Microsoft’s 2013 launch of the original Xbox One game console was not nearly as successful as the company had hoped it would be. The release had a dark cloud placed over it that happened months before it launched, as the company saddled the Xbox One with its Kinect motion capture sensor, which helped to increase its overall price to $499. Furthermore, the Kinect sensor went unused for the most part by both gamers and game developers. Microsoft finally started selling the Xbox One without the Kinect sensor in the spring of 2014, but the damage was done and sales of the console (and its more recent smaller revision, the Xbox One S, which launched in 2015) have not come close to that of its biggest rival, Sony’s PlayStation 4.
This year, Microsoft is hoping that a new strategy will help it gain some ground with the PS4 in the marketplace. While it will continue to offer the standard Xbox One S model, it will launch the new and much more powerful Xbox One X on November 7. Its launch price will also be $499, but the company hopes that its high-end console, combined with the choice of offering the cheaper Xbox One S, will offer gamers a more complete package, as well as keep its hardware up to speed with the current crop of high-end gaming PCs.
How the Xbox One S and Xbox One X compare
Microsoft will continue to sell the standard Xbox One S, with prices starting at $249 for the 500 GB model, $349 for the 1 TB version, and $399 for the 2 GB model. The Xbox One X will only be sold, at least at launch, in a 1 TB storage configuration for $499 (you can add more storage by connecting external hard drives via its USB port). Physically, the Xbox One X is very slightly smaller and shorter compared to the Xbox One S, but the new console is also a bit deeper and wider (11.81 inches) compared to the current Xbox One S (11.61 inches). Also, the Xbox One X is much heavier (8.4 pounds) than the Xbox One S (6.4 pounds).
Part of the reason for why the Xbox One X is so much heavier is that Microsoft has packed in a ton of hardware inside its jet black case. It will have a custom 8-core CPU designed by AMD that will be clocked at 2.3 GHz. It will also have an AMD Radeon 6 teraflop GPU clocked at 1.17 GHz, which will have 12 GB of GDDR5 video memory, of which 9 GB will be devoted to gaming. By contrast, the Xbox One S has an older AMD CPU clocked at 1.75 GHz, a 1.40 teraflop GPU running at 914 MHz, and just 8 GB of DDR3 video RAM.
The Xbox One X is also the first game console ever that will have a liquid cooling solution inside its case, similar to systems made for hardcore gaming PCs. All that hardware is designed to run games and videos at 4K resolution with HDR support (if you own a 4K TV, of course). The Xbox One S can render videos in 4K, and also supports HDR gaming, but the resolution for games tops out at 1080p. Both the Xbox One S and X consoles have a disc drive that supports playing DVDs, Blu-Rays and 4K Blu-Ray movies, which is something that Sony’s PS4 and PS4 Pro consoles don’t support.
In short, if you own a 1080p TV, there’s really no reason to buy the Xbox One X, as the current Xbox One S should be just fine for your needs. If you own a 4K TV, but are more of a movie fan than a gamer, the Xbox One S is also for you. However, 4K TV owners who are also hardcore gamers should also consider saving your money for the Xbox One X.
Gaming on the Xbox One X
The Xbox One X is designed to run all of the games that are already available, or will be released, for the current Xbox One and Xbox One S models. It can also play all of the Xbox One’s backward compatible Xbox 360 games. Microsoft recently announced it would also add a selection of original Xbox games to the backwards compatibility list for the Xbox One S and X models sometime later this year. In short, there will be no shortage of games to play if you pick up the Xbox One X. In addition, all of the controllers and other accessories made for the Xbox One are also supposed to work with the Xbox One X (yes, that includes the Kinect motion sensor, for the few of you that are still using it).
While all Xbox One games can be played on the Xbox One X, many of those titles will get visually enhanced when played on the new console. Some titles such as Microsoft’s racing sim game Forza Motorsport 7, shown above, will get higher resolution textures and more visual effects when played on the Xbox One X, compared to running the same game on the Xbox One S, along with the boost to 4K resolution. Over 100 games from Microsoft and third-party publishers will be available as “Xbox One X Enhanced” titles. Many of them will be available for the launch of the console, and others will be released later. While some games will be released with Xbox One X Enhanced features out of the box, many other older titles will require a free software update.
One thing the Xbox One X will not support for its launch is any kind of virtual reality gaming. Unlike Sony’s PS4 and PS4 Pro, which supports its own PlayStation VR headset, Microsoft has not announced its VR plans for the Xbox One family, preferring instead to concentrate its “mixed reality” efforts on Windows 10 PCs. Microsoft has said in the past that the Xbox One X should be able to support high-end VR gaming, but for now the company is taking a wait-and-see approach on this subject.
Other Xbox One X features
As we mentioned, the Xbox One X will have a disc drive for playing up to 4K Blu-Ray movies, for those of you who still rock physical media. The console will also continue to support all of the non-gaming software features found on the Xbox One S. That means owners can download and purchase full games from the Xbox Store, download and use streaming media apps like Netflix, Hulu and others, and get together with your Xbox Live friends for chat or gaming. As with the Xbox One S, you will have to pay for an Xbox One Gold subscription to access online multiplayer gaming, and also be able to download Microsoft’s selection of free games it gives to those users every month.
The Xbox One X will also support the recently renamed gameplay streaming service Mixer, which Microsoft acquired in 2016 under its older name Beam. This is Microsoft’s rival to the popular Amazon-owned Twitch service, and it lets anyone become a “Let’s Play” streaming star with just a couple of controller clicks. Mixer also offers some interesting features not available on Twitch, including ways for streaming audiences to actually influence the gameplay of the streamer. Microsoft also claims the latency for Mixer is down to less than a second for streaming, compared to up to 20 seconds on rival services.
Microsoft also recently announced that its Xbox Live avatars will be getting a makeover this fall, just in time for the launch of the Xbox One X. The avatars themselves will not only be more detailed and animated, but users will be able to pick from a wider variety of body shapes, sizes, clothes and props.
Pre-orders for Xbox One X
In late August, Microsoft began taking pre-orders for what it called the Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition. This limited version of the console has the same hardware specs as the standard version of the Xbox One X, but the console has a special “sophisticated and dynamic” pattern on its surface. In addition, the console and controller will have an inscribed “Project Scorpio” name. Even the box is customized, and it looks like the design of the original 2001 version of the Xbox.
A few days after the Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition pre-orders began, Microsoft announced that more units had been sold in its first five days than any Xbox console in history. Microsoft declined to offer specifics sales numbers. While you may be able to get one on eBay, Microsoft says that it will no longer offer any pre-orders for the Project Scorpio Edition. The next wave of pre-orders for the standard Xbox One X has now started over at Microsoft’s website, along with Best Buy. Also, if you live in the right part of the US, 20 of Best Buy’s retail stores will have hands-on demos of the Xbox One X, along with several games, on Sept. 23 and 24, with additional Xbox One X demo weekends to follow in the fall.
Should you get the Xbox One X?
As we mentioned previously, the $499 Xbox One S is really targeting the hardcore console gaming audience. If that’s what you are, and if you own a 4K TV, then Microsoft’s next console release is definitely for you. However, if you just like to play Minecraft or other older games with your kids, or if you just want a good 4K Blu-Ray player with some streaming video apps, then the current, and cheaper Xbox One S is your console. If you just have a 1080p TV and have no current plans to upgrade to a 4K display, then there’s no need for your to even consider the Xbox One X at all.
We want to hear from you on the Xbox One X. Will you be among the first to get Microsoft’s new console? Will you bypass the Xbox One X, and why? Let us know what you plan to do in the comments!