Xbox One X: Accessibility Review (In Progress)

Disclaimer

The unit used for this review was provided by Microsoft at no cost to the reviewer.

Introduction

Microsoft has, since the launch of the Xbox, experience a few highs and lows with the brand (mostly at the beginning of its initial lifecycle). The Xbox One S began the process of regaining what might be seen by some as lost ground which I would say Microsoft accomplished with at least moderate success.

When they announced the latest iteration of the Xbox One, branded Project Scorpio and then later announced as Xbox One X (as there was, according to the team developing the original Xbox, "no power greater than X"), many were shocked at the specs and the potential for this new console to be a literal game changer. The real question, now that the console has launched is, does it really live up to the hype?

Let's find out, starting with the unboxing.

Note:

The unit that is unboxed for this review is a standard edition, not the media kit or Project Scorpio edition.

Unboxing

The top and the bottom of this box look pretty much the same. Adhesive circles, a relatively recognisable trait of Microsoft Products, adorn the openings. Either Select which side you're going to open and cut the two circles with a knife or remove them using a fingernail. If the circles are cut, have them facing you. If they've been removed, make sure the area you just removed them from is facing you. Now, lift the top flap up and away to reveal the top area of the packaging.

Inside you'll find a cardboard holder with 3 separate cards contained within. These are, in order, a quick start guide, 1 month trial for Xbox Game Pass and 14 day Xbox Live Gold trial.

Underneath these, you'll see the main console in a polystyrene style package, but we'll instead focus on the smaller cuboid-shaped package to the left of the console.

Removing the cables

To retrieve these cables in their box, you have to look for the hole in the top of the cardboard. Use this to lift the hole box away from the main larger package.

Position the cuboid on the floor, with the small rectangle on top and facing left. Lift this rectangular flap up and to the right to reveal the figure of 8 power lead.

The other larger flap of this smaller box lifts up and to the left, revealing two compartments. One contains a very tightly coiled HDMI lead, and the second larger one contains the controller.

Lift the polystyrene rectangle above the controller so you can remove the unit easily. Doing so, with the controller still in its wrappings, reveals the warranty and regulatory guide, in print.

Pulling the tape on the bottom of the controller's wrappings allows you to remove the controller and separately packaged batteries with little issue.

Back to the main box

Removing the console is as simple as carefully placing one hand on one side of the polystyrene of the console, moving it and the console within the box so that both hands can fit round it. With the outer box on the floor, lift and push the two sides of the packaging together to prevent the console from falling out from between your hands, moving them up and away from the box. It might be a case of holding the outer box between your feet if you don't have a second person who's willing to give you a hand to get it free.

Once this assembly of packaging is free of the main box, place one hand underneath the console and with the other, remove the first outer polystyrene holder. You can swap hands to remove the other one if you wish to keep the console more secure. Then unwrap the console by pulling the tape at the narrower area of the console (i.e. the bottom of the unit). Doing this carefully you should be able to lift the console out of the wrapping it's supplied in.

Now you have your new console in the open air, it's time to set it up.

Setup

On the hardware side of things, your Xbox One X setup process should be very smooth. This is down to the simple fact that the ports on the back exactly mirror those of the Xbox One S, albeit in a narrower form factor raised up to the top of the console above the fans. Plugging it in was, as expected, pretty straightforward, with the console even having a notch near the HDMI out port to indicate where to plug the cable in.

If you're intending to just swap over your consoles as I did with this review unit, you could even go so far as to turn off your existing mode, stack it on top of the One X and, making sure that everything is powered down before you start, unplug each lead in turn and switch it over to the ports of the newer machine.

Either way, this part of the process is painless if you have all the right cables, whether from an old or completely new system.

If you're upgrading from an existing Xbox system and have backed up any settings from the previous console to an external hard drive used for storing games and apps, plug in your hard drive before turning your Xbox One X console on for the first time. When it is loading your settings from the drive, you won't know this is happening and Narrator provides no prompt for you to press the A button as covered below, until your controller is actually on.

Speaking of the new controller, as soon as you've put batteries in it, turning it on should then pair with the console without any intervention being required. If you are setting your console up for the first time and you need Narrator on, you can press and hold the Xbox button and, after a vibration, release the button and press the menu button. If Narrator is supported in your region or the region your console is set to, it should activate successfully to be used through the rest of the setup process.

