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  • Post published:09/06/2021
  • Post last modified:09/06/2021

About seven months ago, I unplugged my Xbox One X and set it aside, replacing it with Microsoft’s powerful new Xbox Series X. As I wrote in my review for that latter console, the Series X is all about promise: Better performance, graphics, sound, and power management. But it’s also about retaining a path from the past, so it runs the same Dashboard and shell, albeit it more efficiently. And it runs the same games and apps, at least for now, until game makers move on to supporting only the latest hardware.

In the months since I wrote my review, not much has changed: I gave up on newer Call of Duty (COD) titles like Modern Warfare (2019) and Black Ops Cold War, which I find to be problematic for various reasons, and have mostly stuck with an older COD title, Black Ops 4, while experimenting with other games, including Don’t Tell Me, Resident Evil Village, DOOM Eternal, and others.

From a day-to-day perspective, it’s all very familiar. Microsoft’s newest consoles, the Series X and S, have two big advantages over their predecessors, at least when it comes to playing the existing catalog of games. They load games much more quickly, especially those that support Quick Resume, and they improve the graphics and gameplay in ways that range from subtle to profound, depending on the title.

But you get used to it. And over the several months since I moved to the Series X, I’ve wondered from time to time about comparing this experience to other consoles. The Xbox Series S, most obviously, since most of the games I play now probably don’t benefit all that much from the extra power provided by the Series X. And the Xbox One X, which is arguably optimized for 1440p graphics at 60 frames-per-second (fps), as opposed to 4K at 60 fps/120 fps.

The Xbox One X. Hm.

One of the best ways in which one can gauge the efficacy of any upgrade is to go back later and reuse the old product. So, in this case, I decided to dust off my Xbox One X, plug it into the gaming display I purchased for the Xbox Series X, and see how the experience holds up on the older console. With months of Xbox Series X experience behind me, I felt that this might be instructive.

And it was. Though it took a while.

For starters, I needed to install a 4 GB system update before I could even use the console. And when I finally booted into the perhaps overly-familiar Dashboard UI, I headed directly into My games & apps to see about updates. There were 11 waiting, mostly for apps, but also a few very large games, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. So I let that all happen.

I also stuck with an older Xbox One Wireless Controller even though the newer Xbox Wireless Controllers which arrived with the Xbox Series X|S would work just fine with the older console. I wanted this comparison to be as night and day as possible.

Firing up Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, the differences were immediately obvious. The game did shift my display into HDR mode, which is great. But it also took a noticeably long time just to load and sync, and then another interminable amount of time to get past the opening credits. 9 months ago, this was the best videogame console that Microsoft had ever made.

But overall, the game, which dates back to 2018, looked basically identical to the experience on the Series X. There is perhaps less graphical detail in the map loading animations, which preview each level, and they take longer to start up. And then again in the game itself.

The controller differences are even subtler. I like the grippy texture on the newer controller’s two arms (for lack of a better term) and triggers. And the Share button, which triggers screenshots and video recordings, is likewise quite useful. But my previous-generation controller worked just fine, thank you very much.

What this all adds up to, for this one game, is a very subtle advantage on a console that would set you back $500 assuming, of course, that you could even buy one in the first place: The Xbox Series X|S, like Sony’s PlayStation 5, remains very hard to find here in mid-2021. And the console makers have warned that supply shortages will continue for quite some time going forward.

One difference is quite noticeable: Where the Xbox Series X performs its work silently all day long if needed, the Xbox One X fires up a loud fan noise the minute you jump into a game, and then that noise continues unabated until you’re done playing. I guess it doesn’t matter if this welcome improvement is due to the form factor change—the Xbox One X is a standard pizza-box console shape with little room for cooling—or architectural improvements. Or both. But it’s real.

What I’m left with here is what I started with when I reviewed the Xbox Series X last November. The advantages of this console today are real but remain relatively minor while we wait for a coming generation of games that really takes advantage of the newer hardware. The basic overall experience, however, is slower but it’s otherwise nearly identical to that of the Xbox One X. At least with older games, though the differences will grow greater if you’re still using an Xbox One S or OG Xbox One.

In one sense, I suppose the ongoing console shortage has its silver lining. Your inability to get a new Xbox Series X or S might seem problematic. And I realize there are those who need a new console, perhaps because their current Xbox is quite out-of-date or even broken. But you’re probably better off waiting in most cases anyway.

Tagged with Xbox One X

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