Let’s face it, if you’ve got a 4K TV right now there’s still not all that you can much you can watch on it.
Want to get the very most from your brand new telly? A games console could come in handy, especially if it happens to be Microsoft’s new Xbox One X.
As the first ‘proper’ 4K games console, the Xbox One X is capable of rendering the year’s biggest games in 4K, with High Dynamic Range, at a whopping great 60 frames per second.
That’s a level of graphical fidelity that’s never been seen before outside high-end PCs. Better yet, the One X has an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive built in as well.
Potentially, it’s a media centre that’s actually befitting of the 4K TV tech it’s made for, and a superior alternative to Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro. Is that actually the case? We got hands-on with the Xbox One X at E3 2017 to find out.
Design and build
If you remember Microsoft’s original Xbox One, then you’ll know it was the kind of machine you wanted to hide away under your TV. Thankfully, the Xbox One X is very much the antithesis of that bulky eyesore.
Squeezing the alluring design of last year’s Xbox One S into a smaller, tiered black frame, it’s a clever piece of engineering. While the console’s exact dimensions haven’t been released yet we can tell you it’s a far more compact proposition than Sony’s hulking great PlayStation 4 Pro.
You’ll have no trouble finding space for the Xbox One X. You might even want to find a place to show it off, given just how lovely those dotted fan ventilators are.
Wondering just how powerful the One X is? In a word: very. Its eight 2.3GHz processor cores have been deployed with a six-teraflop graphics processor and 12GB of GDDR5 RAM, and that all gives games developers a lot of oomph to work with.
The whole idea here is that games should look better on the One X than any other console. That’s why it’s been fitted with a vapor-cooling chamber, so it doesn’t heat up like Texas in the summertime when it's pushed hard.
Importantly for a machine that wants to be the centrepiece of your home, this console also has a healthy collection of sockets. In fact, it’s got exactly the same array as the Xbox One S, with HDMI in and out, two USB ports, IR out, digital optical out and Ethernet.
The only difference this time around? Those HDMI slots support the 2.1 standard instead of the previous 2.0, for improved bandwidths of up to 48Gbps and better performance with HDR content.
Only the HDR10 format is supported here though, so there's no Dolby Vision.
As you’d expect from a Microsoft-made machine, the Xbox One X runs a Windows-based operating system that’s a bit overly cluttered but otherwise fine to use.
It’ll play all games that have been released for the Xbox One platform so far - including the likes of Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Horizon 3 and Ori and the Blind Forest - and offers backwards compatibility with an extensive number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. Not all of these games will make full use of the One X’s power though.
Upcoming exclusive titles such as the stunning-looking Forza Motorsport 7 and explosive Crackdown 3 will play in 4K HDR at 60 fps.
As for older exclusives, and other third-party titles? They’ll carry the ‘Xbox One enhanced’ tag, which indicates a superior level of performance to Xbox One or One S.
More after the break
If you see an 'Xbox One X Enhanced' logo on a game’s packaging, this indicates the 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 4K HDR, but you should see improvements over the original.
Of course, the Xbox One X isn’t just a games console. It can stream TV using apps such as Netflix, Amazon Video, Now TV and Sky Go, and play Ultra HD Blu-rays as well.
This is worth remembering if you’re weighing up the costs of the One X against the PlayStation 4 Pro, which doesn’t have a 4K Blu-ray drive. But at £350, that console does cost a full £100 less than the Microsoft.
MORE: Read our Now TV Smart Box review
Since we’ve only seen a developmental model of the Xbox One X so far, we can’t make any definitive judgements about its performance. That said, from the look of Forza Motorsport 7 this console does seem to be a class above the PS4 Pro 4.
Racing games always look especially classy, thanks to their use of set tracks and models, but that doesn't stop Forza taking our breath away.
From its dynamic weather conditions to the ultra-detailed planes and skyscrapers populating its scenery, you can see the Xbox One X’s power makes a difference. It really is a treat to behold and will show off your 4K TV like few other experiences.
As for the ‘Xbox One X enhanced’ titles we see? They don’t appear quite as impressive, either because the games already looked gorgeous beforehand or it was clear what we're looking at is a PS4 Pro-style experience and not something making full use of the Xbox One X’s prodigious internals.
Alas, we don’t get to make use of the One X’s UHD Blu-ray player. We’d be surprised if the the Xbox One X offers the same level of finesse as a Sony UBP-X800, but if its processing power has increased it could potentially be an improvement on the disappointing playback of the Xbox One S.
MORE: Sony UBP-X800 review
Not yet convinced by the One X? Well, Microsoft’s 4K console does have one last trick up its sleeve: Dolby Atmos support. This makes it the only games machine to support the new standard of room-filling sound.
The Atmos demo we hear is thunderous, with booming engine noises and cacophonic explosions, but we want to hear the One X in our test room before making further judgement.
We spend most time listening through headphones, which is not the way most people will experience its sound.
On paper, the Xbox One X is the ultimate console. Even for a whopping great asking price of £450. It does 4K properly, supports TVs and movies through both UHD Blu-rays and streaming, and has support for Dolby Atmos sound.
So long as you’ve got the right home cinema kit, it could be the missing piece of your AV jigsaw.
We’ll have more of an idea as to how the Xbox One X stacks up when it hits stores later this year on 7th November.
See all our Microsoft reviews