Xbox One X review: Two things to ask yourself before buying

Updated 11/4/2017 9:03 AM
  • Will Forza 7 look as good on the console as it does in the demos?

    Will Forza 7 look as good on the console as it does in the demos? Courtesy of Microsoft

The Xbox One X is set to ship on Nov. 7, promising power for 4K gaming and video in a more compact frame for $499. Microsoft provided me with a review unit to test for about a week, along with codes for several games.

Overall, the Xbox One X is a fast, solid console. But before you rush out to buy one there are two main questions you should ask: How much power do I need and what am I going to play on this thing?

Better performance is the main recommendation for getting the Xbox One X. Microsoft brags this is the "most powerful console" ever made, and backs that up with an impressive list of specs that could rival a gaming PC. It's also worth noting that Microsoft jammed all of these enhancements into a much smaller frame than the Xbox One. The result is that games run better and look better, with more shades of shadow and light, all while saving you some space.

The Xbox One X packs a ton of gaming power into a more compact frame.
The Xbox One X packs a ton of gaming power into a more compact frame. - Washington Post photo by Hayley Tsukayama

The Xbox One X also has an HDR Blu-ray player, which makes it valuable for entertainment outside of gaming as well.

That brings us to a related point: the Xbox One X can support 4K gaming as well as 4K video, thanks to those power improvements. But, naturally, you'll get the most out of those improvements if you have a 4K television. That's not to say that all the improvements will be lost on you if you don't have a 4K set -- Microsoft promises those with 1080p sets will also see a difference -- but the differences won't be quite as stunning.

Of course, all that power is somewhat useless if you don't have games to play on it. Microsoft has been rolling out access to games that are "Xbox One X Enhanced" throughout the review period, but there are several games that have yet to come out. There are games such as "Forza Motorsports 7," in particular, that have looked amazing in demos on the Xbox One X but have yet to land.

That may be a good reason to hold off for now, particularly if you have an Xbox One -- a console that just got a refresh last year. You won't be barred from playing games that aren't optimized for the Xbox One X if you buy one now. You will just find yourself waiting a while for the rest of the world to catch up to you.

Even among Xbox fans, the Xbox One X appeals to a very particular type of person: someone who wants something approaching the power of a PC, but also wants the social features from a console. If you just want 4K video and games, for example, there's the 2016 Xbox One S which you can find for $250.

Then there's the question of how it stacks up to competitors, namely the PlayStation 4 Pro. Personally, I think the decision between getting an Xbox or a PlayStation is still entirely driven by what you play. For most people, exclusives on either console will determine their allegiances. But if you are on the fence about this generation, then there are a few additional things to consider.

First is price. The Xbox One X is $100 more expensive than Sony's offering, and for that you get a faster processor, more powerful graphics processing, and more memory. You also get access to a growing library of backward compatible games that have been on Xbox in the past.

Sony, however, has more to offer than kindness to your budget. PlayStation, right now, is the only console with a VR headset. While Microsoft has headsets for PCs and has stated plans for console VR, it's not here yet. The PlayStation 4 Pro's library is also nothing to sneeze at.

In the end, there's little to knock about Xbox One X, based on the time I've spent with it. It's compact, capable and so far lives up to the promises Microsoft's made. But, in terms of whether you need it? I'd say it makes the most sense for gamers who want a lot of power and who have already made the 4K upgrades in their homes to get the most from it.

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