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.
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.
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.
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.
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 unit fully (via either holding down the power button for 15 seconds and waiting for a short period of time or via settings/power and start up/turn off or restart console/full shutdown), 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.
plug in your hard drive before turning your Xbox One X console on for the first time 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. 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 finish setup via the Xbox mobile app when I first attempted to use it to finish the process, though I understand these features are now available for those setting up new systems.
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.
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).
The one test where Killer Instinct's performance boosts were clearly apparent was during an exhibition set against an opponent running on an original Xbox One. This provided ample opportunity to see just how much of a difference the hardware can make in a game that's been around since the launch of the new generation of consoles.
The results were, to say the least, surprising. After my opponent informed me that they were still loading into the character select screen when I was already there and could pick my fighter, we thought we'd try and do a rough test of how much time passed between both of us getting to the same point in the character select process. The end result was at least 5 seconds between the differing hardware, meaning that KI, in online circles, is coming closer to PC parity with the One X.
Playing Halo 5 on the Xbox One X was much smoother than the very first Killer Instinct tests, with little to no 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 that the One X delivers an extra dose of juice to keep it running solidly.
Said settings were buried in amongst the video output area of the settings screen and after setting the output resolution, I went into advanced video settings and checked the enable 4K checkbox as well as a second one to enable YCC 2:2 encoding just in case. The useful thing about this is that Narrator does actually inform you what is or isn't possible with the device you're plugged into, meaning that you can figure out whether anything needs to be tweaked as you go.
Stopping said recordings, I discovered, was a bit of a frustrating process, given that you have to first go to guide, go to the broadcast tab, then go down to the capturing icon, which refreshes every second (thus updating what Narrator is saying every second as well). To actually stop the recording, press Y and once you press A, you'll get the option to press A again to confirm.
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 and accessibility elements.
Whilst I'm happy to have been a part of the lead up to the One X launch 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'm interested to see where the accessibility of Xbox titles, first-party or otherwise, stands once developers figure out how to fully utilise its abilities.
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