Microsoft's Xbox One was intended to be an ambitious multimedia box with gaming just one of its many components. It never really succeeded in that regard and was left in the dust by the PS4's superior performance and incredible sales.
So Microsoft was forced to reassess the direction of the Xbox program. Out went the motion-tracking peripheral Kinect, so too the ambition of being the go-to box under your TV.
It didn't support 4K gaming, however, which is where the Xbox One X, (formerly known as Project Scorpio) comes in. This is a no-expense spared console that boasts the ability to deliver gaming in 4K and HDR.
Microsoft claims the One X is the most powerful gaming console ever made and, coming a year after the Sony PS4 Pro, it's a shot across the bow of its main rival, pushing the technological capabilities of home consoles into uncharted waters. Here's what you need to know.
MORE: Xbox One X review
Xbox One X specs
The Xbox One X boasts a custom eight-core CPU running at 2.3GHz (31 per cent faster than the Xbox One). The GPU is made up of 40 custom compute units running at 1172MHz - this allows the 'X' to deliver six teraflops of processing power, way above the PS4 Pro's 4.2 teraflops.
Microsoft's new console gets a significant bump in memory with an allocation of 12GB of GDDR5 RAM – nine of which is available to developers – taking its bandwidth up to 326GB/s, more than the PS4 Pro (218GB/s) and the Xbox One S (219GB/s). That's enough to process the high-resolution textures needed to render native 4K images.
MORE: PS4 Pro review
Xbox One X storage
Every One X comes with a 1TB storage hard drive, but you'll need more due to how much space enhanced 4K files consume. Gears of War 4 and Fifa 18 alone push your install data towards 200GB.
Thankfully the One X allows external hard drives. Any with a USB 3.0 connection, storage bigger than 256GB and no larger than 16TB is compatible.
Microsoft claims that the internal HDD is 50 per cent quicker than the drive in the Xbox One S.
For gamers looking to switch from an Xbox One to One X, Microsoft has made transferring details simple. You can copy your Xbox One settings to an external HDD, plug it in and the One X will apply your settings.
MORE: Xbox One review
Xbox One X build
Microsoft's forays into home console production haven't produced the best results. The first Xbox was huge and featured a controller that was bigger than most gamers' hands (aptly named The Duke).
Early iterations of the Xbox 360 suffered from an overheating problem, resulting in the dreaded three red rings of death. The Xbox One resolved these problems, but was still a huge and rather uninspiring black box. By comparison, the One S was much improved, with smaller dimensions and a tidier design.
The Xbox One X follows the same design language as the One S and is the smallest Xbox to date, although don't let the size fool you, it's also heavier at nearly 4kg.
Like the Xbox One S, it can be positioned horizontally or vertically on its optional stand.
The Xbox One was already a quiet console and the One X continues this trend thanks to its liquid-cooled vapour chamber. This space-age piece of tech works by absorbing the heat generated by the electronics, vapourising it and using the fans to expel it from the system.
There's no proprietary port for Kinect (a USB adapter is required) and the HDMI 1.4b input is retained. Sadly, you cannot pass-through a 4K signal. Our attempts with a Sky Q box worked in 1080p but failed when we tried switching resolution to 4K.
The rest of the console's connections include an optical output, three USB 3.0 ports, an ethernet port and an HDMI 2.0b output that's HDCP 2.2 compliant. There's also an IR sensor and of course the slot-loading UHD Blu-ray drive.
More after the break
Xbox One X features
The Xbox One and Xbox One S both received support for Dolby Atmos in 2016 and the One X supports the format too, although in all cases you need to first download the Dolby Access app to enable it.
There is support for Dolby Atmos for headphones with compatible games, but you'll need to pay £14 to unlock the feature.
The console's Game DVR feature records gameplay in both SDR and HDR, as well as 4K/60fps too.
Like the PS4 Pro, it makes use of upscaling techniques such as checkerboard rendering, which boosts gaming content to a higher resolution. It can upscale Xbox One games to 4K, although some games can be rendered in native 4K resolution.
There's also support for the FreeSync 2 standard and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate). Freesync 2 eliminates tearing and reduces stutter for a smoother, more stable performance, though it applies to PC monitors rather than normal televisions.
