Microsoft - £449.99
Like the Xbox 360 before, and the PlayStation 2 before then, the PlayStation 4 has almost unanimously won this generation’s console battle. Why? Because Sony’s exquisite box was phenomenal from the get-go, featuring a smooth interface, more power, and — most importantly — some excellent console exclusives. The Xbox One has barely been able to compete.
However, that hasn’t stopped Microsoft giving their console one last go, revamping the whole system and pushing 4K support. Once known as Project Scorpio, the new console has finally been released onto the world under the title Xbox One X.
Competing against the PS4 Pro, the X costs an £100 more than Sony’s console, taking the total price to £450. For those extra pounds, gamers are treated to a more powerful processor, a few more teraflops of graphical power, and 12GB GDDR5 compared to 8GB GDDR5. In other words, Microsoft’s machine has a lot more power under the hood making 4K gaming all the better.
For many gamers, though, that won’t matter. How many people realistically own a 4K TV at the moment? Over here at The Independent, barely anyone has one. None of my friends do. So, what’s the point in upgrading without one? That question weighs even heavier when you consider there are zero X exclusive games — they’re all playable on the standard console. Again, what’s the point?
First off, the X runs exactly how the initial Xbox One should have. Whereas the first version had multiple problems, the X runs smoothly, intuitively, and quickly: loading times are down, the interface works well (finally!), and there’s no serious lag (minus one occasion when downloading five games while playing Destiny 2). Thanks to that extra power and an improved ventilating system, the X runs like an absolute dream, even for extensive play sessions.
Games that are X enhanced also look remarkably better. So far, reviewers have had free-reign on patched versions of Gears of War 4 and Halo 5, two already phenomenal looking games that looks even better on the upgraded console. Playing on a merely HD TV, they are both stunning, particularly Gears. Thanks to supersampling, the 1080p versions look better on X than other Xbox consoles, the textures having improved and more details being visible.
These updated games are a cut above the rest. The console’s power helps everything run smoothly, decreasing loading times and making switching between gameplay and the home menu much better. We eagerly await the roll-out of more enhanced patches. According to Microsoft, there will be over 70 available at launch. This piece will update where applicable when available.
Then there’s 4K play, the selling point for many potential buyers. Like how cinema-goers had to adjust to watching The Hobbit in cinemas due to increased frame-rate, playing the X on a 4K screen takes a few moments to adapt. As you would expect, everything pops at the higher resolution, the graphics looking excellent and the frame-rate barely dropping. Again, Gears 4 looks even better on a 4K screen (even if we had to borrow that 4K screen from a friend for the review). Really, to make the most out of the new console, you’ll need an improved TV.
One of the key problems to have arisen so far is the hard-drive size. The originally Xbox One only came with 500GB, which seemed relatively small at the time. Now, with something like Gears of War 4 taking up 100GB, a Terabyte hard-drive will be filled remarkably quickly. For those with slow Internet connection, updating these games will be a hassle, probably requiring you to leave the X on overnight. There’s also the dashboard, which — as mentioned above — has improved drastically since launch. Still, there’s Microsoft’s need to push the live-game streaming service ‘Mixer’ onto the world, something that’s completely unnecessary for most gamers.
Onto how the console looks. With a matt-black finish, the X looks great. The box also feels dense, being heavier than the PS4 Pro while feeling much sturdier. Size-wise, the X marks another drastic decrease on the chunky, original Xbox One. The new ventilating system, which uses a vapour chamber system, also means the console doesn’t make as much noise.
Thanks to these upgrades, the Xbox One X just about snatches the title of best console available on the market when considering the sheer power of the machine. However, you still have the issue of the Xbox One’s back-catalogue — unless you’re a Halo fan, there’s just no competing with the game’s available on PlayStation. Still, if you want the best experience playing Call of Duty: World War II on a console, look no further than the X. Whether that's worth the upgrade remains debatable.