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Xbox One X coming November 7 for $499: Everything we know

The next generation of Xbox is nearly here.

Sean Hollister Senior Editor / Reviews
When his parents denied him a Super NES, he got mad. When they traded a prize Sega Genesis for a 2400 baud modem, he got even. Years of Internet shareware, eBay'd possessions and video game testing jobs after that, he joined Engadget. He helped found The Verge, and later served as Gizmodo's reviews editor. When he's not madly testing laptops, apps, virtual reality experiences, and whatever new gadget will supposedly change the world, he likes to kick back with some games, a good Nerf blaster, and a bottle of Tejava.
Sean Hollister
10 min read
Watch this: Here's our first up-close encounter with the Xbox One X

Scorpio no more. The next Xbox will be Xbox One X. 

It's coming November 7 for $499, £449 or AU $649.

One year after revealing the existence of Project Scorpio -- an Xbox capable of playing games at 4K resolution and supporting virtual reality -- Microsoft is lifting the lid on the last few details here at the 2017 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. To start, it's got a final name: the Xbox One X.

The biggest surprise: Microsoft says it's the smallest Xbox ever.

We already knew an awful lot about Xbox One X -- you'll find updated answers to many of your burning questions below -- but today is Microsoft's chance to explain why you'd want to buy a new console that plays the exact same games as the original Xbox One game console.

That's the catch: The Xbox One X doesn't play any new games. Instead of trying to sell gamers on a brand-new generation of video game hardware, the X is all about upgrades.

The new Xbox One X up close and in pictures

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What do you mean, upgrades?

According to Microsoft, Xbox One X won't have any exclusive games. Not one.

Instead, Xbox One X will play the same games you can play on an Xbox One or Xbox One S -- but some of them faster and at much higher fidelity.

With 4.5 times the power of an original Xbox One, Microsoft claims Xbox One X can run those same games at ultra high-def 4K resolution at a butter-smooth 60 frames per second. Compare that to today's Xbox One, which still struggles to output many games at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution (1080p). 

Xbox One X is kind of like sticking a new PC video card and an extra memory stick into your game console.

The Xbox One X's inner workings, revealed

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Back in April, Microsoft revealed some of the system specs:

  • CPU: Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz
  • GPU: 40 compute units at 1,172MHz
  • 12GB of DDR5 RAM running at 6.8GHz (9GB available to developers)
  • Memory bandwidth: 326GBps
  • Hard drive: 1 terabyte (2.5-inch)
  • Optical drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray

Microsoft says the Xbox One X chip is packed with 7 billion transistors.

Enlarge Image
Josh Miller/CNET

So all my Xbox One games will run at 4K?

Not necessarily. Games will need to be designed to take advantage of the higher resolution, and Microsoft claims it won't force developers to actually do that. 

But in September, Microsoft pledged that every new game from its own internal studios will run natively at 4K resolution -- and the Xbox One X will also unlock the potential of a handful of existing titles, too. 

Games like Halo 5, The Division, The Witcher 3 and Doom dynamically dial down their graphics whenever the Xbox One can't handle the load. With One X, there won't be a need to throttle. Microsoft says games that use dynamic scaling will consistently look better than before.

And get this: older games might load faster too.

Faster load times?

Hell yes. Microsoft claims a 31-percent faster CPU and faster hard drive will make load times faster across the board -- and existing Xbox One and Xbox 360 titles might see an even bigger benefit. 

Since the Xbox One X has 9GB of memory available to game developers and original Xbox One games were designed to use no more than 5GB, Microsoft says the additional 4GB can be used as cache to make certain loads even faster.

Microsoft's Andrew Goossen described it to Eurogamer like this: "Any repeated IOs... if you go into a race and come out or if you go into a fight and come out, we've got a nice boost right there for load times as well." 

Which games are confirmed to get a big Xbox One X boost?