VRR performs a similar task for TVs, but this is only supported by the HDMI 2.1 standard and we're yet to see any 2017 TVs that support it.
If you have a Full HD or a 4K TV, the One X is intended to work on both, but you're going to maximise its potential on a 4K screen.
Viewing on a Full HD TV should see improvements, though - Xbox claims that the console's 'supersampling' means enhanced 4K games should still look better on a non-4K TV than the standard version of the game.
Xbox One peripherals and games will be compatible with the One X, so your headset and controllers will work. You don't get a headset in the box for the One X.
Xbox One X games
Microsoft has introduced new packaging icons to help distinguish games optimised for the One X.
If you see the 'Xbox One X Enhanced' logo, it indicates updates have been made "to fully take advantage of the Xbox One X's power". Some games will feature basic enhancements, some will see the addition of 4K resolution and some will see the addition of HDR. It could be all three, or a combination. Really, it's all down to the game developers.
Microsoft listed over 100 games that will receive improvements at its Gamescom 2017 press conference. The list includes:
- Anthem - View at Amazon
- Assassin's Creed Origins - View at Amazon
- Dishonored: Death of the Outsider – View at Amazon
- FIFA 18 - View at Amazon
- F1 2017 - View at Amazon
- Fallout 4
- Final Fantasy 15
- Forza Horizon 3
- Forza Motorsport 7 - View at Amazon
- Gears of War 4
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Killer Instinct
- Madden NFL 18 - View at Amazon
- Metro: Exodus - View at Amazon
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War - View at Amazon
- Minecraft: Xbox One Edition
- Monster Hunter: World - View at Amazon
- NBA 2K18
- Need for Speed Payback - View at Amazon
- PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds
- Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 - View at Amazon
- Project Cars 2 - View at Amazon
- Quantum Break
- Resident Evil 7 biohazard
- Rocket League
- Star Wars 2 Battlefront - View at Amazon
- The Crew 2 - View at Amazon
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- Titanfall 2
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands
- Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus - View at Amazon
You can also find a list of games plus all the current and upcoming enhancements here.
Xbox legacy games
In recent years Microsoft has reverse-engineered a number of Xbox 360 games to work on the Xbox One. This time Xbox 360 and Xbox One games will run on the Xbox One X as well as a selection of original Xbox games.
At E3 2017, Microsoft announced that it was also introducing backwards compatibility with some games launched for the original Xbox, including Crimson Skies.
In theory, older titles should run with a much smoother performance and at maximum resolution, texture rendering should be better and screen tearing could be eliminated. There will be GameDVR support and, thanks to the hard drive, faster loading times too.
Xbox One X price
The presence of 4K gaming means the Xbox One X is more expensive than the Xbox One S. The UK price is £449 - £100 more than the PS4 Pro, and over £200 more than the Xbox One S.
If you own a standard PS4, the Xbox One X is definitely worth investigating. If you already own a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X then it might not be worth the extra outlay. You might want to wait and see how the gaming landscape changes in the coming months.
Xbox One X release date
The standard edition is still available but there's no telling how many units will be available in the run-up to Black Friday and Christmas.
At Gamescom 2017 Microsoft announced a Project Scorpio Edition of the new Xbox. The name refers to the console's codename throughout its development and you get a few tiny aesthetic tweaks to the console's casework and controller, reminiscent of the original Xbox.
It also includes a stand if you want to position the console vertically. The stand is available separately for those who've bought the standard version of the console.
MORE: Black Friday 2017
Xbox One X verdict
Microsoft has set out its stall to create the most powerful games console on the market. In that respect it has succeeded. It delivers native 4K gaming, extensive backwards compatibility and an improved interface.
Of course, if you want one, it costs a premium. Then there's the issue of how many games will take complete advantage of the One X's power - there aren't that many at the time of writing, but you'll see a number of updates roll out in the coming weeks and months.
It isn't a flawless console, but if you have a 4K set-up that can do it justice, the Xbox One X is the most capable, all-in-one console you can currently buy.
MORE: Xbox One X review