The Xbox One is a killer game console.
Not only is it a looker, but it’s a powerful little box — the Xbox One “S” model you see above is the new standard for the console, replacing the original box that launched in 2013. It plays the same games, but looks better, does more, and costs less.
And now, we’re on the cusp of yet another new Xbox: The Xbox One X, a $500 system that boasts more horsepower than any home game console.
You may be wondering if it’s for you. It may very well be! But there’s a strong argument to be made for sticking with the far less expensive Xbox One and Xbox One S models.
The price difference between standard models of the Xbox One and the Xbox One X is $250.
To be all the way clear, an Xbox One X costs double the price of a standard Xbox One S.
The Xbox One X is the cost of two brand-new Xbox One S consoles, to say nothing of refurbished models or bundles that come with free games. You could easily pay around $200 for an Xbox One in slightly-used condition.
At $500, the Xbox One X isn’t a small step up in price — it’s a massive leap. You’re paying for a huge bump in horsepower, no doubt, but it’s no small price to pay.
2. 4K and HDR looks nice, but it’s not worth the $250 price difference.
If you’re thinking about buying an Xbox One X, you’re likely aware that it’s a more powerful console than anything else available. That’s a fact! The console, on paper, is an absolute beast.
In reality, though, using the Xbox One X is unidentifably different from using a standard Xbox One.
My standard Xbox One — a near-launch model, before the redesigned “S” model existed — operates identically. The one difference is the Xbox One X’s ability to play games in 4K/HDR. To this end, it’s very impressive.
I bought this TV a few weeks ago. It’s the top-rated 4K/HDR set from the best reviews publication out there. I even calibrated it! I went all in on 4K without spending thousands of dollars, which I’m told looks a bit better — sorry videophiles, but I’m not shelling out for an OLED set.
Games on the Xbox One X do indeed look better in 4K with HDR lighting, but it’s not that big of a graphical leap. I remember going from the original Nintendo to Super Nintendo, and being blown away. And then I remember going from 480p to 1080p — the jump from so-called “standard” definition TVs to “high” definition. What a difference!
In my experience with the new console thus far, 4K and HDR gaming isn’t that level of difference. Colors are more vibrant, and lighting is more complex, and there’s more visual detail in every frame. Most importantly of all, the game still looks sharp even on a 55-inch TV.
But if you’re expecting to be blown away, think again.
3. The Xbox One X feels exactly like an Xbox One, for better and worse.
Though the Xbox One X has significantly more powerful internals than the Xbox One S and original Xbox One, that doesn’t translate to a better user experience. The console is capable of powering gorgeous games at high framerates, yet the basic system navigation is as muddy as ever.
To be fair, a recent update to the Xbox One dashboard made basic use far more manageable. It’s quicker than ever before, but still not as quick as the competition from Sony and Nintendo. There’s a lag to everything that makes using the Xbox One X feel old — something a brand new, $500 console should not feel like.
It’s especially stark compared with modern smartphones. I realize of course that it’s an unfair comparison, but smartphones have changed what people expect from modern technology. That expectation is what makes the Xbox One X feel surprisingly old, even though it looks slick and powers bleeding-edge visuals.