Xbox One X review: "I want to feel like a VIP for owning this console. Microsoft seems to have forgotten that"

Fast facts:  

  • Xbox One X release date: 7 November 2017
  • Features: Eight custom x86 cores running at 2.3GHz in the CPU, GPU with 40 custom compute units running at 1172MHz, 12 GB of GDDR5 RAM with 326GB/second bandwidth, 4K UHD Blu-ray
  • What's in the box: Xbox One X console, wireless controller, AC power cable, 14-day Xbox Live Gold trial, 1 month Xbox Game Pass subscription trial
  • HDD size: 1TB running at 5400rpm 
  • Price: $499 / £449

"Feel true power” is Microsoft’s tagline for the Xbox One X. Unfortunately, after spending a week with the new console I’m still waiting to feel anything like that. Microsoft has pitched the Xbox One X as a revolution in console gaming power, making an understandably big deal about the impressive tech under its bonnet. Yet after spending a week with the new console it’s not entirely clear what incentive there is to buy an Xbox One X if you already have an Xbox One. 

The problem here are the expectations that come from Microsoft selling the Xbox One X as the most powerful console on the market. And - just to make it clear - with all its tech, it definitely is. There’s no arguing with that. Microsoft isn’t afraid to make a big deal out of it either - while the PS4 Pro was pitched more as an ‘improved’ version of the PS4 (making it clear that it wasn’t created to blow our minds), Microsoft has been repeatedly pitching the Xbox One X as the best. Literally. Phil Spencer said that the $499 / £449 Xbox One X would deliver the "very best experience". He left no room for misinterpretation about the console’s status as a luxury product. 

Consequently, I want to feel like a VIP for owning this console. Microsoft seems to have forgotten that. I expected something that would indicate the Xbox One X is a cut above the Xbox One and the PS4 Pro but the interface, many of the games and overall experience are identical to the Xbox One. It feels like, despite the marketing around the Xbox One X’s prestige, Microsoft has neglected to focus on how it feels to own something marketed as a step up. 

If you’re expecting to be hit in the face with all the stunning visuals the Xbox One X is capable of creating as soon as you boot it up you could be disappointed initially. While the machine has the power, it’s down to the studios to issue the patches that unlock all that 4K and take advantage of the mind-boggling specs inside the Xbox One X. 

When that does happen with an Xbox One X Enhanced game the results can be both impressive and variable. Rise of the Tomb Raider looks astonishing in 4K/HDR on a great TV, for example. But what screen you have could huge impacts. Having tried the machine on a range of TVs and monitors the effects can vary from eye-popping gorgeousness to ‘check the settings’ indifference. How the games use the extra power also has an effect. Things like Gears of War 4 look crisp and sharp, but also kind of how you remember it, while games like Assassin's Creed Origins and Forza Motorsport 7 wow in terms of sharp textures, clarity and detail but maybe lose a little in atmosphere. 

So, while if you have a 4K TV then sharper edges will be immediately obvious, but there’s not necessarily much else added. Largely because what’s available, and incoming, are existing games - all that power can only work with what’s there. Both Sony and Microsoft have the same problem that while the Pro and X can add far more than just higher resolutions, it’s up to third party studios to take advantage of that. Or just make an Xbox One S/PS4 Pro game with a 4K upgrade for the X.  

Playing ordinary games on it feels, well… ordinary. Surprising, considering Xbox’s Albert Penello tweeted way back in April that the whole console runs in ‘boost mode’, meaning that even without any update patches games should run smoother. Yet when I started to play on it, I couldn’t see any discernable difference between the game in question on Xbox One and Xbox One X.  

Our verdict:

The long term problem with Xbox One X's potential is that is it could be amazing with - six teraflops to play with, there’s potential for games to really push some technological boundaries. However, without first party studios to do the pushing it's unlikely studios like EA, Ubi and the rest will do so, when PS4 has the market share. There could be some astonishing advances to be made with the power on offer but Microsoft has a lack of internal studios to really take advantage from it. We'll likely see one or two impressive uses from MS over the next couple of years but its unlikely others will. That leaves the Xbox One X as an Xbox One that can display at 4K and little else. 

Want more? Here are the best Xbox One steering wheel options to enhance your Forza 7 experience.

Leon Hurley
Managing editor for guides

I'm GamesRadar's Managing Editor for guides, which means I run GamesRadar's guides and tips content. I also write reviews, previews and features, largely about horror, action adventure, FPS and open world games. I previously worked on Kotaku, and the Official PlayStation Magazine and website.