By Don Reisinger
November 15, 2017

In the world of video game consoles, Microsoft’s Xbox One X is tops—when it comes to power.

Over the last several days, I’ve been using Microsoft’s latest home console, the Xbox One X, to see how it performs. I’ve tried out more than a dozen games, analyzed its 4K video performance with Planet Earth II, and tried some streaming apps.

Ultimately, I found the Xbox One X, which costs $500, to be an impressive device—if you have some money to burn. Add that to the price of games ($60 each, in most cases) and the fact that your best visual experience will come from a pricey 4K television, and you can expect to spend some serious cash to get the full Xbox One X effect.

But if that doesn’t worry you and you like the idea of having the latest and greatest console technology, Xbox One X is definitely for you. Here’s our look at the key things you need to know about Microsoft’s new Xbox One X:

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What Is Xbox One X, Anyway?

Xbox One X, released on Nov. 7 is Microsoft’s latest home game console.

Technically, it’s part of the same lineage as the Xbox One in 2013, the successor to the Xbox 360. Xbox One S, a console that has a smaller and lighter design than the Xbox One, was introduced in 2016, and is also part of that family tree.

Xbox One X is the best looking of the bunch with its matte black finish, streamlined edges, and living room-friendly design, and has the most power.

What Makes It Special?

If you’re familiar with the Xbox One, you’ll find that the Xbox One X comes with the same software, works with the same controllers, and has a decidedly “Xbox” feel in navigating its operating system.

However, my time with the Xbox One X really felt special. It’s the most powerful game console I’ve ever used, making it capable of playing today’s most sophisticated games, like Call of Duty: WWII and others. It’s also a true 4K machine, which means its games and other compatible content can all be played in the ultra-high-resolution format.

Many of the games you can play on Xbox One X, including Call of Duty: WWII and Madden NFL 18, look downright gorgeous in 4K. And if you want to see nature, pop in Planet Earth II into the device’s onboard disc drive to experience a magical visual experience. Yes, it’s that good.

Why Does 4K Matter?

To be clear, you can connect Xbox One X to any HDMI-enabled television. That means you can play games and watch content in full-HD rather than the 4K Ultra HD format. However, 4K (and high dynamic range, or HDR) makes it much better.

With 4K, video game characters on the Xbox One X seem far more life-like. The environments you find yourself in are far more detailed. It wasn’t uncommon for me at times to see parts of a 4K game and think it was reality. The visuals were stunning.

The 4K content is bolstered by the console’s support for HDR, which provides a wider band of colors, making video and games more vibrant.

To get all of this, however, you’ll need to have a television that’s compatible with 4K and HDR. While you can get some cheap 4K-HDR televisions, many of the good ones will cost you $1,000 or more, depending on the size you want. And some high-end options from companies like LG and Samsung could set you back several thousand dollars.

If you don’t want to spend money on a new television, consider holding out on Xbox One X until you’re ready.

What Kinds of Games Are There?

That’s a bit of a difficult answer. The simple answer is that every game you played on your Xbox One is compatible with Xbox One X. And you can even transfer those games from your old Xbox One to the Xbox One X at no cost.

However, there are some games that are optimized for 4K, and a growing number have been what Microsoft calls “enhanced.” Those are older games that have been updated to work with 4K televisions.

I’ve played games that were both built for 4K and were enhanced. The verdict? They all look great.

Here’s a handy list of Xbox One X enhanced titles.

How Much Does It Cost?

You’ll pay $500 to get your hands on the Xbox One X. The console comes with an HDMI cable for connecting it to your television, as well as one controller.

Should I Buy Xbox One X?

Over the past week, I’ve been digging into every nook and cranny inside the Xbox One X to try to determine whether its features warrant its $500 price tag. And as someone who owns a 4K television, plays games often, and likes the idea of having access to services like Netflix and others that support 4K programming, I found it to be an outstanding value.

To me, the Xbox One X is not just a home game console; it’s a home entertainment hub. One minute I can be playing a game, and the next, I can switch over to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video to watch movies, Spotify to listen to music, and ESPN to catch up on sports. And if the kids want to watch some movies we have on disc, it’s as simple as popping a movie into the console’s disc drive.

But I realize that at $500, the Xbox One X is pricey. And its total cost of ownership over time, which could include game purchases, subscriptions to the Xbox Live online play, and a 4K television, is a problem.

That’s not to say that the Xbox One X is overpriced—this is a state-of-the-art home game console, after all—but we should acknowledge that the prospect of owning an Xbox One X may hurt your wallet.

But with the holidays coming, I would be awfully happy to see an Xbox One X turn up under my Christmas tree.

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