In addition, these existing Xbox One titles are getting free Xbox One X enhancements:

  • Gears of War 4: Will run at 4K resolution at a locked 30 frames per second in single-player with HDR, dynamic real-time shadows and upgraded character and environment textures. Runs at 4K and 60fps in multiplayer.
  • Forza Horizon 3
  • Killer Instinct
  • Halo Wars 2
  • Final Fantasy XV
  • Resident Evil 7
  • Ghost Recon: Wildlands
  • Rocket League

Microsoft says there are over 30 titles from third-party partners that will provide free updates as part of the "Xbox One X Enhanced" program. 

Xbox One X and games: All of Microsoft's E3 2017 announcements

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Won't those 4K files murder my hard drive space? (added 6/29)

Quite possibly. Forza 7 will clock in at 100GB, which is about 1/10th of the space on the Xbox One X's 1TB hard disk. 

Still, Microsoft won't send the bigger files to consoles that can't use them anyhow, like Xbox One and Xbox One S. 

"4K assets will be downloaded to Xbox One X (if available) and the standard 1080p assets will be downloaded to an Xbox One S," a Microsoft rep told Stevivor. "[W]hen it comes to game content our intention is to download the correct assets to the correct console." 

Can I replace the hard drive? (added 6/29)

Not without voiding your warranty. "This is not designed to be opened up and anything replaced inside of the box," Microsoft's Mike Ybarra tells us. Still, he says you'll be able to plug in USB external drives.

If the first batch of Xbox One X updates for older games are free, does that mean later patches will cost money?

Nope. Microsoft's Kevin Gammill confirmed to CNET that developers won't charge for 4K patches and other Xbox One X enhancements: "It's one of the policies we put in place: there will be no Xbox One X paid upgrades."

Are the 4K-resolution games mentioned above rendered in *true, native 4K*? 

Not necessarily. Microsoft's new branding means developers can label a game 4K even if it isn't truly rendering the game at that resolution 100% of the time, or using fancy (but effective!) techniques like checkerboard rendering that are technically lower-res.

Doesn't the cute white Xbox One S already do 4K?

Yes and no. The Xbox One S can technically display 4K images to your TV, but that isn't the same thing as rendering games at 4K.

Or, put more simply, you can watch 4K Blu-rays with an Xbox One S, but games won't look much better.

Still, the One S does now support high dynamic range (HDR) with a handful of games, which should mean better color saturation and contrast in those titles as long as you've got an HDR-compatible TV.

Why would developers bother building games for One X instead of just the cheaper Xbox One?

Ah, but game developers already support a wide variety of Windows PCs, and Xbox One X is just one more point on that continuum.

The same game that runs on an Xbox One (with an estimated 1.33 teraflops of graphical performance) needs to run on a 9-teraflop Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080, and on a 6-teraflop AMD RX480 graphics card as well. (That last comparison might be particularly handy, since the Xbox One X also has a 6-teraflop AMD GPU.)

And don't forget that Microsoft is trying to merge the worlds of PC and console gaming -- some games will be designed for both Xbox and Windows from the very beginning.

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AMD's Radeon RX 480 graphics card has the same 6 teraflops of graphical performance.

Sean Hollister/CNET

But all my existing Xbox One games will work?

Yep, even the earliest ones. "This thing will play Ryse: Son of Rome, a launch game for your Xbox One," Microsoft's Phil Spencer told Eurogamer.

What about my Xbox One accessories? Will I need to buy new controllers?

Microsoft says every single Xbox One accessory should work, too. "Our commitment is to make sure every single game and every single accessory works across all of those platforms," Microsoft's Mike Ybarra told The Guardian last July.

Even Kinect? (added 6/29)

Yep, though you'll need the same USB adapter that was required to use Kinect with the Xbox One S.

Is Kinect dead? Microsoft's Mike Ybarra says no, but agrees that the focus is no longer "you are the controller": "I think we'll see Kinect be about broadcasting, about voice and artificial intelligence, and how we bring that into the home, in the living room, through the console." 

How about the 385 older Xbox 360 games that were updated to work on the Xbox One?

Yep! Xbox exec Mike Ybarra tweeted that Xbox 360 backwards compatibility is a go, meaning the growing library of patched Xbox 360 titles -- including Alan Wake, Mass Effect and Red Dead Redemption -- will work as well.

By the way, there are now 385 different Xbox 360 games that run on Xbox One. Full list here.

