4K, or Not 4K? That’s is the Xbox One X Question

In other words, what does it offer those without a 4K television?

I’ve been at this “writing about video games” thing for a long time, and even so, I’m still sometimes surprised when someone wants my opinion on something. Not that I don’t think my opinion has value, but for instance, I don’t think anyone really cares what I think about the newest Madden game. Heck, I’m not even sure I do.

So that’s why it came as a surprise to me when Microsoft approached me about reviewing their newest console (or console iteration, if you prefer), the Xbox One X. More than anything, it’s known for pushing 4K gaming as the selling point. It’s even right there on the box: “4K Blu-ray, 4K Ultra HD, HDR” — all things I’ve only had the pleasure of experiencing at media events and FanExpo.

I told them as much, and while I expected them to snatch it out of my hands so fast it would make the Tasmanian Devil dizzy, that wasn’t the case. Even some of the stuff I filled out (without getting into details) took into consideration that scrubs like me who are just getting by might not have the new hotness in home entertainment visual displays.

And so that’s where this review is coming from: What I call the “everyman” perspective, in that I’m hoping I’m not some lone kook who is the equivalent of someone trying to use rabbit ears in a cable TV world and that there are others like myself who may be gaming in high definition, just not definition that high.

So hey, what all does this thing come with for your money, anyway? Well, if you saw my unboxing video, you would already know, but here’s the overall gist: You get a 1TB Xbox One X console, a standard Xbox One wireless controller (one of my favorite controllers of all time, and the newer kind that can plug into your computer with a USB cable, at that), a pair of AA batteries for said wireless controller, an HDMI cable, a Starter Pack (with instructions and codes for Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold), and a power cord that connects directly to the console itself — no unwieldy power bricks here!

But man, the weight of the console! No power brick on the outside means they had to put that stuff somewhere, and right into the casing it went! The Xbox One X is fairly diminutive compared to the the original console, but at just over eight pounds, it’s surprisingly heavy compared to its larger and lighter seven pound predecessor. And while I love my bulky black behemoth, trying to navigate the wires in the back while it’s in my entertainment centre is something of a nightmare, as I even hurt myself in the process at one point over the summer. The dimensions of the Xbox One X falls more closely in line with the original PlayStation 4, which has proven a fair bit easier to navigate.

To my disappointment (but not my surprise, as we knew about this), there is no Kinect port on the Xbox One X. With the recent discontinuation of the product, it’s no small wonder, but even though I don’t use the motion control aspect, I’ve grown to love other functions of the device. But while Xbox One S adopters had a period in which they would be provided an adapter which allowed them to continue telling their console to turn on when they walk in the room, Xbox One X will apparently not have any such program in place.

This really kind of puts the screws to those who held out for the bigger and badder Project Scorpio. It’s already a more expensive console, and at $49.99, the adapter isn’t quite what I would call “cheap” in a conventional sense (that’s anywhere from half to the entire price of a whole new game, depending).

The new console keeps one of my favorite things about the original Xbox One: The chime that plays when you start it up. It’s such a simple but pleasant little thing, though it sounds slightly different this time, like there’s more of an echo to it. Also worth noting is that the power button is an actual button this time. While I enjoyed being able to turn the Xbox One on at a simple touch, the problem was that my cats did, too.

Once that’s done, you’re greeted with a new boot animation exclusive to the console, as shown off by Microsoft’s Larry “Major Nelson” Hryb on Twitter:



Basic setup follows, and like the original Xbox One, they were even kind enough to include “English (Canada)” as a language option. No choosing between American English and the Queen’s English for us! And of course, if you’ve got an Xbox Live account, practically everything you’ve saved, purchased, or downloaded on the original carries right over with incredible ease.

Okay, so here’s the skinny: I tried out three different games across both the Xbox One and the Xbox One X with my regular old non-4K television. Two separate inputs, each set to “Game” mode, of course, to compare the graphics and sound.

