Hitting the spot
With Xbox One X, Microsoft turns the runt of the litter into the runaway leader of the pack
Xbox One X transforms the runt of the litter into leader of the pack
We just can’t get over how small it is. This is, as you might have heard since Microsoft’s been bellowing it from the rooftops for the best part of 18 months, the most powerful console ever made. Yet it is also the smallest system Microsoft has ever designed, representing a sea change in thinking from a company which has always wanted its hardware to stand out. The original Xbox was a beast; the 360, with its ostentatious curves, impossible to ignore. While sleeker than its predecessors, the launch Xbox One was designed to be noticed, reflecting its maker’s desire to have it power your entire home-entertainment setup. That mission failed, of course. And it’s been a long, rough road for the Xbox brand since. Yet it ends at Xbox One X, a console which, in many ways, feels impossible: for its power versus its size, for its lavish feature set, for its form factor. But most importantly, for the way it makes Xbox feel essential for the first time in half a decade.
There are caveats to that, inevitably. Most obviously, One X is only as good as the rest of your setup. While it offers benefits to those playing in 1080p – supersampling 4K assets to improve image quality, more stable framerates, a higher resolution for existing Xbox games that use a dynamic solution, and faster load times – the console is naturally at its best on a 4K, HDR-enabled panel. And it’s the latter that really matters. The leap from 1080p to 4K is noticeable, certainly, but it is in no way comparable to the way the scales fell from your eyes when you hooked up your first HDTV. If it’s that level of purchasevalidating sensation you’re after, you’ll need the wide colour gamut and vivid, retina-searing brightness of HDR.
The effect is astonishing, just as it is on PS4 Pro – yet here, you’re comfortable in the knowledge that it is being delivered, in almost every case, without compromise. Sony’s mid-gen upgrade has always felt like a half measure: it does not offer 4K, but 4K with an asterisk, a console that needs rendering shortcuts to help visually ambitious games fudge their way to max resolution. And despite pre-release leaks suggesting Sony was to mandate Pro support in all future PS4 games, it has by and large been left to firstparty studios to fly the flag for sortof-4K and HDR, with thirdparties left to pick and choose, and frequently setting themselves a low bar. Microsoft has done the same, understanding that developers will use the power available to them in different ways. How telling that the vast majority of available X-enhanced games run in native 4K and full 10-bit HDR.
The result is that, overnight, Microsoft has flipped the script, reversing a narrative that, traditionally, would have run for an entire console generation. Now, its box, not its rival’s, is the best place to play multiplatform games. While at the time of writing, two weeks before the console’s official release, only a
Most important is the way it makes Xbox feel essential for the first time in half a decade