Plus, some original Xbox games are coming to Xbox One as well -- though they'll run in their original aspect ratio. (Did you expect widescreen?)

What if I don't have a 4K TV?

You'll probably still see a graphical boost -- like Sony's rival PS4 Pro, the console uses a technique called supersampling to improve graphical quality even on a 1080p television. It works by rendering games at a higher resolution and then shrinking them down to a lower one, which tends to smooth the image.

Still, you might be better off with an original Xbox One if you don't have a 4K screen. "Scorpio is designed as a 4K console, and if you don't have a 4K TV, the benefit we've designed for, you're not going to see," Microsoft's Phil Spencer told Eurogamer some months back.

But you also might play your Xbox One X games in VR instead.

Virtual reality?

Supposedly. Last year, Microsoft said one of the reasons it's using such a powerful graphics chip -- 6 teraflops of performance plus 12GB of GDDR5 memory -- is so it can drive a VR headset.

But don't expect VR in 2017: Polygon reports that "Microsoft won't have any form of virtual reality for the Xbox One or Xbox Scorpio at E3 this year," and possibly not even in 2018. Sure enough, VR wasn't even mentioned at Microsoft's press conference, and there's been some confusion over whether Microsoft will still support VR on Xbox, period.

We're also not sure which VR headsets the Xbox One X might support. Back in May 2016, one rumor suggested Microsoft would partner with Facebook and support the Oculus Rift headset. But when Project Scorpio was first announced last June, Microsoft said it would be able to play Fallout 4 in VR -- a title which has so far only been confirmed for the rival HTC Vive.

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CNET's Dan Ackerman plays Fallout 4 in VR.

Josh Miller/CNET

Or maybe the One X will simply support any VR headset you plug in. After all, the Xbox One runs Windows 10, and Microsoft plans to make Windows 10 computers support VR headsets much like they do printers.

Either way, you shouldn't expect VR experiences to be much better than an existing baseline VR-ready PC. In our review of the AMD RX480 graphics card (again, same 6-teraflop performance as Xbox One X) we found it just barely good enough for today's VR.

By the way, VR might be the exception to the "no-games-will-be-exclusive-to-One-X" rule. Since the original Xbox One and Xbox One S don't support VR, any VR experiences could be exclusive to the console.

If the original Xbox One plays every game, and the One X adds 4K and VR, why would I buy the intermediate Xbox One S at all?

It's small and cute?

But seriously, if you don't already have an Xbox One, and you can't wait for One X, the Xbox One S is great. It's better than the original Xbox One in practically every way.

But if you already have an Xbox One, you'll definitely want to wait.

Xbox One X vs. Xbox One S: Side-by-side photo comparison

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Will the One X be small and cute, too?

It's small! Microsoft says it's the smallest Xbox ever.

The Project Scorpio developer kit that Microsoft revealed earlier this year threw us off for a bit:

Screenshot by Sean Hollister/CNET

But in our side-by-side gallery (above, or click here), you can see that the final version is even a little bit smaller than the already-small Xbox One S. While it isn't the smallest by much -- it's actually slightly wider and deeper -- it's shorter and thus very slightly smaller than the Xbox One S by volume. 

Can the Xbox One X stand up vertically? (added 6/29)

Yes. There will be an optional stand.

Is this the end of game consoles as we know them?

Only if the One X is a success. Microsoft's betting on a future where you never need to buy a new library of games, but the company's Aaron Greenberg says it's definitely a bet. "We're going to learn from this, we're going to see how that goes," he told Engadget.

What about Sony and Nintendo?

Last November, Sony launched its own 4K-ready system, the $399 PlayStation 4 Pro -- an incremental upgrade that adds support for HDR play and which is compatible with nearly all existing games, apps and accessories. (Here's a spec comparison between the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X.) And in March, Nintendo released the $300 Switch system. It's a solid piece of hardware that combines impressive performance with a small chassis, but it's somewhat hampered by a shallow, if high quality, roster of launch games.

Update, June 11: This post was originally published in August 2016, but it's now full of new information from Microsoft's full reveal at E3 2017, and the many statements Microsoft has made in the months between.