First up was Super Lucky’s Tale, a 3D platformer with a cartoon graphic style. To be honest, even with the downloadable 4K enhancement patch, I was hard pressed to notice much difference between how it ran on the two platforms.

The same could be said when I tried out the not-yet enhanced Middle-earth: Shadow of War. The game features a higher level of detail, but unlike Super Lucky’s Tale, I felt hard-pressed to notice much difference. I think it looked a little crisper on Xbox One X, but as I had to swap the disc between the two consoles versus hitting the input button, it was tough to be certain. In truth, with the slight blacked-out screen delay when switching inputs, the comparison wasn’t as seamless as I had hoped regardless.

The third and final graphical test came from Killer Instinct, one of my favourites and main motivators for me to get an Xbox One in the first place. It has a more detailed art style than Super Lucky’s Tale, but isn’t quite so realistic as Shadow of War; a firm middle-ground, I like to think.

Interestingly, between the regular and enhanced versions across the two consoles, this is where I saw the most difference, albeit still not a huge one. Pitting Kilgore against Fulgore in Ultratech Industries, I set up a CPU vs. CPU battle and swapped between the two as they duked it out.

Things seemed a little sharper there, and the glow of the molten metal in the background seemed just slightly warmer. It was most noticeable (if not especially so) on the victory screen, as the colors on the Xbox One X were brighter and more vibrant than on the original Xbox One.

In terms of sound? I noticed no real difference on all three games. But then, I’m also using my television’s speakers, so that may be something to account for and research more if you have something like a surround sound system.

(Incidentally, I’d provide side-by-side screen comparisons, but the built-in screen capture functionality seemed to yield the exact same quality from both consoles.)

You might be thinking that since there’s minimal difference between the two on a regular high definition television, there’s no reason to go with an Xbox One. Well, that’s not entirely true. While I can’t compare with the similarly-sized Xbox One S, I did notice some improvements over the original Xbox One in some other areas. Specifically, loading times.

When loading up Killer Instinct, the Xbox One X beat the original out by a few seconds when loading up a match. Likewise, when installing Shadow of Mordor from a disc, the 33.13GB file saw the newer console edge out the older one by a few minutes: Approximately 30:49.49 to 33:45.87.

But where it truly blew me away was downloading a game online. This test was by no means scientific and probably not under optimal conditions, and I can’t account for possible variables (one slightly closer to the router, a cat sleeping between them, etc.) affecting the outcome, so think of this as a “real world” workout. Also, it was done wirelessly, as I can’t get the Ethernet cable to plug in securely to the back of my Xbox One. I performed the test using Super Lucky’s Tale and downloaded it to each platform one at a time.

The difference was astounding.

To download the 8.37GB title took the original Xbox One 1:14:34.64 — that’s 1 hour, 14 minutes, and just over 34 seconds. I noticed that it was hiccuping a bit along the way, occasionally (but not constantly) ceasing the process for a second or three at a time before resuming (based on the display of the rate of data transfer).

And the Xbox One X?

14:42.72.

You’re not misreading that. Just seconds shy of an entire hour less time to download the game, and I didn’t notice any hiccuping along the way.

So is the Xbox One X worth getting if you don’t have a 4K television? That’s kind of a tough one to say.

The price of 4K televisions is coming down, and it impresses on that kind of display, so as a means of future-proofing, I think so. Plus, if your primary way of playing games is downloading them from online storefronts and you hate a long wait, then this will definitely have you covered. But from a strictly visual standpoint, if you don’t think you’ll be getting a new television in the near future, an Xbox One or Xbox One S should hold you over handily.

Of course, if you spot this sucker on a good Black Friday sale, maybe you should grab it — especially if you don’t have an Xbox One already.

As the console is on loan to me from Microsoft for a little while yet, I’m going to continue playing games and looking for things, and if I come across anything of particular note, I’ll be sure to update this article and give it a good bump on the front page.

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About the author

David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.