Since the announcement of the Xbox One X, there has been a tremendous amount of misinformation, inaccurate details, and general misunderstanding of the console. My goal here is to set the record straight by providing all of the pertinent information for people who don’t fully understand how the console functions, what benefits it offers for all players, and to explain some the more advanced features. Let’s get started.
First and foremost, the Xbox One X does not represent a new console generation. Meaning, nobody is forced to buy it to continue playing in the Xbox ecosystem. It is merely a new, more powerful console that exists within the Xbox One family. This means that all Xbox One controllers, headsets, games, accounts, etc….are 100% compatible with the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X. If you buy an Xbox One X and your friend has a standard Xbox One, you will still be able to play together just as you do today.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s explain what the X1X represents then. The Xbox One X is the premium member of the Xbox One family for those who want the best possible experience from their games. This represents a combination of higher resolution graphics, better framerates, faster load times, and some other niceties I will explain below. So let’s start with the basics. Due to the additional power placed in the hands of developers, the Xbox One X versions of games will have the capability to offer some of the following features. It is important to keep in mind that Microsoft is not mandating anything of the developers. Therefore it is completely up to the developers to decide what improvements they will make to each game when run on the X1X. This is a key concept which I will continue to refer to.
Run games at higher resolutions: The X1X has the power to run games above the 720p/900p/1080p we typically see today. Microsoft’s goal was to provide developers enough power to run games at “4K” resolution which is 2160p.
Run games at higher framerates: The X1X has the power to potentially run games at 60fps (or beyond) whereas they might have been 30fps or a variable frame rate on the original Xbox One.
Improve load times: The X1X has additional, faster RAM and a faster internal hard drive than the standard Xbox One which Microsoft has said will improve load times.
Offer a faster UI: The X1X UI should benefit from the new console components to make navigation faster and easier.
Offer an updated Game DVR: The Xbox One and Xbox One S have a game DVR that captures footage at 720p. Microsoft has confirmed the X1X will be able to capture game footage at up to 4K (2160p).
Offer Supersampling: Supersampling is a technique developers use to improve graphical fidelity. By utilizing the additional power of the X1X, developers can process an image at a higher resolution, and then scale it down to fit the display resolution the player is using. Supersampled images reduce aliasing (referred to commonly as “jaggies”) and generally look “cleaner” to the naked eye compared to a non-supersampled image at the same resolution.*
Offer Anisotropic Filtering: Anisotropic filtering is another technique developers use to improve graphical fidelity. Its primary goal is to improve texture detail and clarity from varied viewing angles. Again, the goal is a cleaner and sharper overall image*
Offer Checkerboard Rendering: “Checkerboarding” is a process that developers use to present games at a specific resolution even when not rendering “natively”. Often times, running a game at a native resolution (especially 4K) requires too much processing power and thus, developers utilize techniques like checkerboarding to display a 4K image without the console having to process all of the pixels of a true/native 4K image. Rather, checkerboarding takes a lower resolution image then reconstructs parts of it using a filter to produce a 4K image that looks similar to what it would look like natively. When done well, it can be highly effective.*
*These are highly simplified explanations and I would encourage you to research the details more thoroughly should you be so inclined. I apologize to engineers and game developers in advance for the above explanations.
Those are the basic features the X1X will offer over the standard Xbox One and Xbox One S. But with all the talk around the X1X, a plethora of questions have arisen. Sadly, there are many people answering these questions incorrectly and/or spreading further misinformation. So let’s go one by one and settle these once and for all shall we? Here goes…
Do I need a 4K TV to benefit from the Xbox One X?
No. This is likely the largest misunderstanding surrounding the X1X and it is repeated far too often. As noted above, due to the power of the X1X which allows developers additional resources to use techniques like supersampling, anisotropic filtering, and others, the same 1080p image on an X1X will be superior to a standard Xbox One. It’s also possible for the X1X to run a game at a higher framerate than the Xbox One even if the resolution is the same (an often overlooked but large feature) and it can also improve load times as well. Additionally, there will likely be further improvements to the UI processing, game DVR, and other apps running on the system.
Will there be games in the future that only run on the Xbox One X but not the standard Xbox One?
No. Microsoft has been very clear that the Xbox One X is part of the Xbox One family as I said above. This means that all games will work on all Xbox One devices.
It’s possible of course that when the next Xbox arrives years down the road this may change. But for the foreseeable future this is accurate and the Xbox team’s official statement.
Will there be two different versions of games, one for the Xbox One/S and one for the Xbox One X?
No. There will only be one version of all games and they will work on all Xbox One consoles.
What do they mean by “Xbox One X Enhanced” titles?
For games to run at higher resolutions and framerates on the X1X, developers have to push extra updates for the games that include new code and additional assets. You can find out if a game will support additional or improved features on the X1X by looking at the Xbox website, the digital store, or by looking at the game box (as there will be an icon). As the improvements can vary by title, it’s worth researching ahead of time what each offers. Again, this is up to the developer.
It’s also worth noting that these updates will require additional storage space over the standard game. As has always been true, more advanced titles with better graphics, sound, and processing require more memory.
Why don’t developers offer higher framerates above 60fps like in many PC games?
Technically speaking, they certainly could. Again, Microsoft is not mandating what developers do so we might see that from some titles. However, it’s typically because refresh rates of most TVs, on which the vast majority of console owners play games, don’t go beyond a 60hz refresh rate. Therefore any additional frames would be wasted processing power that could be better utilized elsewhere.
Outside of the games that developers improve specifically for the Xbox One X, will I see any benefits in other games?
