Xbox One X is the super-powered gaming console for hardcore fans
You'll get the most out of Microsoft's $600 console only if you play it on a 4K TV with HDR colour
This week sees the release of two super-powered tech devices that share more than a few elements in common with each other.
Apple is launching its iPhone X, the powerful, premium version of its ubiquitous smartphone, this weekend.
Microsoft is doing roughly the same thing with the Xbox One X gaming console when it launches on Tuesday. It's a significantly more powerful version of the Xbox One — and like the iPhone X, it's also got an X in the product name, for whatever that's worth.
Since it was formally announced this summer at the E3 gaming conference, Microsoft has loudly touted the One X as the most powerful console ever — roughly 40 per cent more powerful than "any other console," according to promotional materials.
In terms of sheer numbers, Microsoft backs up its claims. The Xbox One X has an 8-core CPU at 2.3 GHZ, a six-teraflop graphics processor running at 1172 MHz and 12 gigabytes of memory.
What that actually means in real-world terms is the One X will display games in up to 4K resolution with sharper picture quality and smoother frame rates than the baseline Xbox One (and its 2015 hardware revision, the Xbox One S) and its major competition, Sony's PlayStation 4.
It's also significantly beefier than the PlayStation 4 Pro, Sony's take on the higher-end console it launched last year.
It's all about the 4K
To fully appreciate the One X's two scoops of extra horsepower, you'll need a television that can actually output 4K resolution. Ideally it also supports High Dynamic Range (HDR), which displays richer colours and better contrasts between light and dark images.
Provided you actually have a TV that can display 4K and HDR, and are playing the handful of games that currently take full advantage of these features, the results are nothing short of spectacular.
Games like Forza Motorsport 7 and Gears of War 4 look better on the One X than just about any other console game on the market, with visual quality roughly equivalent to running a high-end PC on high or ultra settings.
Watch Jonathan Ore and MobileSyrup's Patrick O'Rourke check out the Xbox One X in the following video.
A vivid sunset would illuminate the asphalt track during a race in Forza, as sunlight bounces off of the polished finish of your race car. And you'll probably be able to count the individual teeth in a murderous mutant's mouth as it tries to eat you alive while playing the sci-fi action game Gears of War 4.
And unlike previous "generations" of video game hardware, the One X will play all Xbox One games you might have played on previous versions of the console.
High performance, high price tag
These benefits come with some important caveats, however.
For one, you'll need a TV that actually supports 4K and HDR to reap the full benefits. You can hook it up to a regular 1080p HD television, and games will run with better frame rates and faster loading times. But you'll be missing out on most of the visual oomph provided by newer display technology.
4K support is currently live for a few high-profile games like Gears of War 4 and FIFA 18, and the list of enhanced games will grow over time to include other high-profile releases such as Assassin's Creed: Origins and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War.
There's also the price. The Xbox One X console sells for $599 Cdn and comes with 1TB of storage space to download games and other media. It doesn't come with a game.
The standard model currently on the market, the Xbox One S, starts at $350 bundled with a game. You can also find a model with up to 2TB of storage — twice that of the One X.
You'll also probably want to look into buying a new 4K TV if, like most Canadian households, you don't currently own one.
And while the Xbox One platform includes many of the most popular games series — sports games like FIFA and Madden, or first-person shooters like Call of Duty: World War II — these can all be found on the PlayStation 4 as well."
Some 2017 game-of-the-year contenders, such as Nier Automata and Horizon: Zero Dawn, can currently only be found on the PlayStation 4 or a PC.
Should you upgrade?
The big question then — should gamers upgrade to an Xbox One X? — is a complicated one without a definitive answer.
Microsoft has delivered on its promise of high-fidelity gaming. But cash-strapped consumers will likely find everything they need in a less expensive Xbox One S, or a PlayStation 4. There aren't any games that you can only play on a One X, so you won't be locked out of any titles if you go for the cheaper option.
There's also the looming, esoteric threat of the Nintendo Switch, a hybrid portable system unlike anything else Sony or Microsoft currently has on the market, which boasts games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey that you can't get anywhere else.
For the Xbox faithful, there's no better way to play video games. But gamers who don't own a 4K TV will be fine with the more affordable options out there.