Microsoft Xbox One X review: It's the most powerful console you can buy. But is that enough?

The Good The Xbox One X is a powerful step-up console that supports 4K, HDR and offers improved visuals and framerates for certain games. It can play all Xbox One games, some 360 and original Xbox games, and it ships with a 1TB drive.

The Bad At $500, it's the most expensive game console right now. The list of console-exclusive titles generally falls short of its direct competition, the PS4 Pro. Not every game will receive 4K or HDR enhancements.

The Bottom Line Xbox One X lays a credible claim to the title of most powerful game console ever, but it has an uphill battle for your gaming dollar, especially if you already own an original Xbox One.

For the longest time, Microsoft's mystery machine codenamed Project Scorpio promised to be the most powerful gaming console around, capable of delivering native 4K gaming and support for HDR10.

But it's not just that elusive 4K promise. Microsoft says multiplatform games will look and perform the best on the Xbox One X ($615 at Amazon) and legacy Xbox One ($368 at Amazon) games will play better too. No 4K TV? No problem. Microsoft also says the Xbox One X will use supersampling to downscale a 4K signal to 1080p so those who don't yet own a 4K TV will still enjoy the benefits of improved visual fidelity.

Now that we have the Xbox One X in house and have played around with the hardware, we've seen some evidence that supports Microsoft's "most-powerful" claim, but we're still not sure it's worth the money right now.

Editor's note: At embargo time the selection of games to test remains slim, so we'll update this review with our findings -- as well as a score -- after we've had some time with more software to compare.


Comparing the Xbox One S and X side by side.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Is it that much better than the Xbox One and One S?

On paper, the Xbox One X is lightyears ahead of the launch Xbox One in terms of processing power. The Xbox One S ($499 at Amazon) is slightly more advanced than the original because it can handle HDR and output a 4K signal, but that's where it ends. For all intents and purposes the One and S both trail far behind the X.

I compared an Xbox One X to an Xbox One S playing Gears of War 4 (which has been updated to take advantage of the X's hardware) side-by-side using two nearly identical 4K TVs. Right out of the gate, the difference in sharpness and detail was very apparent. In some instances comparing textures between the two consoles was night and day.


The detail in the Xbox One X version of Gears of War 4 is vastly improved.

Sarah Tew/CNET

To me, the most striking difference is the HDR lighting improvements that really make explosions pop in Gears 4. Though when I turned HDR on with the Xbox One S, the dramatic difference between the two drew narrower.

Gears of War 4 has an enhanced video option that lets you choose between improved performance and better visuals. I think it's safe to assume Xbox One X enhanced games will give you similar menu options you can mess around with, not unlike what a lot of games that support PS4 Pro offer.

When I chose performance over visuals, there was barely a difference in graphical prowess between the two while standing still. But once the action started, the X ran the game at a silky smooth 60 frames per second compared to the comparatively choppier 30 frames the S was displaying.


HDR makes a big impact.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Enhanced for the Xbox One X

To be clear, the Xbox One X can play any Xbox One game, but which titles get "enhanced" is another story. You can safely bet that most -- if not all -- first-party Microsoft games will get the enhanced treatment, but there's no guarantee every third party game will offer support. They don't have to. That said, a lot of the triple-A games hitting this holiday season (like Star Wars Battlefront II, Wolfenstein II, Call of Duty: WWII, etc.) will be updated. If you want to make sure your favorite game will get support, you can check Microsoft's list on its site.

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