When it’s released in November, the Xbox One X is set to not only be Microsoft’s most powerful console ever, but the most powerful console on the entire market. It represents a big step forward in terms of the amount of graphical horsepower it’s packing and in the amount of detail in the images it can render.
Despite its power, however, the Xbox One X remains an Xbox One. When it launches it will not only be able to play all the Xbox One’s existing games, but will also receive no exclusive games of its own.
That’s right – every game released for the Xbox One X will run on the existing Xbox One just fine. Not only that, but all the same accessories – controllers, chatpads, headsets and the like – will all work across each system.
So, if Microsoft has created one big happy console family, what’s the purpose of upgrading to Xbox One X?
Well, Xbox One X will be the company’s first native 4K video game console and will have the ability not only to render games at a 3,840 x 2,160 resolution, but often run those games at 60 frames per second. That’s unlike the Xbox One S which can only render games at 1080p and then upscale them to 4K.
Xbox One X will also have a neat trick called Super Sampling, a way to make 1080p images look even better for those who aren’t ready to go full 4K yet. What Super Sampling does is scale down the 4K resolution for a 1080p screen, giving you some of the benefits of the better hardware – think texture improvements, faster framerates and improved image quality – but on your old 1080p TV. Super Sampling something the Xbox One X’s predecessor, the Xbox One S, was capable of, but it’s going to be taken to a whole new level on the Xbox One X.
The two other features that the Xbox One X will borrow from the Xbox One S are the ability to play games in HDR and a built-in 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray player – something that its main rival, the PS4 Pro, doesn’t offer.
If you’ve heard about Xbox One X in the past, you might’ve heard it called Project Scorpio. Project Scorpio was the codename Microsoft gave to the press at the 2016 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) to whet our appetites for the new console. To make matters slightly confusing, however, Microsoft has announced an Xbox One X Project Scorpio edition – but that’s just a limited-edition console and not its own separate entity.
Read on for all the information Microsoft has given about its new console, including its specs, games, and the latest information Microsoft has given on its console’s long-rumored (yet still unseen) VR support.
Cut to the chase
- What is it? A new 4K-equipped Xbox One
- When is it out? November 7, 2017
- What will it cost? $499 (£449, €499, CA$599 or AU$649)
Pre-orders for the Xbox One X
Pre-orders for the Xbox One X are back in stock right now. When pre-orders opened in September, they sold out in a matter of days, so if you want to be one of the first to get your hands on this top-of-the-range console when it comes out on November 7, don’t hang about.
For the latest details on Xbox One X pre-orders, be sure to keep an eye on our page. As of the time of writing, there isn’t any difference in pricing between retailers, but if that changes we’ll have information on that page so be sure to check it before committing to an order.
Xbox One X Design
When you hear the words “most powerful console on the planet”, you might think of a towering monstrosity the size of a PC case. In actuality, however, nothing could be further from the truth.
The Xbox One X is almost identical to the Xbox One S in appearance – a slim, sleek rectangular console the size of a cable box or a big Blu-ray player. Instead of the all-white exterior of the Xbox One S, however, the base model Xbox One X has a classy space grey finish.
The space grey might not be the first choice for most gamers – many of whom have grown up with the all-black facades of the original Xbox, PlayStation 2 or SEGA Genesis consoles – but the space grey should feel both subtle and fresh when it lands in living rooms. (If you’re absolutely against the space grey, however, check out the aforementioned of the console, which will be available in traditional black).
Of course, there’s more to a system than its color. Like Xbox One S, the One X looks to have two physical buttons: one in place of the touch-capacitive power button and one for the eject button on the face of the console. Beneath them, you’ll find an IR receiver on the left-hand side of the system and a USB port and controller syncing button on the right-hand side.
But the big difference – if you can even it call it big – is the shift of the drive from the front top section down to the very middle of the console. It might not make any difference when it comes to how the console actually works, but it does feel a bit more confusing for players handling the system for the first time.
To get all this power into a console this size, something needed to be cut. In this case it was the lesser-used dedicated Microsoft Kinect port. You can still use the face-reading, microphone-equipped camera should you like (Microsoft is firm about supporting the accessory long into the future) but to do so you will need an additional USB adaptor.
What’s powering Xbox One X?
So what exactly makes the system so dang powerful? Try 12GB of DDR5 memory, a custom octo-core CPU overclocked to 2.3GHz and a custom overclocked GPU with 40 CUs and a computational output of 6 Tflops. Those specs help align the Xbox One X with modern gaming computers and should help consoles keep pace with the ever-advancing PC hardware space. The amazing part? All of this power will come inside a shell that’s actually a bit smaller than the current Xbox One S.
Let’s take a closer look at the hardware itself, starting first with the GPU as that’s the main component enabling the Xbox One X’s crazy boost in power. Microsoft hasn’t given us the specific model sitting inside the Xbox One X, but we can safely assume it’s a custom component made for the system. Inside it, you’ll find 40 customized compute units clocked at 1172MHz. That works in conjunction with the upgraded 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and puts the card, on paper, close to the Nvidia Titan XP.
But before you jump on the PC Gamer forums to tell them how consoles have finally surpassed PCs in terms of value performance, just know that unlike a video card’s dedicated VRAM, the Xbox One X’s 12GB of RAM is split in between the system and the GPU, i.e. it’s not comparing apples to apples. The closest comparison for the Xbox One X’s GPU to a card you’d find in a PC is a AMD RX 580 or Nvidia GeForce GTX 1060 – but keep in mind that the Xbox One X has a tighter integration between system design and hardware that allow it to run at slightly higher speeds than either of those two cards.
