Microsoft boasts a "50 percent faster" hard drive on Xbox One X, over standard models. But what does this actually mean in real-world scenarios?

Xbox One X, Microsoft's latest video games console, has been seemingly off to a strong start across the globe. Promising the hardware to drive a premium gaming experience, 4K resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and improved framerates are all among the console's capabilities, entering the market as the most powerful console to date.

While the Xbox One X's advances are almost exclusively visual, the console has also been marketed to deliver shorter loading times. Microsoft attributes these gains to an improved storage setup under the hood, boasting an "up to 50 percent" increase in hard disk drive (HDD) bandwidth over the standard Xbox One X. While the 1TB drive at 5,400 revolutions-per-minute (RPM) isn't dissimilar from those in previous Xbox One consoles, various enhancements ensure the device fully leverages the drive's speed. Combined with significant leaps in CPU and GPU capabilities, improved loading times are a welcome by-product of this hardware leap.

Putting the Xbox One X to the test

With these claims in mind, we set out to test a limited range of games on the Xbox One X and Xbox One S, to see how these changes realistically translate between different game engines and genres. Using the internal drives of the two consoles, we looked to see how these claims stack up and whether the benefits are a worthy selling point.

To test games between the two devices, we attempted to create near-identical conditions on both consoles. While variations in game design meant that securing a consistent loading screen is challenging, we found points across chosen titles to capture comparable results. Precautions were also taken to restart games between recording times, to prevent cached data from drastically skewing results. After collecting 10 loads per game on both devices, results were compiled into a more consumable format.

How our favorites stack up on Xbox One X

The first of our titles trialed was Forza Motorsport 7, a game developed in-house by a Microsoft-owned developer, Turn 10 Studios. As one of its flagship franchises, the game's "ForzaTech" engine has been built up with Xbox One X in mind – and was even used to showcase the console's capabilities a while back under the "Project Scorpio" codename. With native 4K, consistent 60 frames-per-second (FPS) and other visual enhancements on Xbox One X, it's clear the game and console share a close bond.

Console Minimum time (s) Max time (s) Average time (s)
Xbox One X 44.1 46.9 46.0
Xbox One S 57.8 64.7 61.2

Forza Motorsport 7 load times on Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S.

During our testing, we found Forza Motorsport 7 saw significantly reduced load times when played on Xbox One X. In some cases, the Xbox One X version was cutting loading times by a third, all while loading improved assets on the console. Even the Xbox One S's quickest load time failed to catch the Xbox One X at its slowest, drawing the gap in these two devices. The optimization for Xbox One X has clearly paid off, delivering shorter load times without comprising on visual upgrades.

Moving onto recent third-party game releases, we chose three games developed with the Xbox One X in mind – Assassin's Creed Origins, Call of Duty: WWII and Star Wars Battlefront II. Each of these is powered by in-house game engines developed by their respective publishers, which provides a better sense at how the vast majority of triple-A titles may fair on Xbox One X.

Console Minimum time (s) Max time (s) Average time (s)
Xbox One X 39.5 51.0 43.6
Xbox One S 46.3 54.9 48.7

Assassin's Creed Origins load times on Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S.

Console Minimum time (s) Max time (s) Average time (s)
Xbox One X 24.4 30.8 25.8
Xbox One S 29.3 42.4 32.6

Call of Duty: WWII load times on Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S.

Console Minimum time (s) Max time (s) Average time (s)
Xbox One X 54.0 56.7 55.1
Xbox One S 59.9 64.3 62.3

Star Wars Battlefront II load times on Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S.

Between all three titles, we did see gains, however, only minor benefits on average across single-player activities. These cuts are welcome on top of Xbox One X enhancements, though their effect on the experience is realistically negligible. You'll be consistently knocking a few seconds off loading times by playing on Xbox One X, though ultimately there's little benefit — especially not $499 of value.

One of the most impressive titles throughout our testing was Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V), a game notorious for its excessive loading times on other platforms. With a seamless open world absent of loading once in-game, first starting the game often comes with a longer wait. From start-up to Story Mode, GTA V showed the largest gain, both proportionally and in raw time.

Console Minimum time (s) Max time (s) Average time (s)
Xbox One X 52.3 59.3 54.4
Xbox One S 99.9 107.5 102.3

Grand Theft Auto V load times on Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S.

On average the initial start-up time was 47 percent shorter — a figure that closely backs up Microsoft's marketing claims. Especially when GTA V doesn't have Xbox One X upgrades, without the additional data of 4K assets to load, this is a showcase of how some games still see noticeable benefits simply running on the hardware. While inconsistencies in networking made it harder to accurately measure GTA Online load times, these also reduce on Xbox One X.

Our most interesting find was when revisiting a few Xbox 360 titles, being played via the Xbox One's backward compatibility capabilities. Halo 3 was among our most tested titles, which is one the seven titles recently "enhanced" for the Xbox One X. However, to our surprise, the game took longer to load on average, when on Xbox One X.

Console Minimum time (s) Max time (s) Average time (s)
Xbox One X 40.4 50.3 44.3
Xbox One S 39.2 42.6 40.6

Halo 3 load times via backward compatibility on Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S.

It currently unclear what causes this minor increase in loading times on Xbox One, though is likely linked to the various upgrades in place for the system. Microsoft made minor software modifications to the Xbox 360 emulator to put these upgrades in place, essentially tricking the game to run at a higher than intended resolution. Halo 3, nor its engine were even built with Xbox One X support in mind, which could contribute toward this extended loading period. Briefly testing other Xbox 360 games shows a trend doesn't appear to be in place – it just proves that not everything is perfect for the Xbox One X.

While the gains in loading times may not be revolutionary, the Xbox One X does live up to the promise of delivering improvements across most titles. Though these improvements may be minor at times, gains are still welcome, especially in conjunction with improved visual fidelity – and over hours of gameplay, these soon build up. It comes as no surprise that loading times won't sell the Xbox One X on its own, but still makes for another attractive aspect of an already promising package.

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