Microsoft didn’t send us one of those snazzy Xbox One X media
bribary review packs with the console and 18 games. We’re just not influential enough, so I had to buy my own. As such our hands-on time with the console is limited, but I’ve already had enough time with it to proclaim this: Microsoft have nailed it.
To provide some perspective here, I am primarily a PC gamer. I have been enjoying 4k gaming for several years now, and even with the launch of the Xbox One X, it is still a long way short of being the most powerful gaming system available to me. 6TFlops might be sung from the rooftops, but it isn’t an impressive number is grand scheme of enthusiast GPUs.
I really feel Sony mis-stepped and under-delivered with the Pro
I also have a PS4 Pro, that promised a premium console experience a year ago for £100 less. I’ve written about that before, and not much has changed; I really feel Sony mis-stepped and under-delivered with the Pro.
So given the similarities between the Pro and the X, why am I so positive about the latter? An extra 1.4 Tflops is hardly worth writing home about, and even less so when it takes another year and extra £100 to get there. No no, it isn’t actually the power of Microsoft’s console that has impressed me so much. It is a flurry of little details that just make upgrading feel like a positive experience.
In terms of the hardware itself, extra grunt isn’t the only thing Microsoft have delivered on. The One X is a compact, weighty little box that draws a fair amount of power from the wall, but it runs so quietly, and the contrast with a PS4 Pro operating underload is stark. Even without taking any performance crown from the PC market, this console is a remarkable feat of engineering. Of course the hardware also includes a UHD Blu-ray drive that didn’t survive the cost-cutting exercise at Sony, so the console achieves a good status as a media player as well.
Even those games that don’t have specific patches developed get a visible upgrade thanks to a native boost in texture filtering
Microsoft have been reaching back into their limited first party catalogue to enhance some of their older games, with patches for Halo 5 really standing out. But they’ve also gone well above the call of duty, providing 4k patches for some of the 360 catalogue. Nobody asked for that, nobody expected that, and surely nobody at Microsoft can pretend there is any significant return on that… But it contributes massively to the overall feel good factor around the console. Even those games that don’t have specific patches developed get a visible upgrade thanks to a native boost in texture filtering.
The experience of buying and setting up the new console has been well considered as well. Prior to upgrading to the Xbox One X, Microsoft made some of their showcase X-Enhanced patches available so that you could download them to your external drive, ready to dive straight in on the new console. If you don’t have an external drive, you could set your old console to allow other Xbox Ones on your local area network to download games directly from that, rather than suffer the limits of your internet bandwidth.
Once you fire up the console you are greeted with Microsoft’s latest attempt at the home screen. The new dashboard has been released to the Xbox One and S as well, and I can’t say the X improves it in any perceivable way. This is definitely Microsoft’s best run at the dash yet though as it is finally slick and responsive on any iteration of the Xbox One. Thanks to a combination of the timing of the update and a contrasting experience on the Pro, it feels like another perk to be attributed to the X.
External drive support is good and familiar to anyone with an Xbox One already, but it is not really an answer befitting of the premium console.
Unfortunately there are a couple of downsides and concerns to sour the broth that must be mentioned. Shipping the console with a 1TB drive is quite inadequate: I filled up a 1TB external drive with exhanced games prior to owning the console, so how someone is supposed to get by on the included storage is an unsolvable riddle. External drive support is good and familiar to anyone with an Xbox One already, but it is not really an answer befitting of the premium console.
The other issue that may well prove critical to some is the software catalogue. Third party support is off to a reasonably strong start, but you have to wonder what is going on with Microsoft’s own offerings. I am certainly not one of the crowd that claim Xbox games count for less now that they are available to the PC master race, but to be frank that whole debate is moot anyway as Microsoft simply aren’t delivering the games to warrant any discussion. The big problem for me is that Microsoft have only confirmed a handful of games coming next year, and I have no real confidence that any of Crackdown, Sea of Thieves, or State of Decay 2 will actually be great experiences when they land. By contrast, Sony are brewing some massive titles that I can’t wait to play even though their hardware is clearly second best.
Time will tell if Microsoft can raise their game(s), but as you may have gathered, I think they have delivered a stellar console. No bribes necessary.