- Incredible performance
- Surprisingly compact
- 4K home cinema functionality
- Paid multiplayer
Microsoft’s latest Xbox One X console is an absolute beast, packing beefy specs for proper 4K HDR-ready gaming, as well as providing a complete and powerful home cinema experience. Here’s our in-depth Xbox One X review after using it as our full-time games machine and entertainment streamer.
While the Xbox One family is now four years old, Microsoft’s console has never seemed so fresh - or so essential a purchase for gamers and media lovers. That’s because this versatile black box has been refreshed again, in the form of the super-powered Xbox One X, which has arrived just in time for Christmas 2017.
The One X is a big step up from the existing One S, with the major change being full support for Ultra HD 4K gaming. The One S could play 4K Blu-rays and stream a bit of Ultra HD Netflix, but graphics while gaming maxed out at Full HD. You also get HDR visuals with this new device, for realistic colour reproduction and stunning contrast.
So is the Xbox One X really the must-have home entertainment system that those specs imply? We’ve spent the past week on the sofa testing it out and here’s our full thoughts.
Xbox One X review: Design and connectivity
From the outside, the One X doesn’t look much different to the existing One S console. Unsurprising for sure, and certainly not disagreeable, especially considering the extra smarts packed inside.
Microsoft’s big black box is exactly that. There’s not much in the way of frills or design language and even branding is kept to a minimum. If it wasn’t for the dinky Xbox icon on the front edge, which doubles as a power button, you’d struggle to tell what the device actually was. It’s a reasonably hefty fella too, although considering exactly what’s packed inside, we’re surprised at how compact the end result is. It’ll take up a bit of space in your home entertainment centre, for sure, but that liquid cooling tech clearly does an excellent job of removing any excess bulk.
The One X is designed to be laid flat as standard, although can also be propped up vertically using Microsoft’s stand, which is sold separately. Of course, the traditional method will suit a lot of standard home setups, with open drawers.
The left and right edges of the One X are formed of a metal grille, which allow you to peek a little ways into the console’s innards. Up front you get the Blu-ray slot, as well as a USB 3.0 port for connecting a controller or external drive. Meanwhile the majority of the back end is a vent, to allow the hot air to escape, while also allowing space for the rest of the ports.
Two additional USB connections can be found around the rear end, along with your usual array of A/V outputs. There’s an HDMI 1.4b in as well as an HDMI 2.0b out, so you can connect a streaming device to access directly through the One X’s menus - more on this later. You also have an S/PDIF audio output and Ethernet connection, if your WiFi isn’t strong enough for online gaming.
Sadly there are no Type-C USB ports, for super-fast data streaming.
Check out our Xbox One X unboxing to see what you get inside of the box and see more of the design.
Connectivity is certainly respectable, with a few USB ports for hooking up drives and peripherals, although we’d have liked Type-C support.
As you might expect from a super-powered console, the One X is quite a chunky monkey.
Xbox One X review: Setup and features
Setting up the One X is a pleasingly simple process. You’re led through with clear instructions, to sign in with your Microsoft or Skype account (or set up a new one if necessary) and get connected to your WiFi network. With that done, you’re pretty much ready to rock.
If you’re new to Xbox, the interface might appear a little overwhelming at first. However, get to know your way around and it soon makes sense, with separate sections for all of the main features.
You can jump straight into your recently played games from the home page, which also holds any pinned apps and other items for fast access. Navigate around and you’ll find a comprehensive store page, displaying the latest releases, upcoming titles and stuff that’s on sale. For any Twitch and playthrough addicts, there’s also a ‘Mixer’ section with some of the latest live streams, while the Community section serves up a blend of news, trailers and your mates’ social shares.
As usual you can hook up with your gaming buddies and see who’s online for a quick bit of deathmatch. The People menu clearly shows who’s playing what at any given time, so you can leap into their game - or start a party and invite your mates to go on a raid, or go head to head in Fifa.
As usual, you have to pay to jump online with Xbox Live. However, a Live Gold membership (which costs from £5.99 per month) also serves up a handful of free Xbox One and 360 games each month, as chosen by Microsoft. These can be downloaded at any point during the month they’re available, for no cost. They’re then yours to play as much as you like, even after the month ends, as long as you remain an Xbox Live subscriber.
