Microsoft’s executives are definitely sold on the 4K HDR TV revolution and their Xbox One X console is the crowning showpiece of just how much the company has invested in the rise of these new display technologies. That’s the key reason why the upcoming 4K Xbox is being promoted so heavily for exactly these kinds of specs
And it’s worth noting that this isn’t something that Microsoft does for just any new technology. There has to also be conviction that what’s coming is here to stay for at least a reasonable length of time. These at least are the thoughts of Microsoft’s own Xbox development head Albert Penello, who recently stated that the company doesn’t jump onto just any new tech fad. His main example being the development of 3D TVs during the last few years, a technology for which Microsoft never really modified any sort of Xbox features due to a lack of belief in the persistence of 3D. In that case they have definitely been right as even 4K TV manufacturers have now mostly taken 3D away from even their most cutting-edge newer 4K HDR TV models.
As for 4K however, Penello explained that Xbox definitely recognizes the quality of the new resolution in display and Microsoft wants to get involved heavily here because they believe the technology will have major staying power. This is why the Xbox One X was developed with such a powerhouse emphasis on 4K UHD specs and with support for the even more recent but also crucial home entertainment display standards of high dynamic range, both of which are supported by the console.
According to Penellos’ own words, “We saw the 4K shift coming. We pretty much skipped 3D if you remember in the 360 era, so we really believe in 4K. We were convinced and we wanted to create a box that was the showcase device for 4K televisions”. The Xbox One X was their flagship design for this. Previous to it, the 2016 Xbox One S console was also released by Microsoft as a sort of gap-filler between the outdated Xbox One and what the company really wanted to express their faith in 4K display but unlike the upcoming Xbox One X, the One S model only supports 4K pass-through, 4K UHD Blu-ray disc playback and upscaling of 1080p content to simulated 4K. For full blown native 4K UHD gaming and all the accessories, the One S is nowhere near powerful enough. It did however support HDR as well, which requires little in the way of additional processing power despite its enormous display performance enhancements.
The Xbox One X does however come with all the 4K HDR trimmings and is without a doubt the worlds most powerful console across the board. Sony released its own attempt at 4K gaming in the form of the PlayStation 4 Pro in late 2016 but this console was more on par with the Xbox One S and its 4K upscaling-oriented specs than with any true attempt at a full 4K UHD gaming device. Sony promoted the PS4 Pro as being ready for native 4K but subsequent trials and consumer use of the console have indicated otherwise for the most part.
For the Xbox One X, Microsoft wants no doubts. At $500 the new console will indeed be pricey after its November 7th, 2017 release date but gamers who go for it and own a 4K PC monitor or TV will get the sort of real ultra HD gaming experience that the PS4 Pro from Sony and the Xbox One S only played around with without getting serious.
Consequently, new game releases for the upcoming console have to also keep 4K resolution firmly in mind, and this is already happening. Existing releases such as “Forza 7 Motorsport”, “Middle Earth: Shadow of War” and “Assassins Creed Origins” among a number of others. While all of these games and others which are pending release will also be retro-compatible with older Xbox consoles, they reserve their very best 4K ultra HD performance mixed with HDR color/contrast details for the Xbox One X 4K console.
Furthermore, these new games are designed to leave the offerings that have been released by Sony and its partners for the PlayStation 4 Pro in the dust in terms of overall gaming experience and visual quality.
For his part, Penello claimed to be full of respect for the Sony PlayStation 4 Pro, claiming to “give them a lot of credit for what they did there” and further stating that “for me, the most interesting observation is that we both arrived at a similar idea even if the execution is slightly different”.
He also explained that:
“We don’t have insight into what their plans are, so when they announced the Pro, I was as surprised as anybody else was. They had a different idea in mind for what they wanted to build, so in retrospect it may seem like we were reacting to what they were doing. But people in the business know that this has been in the works for years, and we have to lock the specs years in advance.”
The specs differences between the two devices are indeed different at that. The PAS4 Pro is a fantastic console at a much more modest price and has plenty to over both 4K TV owners and regular HD gamers but in terms of specs, it simply doesn’t match what the Xbox One X is bringing. Aside from costing over $100 more than the Sony console, the One X offers up 8 custom X86 cores clocked at 2.3GHz vs the PS4 Pro’s 2.1GHz 8-core AMD Jaguar CPU, 6 teraflops of performance vs. the 4.2 of the PS4 Pro and a 12GB GDDR5 RAM vs. an 8GB GDDR5 RAM in the Sony platform. Both offer comparable storage space but the Xbox One X also throws in a full 4K UHD HDR Blu-ray player while the PS4 Pro delivers only HD Blu-ray playback.
In other words, for 4K gaming, the One X is the closest any console has yet come to PC GPU levels of power while the PS4 Pro is only a few notches above a normal HDTV game console.
On the gaming front, those who buy into One X and its lineup of 4K UHD-capable games can almost certainly look forward a far superior experience in terms of details, frame rates and obviously resolution. PS4 Pro and Sony’s lineup of games for the device will probably indeed probably be crushed on the performance front.
On the other hand, most TV owners and console gamers are still firmly in HD territory, (at least for now) so for this majority, there’s a good chance that the considerably cheaper price of the PS4 Pro will cause serious competition for the Xbox One X despite its better chops. In terms of prestige and market leadership though, Sony definitely has incentive to come up with a truly powerful new PlayStation release in 2018 to rival what Microsoft has now done.