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 doubled-down on games, improving the console and the Xbox Live service, culminating in 2016's Xbox One S – which supported 4K and came with a Ultra HD Blu-ray drive.
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, native 4K console that focuses on top-quality gaming in 4K and HDR.
Microsoft has stated that it is the most powerful gaming console ever made and, coming a year after Sony's PS4 Pro, it's a shot across the bow at its main rival, pushing the technological capabilites of home consoles into uncharted waters. Here's what you need to know.
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 hit its goal of delivering 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 DDR5 of 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 Xbox One X unit comes with a 1TB storage hard drive and you can use external hard drives to store saved data.
That means a hard drive with a USB 3.0 connection, storage bigger than 256GB and no larger than 16TB - it's a nifty solution for those who use a lot of space.
Microsoft has told Eurogamer/Digital Foundry that the internal HDD will have a 50 per cent increase in bandwidth for faster loading times.
For gamers looking to switch from an Xbox One to Xbox One X, Microsoft has made transferring details simple. You can copy your Xbox One settings to an external HDD, plug it in and the Xbox One X will apply your settings.
You can also download updates and 4K content before the console launches by downloading them to the Xbox One/external hard drive and transferring them via the hard drive or over your home network.
MORE: Xbox One review
Xbox One X connectivity
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. The Xbox One resolved these problems, but was still built like a tank. By comparison, the One S is much improved, with smaller dimensions and a tidier design.
The Xbox One X is actually Microsoft's smallest Xbox to date, despite its new processing prowess and the fact it uses an internal power supply. And, like the Xbox One S, it can be positioned horizontally or vertically on its optional stand.
The Xbox One is already a quiet console, but Microsoft is aiming for an even better performance with the One X by using a 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 input is retained, which indicates that Microsoft is carrying over its set-top box integration. We've asked Microsoft whether the input will support 4K pass-through, a feature that was missing from the Xbox One S.
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 (which is fully compliant with HDCP 2.2).
More after the break
Xbox One X features
The Xbox and Xbox One S both received support for Dolby Atmos in 2016 and the new audio processor in the One X supports Atmos from the get go.
There is support for Dolby Atmos gaming, Atmos through headphones and Microsoft's own proprietary format called HRTF (developed by the Hololens team).
The 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 doubles the amount of pixels on screen to reach a higher resolution. This upscales Xbox One games to 4K.
Xbox One X users looking to migrate their content from the Xbox One can do so over their home network in a similar manner to how Apple Cloud works.
There's 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 Full HD screens.
VRR performs a similar task for televisions. It refers to a technology where if a frame is dropped then the display refreshes at the same rate as the game you're playing, reducing lag for a smoother performance. 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 screen, the Xbox One X is intended to work on both, though as it's a native 4K console, you'd expect the best performance to be delivered on a 4K screen. A Full HD screen should still look glorious though and Xbox claims that the console's 'supersampling' means 4K games will 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 Xbox One X, so your headset and controllers will work.
Xbox One X games
Some of the Xbox One X's launch titles have been announced at E3, and include Forza Horizon 7 (which runs at 60fps), Assassin's Creed Origins, Minecraft 4K and Anthem. Microsoft claims there will be no fewer than 22 games available exclusively on the Xbox One X at launch though, it's up for debate how many of those titles are 'new' or just exclusive to the Xbox platform.
Microsoft is introducing new packaging icons to help distinguish games optimised for the Xbox One X. At a glance, you'll be able to see whether the game is in 4K and supports HDR10.
If you see an 'Xbox One X Enhanced' logo, this indicates a game's developer has done work to improve an existing title or has "implemented the most recent development tools to fully take advantage of the Xbox One X's power". In other words, the new version might not be in 4K HDR, but you should see improvements over the original.
At the time of writing, there's been no word on pricing for the Xbox One X's 4K games. We're expecting they'll cost the same as Xbox games do now.
Microsoft listed over 100 games that will receive improvements at its Gamescom 2017 press conference, meaning you can stream and record clips in 4K/60fps as well as benefit from a better performance. Games that will get a boost include:
- Anthem - View at Amazon
- Assassin's Creed Origins - View at Amazon
- Darksiders 3 - 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
- For Honor
- Forza Horizon 3
- Forza Motorsport 7 - View at Amazon
- Gears of War 4
- Halo 5: Guardians
- Jurassic Park
- Killer Instinct
- Life is Strange: Before the Storm - View at Amazon
- Madden NFL 18 - View at Amazon
- Metal Gear Survive
- 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 Online: Morrowind
- The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
- Titanfall 2
- Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon Wildlands
- Tom Clancy's The Division
- Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus - View at Amazon
Xbox legacy games
In recent years Microsoft has reverse-engineered a number of Xbox 360 games to work on the Xbox One. This time, both 360 and Xbox One games will run on the Xbox One X. 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, some 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 faster loading times too.
Xbox One X price
The mere presence of 4K means the Xbox One X is more expensive than the Xbox One S.
At E3 2017, Microsoft revealed the Xbox One X will cost $499 at launch, with a UK price of £449 - that's more than the PS4 Pro's current £350 price tag.
Xbox One X release date
Announced in June at E3 2017, the Xbox One X is due for release on 7th November 2017 in both the UK and US. You can now pre-order from various retailers, however the first batch of release stock has sold out at a number of retailers including Amazon, Game and ShopTo.
At Gamescom 2017 Microsoft announced a Project Scorpio edition of the new Xbox. What this amounts to is the words Project Scorpio inscribed on the 1TB Xbox One X console and controller. The console's finish is slightly different and it comes in packaging that's reminiscent of the original Xbox. It also comes with a stand if you want to orient the console vertically (the stand is also available to buy separately).
Xbox One X first impressions
Microsoft has set out its stall to create the most powerful games console on the market. In that respect it looks to have succeeded. It delivers native 4K gaming, there's backwards compatibility and it supports 4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos and HDR.
Of course, if you want one, it will cost a premium and like every new console, there's the issue of how many games are available at launch to take advantage of the console's impressive specs.
Either way, the Xbox One X looks set to be a fascinating gaming console for a whole host of reasons. Why not take a look at our Xbox One X hands-on review?