In our experience, these have been a decent little mix of titles. You can expect something to suit all tastes, from complex puzzle games to brainless arcade blasters. Gold users can also purchase a selection of older games at a special members-only discount, which is a good way of filling out your collection.
With 1TB of storage on board, you can download and install roughly 20 to 25 recent titles at the same time. There's also the option of hooking up external drives, to copy files on or off the console.
A quick and easy setup and feature-packed interface which offers up everything you could possibly need.
You still have to pay to get online and play games with mates.
Xbox One X review: Performance and graphics
This is where the One X really shines. Rattle off those specs and tech-minded folks will probably start dribbling, at the sheer power on offer. After all, as Microsoft is only too keen to point out, this mighty black box boasts ‘40 percent more power than any other console’, with visuals to rival even gaming PCs.
An 8-core 2.3GHz Custom AMD CPU runs the show here, backed by 8GB of RAM. That’s backed by a 6 Teraflop GPU, packing 12GB of GDDR5 VRAM. In other words, there’s enough grunt stuffed inside this new Xbox to pump out 60 frames-per-second Ultra HD visuals, for the ultimate living room gaming experience.
Needless to say, the results are truly stunning. Even games that aren’t yet 4K ready play with a silky smooth frame rate, at Full HD resolution. You’ll also get 1440p output if you connect to a supported monitor.
Right now, only a handful of games support 4K gaming on the One X, although that includes some massive franchises including Call of Duty, Tomb Raider, Forza and Gears of War. You can of course expect a massive catalogue of titles to get that much-warranted Ultra HD update in the very near future, including the likes of Wolfenstein 2, Destiny 2 and Assassin’s Creed Origins. Hopefully in time for the holidays.
Check out our guide to the best 4K Enchanced games for Xbox One X, which also shows you how to check if your favourite titles will be getting the Ultra HD treatment.
Despite the powerful chipsets packed inside, the One X never gets particularly hot. It’s certainly quite warm come the end of a lengthy gaming session, and we often had to shoo our resident cat away, as she tried to use the thing as a mini radiator. However, as long as you keep those vents clear, you shouldn’t have any issues with overheating.
Simply put, this is the ultimate gaming console right now, with future-proof features and incredible visuals.
The number of 4K games at launch is small, yet should at least expand quickly.
Xbox One X review: Media
As well as being a pretty damn good games console, the One X also has some pretty hefty media chops.
For a start, you can stream 4K HDR video over services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. That is, as long as you’re a premium Netflix subscriber or Amazon Prime member. If your telly can handle it, those Ultra HD visuals are absolutely stunning. HDR10 support means compatible TVs will also put out realistic colours and impressive contrast, too.
There’s a solid selection of media streaming apps available on the One X, giving you access to tens of thousands of movies, TV shows, songs and more. The main ones (Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Spotify, Now TV, YouTube, iPlayer) are present and correct, while the likes of Plex are also available to allow you to stream from your other devices.
You can also plug another streaming device into the console’s HDMI in port, to access its features through the One X’s interface. In our tests, this was a hit and miss affair. For instance, we tried connecting a Sky Q box and it worked as hoped, although the experience was occasionally juddery and we saw some little graphical glitches.
Most other streaming boxes such as the Amazon Fire TV 4K worked absolutely perfectly, however. No lag or visual glitches at all.
In the end, it’s not really a more convenient solution that simply switching the HDMI source on your TV - although if your telly has limited ports and you’ve run out, this is a handy little feature.
If you’d rather stick to good ol’ fashioned discs, the One X also comes equipped with a 4K compliant Blu-ray drive. You can therefore stock up on 4K HDR Blu-ray movies and play them via your console, with the same gorgeous visuals.
Dolby Atmos audio is also supported, as long as you grab the app from Microsoft’s online store.
Have a gander at our Xbox One X vs PS4 Pro comparison to see how these two mighty consoles stack up for home cinema smarts.
Strong support for online streaming services for video and music, plus a 4K HDR compatible Blu-ray drive.
Some issues when hooking up a Sky box via the Xbox.
Xbox One X review: Verdict
The Xbox One X is strong competition for the PS4 Pro, boasting impressive boundary-bashing performance, packed into a relatively compact chassis. For £449 you get a comprehensive entertainment machine, with future-proof gaming and media streaming functionality. Hook this thing up to your TV and you probably won’t want to leave the house for several months.