We round up the news, from prices to release dates, specification to features of Microsoft’s Xbox One X, formerly known as Project Scorpio…
Microsoft’s Xbox One was intended to be an ambitious multimedia box (with gaming just one of its many components). It never really succeeded in that regard and was left in the dust by the PS4’s superior performance and incredible sales.
So Microsoft was forced to reassess the direction of the Xbox program. Out went the motion-tracking peripheral Kinect, so too the ambition of being the go-to box under your TV.
It doubled-down on games, improving the console and the service, culminating in 2016’s Xbox One S – which supported 4K and came with a UHD drive.
It didn’t support 4K gaming, however, which is where the Xbox One X, (formerly known as Project Scorpio) comes in. This is a no-expense spared, native 4K console that focuses on gaming.
Microsoft has stated that it is the most powerful gaming console ever made and coming a year after Sony’s PS4 Pro, it’s a shot across the bow at its main rival, pushing the technological capabilites of home consoles into uncharted waters.
So here’s everything we know about the Xbox One X, its specifications, features and games for when it goes on sale on 7th November 2017.
The Xbox One X boasts a custom eight-core CPU running at 2.3GHz (31 per cent faster than the Xbox One). The GPU is made up of 40 custom compute units running at 1172MHz – this allows the ‘X’ to hit its goal of delivering six teraflops of processing power, way above the PS4 Pro’s 4.2 teraflops.
Microsoft’s new console gets a significant bump in memory with an allocation of 12GB DDR5 of RAM – eight of which is available to developers – taking its bandwidth up to 326GB/s, more than the PS4 Pro (218GB/s) and the Xbox One S (219GB/s). That’s enough to be able process the high-resolution textures needed to render native 4K images.
Every Xbox One X unit comes with a 1TB storage hard drive. Microsoft hasn’t confirmed any other storage solutions, though you should be able to use external hard drives to store saved data.
That means a hard drive with a USB 3.0 connection, storage bigger than 256GB and no larger than 16TB. We’d be surprised if Microsoft deviates from this course, as it’s a nifty solution for those who use a lot of space.
Microsoft has told Eurogamer/Digital Foundry that the internal HDD will have a 50 per cent increase in bandwidth for faster loading times.
Connectivity and build
Microsoft’s forays into home console production haven’t produced the best results. The first Xbox was huge and featured a controller that was bigger than most gamers hands (aptly named The Duke).
Early iterations of the Xbox 360 suffered from an overheating problem, resulting in the dreaded three red rings. The Xbox One resolved these problems, but was still built like a tank. By comparison, the One S is much improved, with smaller dimensions and a tidier design.
The Xbox One X is actually Microsoft’s smallest Xbox to date, despite its new processing prowess and the fact it uses an internal power supply.
The Xbox One is already a quiet console, but Microsoft is aiming for an even better performance by using a liquid-cooled vapour chamber. This space age piece of tech works by absorbing the heat generated by the electronics, vapourising it and using the fans to expel it from the system.
There’s no proprietary port for Kinect (a USB adapter is required) and the HDMI input is retained, which indicates that Microsoft is carrying over its set-top box integration.
Full connectivity is still to be confirmed, but the inclusion of an optical output, three USB 3.0 ports and a HDMI 2.0 port (with HDCP 2.2) would be a good starting point. Microsoft has confirmed that support for HDMI 2.1 has been included in the final spec, but use of that is dependent on adoption by TV manufacturers.
The Xbox and Xbox One S both received support for Dolby Atmos in 2016 and the new audio processor in the One X supports Atmos from the get go.
There is support for Dolby Atmos gaming, Atmos through headphones and Microsoft’s own proprietary format called HRTF (developed by the Hololens team).
The Game DVR feature records gameplay in both SDR and HDR, as well as 4K/60fps too.
Like the PS4 Pro, it makes use of upscaling techniques such as checkerboard rendering, which doubles the amount of pixels on screen to reach a higher resolution. This upscales Xbox One games to 4K.
There’s support for the FreeSync 2 standard and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate). Freesync 2 eliminates tearing and reduces stutter for a smoother, more stable performance, though it applies to PC monitors rather than Full HD screens.
VRR performs a similar task for televisions. It refers to a technology where if a frame is dropped then the display refreshes at the same rate as the game you’re playing, reducing lag for a smoother performance. This is only supported by the HDMI 2.1 standard and we’re yet to see any 2017 TVs that support it.
If you have a Full HD or a 4K screen, the Xbox One X is intended to work on both, though as it’s a native 4K console, you’d expect the best performance to be delivered on a 4K screen. A Full HD screen should still look glorious though and Xbox claims that the console’s ‘supersampling’ means 4K games will still look better on a non-4K TV than the standard version of the game.
Xbox One peripherals and games will be compatible with the Xbox One X, so your headset and controllers will work.
Some of the Scorpio’s launch titles have been announced at E3, band include Forza Horizon 7 (which runs at 60fps), Assassin’s Creed Origins, Minecraft 4K and Anthem. Microsoft claims there will be no fewer than 22 games available exclusively on the Xbox One X at launch.
There’s been no word how expensive 4K games will be compared to the standard versions
In recent years Microsoft has reverse-engineered a number of Xbox 360 games to work on Xbox One. This time, both 360 and Xbox One games will run on the Xbox One X. At E3 2017, Microsoft announced that it was also introdcuing backwards compatibility with some games launched for the original Xbox, including Crimson Skies.
In theiry, existing (and compatible) Xbox 360 titles should run with a much smoother performance and at maximum resolution. Texture rendering should be better and screen tearing could be eliminated. There will be GameDVR support and faster loading times too.
If a game has been set at 30fps, don’t expect it to suddenly morph into a 60fps monster. That depends on whether a developer goes back to a game and patches it.
The mere presence of 4K means the Xbox One X is more expensive than the Xbox One S. At E3 2017, Microsoft revealed the Xbox One X will cost $499 at launch, which probably equates to around £500/$750 – that’s higher than the the PS4 Pro’s current price point of £350/$525.
Microsoft has set out its stall to create the most powerful games console on the market. In that respect it looks to have succeeded. It delivers native 4K gaming, there’s backwards compatibility and it supports 4K Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos and HDR.
Of course, if you want one, it will cost a premium.
There are still a couple of questions yet to be answered, though. Will it support 4K pass-through? Which variants of HDR does it and its 4K games support?
Whatever the answers, the Xbox One X looks set to be a fascinating gaming console for a whole host of reasons and we can’t wait to put one through its paces!