Yes! Many games nowadays are coded with variable resolutions and framerates. This means that the game engine will raise and lower the resolution and/or framerate at certain sections of the game depending on what is happening on-screen. For instance, a game like Battlefield 1 can vary between 720p and 1080p depending on how much action is occurring on-screen (due to how much processing power is needed to keep the game running smoothly). Because the X1X is much more powerful, it has the capability to always run the game in 1080p while also maintaining a steady framerate. Improvements in this regard will occur automatically when playing on the X1X without the need for any downloads or updates.
If I have an Xbox One or Xbox One S, will I be forced to download the Xbox One X updates for games even though I can’t use them?
No. Microsoft has confirmed that only X1X owners will download the additional updates for “Xbox One X enhanced games”.
If I don’t have a 4K TV, why would I be forced to download 4K updates for games on my Xbox One X?
This goes back to techniques like supersampling that I described above. Developers use those assets to enhance the games even if you will be displaying them on a 1080p (or lesser) TV. In the end, you will still see improvements and benefit from the updates.
Why can’t Microsoft simply include these updates on the disc so I don’t have to download them?
While the Xbox One X and S support UHD Blu-ray discs, the standard Xbox One does not. The original Xbox One only supports dual layer Blu-ray discs which have a maximum storage capacity of 50gb. As games, especially with 4K assets, are now progressing beyond 100gb in size, it would be impossible to include all of that data on disc (even UHD discs at times). Remember, all Xbox One games must work on all Xbox One devices. Therefore, all hard copies will still come on standard Blu-ray discs and additional updates, including the Xbox One X enhancements, will need to be downloaded.
What if I have a monthly data cap on my internet connection?
If you do have a limit, then it is absolutely something you should be aware of and research ahead of time to see how this may impact your usage. There is no way to tell the size of each X1X enhanced game ahead of time, but for reference Forza Motorsport 7 is rumored to be 100gb with the X1X enhancements.
Will I need anything extra when I upgrade to the Xbox One X?
Likely not but let’s be clear. The Xbox One X is 100% plug and play with the Xbox One S. You can unplug the S, use the same cables to plug in the X, and it will be perfectly fine (that is amazing by the way – bravo Xbox engineering team). However, the original Xbox One uses a different power supply and also has a dedicated port for Kinect. If you plan to upgrade from the original Xbox One to the X, you will use the new power cord that comes with the X and need a USB adaptor if you want to continue using the Kinect. You can find that here: Xbox One S/X Kinect Adaptor
Is there a new controller that comes with the Xbox One X?
No. It is the same controller that was released with the Xbox One S last year with a mic port and bluetooth support.
What other features may the Xbox One X have that I may be missing?
We’ve covered a lot of them. But as I alluded to above, it’s rumored that the UI will not only be sharper, but also generally run faster. Also, unlike the Xbox One that captures video recordings at 720p, the X1X will support up to full 4K game capture. So if you’re a content creator and/or like sharing videos to social media, that could benefit you as well. It’s worth noting that video capture at 4K is quite rare right now partially due to the cost of entry. So if you plan to use it, this is a fantastic bonus of the X1X.
What’s up with Xbox One X pre-orders?
There was a limited edition of the Xbox One X named the “Scorpio Edition” that went up for pre-order in August. It sold out rather quickly but the good news is that hardware wise, it is no different than the standard Xbox One X. Thus, you can still pre-order the Xbox One X via your normal outlets and play the same way as everyone else. That said, pre-orders have been very positive for Microsoft and thus if you truly want an Xbox One X on launch, I would suggest pre-ordering as soon as possible.
Why is the Xbox One X $499?
Many reasons of which I’m not going to touch on here. But fortunately for you, I’ve written a separate article which covers that at length: Why the Xbox One is $499
How is the Xbox One X so much more powerful than the S yet even smaller!?
Magic. Possibly wizards. Likely a combination of both because quite frankly, I can’t answer that question fully. But it’s damn impressive without a doubt.
What else do I need to know?
Well that likely depends on who you are. But all jokes aside, the Xbox One X is not nearly as confusing as some are making it out to be. It’s similar to upgrading other devices you may commonly use like your phone or PC. Typically when you move to a new phone model or upgrade your PC, you still login to the same accounts, use the same apps, and continue what you were doing on your prior model. That new model is likely faster, runs some things better, etc….The Xbox One X is the same way. It really is that simple.
Ok I’m sold. But how do I transfer everything to my new Xbox One X?
Frankly, there are many videos and articles on it. I would suggest looking one of those up (as I haven’t done one personally) but honestly, it’s rather simple. Because the Xbox One stores all saves, captures, and account information on Microsoft’s Azure servers (the cloud) when you buy a new Xbox One you simply log into it with your existing account, download the latest update, and then download or install your games and apps again. The first time you start a game on your new system, it will download your saves from that title and you are on your way. If you have an external hard drive then it’s even easier. Simply move your apps and games from your old Xbox One to the external hard drive(s) ahead of time and once your new Xbox One X is logged in and updated, plug in your drive and boom, you’re good to go. As a general reminder, always make sure to do two things prior to selling/trading your old Xbox One. First, make sure your new console is set as your “Home” console. Second, do a factory reset on your old Xbox One.
Surely it’s not that simple?
The Xbox One X I pick up at midnight on November 7th will be my 5th Xbox One. Trust me.
As I said, the Xbox One X shouldn’t be a worry, threat, concern, etc… It represents a company offering its consumers choice, and it’s something many of us have been requesting for a long time now. If you’re perfectly happy with your launch Xbox One or Xbox One S excellent! Continue enjoying the console for years to come. If you’re picking up an X, then congrats. No matter what, I’ll see you online. Now we just need November 7th to hurry up and get here.