The final step in resetting the utter disaster that was Microsoft’s misreading of the console space is complete. The S model resolved the lacklustre design and build quality of the launch machine while offering a new USP in the 4K blu-ray player.
This was a well thought out design, elegant, quiet and had the PSU tucked neatly inside, above all else it ran your games ever so slightly better thanks to small hardware improvements from the new manufacture methods which were also a pilot for the real deal we have here. The X strides over the gap to its competition, but is it now larger than before?
The machine itself shares an almost identical layout and build as the S model from last year, a cost saving exercise and to the point that you can leave all your cables, power etc as is and simply pull out the S and plug in the X as it all lines up. The volume of the machine is said to be the smallest yet, but it is slightly bigger than the S model and now all black rather than the split white/black of that model. As my review on that machine covered it is a great looking piece of kit and now looks better and more premium than the Sony machine, with the Pro being an odd looking layer cake when I reviewed that last year. It is also a quieter machine than the PS4 and Pro, well my Scorpio edition is anyway so your mileage may vary based on your individual kit and game being played, but across multiple games, blu-rays and apps it is never disrupting in terms of noise than my Sky Q box or sound amp and falls below the Pro and far below my collection of PC’s for sure. The loudest noise tends to come from the discs spinning from install or Blu-ray which is likely the only time you could mark it as a noisy system.
One thing to note is, as I have the Scorpio edition, it comes with a vertical stand, so when installing games I did get a few titles that failed or crashed installing while in this position and I had to place horizontal where they continued without issue. Brand new titles did not have this but a few discs did have this issue, The Witcher 3 and Just Cause 3 both failed to install in this position, but Evil Within 2, Forza 7, Gears 4 and others all had no issues. So, likely not a far-reaching issue it certainly can present itself on discs that are maybe no longer at 100% clarity but may be an unlucky build I have or a wider issue, the lack of noise regarding this points to a low issue or the adoption of digital is far more prominent.
To summarise what I covered in detail before the hardware was even announced, having a tiered system for platform entry is not a new thing at all, even in the console space. As far back as the Atari 2600 and the Master System, Atari & SEGA kept the dual tier option for entry, even with the Megadrive being 100% compatible with the vast library of titles from that machine, these 2 machines co-existed for years like this, nothing new under the sun as the saying goes. And just like that, last years Pro and here with the X, all your current and future games will play on the new box, but unlike before, they now play much better. Just as we saw with the S model and its minor improvements to test the waters, the X dives in with a splash that boosts all games visual quality and performance with not a keyboard stroke required from the developers. The epitome of this I covered in my unpatched Witcher 3 analysis, taking a game that had an unlocked framerate from a low 30 to a 50-60fps level title, yes it has issues and areas that can dip into the low 40’s high 30’s but this is early launch day code that was significantly enhanced later but this example shows the big leaps it can offer right out of the box. And again how much more these devs can push on this box with the final CDP patch offering up 2 modes.
Just like the boost mode that launched for the Pro last year and I covered in detail this does not always have full access to the new GPU, around half of it is locked away dependant on the SDK the title shipped with, more recent titles have greater access to the full resource, but this still gives the machine a significant boost in GPU and Memory bandwidth and it also takes the total 31% CPU upclock to achieve the results. In addition, it also increases loading speeds, texture filtering that enhances clarity and even X360 and original Xbox titles that are compatible with the BC service on the format are enhanced further still, check out more of my analysis of other titles that are enhanced with this new machine in the links below and on my site.
We know the machine makes the most of current software, which is great for all as your current library can benefit from an upgrade, but we really want to know what it can do for new titles and the options it has going forward. Well almost identical to the situation we have with PC and Pro right now, depending on what the teams choose or can add to use that extra power in the box, which is a huge increase over the base X1 model and S. From the original design spec the X is designed to run any title that the base hardware does at 1080P and the hollowed 4K and we have seen this with such titles at Forza 7 or Gears 4 (complete with a dynamic resolution) some will also see a boost to FPS just like Gears and the Witcher 3 which I covered from the unpatched and later patched release. Do not expect this to become the norm but any titles that are not wholly CPU bound will be able to increase the resolution/effects and or FPS but this will depend on the developer’s choices and like all titles is not dependant on the hardware alone.
The machine feels like a solid and expensive piece of kit, both quiet and small in size the air venting and design is very pleasing, making the base model look even cheaper than it did at launch. Fully compatible with all you past, current and future titles and accessories it is the simplest upgrade you could ever have in the console space, swap the box and you are done. From a media device it is a genuine 4K compatible device with a 4K UHD Blu-ray player, Netflix, Amazon and Youtube alongside many games all render at this level alongside full HDR 10 support and even native 1440P if you plug into a Monitor which also has support for VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) similar to freesync or N-sync that adapts the displays refresh rate to match the GPU’s output, which makes games that run in a variety of 16 and 33ms rates much smoother without that hold and persist that most 60Hz monitors are locked to. A few minor niggles arise, the OS is still 1080P due to the further 1GB they gave back to games and applications to use, the right choose in my book as it will be of more use to them, but may upset some. Also, the boot up is slow, much slower than the competition and the layout and navigation of the menu’s is not the most ergonomic, responsive or clean still. But this is the same as the other One models and is also subjective as to how good or bad you think it is.
As a high quality, sleek and packed piece of hardware the X feels, looks and IS more Pro than the Sony equivalent, but it is also around £150 more expensive and that shows. For that you get the most powerful console on the market, which means the best looking, performing games (will depend on each title, be sure to check my head 2 heads to be sure) multi-platform games across all consoles and also many PC’s, like it or not, not everyone on PC is sporting a 1070 and i7 upwards machine. But like the high-end PC market, this only makes sense if you want the extra boost to fidelity and function this price offers. If you have a 4K screen and HDR then it makes the most sense, like the Pro I cannot recommend it, but if you are happy to pay the premium for the..er premium then it is a cracking console. On the other hand if you still play on a 1080 screen, do not notice a sharper shadow here or cleaner texture there, then staying with you 1 or S means you will not miss out on the vast library of games and services, and save a few quid, you will just have to sit that much further from the screen.