Come November 7 the Xbox One X will be here, bringing with it one of the most powerful collection of inside bits currently available in any console. Six teraflops is probably the number you hear mentioned the most, but what does that actually mean and how will it all make your gaming life better? Sheer brute force alone? That helps, for sure, but let’s see what else Microsoft's new box will be able to do to improve your world.
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The Xbox One X will make games better because it knows how to use the power
That six teraflop number keeps getting thrown around but what does it actually mean without disappearing into technobable? Well, teraflops is a measurement of computing power which is easy enough to understand. Without explaining anymore, all you really need to know is that the Xbox One managed 1.31 teraflop and the Xbox One S sits at 1.4 teraflops. So, look at your current Xbox and imagine that but a little over four times more powerful.
But all that power is nothing without a little finesse, which is where the clever stuff comes in. There’s 12GB of RAM for example. Think of this as what the Xbox can hold in its brain without needing to load anything else in. More = good, as is the ability to access it faster and the X can read this memory roughly 150% faster than the S.
In terms of power the Xbox One X is not far off a pretty good PC then, but it’s specifically tuned for gaming, unlike a more general purpose computer. Everything from the latency of its CPU cores, to the code its GPU runs, is honed to make games run as fast and smoothly as possible.
4K is going to be the norm and games will look *amazing*
You might not have a 4K TV but you might want to think about it. All that power inside the Xbox One X means it’s probably harder not to use the ultra HD resolution. Check out the list of Xbox One X Enhanced games and you’ll see plenty are on the way. And the one thing that’s almost unanimous? 4K. Frame rates vary, with a locked 30FPS the most common option but that pin sharp resolution dominates the games that’ll use the Xbox One X to its fullest. Similarly HDR, or high dynamic range is on X ways Xbox One X makes games better almost every Enhanced game. That means colours and contrast will look better - blacker blacks and so on.
But even old games will look great
While Microsoft are big on pushing 4K, even games played at 1080p will benefit. Firstly the Xbox One X will use a thing called supersampling to make things look amazing - even if you don’t have a 4K screen the Xbox One X will render out a 4K image and then downscale it to 1080p. That creates a much sharper image with fewer jagged lines and obvious pixels.
Here’s a couple of images to demonstrate what that look like:
Every game will run better too
As well as looking better, most Xbox One S games currently use a dynamic resolution scaling where the game scales its graphical output according to how much processing power is needed. Something might render at 900p when things are quiet, but pull it back down to 720p when lots of processor heavy things are going on - explosions, particle effects, enemy AI etc. The Xbox One X’s power means it won’t have to do that and will run dynamically scaled games at full throttle. So no drops in resolution or framerate. Even backwards compatible stuff will benefit.
There will be more graphical options
One of the things that’s been revealed as Xbox One X enhanced games have been revealed is that some have more than one graphical setting. There’s only a few so far but it suggests you’ll have more freedom in the future to choose how you play. For example, Rise of the Tomb Raider will let you choose between a true 4K mode at an unlocked 30fps, an ‘enriched’ mode that’s 4k output (scaled up from a lower resolution) with an improved framerate, or a locked 60fps at 1080p. Gears of War 4 also has a varied output, although you can’t choose. In that case it has a 4K/30fps output for Campaign and Horde modes, and 4K/60fps for Versus. Xbox One X will give you more opportunity to pick what you value more: really high, locked framerates or ridiculously pretty, high resolutions.
Games will load faster
It’s easy math here: the Xbox One X is almost obscenely overpowered, and can shift data around a lot faster. That means games won’t take as long to do whatever it is they do when the little wheel spins. Microsoft has promised faster loading times and Assassin’s Creed Origins’ director Ashraf Ismail has talked about the Xbox One X being “faster.” Middle Earth: Shadow of War design director Bob Roberts also talks about minute long loading times reduced to seconds when moving from normal Xbox dev kits to the X.
You’ll have better, and easier, game capture and screens
As well as playing games in 4K and 60fps, you’ll be able to capture at those resolutions as well directly on your Xbox One, using a new HEVC codec that also includes HDR. As well as recording at the same quality you’ll be playing at, there’s a new retroactive screen capture feature that will record your ‘screen’ as a short video so you can scan through it frame-by-frame for the perfect shot.
It’ll (hopefully) save your hard drive
4K games are big. Really big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big until you download 100GB of 4K Forza Motorsport 7. Microsoft has a plan though and are working on something called “Intelligent Delivery.” It’ll use the Cloud to store Ultra HD textures and assets and only put what you need on the Xbox’s hard drive when you need to use it. It’ll cut down on space - handy as games are only going to get bigger (and prettier) as time goes on.