The Xbox One is a killer game console.
Not only is it a looker, but it’s a powerful little box — the Xbox One “S” model you see above is the new standard for the console, replacing the original box that launched in 2013. It plays the same games, but looks better, does more, and costs less.
And now, we’re on the cusp of yet another new Xbox: The Xbox One X, a $US500 ($AU653) system that boasts more horsepower than any home game console.
You may be wondering if it’s for you. It may very well be! But there’s a strong argument to be made for sticking with the far less expensive Xbox One and Xbox One S models.
The price difference between standard models of the Xbox One and the Xbox One X is $US250.
To be all the way clear, an Xbox One X costs double the price of a standard Xbox One S.
The Xbox One X is the cost of two brand-new Xbox One S consoles, to say nothing of refurbished models or bundles that come with free games. You could easily pay around $US200 for an Xbox One in slightly-used condition.
At $US500, the Xbox One X isn't a small step up in price -- it's a massive leap. You're paying for a huge bump in horsepower, no doubt, but it's no small price to pay.
If you're thinking about buying an Xbox One X, you're likely aware that it's a more powerful console than anything else available. That's a fact! The console, on paper, is an absolute beast.
In reality, though, using the Xbox One X is unidentifably different from using a standard Xbox One.
My standard Xbox One -- a near-launch model, before the redesigned 'S' model existed -- operates identically. The one difference is the Xbox One X's ability to play games in 4K/HDR. To this end, it's very impressive.
I bought this TV a few weeks ago. It's the top-rated 4K/HDR set from the best reviews publication out there. I even calibrated it! I went all in on 4K without spending thousands of dollars, which I'm told looks a bit better -- sorry videophiles, but I'm not shelling out for an OLED set.
Games on the Xbox One X do indeed look better in 4K with HDR lighting, but it's not that big of a graphical leap. I remember going from the original Nintendo to Super Nintendo, and being blown away. And then I remember going from 480p to 1080p -- the jump from so-called 'standard' definition TVs to 'high' definition. What a difference!
In my experience with the new console thus far, 4K and HDR gaming isn't that level of difference. Colours are more vibrant, and lighting is more complex, and there's more visual detail in every frame. Most importantly of all, the game still looks sharp even on a 55-inch TV.
But if you're expecting to be blown away, think again.
Though the Xbox One X has significantly more powerful internals than the Xbox One S and original Xbox One, that doesn't translate to a better user experience. The console is capable of powering gorgeous games at high framerates, yet the basic system navigation is as muddy as ever.
To be fair, a recent update to the Xbox One dashboard made basic use far more manageable. It's quicker than ever before, but still not as quick as the competition from Sony and Nintendo. There's a lag to everything that makes using the Xbox One X feel old -- something a brand new, $US500 console should not feel like.
It's especially stark compared with modern smartphones. I realise of course that it's an unfair comparison, but smartphones have changed what people expect from modern technology. That expectation is what makes the Xbox One X feel surprisingly old, even though it looks slick and powers bleeding-edge visuals.
Over time, more and more games will get updates that add 4K and HDR visuals. Right now, there just aren't that many.
I got the Xbox One X about a week ago, and since then a handful of games have been updated to run in 4K/HDR. More are on the way, but right now -- a few days ahead of the console's November 7 launch date -- the selection of 'Xbox One X Enhanced Games' is not massive.
The jump in horsepower also hastens load times for games, but I haven't noticed a dramatic difference.
If you want to watch Ultra HD Blu-ray discs of 'Planet Earth 2,' you can do that -- in glorious 4K/HDR -- with an Xbox One S. You can also stream 4K content from Netflix. The Xbox One S even 'upscales' games to 4K resolution.
The difference with the Xbox One X is there is no 'upscaling' -- essentially stretching an image to a higher resolution. Instead, it's powerful enough to process 4K and HDR directly. That's something that no other console can do, and it will likely make a difference in the long-term.
In a year or two, it wouldn't be surprising to see games that look significantly better on the Xbox One X. Currently, that isn't the case.
Have you seen 'Forza Horizon 3' on the Xbox One? Have you played it? It's an excellent game -- the best racing game available on any console, one could say.
I played it on a near-launch Xbox One, on a 720p, 42-inch Vizio HD TV from nearly a decade ago. It looked outrageous. Earlier this year, I did the same thing with 'Horizon Zero Dawn' on a PlayStation 4 from 2013. It also looked outrageous!
As it turns out, games look pretty freakin' great in 2017 -- whether they're in 1080p (HD) or 2160p (4K), they look really good. Unless you already own or are about to own a 4K/HDR-capable TV, it's hard to argue that the upgrade is worth it at this point.
In six months, or two years, when game developers have really figured out how to use that extra horsepower? We'll see. The games coming out now on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One -- consoles that launched way back in 2013 -- look significantly better than games from four years ago. It's more than likely that the Xbox One X will follow that same trajectory.
But right now, in 2017, it doesn't make a huge difference.
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