After a year of speculation about what Microsoft would eventually call its super-powered Xbox One console – previously codenamed Project Scorpio – the company finally unveiled the Xbox One X to the world at its big live streamed E3 media event in Los Angeles on Monday night. Here's what you need to know, without any technical jargon that talks about teraflops or gigahertz.
What is it?
It's Microsoft's latest console in its Xbox One lineup – but it's not a "next generation" console that replaces the other boxes that are on sale. The $249 Xbox One S remains part of the range – the X is, effectively, a "super console" with beefed up hardware that can do more impressive things with the same software. Microsoft claims that the box has "40 percent more power than any other console," enabling it to play games at a higher resolution and at a much higher frame rate. If you have a 4K TV, games playing on a One X will look sharper, more vibrant and smoother.
Unlike the Xbox One S (and the basic Xbox One before it) the One X can run 4K UHD games and content, and it can do stuff with fancy HDR lighting (expanded detail in areas of extreme brightness and darkness) so that it reproduces colors in a much more realistic way. The One X also supports Dolby's new Atmos surround sound that position sound effects and music in a more precise way that other surround systems.
How much will it cost?
The Xbox One X will retail for $499.
When is it coming out?
Later this year, with a firm launch date of November 7.
What's in the box?
Your $499 gets you the sleek, black console with a 4K UHD Blu Ray player (which is still there... it’s just hard to see the slot in the photos), a matching black wireless controller – notably not an Elite controller, a 1TB hard drive, it has a built-in power supply – so no unsightly power brick, it has three USB ports (two on the back, one on the front), and it still has two HDMI ports and an IR blaster so you can control your TV with the console's "Guide" app. If you're upgrading from a One S, you can just pop all your existing cables out and switch the console – everything's the same. You get an HDMI cable in the box too, naturally – and a 14 day Xbox Live Trial along with a month of Microsoft's vaguely Netflix-like Xbox Game Pass. As with the One S you can sit the console horizontally, like you see in the pictures, or it'll stand vertically with an optional stand.
How will it change my games?
Importantly, the Xbox One X will run everything that any other Xbox One console will – this includes Xbox Play Anywhere titles, anything you've bought on Xbox Live, backward compatible Xbox 360 games and accessories, and the new OG Xbox games that Microsoft is looking to support in the near future. The Xbox One X is capable of upscaling older games to 4K, and it will produce higher quality images even on a 1080p display, thanks to its increased power and a system called supersampling. If you don't have an expensive new TV, your games will still look better. It does this in a similar way to Sony's PlayStation 4 Pro, which improves visual quality over the vanilla PS4. For games to benefit from this, developers must push a patch to the game that takes advantage of the One X's power – Microsoft is calling this the Xbox One X Enhancement Program. There are currently over 50 games on the list that are scheduled to take advantage of this, including Fallout 4, Dishonored 2, Final Fantasy XV, Doom, Rocket League, Gears of War 4, Minecraft, The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim Special Edition and The Witcher 3: Wild Until the Hunt.
As well as playing games at 4K resolution, the Xbox One X will also record game clips in 4K at 60 frames per second and will take 4K screenshots.
Do I need an Xbox One X to play the new games?
No. All Xbox One games will work on the base Xbox One, the Xbox One S (that's the white one with the 4K video output, but not the power to run 4K games) and the Xbox One X. Think of the Xbox family the way you think about your Samsung or Apple phone – the games in the phone app stores work on your iPhone 5S, your iPhone 6 and your iPhone 7 – but they might have enhancements for the latest tech, like slightly better graphics. In this case, expect the Xbox One X enhanced games to have HDR lighting, a smoother framerate (important for driving games, for example) and fancier graphical effects, along with the ability to run at 4K, if your TV is able to output at that resolution.
Will there be games that are only on Xbox One X?
No. There are new games are being developed with the more powerful capabilities in mind – like Forza Motorsport 7, Crackdown 3, and Bioware's new game Anthem – but the same discs and downloads will play on all flavors of Xbox One.
How does it compare to Sony's 4K machine, the premium PlayStation Pro?
Same size hard drive (1TB) but the Xbox One X is more powerful, by just about every measure – a faster CPU, better graphics technology, more RAM (important for game makers, who are constantly looking for more) and it does everything the PS Pro can do. Games made for both the PlayStation and the Xbox One will almost certainly run better on the Xbox One X than the PS Pro. This comes at a cost, though. The PlayStation Pro currently retails for $399.99, which is a full $100 cheaper that the Xbox One X. If you're looking for a deeper dive into the tech, carve out an hour or two to check out Digital Foundry's very detailed breakdown here.