In just under a month you will finally be able to get your hands on what Microsoft is calling the most powerful console ever made. Xbox One X is heading to market November 7, offering unprecedented gaming resolution, frame-rate and audio fidelity, while promising to maintain compatibility with every Xbox One game and an increasing array of older Xbox titles as well. It won't be for everyone, but here are X (so, like, 10) reasons to be excited.
I) The step up to 4K resolution
How much of an improvement can 4K be over 1080p, really? We've had paradigm shifts in visual fidelity before, like the jump from SVGA to 3D acceleration in the 90s and from SD to 720p with PS3 and Xbox 360, but in both those cases there were clear deficiencies that were being eliminated. Is a 1080p image really that bad?
It's not, but once you see content in 4K, you'll understand the excitement. Part of the thrill is that it allows much larger images - 65" and even bigger - to look pin-sharp. Even at 1080p, those larger TV sets struggle to keep things crisp, and 4K resolves that issue. So Xbox One X not only delivers much more detailed visuals that stand up to scrutiny at closer range, but they play out across vast surfaces, allowing you to truly fill your vision with whatever you happen to be playing, deepening your immersion. Sounds good to us.
II) High-dynamic range
HDR isn't a new concept - we seem to remember Half-Life 2: The Lost Coast boasting about it in 2005 - but for some reason it's back in vogue, and judging by the comparison shots we've seen, it's going to be something you won't want to do without once you have it. HDR allows for a higher contrast ratio between lights and darks, which means that everything from gritty dystopian vistas to bright mountain ranges can leap off the screen with far more evident detail. Coupled with 4K resolution, the effect is quite something.
III) 60 frames per second
Now, the caveat here is that not every game is going to deliver 60fps at 4K. Some developers will opt for 30fps at 4K, and some will probably favor an upscaled image to hit 60fps, but the very possibility of playing something like Forza Motorsport 7 at that resolution and that frame-rate has us very excited. 60fps makes all the difference in fast-moving games that rely on twitch reactions, adding perceptibly smoother motion to a much better image.
IV) AMD FreeSync
If you're not a PC gamer, you probably haven't paid much attention to these kinds of innovations in display tech over the last few years, but FreeSync - like NVIDIA's rival G-Sync - is a technology that eliminates frame-tearing, that frustrating effect where the image on your screen displays a weird horizontal tear due to graphics parts struggling to render frames fast enough to keep up with the action. Fittingly for a console aiming to deliver best-ever visuals, Xbox One X supports FreeSync out of the box if your TV does too.
V) Faster load times
One of the promises of this generation was that our consoles would hibernate like laptops, tablets and phones, allowing us to pick up our progress instantly when we returned. Unfortunately neither Sony or Microsoft could deliver this, but at least with Xbox One X we should see reduced load times due to its ridiculous memory bandwidth. That's the theory, anyway, and we're trying to be optimistic today, so let's take them at their word.
VI) Spatial sound
Audio hardware is never going to sell a console, but the addition of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to Xbox One X's arsenal of compatible technologies does at least tick a big box for cutting-edge audiophiles. In theaters, Atmos allowed movies to distribute up to 128 separate audio tracks and spatial-audio description metadata so moviegoers could be assailed with music and sound effects from precisely where directors intended. How this translates to gaming remains to be seen (sorry, heard), but if you've got the tech, Xbox One X is the first console that wants to speak to it, with Crackdown 3 and Gears of War 4 supported.
VII) Existing games enhanced for 4K
One of the reasons 4K hasn't really taken off yet is a lack of content. Most broadcasters and streaming services are only gradually switching over. So the fact Microsoft has gone back and cajoled dozens of developers into adding Xbox One X enhancements is encouraging. Not everything will support full 4K, but first-party titles should do - Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, Halo Wars 2, etc - and the list of confirmed third-party titles includes some big hitters. Bethesda has pledged it for Doom, Dishonored 2, Fallout 4, The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, CD Projekt RED will offer it for The Witcher 3, and when PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds arrives, it too will be a 4K title.
VIII) No more Kinect
We feel a bit mean about this one, but a lot of people will be happy to see the last vestiges of this technological albatross excised from the Xbox hardware. Goodbye, Kinect port, we barely used you.
IX) Power supply built into the box
Technically Xbox One S got there first with this, doing away with the Xbox One's ridiculous external power supply brick, but we worried that the so-called most powerful console ever might see Microsoft return to its wicked ways. Not so. Instead, Xbox One X is a sleek, practical little piece of hardware and all its gubbins are thoroughly internal. Good work.
X) Bragging rights!
Finally, let's be honest, if you're buying Xbox One X it's at least partly so that you can share the experience with other people. Ideally other people who do not have an Xbox One X or a 4K television, and over whom you will be very happy to lord it with your cutting-edge, next-generation AV equipment. Good luck to you, friend, and may your relatives and neighbours cower before your technologically impatient majesty.