Yesterday, our own Joel Hruska wrote a post arguing for the merits of the Xbox One X. His premise is rock solid, and the hardware is very impressive, but this line in his article stood out to me: “When I say the Xbox One X is worth buying, that doesn’t mean it makes sense for literally every person right now.” I couldn’t agree more.
There’s a decent number of 4K-loving early adopters out there that will be entirely pleased with the Xbox One X at the $ 500 price point. I’m not here to yuck anyone’s yum–it’s totally fine if the Xbox One X (Buy on Amazon for $ 499) makes you happy. However, if you’re unsure whether it’s worth it to buy (or upgrade to) the Xbox One X right now, there are a few conditions and competing products that are worth considering before you make your decision.
If you don’t have a 4K television, the Xbox One X is going to hold limited appeal for you. Sure, you’ll still benefit in small ways, but it won’t ever look as good as it would on a 4K TV. And since your TV probably also doesn’t have HDR10 support, you won’t even benefit from high dynamic range.
In all fairness, 1080p TVs will still benefit from super-sampling, higher quality textures, additional effects, and any baked-in performance improvements, but the overall impact is minimal compared with what you’ll experience on a 4K set. So if you already have an eighth generation console, the $ 500 price tag is hard to justify without the crucial element of 4K.
Xbox One S
Now, let’s assume you have a 4K television. If your main concerns are HDR support and 4K video playback, Microsoft has an option that’s significantly less expensive. The Xbox One S works with the HDR10 standard, outputs at 2160p, enjoys 4K streaming apps, includes UHD Blu-ray support, and still plays the entire catalog of games (at a lower resolution). And with Black Friday coming up, you can pick one up for under $ 200 – roughly 62 percent less than a Xbox One X.
Of course, the Xbox One (S) uses some rather anemic hardware, and games will never be able to perform as well as they will on the much beefier (and expensive) Xbox One X; that should go without saying. But since many of us use our consoles as set-top boxes first and gaming devices second, the Xbox One S is simply more compelling to that segment of the market.
The Xbox One X is unambiguously more powerful than the PS4 Pro. Pretty much every spec is superior, so nobody is making the argument that the PS4 Pro has more gooder-er graphics. However, the PS4 Pro does serve as an important foil here.
First and foremost, the PS4 Pro has been on shelves for a year now, so anyone interested in a higher-end gaming console has had ample opportunity to invest already. While it’s less powerful than the X, it still offers a fairly compelling jump in visual fidelity over the initial 2013 consoles. And since we’re not even close to native 2160p rendering as the standard, we’ll have to go beyond the half-steps to finally get true 4K gaming on the reg.
And when it comes down to cold hard cash, the PS4 Pro (Buy on Amazon for $ 399) is significantly more affordable. Not only did it launch $ 100 less expensive than the Xbox One X, but since it’s already well established in the market, you can already find refurb/open box deals at an even lower price. So if you’re just looking for a way to play high-res games on the cheap, the PS4 Pro will win out for many of us.
With so much variety in components and consumer needs, the way gaming PCs stack up against the Xbox One X isn’t straightforward. On one hand, it’s exceedingly difficult to build a comparably powerful gaming PC for 500 bucks. On the other, anyone willing to get a little bit spend-y can get a much more powerful gaming rig that’s better equipped for true native 4K rendering. So if you’re coming at it from the high-end, a nice PC is undoubtedly more compelling.
From the low-end perspective, it’s easy to build an affordable machine that’s capable of handling most games. For example, I just specced out a PC capable of running Star Wars Battlefront II, and it was in the $ 500-600 range. It won’t have the horsepower of the Xbox One X, but it does have the benefit of a ridiculously large library with shockingly inexpensive titles. And when you want to upgrade down the road, you won’t have to buy a whole new PC.
And finally, one massive argument against investing in an Xbox One is Microsoft’s Play Anywhere initiative. First-party Xbox titles are coming to PCs too, so the draw of console exclusivity is dead as far as Redmond is concerned. In the end, the Xbox One X has appealing aspects, but it’s just not enough to flip most PC gamers.