Video games, fundamentally, are all about flash. Lifelike graphics, vivid sound, setpieces, fantastical worlds; it all has to look good, sound better, and play like a dream. The Xbox One X is fundamentally built with that in mind. But while it hits those marks, there are some issues in the day-to-day use of the box that trip it up.
We tested the Xbox One X in two settings, a large living room space with a 70″ 4K TV and Dolby Surround system, and a more conventional living room with a 32″ 1080p TV and sound bar. We also used a Turtle Beach headset as well as several Bluetooth headsets. Yes, the Xbox One finally supports Bluetooth. In terms of the actual playing, it’s basically your Xbox One, but moreso. The 4K experience, in particular, stood out; it felt, quite a bit, like the over-the-top experience you get at a demo kiosk or a gaming convention. Everything felt smooth, although admittedly beyond the graphics and sound, it was just like playing an Xbox One. More importantly, in the more “realistic” setting with the smaller TV, everything was smooth and effortless.
Our review unit came with an enormous pile of games and updates for existing titles, ranging from platformers like Super Lucky’s Tale and fighting games like Killer Instinct to Middle-Earth: Shadow Of War and Call Of Duty WWII. They all looked good, and when we fired up older titles like Hitman and the Halo Collection, we were pleasantly surprised by how smoothly they ran. But at the same time, playing the unenhanced and enhanced titles back to back, most of the adjustments were subtle. The Xbox One is mature technology, and most developers know how to get the most out of it already. Unless you care, deeply, about frame rates and resolution, you simply aren’t going to notice any enormous differences.
So the hardware is great, but hardware is only as good as the software, and there, the Xbox One X isn’t quite as smooth. The Xbox One has always just been a clunkier interface compared to other consoles, especially the PS4, and those issues appeared before we even fired up the One X. Transferring files from an Xbox One S to the Xbox One X was a chore, even with an officially licensed hard drive. The One S had to be updated before we could format the drive, and only then could we transfer. Unless you’ve done this before, you’ll likely be utterly lost.
But on the flip side, once the One X downloaded an update, we connected the drive to the One X, it pulled our profile data, our saved games, and everything else and set them up. No punching in your password a dozen times in a dozen places, no redownloading save files. But then, some games needed an update, something we didn’t learn until we tried to fire them up and were faced with a long wait as a 9GB file downloaded.
It’s not a dealbreaker, to be sure. We didn’t run into any problems we couldn’t easily solve with a quick Googling, and some functions, like watching 4K movies, streaming Netflix, or using the clip editor, were effortless. Still, considering how polished and smooth the Xbox One X is when you’re running a game or an app, it stands out.
Ultimately, the Xbox One X is for people who take gaming very seriously, or those just getting started with the Xbox. If you’ve got a huge 4K home theater, or are debating buying a console for someone for Christmas, the One X is a strong contender. But if you already own an Xbox One, and aren’t studying frame rates closely, you should wait and see where Microsoft will head in the future.