR10 for gaming).

Game by Game Comparisons

Easily the most dramatic, and immediately noticeable graphic improvement was Gears of War 4. Rocketing from 30 to 60 fps in the campaign instantly makes for a recognizable, modern update and the additional details in the weather effects and character models compelled me to play more than just a few minutes to evaluate the visuals. The enhancements made me want to play through Gears of War 4 again – and I didn’t even like the campaign much – but that’s a conversation for another day. Start up and load times were marginally better on X but with such a massive impact on visuals, the trade-off is palatable.

Forza Motorsport 7 was already the graphical showboat on the original Xbox One so I wasn’t sure what to expect on Xbox One X. Note – at this time, Forza Motorsport 7 did not receive a Xbox One X Enhanced update so this comparison is an indicator, at best, for the level of improvements for other games that haven’t been given dedicated upgrades. Going from 1080p to 4K smoothed some jagged edges across car trunks, spoilers, and model edges that I frankly didn’t notice until going back and forth between the X and S. Shadows are relatively far too exaggerated on the S whereas the X explores that beautiful variety within the grays to illuminate more detail. The improvements are more pronounced while playing in cockpit view – so the observed improvements can depend on this player preference. Also, the S seems to drop a few frames depending on the action on the S while I never noticed a single dip on the X. Probably the most drastic improvement for Forza Motorsport 7 is the load times. The Xbox One X gets you racing literally twice as fast as the S (30 seconds on X; 58 seconds on S). This is the kind of enhancement that will keep me from getting distracted by my phone during various game intermissions.

For an older game, Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition holds up well on the Xbox One S thanks to its 1080p 60fps console port from the PC. And while it still looks like an old game on the Xbox One X, various environmental effects such as fog, lighting, flames, and explosions are noticeably smoother and look more naturally occurring than on the Xbox One S. Admittedly, both look good. Comparing Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition illustrates how some older, already aging games can only be enhanced to a certain degree. In other words, even with six teraflops, the Xbox One X isn’t necessarily going to save your favorite ugly games by any stretch of the imagination [this is not meant to imply that Diablo 3 is ugly].

Another Console Launch

Most consoles launch with a handful of new games and no backwards compatibility to flesh out the launch window’s shortcomings. Xbox One fans who already have a library of games can jump right in to this brand new console without leaving their old games behind. Meanwhile, players who’ve taken some time away from the Xbox ecosystem can explore a vast library of games, should the Xbox One X be their first Microsoft console of the generation. While this may seem common knowledge at this stage, Microsoft deserves recognition for essentially launching a brand new console without alienating its dedicated fans. In fact, this launch has me wondering what makes a console. The DNA, or software, draws a connection but the hardware is drastically different from the 2013 Xbox One. It’s arguably as different as the Xbox One was to the Xbox 360. Processor, GPU, RAM amount and type, cooling system, and so on. The internal organs are so drastically different on this, it occurred to me that the Xbox One X is actually a next-generation console with full backwards compatibility for Xbox One. All generations of Xbox require the game to be downloaded or otherwise installed directly on the hard drive and I would argue that Microsoft has made backwards compatibility so seamless that the Xbox One X is, in a way, performing backwards compatibility for the Xbox One and paving the way for what’s next. But I digress.

Ultimately, the number of titles with Xbox One X Enhanced updates is limited at this time – making this feel even more like a typical console launch. However, with 50-70 updates scheduled for the first two weeks of its launch, the Xbox One X left me with little to really sink my teeth into but quite a lot to look forward to in November. These updates make a noticeable difference but with some already hear, some on the way in the near future, and others – such as Halo: The Master Chief Collection – coming sometime in 2018, it feels a bit spotty.

Buying the Xbox One X means learning a new language. You must be fluent in TV specs and how different manufacturers brand their versions of HDR and 10-bit color. You also should bookmark the continuously updated list of Xbox One X Enhanced games and sort your games library to show the latest updated. I spent an inordinate amount of time downloading updates and checking on the status for new updates all week. This isn’t anything extraordinarily difficult or time consuming but it’s an added dynamic that console gamers haven’t typically had to worry about in the past. Check back on this review for Xbox One X Enhanced file sizes because this reviewer is likely considering a larger, or second external hard drive to adjust to the storage requirements thanks to the substantial 4K updates. Fans considering the Xbox One X should keep this in mind as the 1TB internal drive, much like the 500GB drive on the original Xbox One S, is simply not enough to withstand most gamers’ libraries with 4K updates as large as 100GB+ (Quantum Break).

Final Thoughts [For Now]

Without getting into what this means for Xbox or if it will inspire sales, spark new creativity for unique IPs or console exclusive games, the Xbox One X is pure power. Packing so much power into such a confined space, the Xbox One X is a master class of industrial design that shows few, if any, signs of compromise. The complications arise from the new set of variables introduced by this mid-cycle iteration. Visual enhancements vary from game to game and certainly from display to display. That means gamers with different TVs will have different experiences and further to that, the types of games you play also impact the value gained from its power. In some cases, visual enhancements were, subjectively, nominal (Diablo 3, Assassin’s Creed: Origins).

This is a review in progress. We The Nerdy has recognized how drastically the gaming experience on the Xbox One X has changed since receiving its review console from Xbox Canada last week. With many titles receiving updates while this article is being written, a score and final recommendation will be withheld until the Xbox One X launches on November 7.

Stay tuned for more Xbox One S to Xbox One X comparisons, future PS4 to Xbox One X multi-platform, third-party game comparisons, and more details on enhancements experienced on 1080p displays.

About the Author

Sean Capri

I am a beady-eyed Canadian. I play video games and feed/walk my three dogs.