Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Diving into the world of 4K

So I bought a Xbox One X...

...and here's a quick and dirty update to give my impressions of the Project Scorpio edition that arrived perfectly on time on the worldwide launch on 7th of November.

First impression out of the box is that it's quite a bit heavier than the S model. Same shape and, impressively so, size. Considering the vastly improved hardware that's inside the weight isn't really a shock; they've crammed in a lot of power in here! Design wise it's the same minimalist and stylish design idea brought over from the One S. In fact the two share a very alike appearance, with the the ability to be placed vertically or horizontally.

My version of the X is the Project Scorpio limited edition with a printed fade from black to grey across the length of the console. Printed in green is the Project Scorpio logo, this is also printed on the controller which has black face buttons rather than coloured ones. Inside the box was a vertical stand, but other than that there's little else unique to this edition apart from the visual fade to grey theme. Project Scorpio was the codename for the Xbox One X project, rumoured also to be the name of the final product. It's cool to have a reminder of the Scorpio build up before launch with this specific edition. The normal XB1X has a plain black colour and includes a standard Xbox One black controller with coloured face buttons.

Swapping out your old Xbox One or Xbox One S is super easy if you use an external harddrive: simply transfer all games, pre-download 4K assets prior to moving console and then transfer you profile via an option to the external HDD. Power down the old console and simply reconnect it up again on the X model. Quick and easy. If you are new to the Xbox One family, well, enjoy; you are about to get the best visual experience of all the unique games to the system, as well as the best version of multiplatform games on console from now on.

What does the X do though? For starters it's a huge power upgrade in the Xbox One family. Going from the One/One S, we're talking almost six times the GPU power (that's the graphics card) and a increased CPU to run games in native, or close to, 4K. Four times the resolution of 1080p, but there's also a large increase in available memory; meaning better textures and more detailed environments in games. One could almost consider it a new console generation entirely and one can wonder if distinct generations will fade out to more progressive hardware upgrades in the future, but that's a discussion for another day.

The X is fairly steeply priced, it's looking to aim for those customers who still want to play on consoles but want a share into the superior PC visuals. All Xbox One games run on both standard One and One S, with specific X patches that enhance the games in numerous ways. Rest assured, all games can be played on all systems in the Xbox One family, it's just the visuals that separates the games running on the X from the One/One S. The first line-up of enhanced titles give us a indication that the visuals are right up there with the high/highest settings on current PC games, a treat for us console players that want to show off some pretty visuals on our TV's!

Older Xbox One games that don't specifically receive a X enhanced patch will have forced V-sync with more stable framerates and 16AF texture filtering for clearer and less muddy visuals, making even those older titles look improved. Games with framedrops should also run better on the X thanks to the increase in hardware power. Backwards compatible games benefit strongly too, some 360 games have even got X specific patches that run them at 9x the original resolution, making them look incredibly sharp, including the aforementioned 16AF and locked v-sync. Original Xbox games run at an increased resolution too, further boosting their visuals as they are two generations apart and need these benefits for modern HDTV's.

Other than that, Xbox one X is familiar territory; same menues as the other Xbox One family of hardware, controllers are the same and all your digital and physical games work. Included is also a UHD drive, jsut like the One S has, making it possible to use the console as a media hub for UHD Blu-Ray movies and 4K streaming services.

If you don't previously own a console from this generation I would highly recommend going for this one, as it's the one built for the best visuals and equipped to handle the graphical upgrades for many years ahead. If you already own a One or One S it's all about the question of your need for a 4K and visual upgrade or not. If you are a owner of a new 4K TV it's worth it to have the benefits from that, although 1080p TV owners get a sweet and very clear supersampled picture though the X.

All in all, an impressive and powerful piece of hardware from Microsoft, the most powerful console yet made with a lot of focus on making older titles improved and offer a lot of options regardless if you own a 1080p TV, a 4K one or even a 1440p PC monitor. There's a ton of games getting updates to really sweeten the deal and with Microsoft's latest focus on making Xbox and PC players play together across platforms even PC players looking into upgrading a gaming PC could benefit from buying this and setting it up with a monitor on a desk.

If power, super sharp resolution and graphics, plus great posiblities for going back to older generation titles is your thing; well then I'd highly recommend the X. Not only have they merely future proofed their console franchise with beefier hardware, but Microsoft have also gone the extra mile to let gamers upgrade their current Xbox favourite titles and let developers choose how to use the power the way that suits them.