Microsoft has a brand-new game console called the Xbox One X. All that “Project Scorpio” talk you might have heard months ago? This is that.
And on Sunday, Microsoft said the first Xbox One X units were up for preorder in the form of an early “Project Scorpio Edition” version of the console.
Microsoft is touting the new device as “the world’s most powerful console.” Based on what we know about its internal specs, it probably isn’t wrong.
But since this kind of iterative release is a bit nontraditional for game consoles, you probably have questions about what exactly this new Xbox is and where it fits into the larger gaming market.
We’re here to help — here’s what to know about the Xbox One X:
The Xbox One X is, fundamentally, another Xbox One.
This is not a “next-generation” device like the leap from the Xbox 360 to the Xbox One.
Instead, it’s more like Microsoft’s version of Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro — it takes the existing Xbox One and makes it more powerful.
That means it plays all the same games as on the original Xbox One and Xbox One S. There is no deviation in any of the three devices’ game libraries.
In other words, there are no games exclusive to the Xbox One X. If you’d prefer the cheaper Xbox One S, you won’t miss out on that next “Halo,” “Forza,” or whatever else.
At the same time, this means a good chunk of the games from companies other than Microsoft will still be available on the PlayStation 4 and other platforms as well.
Also worth noting: Like the other Xbox One consoles, the One X will be “backward compatible” with select older games from the Xbox 360 and, soon, the original Xbox.
That said, Microsoft is promising that games on the Xbox One X will look and run better than on other Xbox One devices, provided those games are built with the Xbox One X’s extra horsepower in mind.
About that horsepower: On paper, the Xbox One X is the most technically capable home gaming console in existence. Here’s a look at the nitty-gritty specs.
• Eight custom x86 cores clocked at 2.3 GHz.
• Six teraflops of graphics performance — by comparison, the PS4 Pro has 4.2 teraflops, the standard Xbox One has 1.31 teraflops, and the standard PlayStation 4 has 1.84 teraflops.
• Twelve GB of GDDR5 RAM — every other current Xbox and PlayStation console has 8 GB.
• A 1 TB hard drive for storing all your games. It appears this will not be upgradeable, however.
• Dolby Atmos audio, which lends richer sound to compatible games. The Xbox One S supports this too, though.
If all of this sounds like gibberish to you, that’s OK. The differences here are largely in maximum computing power — most eyes aren’t going to notice dramatic differences all the time, the way you would if you were going from a PlayStation 2 to a PlayStation 4. The games will probably be gorgeous, but so are lots of modern video games.
Still, the Xbox One X should have less trouble with heavy-duty games than its peers. Microsoft is promising faster load times, and more games should use the extra power to boost draw distances and other fine details over time — it’s still a stronger computer than the competition.
The Xbox One X’s headlining features, though, are its support for 4K and its HDR gaming at up to 60 frames per second. If a given game supports all of that, it should be sharper (via 4K), look more lifelike (via HDR10), and run smoother (via the higher frame rate) than it does on other consoles. There are a few things to note here, though.
The most obvious is that you’ll need a TV that supports 4K or HDR playback in the first place — ideally both.
From there, it’s worth reading our explainer about what exactly 4K and HDR do. In short, HDR is the more substantive upgrade. It can bring better contrast and more lively colors, which leads to a more compelling image.
The sharper resolution that comes with 4K is great if you have a big-enough TV — or if you sit up close to a smallish TV or gaming monitor — but it’s difficult to see those extra pixels if that panel is on the small side and your couch is far enough away.
If you can take advantage of the higher resolution, though, Microsoft is promising various games that will be built from the ground up to support 4K instead of using display-tech tricks to create the effect of a higher resolution, as the PS4 Pro sometimes does. Plus, it is easier to see the difference in smoothness when a game runs at 60 frames per second.
The point of the Xbox One X’s stronger hardware is to run this kind of high-spec game more consistently — though it remains to be seen how capable it is of doing that.
To compare, the Xbox One S also supports 4K, but only through video streaming and Blu-rays, not gaming. It does support HDR10 games, however. It can also play up to 60 frames per second, technically speaking, but it can’t do everything at once the way the Xbox One X ostensibly can. It’s a less powerful console than the Xbox One X, and that affects a lot of other factors.
Microsoft also says those with standard HD televisions (1080p-resolution displays) — still most people — can get cleaner images on past Xbox One games through a display technique called supersampling.
