The Xbox One X launched just over a year ago, with Microsoft touting 4K visuals as its primary selling point. After using the console for a year alongside its cheaper, less-powerful older brother Xbox One S, how is the console performing with new games, platform updates, and beyond?
It's time for another look at the Xbox One X.
Is Xbox One X hardware still solid after a year?
I went through three Xbox 360 consoles owing to the dreaded Red Ring of Death, a fiasco which forced Microsoft to really take a long hard look at how it builds console hardware.
Microsoft's in-house hardware teams have grown in size and experience over the last decade or so, with Microsoft's Surface laptops being among the best in the world for build quality and reliability. I've personally owned almost every Surface model, and I never fail to be impressed. Luckily, that stellar hardware tradition seems to have extended to Xbox.
My OG Xbox One, despite some fairly hefty abuse, still works perfectly fine to this day, which is something you simply wouldn't be able to say about the Xbox 360. The Xbox One X, however, features a far smaller overall footprint, complete with the power supply baked directly into the console. With all of that raw 4K power squeezed into a comparatively small space, I'd be lying to say I didn't expect some form of complications down the line.
I am a heavy Xbox user and might have expected to see some degradation in the Xbox One X over time. So far, it runs just as well as the day I got it. It's quiet and stable, set upright in a vertical position on my desk, stoically ready to provide me with entertainment at a moment's notice.
The hardware might stand the test of time, but what about that OS?
Xbox One X dashboard took a step forward, a step back
The Xbox dashboard continues to be a bit of a pain point for many Xbox fans, owing to its speed, and abundance of algorithmic "suggested" content up front and center. Does the Xbox One X improve things at all? Yes ... and no.
The best things that have happened to the Xbox dashboard over the past year apply to both the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Microsoft has offered a fig leaf to disgruntled Kinect fans by allowing users to control their Xbox consoles using a connected Amazon Echo speaker. It works extremely well, too, allowing you to launch a game and power on your TV even when your console is in an off state. You can also use all the standard controls typical of Kinect now, such as media navigation, volume and TV commands via the Xbox One X's IR blaster, and much more.
The Xbox One dashboard has also undergone some changes since last year. It's still covered in "dynamic" suggested content all over the dashboard, which to me looks more like a load of ads than content you might actually be interested in. This makes the dashboard look frustratingly cluttered, especially when its giving me ads for games and services I already own.
Additionally, the dashboard now incorporates dedicated tabs for both Mixer and Xbox Game Pass. If you're a fan of those services they might prove useful, but if you have no intention of using them, it's annoying that you can't hide them or turn them off.
The Store has undergone some improvements, now allowing you to create wishlists, add games to a cart rather than picking them up one by one and also allowing you to gift games. Sadly, game gifting is region restricted (and, despite that, it doesn't do enough to warn you if you're gifting a game to someone in a region where they can't use it). It's all still a little slow too. When compared to the dashboard on the PlayStation 4, it's a little frustrating to see how sluggish and unresponsive the Xbox dashboard can be.
This is one area where the power of the Xbox One X hasn't been able to help, and it's at least in part due to the restrictions Microsoft placed on itself when it built the console's multi-OS approach. This is one area we hope the next Xbox can improve upon.
Microsoft and its partners delivered on Xbox One X 4K games
One of the primary areas of concern from my review last year revolved around whether or not Microsoft was actually going to be able to get developers to support the thing. Not only did they get devs to support it, Microsoft and the X vastly exceeded my expectations on the games front.
At launch, there was only a handful of titles that supported the Xbox One X and 4K, but a year later, that amount has exploded. Not only has the Xbox One X proven itself as a 4K product, it has outshone all other consoles to date, save for far more expensive PC gaming rigs.
In technical comparisons, the Xbox One X has come out on top every single time, pushing more detailed visuals, more stable frame rates, and better resolutions than competitors. More pixels lead to a sharper image, which not only creates a more immersive experience but can actually provide tactical advantages as well. That sneaky sniper that looks like a pixelated blob in the distance on your Xbox One S will be easier to discern on the Xbox One X.
Microsoft and the X vastly exceeded expectations on the games front.
Games like Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin's Creed Odyssey, and Forza Horizon 4 all showcase the console at its best, pushing extended draw distances, higher pixel counts, and boosted details. The awesome thing about the X, which few people expected, is that Microsoft is committing time to unlocking the potential in the compressed Xbox 360 versions of backward compatible games too. Fallout 3, Final Fantasy XIII, Red Dead Redemption, and many more almost look like full remasters, rather than simple ports. This is an unexpected added benefit and a welcome one.
Where Microsoft hasn't yet delivered is VR, which became completely absent from Redmond's Xbox One X pitch not long after its initial announcement. Microsoft isn't too keen on VR at the moment, instead experimenting on improving the overall experience before going all-in. Windows Mixed Reality has been decent, but it's hard to recommend strapping a bulky headset to your face, getting tangled up in cables and motion sickness, issues that haven't really been resolved. That said, if you want casual VR experiences, you have to jump over to PlayStation or PC for now.
So is it still worth buying an Xbox One X?
In a word, yes. The next Xbox consoles shouldn't be expected until 2020 at the absolute earliest, and even then, the Xbox One X will still be supported for a while after the fact. With Microsoft's emphasis on backward compatibility, you can pretty much guarantee all existing Xbox One content will work on future consoles, too, if you fancy building up a digital library of content right now.
The Xbox One X is the most powerful games console out there by a wide margin.
The next Xbox is highly unlikely to attempt to push resolutions past 4K, despite the fact that some manufacturers are already talking about 8K resolutions. The next Xbox is more likely to focus on improving frame rates and detail density at existing 4K resolutions.
The Xbox One X is the most powerful games console out there by a wide margin, and that remains true a year after launch. To get an equivalent gaming PC you're looking at well over $1500, and that is an extremely conservative estimate, one that omits things like the 4K Blu-ray drive and IR blaster if you're interested in watching movies. Of course, you can do way more with a Windows PC, but if you're just looking to game, you might find an Xbox One X preferable.
Perhaps the biggest issue surrounding the X (and the S) remains the lack of "exclusive" titles. PlayStation has the lion's share of high-quality photorealistic "mature" games, whereas Microsoft has spent its efforts in recent years building less ambitious titles. Redmond is investing "aggressively" in its exclusive game portfolio. But that might take a while to materialize.
Regardless, every major multi-platform title from heavy hitters like EA, Bethesda, Rockstar, and beyond, look and run better on an Xbox One X. If you want the best of console gaming today, you won't be disappointed with the One X
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