Xbox One X one year on – have you felt true power?
have you felt true power?
The dust has long since settled on the much hyped launch of Microsoft’s behemoth Xbox One X. As we approach the first birthday of the world’s most powerful console, rumours are already taking shape that its successor, codenamed Project Scarlett, will arrive in 2020. With that in mind, coupled with the looming Black Friday / holiday sales and the inevitable abundance of incentives and bundles, it’s time to take a long, hard look at the X.
At launch in November 2017, we were bombarded with tech comparisons. Overnight, casual gamers became experts in teraflops and the relative merits of GDDR5 (joining the ranks of HDR specialists who had been multiplying since the launch of the PS4 Pro and Xbox One S). As the PS4 Pro is the main competitor to the X, it’s worth revisiting those specs one more time.
Admittedly, the figures above come from Microsoft’s own literature, but the numbers don’t lie – in every conceivable hardware score, the X significantly outpowers the Pro. Bare figures can be deceptive in tech though – the IPhone often looks underpowered on paper, but performs admirably due to excellent software and efficient architecture. But that’s an exception to the rule. As an owner of both consoles, I can see, hear and feel an appreciable difference in quality when contrasting a title between the X and the Pro. Xbox wins every time. This is not to diminish the Pro – playing Horizon Zero Dawn in 4K is one of my favourite experiences of this gen – but the Pro, likes it’s siblings, is an incredibly noisy beast, particularly with 4K titles.
Xbox One X is far from silent, but the whirring of its’ fans is much less pronounced, and it generates much less heat. A bolder man than I could fry an egg on the Pro – the X never runs too hot, at least in my experience. Admittedly, my consoles are both launch stock, and the Pro has received hardware revisions since launch which may have reduced the jet engine impression – but I’m sceptical Sony could reduce it significantly.
Price though, that’s another issue. A cursory Amazon search shows the Pro at £349.99 bundled with Spiderman. The X has likewise maintained the £449.99 price point from launch (at least in terms of MSRP), but various bundles are on offer – Sea of Thieves, Horizon 4. It’s pretty clear which of these will appeal more to the casual gamer, or the harassed parent working on a limited budget for Christmas. Microsoft is notoriously resolute with pricing though – check the eye watering cost of the Surface Pro if you don’t believe me – and although it has heavily subsidised the S in the past, a significant price reduction on the X seems unlikely.
According to The Register, at launch, MS was pocketing a profit of $28 on the $499 launch cost of the X. While manufacturing costs tend to reduce over time, this doesn’t leave much margin for MS to play with. After the disastrous launch of the OG console in which price was most definitely a factor, MS seems to have priced the X at the lowest point it realistically could.
But as early sales figures suggest, price isn’t a barrier when people believe in the product. MS are famously reticent when talking hardware sales, but the reliable GamesIndustry.biz reported 80,000 units sold in the first week in the UK alone. Since then, there have been vaguely worded statements devoid of sales figures, but MS are reporting a 15% increase in hardware sales worldwide in 2018 vs 2017. This, in tandem with a similar uptick in Xbox Live subscribers, suggests an upward trend.
Not all of this can be attributed to the X of course. The S console is phenomenally popular and has been priced and marketed aggressively. But for the hardcore gamer, X is the console of choice. Xbox supremo Phil Spencer has been forthcoming about his distaste for the traditional hardware cycle. This cycle, where every generation begins with a tawdry collection of launch titles is, at least for Microsoft, a thing of the past. This ensures that your purchase of an X buys you instant access to the next generation. Perhaps not in perpetuity, but at least X owners need not be concerned that their £449 purchase will become obsolete in 12 to 18 months when Project Scarlett is released.
Enough time has passed since launch to enable a clinical assessment of the value of the X. Yes, it’s still pricey, but there’s value to be had with bundles. For those of us willing and able to pay the premium, the X and a 4K TV represents the pinnacle of gaming quality for this generation. It’s a sleek, minimalistic box with an appearance that belies the power that lurks beneath the surface. Once you go X, you’ll find it jarring to play on another console, such is the leap in quality. 4K gaming is growing exponentially; AAA titles now support the format as a matter of course, and the 4K remasters on older titles are a joy to behold (Red Dead is a particular highlight).
It’s more than the 4K though; the difference between load times, install times, supersampling for 1080P TV owners, a 4K Blu-ray player, improved frame rates, future proofing and enhanced backwards compatibility – X most definitely marks the spot. It’s that rarest of beasts in the world of tech and gaming; one that actually lives up to the hype and stands the test of time. If you can, jump in. You won’t be disappointed.