Again, we’ll have to see how well this works in testing. It’s unlikely to be a massive change, but visuals should be better with all that extra horsepower. For what it’s worth, the PS4 Pro can also visually improve some older games, but not all, as Microsoft is promising here.
Along these lines, Microsoft said earlier this year that several games — including hits like “Rocket League,” “Minecraft,” and “Final Fantasy XV” — would receive enhancement patches that add 4K support and general graphics upgrades to make use of the One X.
The company says that games optimized for the console in some fashion will carry an “Xbox One X Enhanced” logo. Microsoft lists about 100 titles as meeting this criterion at the moment, though it’s unclear how many will hit 60 frames per second, support HDR, and play in true 4K all at once.
At the same time, Microsoft hasn’t announced any specific virtual-reality support for the Xbox One X, whereas the PlayStation 4 works with Sony’s PlayStation VR headset. Support for VR is said to be coming at some point, but that’s all we know right now.
Another difference between the Xbox One X and the PS4 Pro is that the former will support ultra-HD Blu-rays, which support all the resolution, color-gamut, and frame-rate upgrades noted above.
If you’re the type who wants to watch movies and TV shows at their highest quality, this is how you do it. That said, the Xbox One S supports the format as well (and costs half as much).
All of this comes in a package that’s a hair smaller than the Xbox One S. It is built very similarly to that slimmed-down console, too — it looks similar, and the various ports are all in the same places. The controllers are just about identical as well.
The Xbox One X is a couple pounds heavier than the One S — or any other console — but it’s not like you’ll be carrying these things around often. That density is a testament to all the hardware Microsoft shoved inside the Xbox One X.
It’s coming out on November 7, and it’ll cost $499. Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro (seen below) is technically less capable than the Xbox One X, but it costs $100 less.
That makes the Xbox One X the most expensive game console on the market. As of Monday, the Xbox One S costs $249, the PlayStation 4 Slim costs $299, and the PlayStation 4 Pro costs $399. At $499, the Xbox One X is $100 more expensive than the closest competitor — and that competitor is the higher-end of two PlayStation 4 models. It is, to put it lightly, a very expensive video game console — the same price as the original Xbox One that launched back in 2013, actually.
A special “Project Scorpio Edition” version of the console is now available for pre-order; it’s only available through pre-order.
The “Project Scorpio Edition” Xbox One X is $499 at the usual retail channels, but supplies were extremely limited, and the model is now sold out.
If you weren’t able to get your hands on one, don’t feel bad. This is the exact same console as the normal Xbox One X under the hood; it just has a couple small engravings on the console and controller meant to celebrate the console’s launch and excite Microsoft’s most ardent fans.
The Xbox One X seems like good value for what it’s packing, but there are reasons to question its existence in a crowded field.
Games built to take full advantage of the Xbox One X will probably look great, and the whole machine should feel snappy. You’d be hard-pressed to fit this level of horsepower in a $500 PC. So it’s not surprising that Xbox boss Phil Spencer told Business Insider’s Ben Gilbert that Microsoft isn’t making money off each console’s sale.
But the kind of gamers who care deeply about these sort of graphical upgrades usually just buy a PC. That PC may be pricier, but it’s stronger; it’ll also be upgradeable into the future, piece by piece, whereas the Xbox One X isn’t.
Meanwhile, the number of people who have the setup to see the difference between 4K and non-4K isn’t huge, and the more affordable Xbox One S already does HDR.
Microsoft’s decision to not make any games exclusive to the One X is noble, but also strips the incentive away from many players to make the upgrade. Many games that end up patching in graphical upgrades are likely to bring those upgrades to other consoles, too, even if they don’t run at their maximum as well as they could here. And if the console’s sales don’t take off, it’s unclear how many games will bother to fully support its optimizations going forward.
Plus, the PS4 still has a far larger install base of players, which means there’s a higher likelihood that your friends are playing their multiplayer games there; PS4 also continues to win the ever-dwindling war for must-play exclusive games.
Microsoft wants to mix the ease of use of a console with the higher graphical power of a PC. That’s great. It’s hard to complain about making prettier games more accessible. But it wouldn’t be a shock to see the One X struggle as a practical product. If there really is a middle ground of “hardcore console” players, it may be a hit. Time will tell.