On the CPU side of things, the Xbox One X is running a custom chip with eight Jaguar CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz. That’s a 76% increase compared the CPU inside the original Xbox One and Xbox One S, but probably only puts it in the ballpark of a current-gen Intel Core i3 processor. What that means is that you’ll probably see games that look as good on Xbox One X as they do on a low-to-mid-range gaming PC, but we’re still a ways away from Xbox outclassing custom-built gaming rigs.
The more important comparison for the Xbox One X, and the one Microsoft would rather you focus on, is to the PS4 Pro. Sony’s system is a fairly competent competitor – its GPU has 36 compute units at 911Mhz that work in tandem with a 2.1GHz CPU and 8GB of GDDR5 memory. That memory runs into a bit of a bottleneck at the buffer, which is limited to 218GB/s, but it still puts out around 4 Teraflops of performance.
What about ? The Xbox One X is definitely the most powerful of the bunch, and will trounce the original in nearly every way. The harder battle the One X will face is against its immediate predecessor, the Xbox One S. The One S is a system that offers upscaled 4K instead of native 4K, HDR and a 4K Blu-ray player. The two systems’ feature sets are similar, even if the hardware inside is radically different.
What’s your takeaway? The Xbox One X is a more powerful console than the PS4 Pro or the original Xbox One, and it’s by a relatively substantial margin, too. It’s still not as fast as your friend’s gaming rig, however, despite the additional 4GB of GDDR5 memory inside.
What does Enhanced for Xbox One X mean?
Hardware is wonderful, yes, but it’s easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees. The end-goal for Microsoft’s new high horsepower system is to play gorgeous games in 4K HDR – all without creating games that can only be played on the new hardware.
So if Microsoft isn’t creating new games for Xbox One X, what is it doing? It’s implementing a solution called “Enhanced for Xbox One X”, a broad marketing term that implies that the developers are tweaking a game for the more powerful hardware.
In practice, that means some games will have an all-new set of 4K textures that will make your game look more visually striking. For others, it may be that the game will now utilize High Dynamic Range technology to make colors more vivid and contrast more noticeable. It might also mean that games are optimized to run at higher or more stable frame rates – close to, if not exactly, 60 frames per second in some cases. Some games could very well offer all of the above and give you the option of picking which one is the most important to you.
Which games will get the update? According to Microsoft, all of the company’s first-party titles going forward will come with these enhancements right out of the box.
That said, older games are getting love, too, with titles like Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, Minecraft, Resident Evil 7, Final Fantasy 15, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands, Rocket League and dozens of other popular Xbox One games receiving free updates to take full advantage of the power of the Xbox One X when the system launches.
In total, the list of announced Xbox One X games has now grown to over 130 according to Microsoft.
So while we’re not getting new games entirely, we are getting some better-looking games in the future and a few visual improvements to games in the past. Neat! …Well, sort of.
The exact improvements made will vary on a title-by-title basis. Halo 5, for example, will feature enhanced textures and will render in 4K, but will not support HDR due to the amount of work such an upgrade would require, as explained by one developer on NeoGAF.
Interestingly, it looks like not every game will look at its best in 4K resolution. Digital Foundry has played through a segment from Rise of the Tomb Raider in both 4K and Full HD modes and found that in 4K the game suffered from some unfortunate framerate troubles. Granted, this is non-final code and so these issues might be resolved for the final patch, but it looks like we might end up having some hard decisions to make about resolutions and framerate compromises.
According to an interview with Xbox Chief Phil Spencer, Gamasutra reports that not every Xbox One game is required to support the new hardware. “So the Xbox One games are going to run on Scorpio,” Spencer said. “And when you ship an Xbox One game two years from now, even if you don’t look at Scorpio as something that you want to take advantage of, fine. That’s up to you. We’re not mandating that people go and do Scorpio-specific work.”
Not mandating that all games take advantage of the new hardware? That could be problematic.
So what’s going on with virtual reality?
When Microsoft first announced the new hardware – then codenamed Project Scorpio – at E3 2016, it made a big deal about how it would be a VR-capable machine.
However, as of October 2017 (one month before the console is due for release), we’re yet to see VR running on the machine, and Microsoft is still to outline exactly how the functionality will work.
Initially we assumed that the console would support one of the two big PC VR headsets, either the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive, but in the months since Microsoft has instead confirmed that the console will work with Windows 10’s upcoming ‘Mixed Reality’ headsets.
It’s all strangely nebulous at this point, a point further emphasized by a recent interview, in which a Microsoft spokesperson was unable to give a clear answer about what form the VR functionality of the console would take.
On PCs, Microsoft has said it will support a number of VR headsets. So far, companies like Acer, Dell and Intel have thrown their hats in the ring with headsets of their own, while Microsoft has quietly released developer units of its own Microsoft HoloLens out into the world for a cool $3,000 per unit.
Given how close the Xbox and Windows 10 platforms now are, we expect that these headsets will have similar functionality across both pieces of hardware.
For now, though, the specifics of Xbox’s virtual reality is a big ol’ question mark – a point we expect Sony to make a point of throughout the holiday season.