Follow the prompts and if you aren't using existing settings, hopefully you should be prompted for a system update. Unfortunately, I couldn't actually see any way of finishing the setup process during the download of this update via the Xbox One mobile app, though that might change after the original time of writing.

If you are using existing settings from an external drive, the console will give you the option, after initially pressing the A button, to either load settings or perform manual setup. Loading settings causes your console to ask for your password. After entering that and a little while of waiting, you should be transported to the tutorial, as described below.

The tutorials cover aspects such as prepaid codes, the guide and 4K gaming. These can all be skipped if you know all about these already by clicking next. There is likely a way to return to these later and if I find such a way, I'll update this review.

OS wise, the system is pretty much identical, apart from the very interesting start sound that comes from the TV, differentiating it from the Xbox One and One S even though it includes the familiar logo at the end.

In terms of games, in preparation for the console's arrival, I took an external hard drive (2TB, for anyone wondering) and transferred a few of my larger games on to it (Gears of War 4, Halo 5, Killer Instinct, etc). I did this for two reasons, namely to save space on my already relatively full Xbox One S and to also make sure that I wouldn't have to download massive quantities of data which, at the present time, would take days.

Testing

Atmos, it turns out, is not a selling point of the unit itself. In fact, Gears 4 supports Atmos on original Xbox One hardware, which is a shame as I believed the One X to be the only device that would support this feature. That's not to say that the console doesn't have other selling points, but Atmos was one that was very much of interest to me when I first heard of it being introduced to the platform.

That aside though, the console performs well, working with content from external and internal hard drives relatively seamlessly.

To give you an idea of how quickly the Xbox One X can work with content, a player VS CPU match in Killer Instinct was seen to load in around 10 seconds (Jago VS Jago on Tiger's Lair). This is double what my usual PC rig would load it in (i.e. about 4 seconds), but it is a fair boost over the Xbox One S content load time between 13 to 16 seconds with the same level and characters. This can certainly be seen to vary at points in Season 1's story mode though, with some fights taking up to 15 seconds to load on the newer One X hardware. This could, however, be due to the games having to load in new character assets etc to memory as, when loading in a CPU match after a story playthrough (the same level and characters as the first tests), the match loaded in approximately 6 seconds, a surprisingly fast result rivalling the SSD and GTX1050 with 16GB ram of my PC.

I was not using a 4K display for these tests which, though I doubt it would've had an impact, could possibly extend to have further reaching implications. At least the games ran well enough that they were playable, other than a couple of instances with Killer Instinct of the game speed slowing down noticeably in places (mostly during ultra combos).

Playing Halo 5 on the Xbox One X was much smoother than the aforementioned Killer Instinct tests, with little to now difference in lag in comparison to the One S. The audio performance seemed snappier as well, with the ease of movement in the custom game tests being a welcome improvement. That's not to say the One S game plays sufficiently differently, more than the One X delivers an extra dose of juice to keep it running solidly.

I will update this review with further game tests as they happen.

Pros

Cons

Conclusion

If you're thinking about upgrading from the One S to the One X, at present with the lack of titles supporting not only Dolby Atmos but Speech Synthesis API, I would actually advise against it. If you have an original Xbox One, you have a choice of either getting the cheaper One S and upgrading once more games with accessibility features become available, or future-proofing your library right away and getting the more expensive One X.

Whilst the One X is a good-looking console with easy to identify physical buttons and a straightforward setup process, it suffers from a lack of new titles at the current time that can truly show its power.

I'll update this conclusion with any other reflections I have on the launch of the One X. Whilst I'm very proud and happy to have been a part of the lead up to it and thankful for all the hard work the teams have put into making it a reality, it's a bittersweet pill for those gamers without sight who want to enjoy games with an extra performance boost as they have to currently pay a higher premium for far less gain. This current situation has the potential to change dramatically if engine developers understand that accessibility features are worth implementing at an engine level, including the addition of Microsoft Speech Synthesis API for consoles. The addition of Speech Synthesis API is not a silver bullet, however. Audio as an end product, which Atmos can help to improve on even if the existing assets are very high quality, is a key additional area of accessibility that I hope, given time, developers for the One X will also fully appreciate.

With the One X though, it's clear to see that though the future may mostly be visually centric, the experience is actually more accessibility focused than ever before.

I'd like to again thank Microsoft for sending me this review unit and I very much look forward to expanding my thoughts on the console as time goes on.

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