The Xbox One X Design

Small. Sleek. Refined. All are words that can easily describe the latest Xbox console. Despite having almost five times the performance of the original, the new console is only 60% of the volume of the Xbox One. And that’s before you factor in the Xbox One X has a built-in power supply, while the original had a huge external power brick. Clearly Microsoft is pretty happy with the design of the Xbox One S, because the new console takes most of its styling cues from the mid-cycle refresh of the original Xbox One, except they’ve moved back to black. The black certainly blends in better with A/V equipment, so it should please most people. Without doubt, there will be special editions of the console later with all sorts of color options. Maybe Microsoft should just add the Xbox itself to the Xbox Design Labs so you can create your own?

Picking up the Xbox One X, it feels incredibly dense. The new console is less than 300 grams heavier than the original, but the smaller chassis makes it feel even heavier.

Evolving the design of the Xbox One S

The front design is very sleek. Like the Xbox One S, Microsoft has ditched the capacitive power button and gone with a much better feeling physical switch. The USB port is now on the front, as well as the controller pairing button, and the disc drive and eject button are on the left. It really does look great, and it feels like a solidly built device, despite that fact that the importance of materials and design isn’t as necessary as it would be on a device you carry with you.

The only small quibble with the design is that all of the buttons, other than the Xbox power button, are color matched to the console, making them difficult to see in a dim TV room. Plus, the UHD Blu-Ray drive slot is also hidden, which aesthetically looks great, but does kind of make you fumble a bit with where to put the disc in, although certainly that will get more familiar over time. This can be compounded if the Xbox One X is mounted low on a shelf under the TV. If that's the case, looking down at the console, the overhang of the top obscures the buttons and USB ports.

The back features the HDMI input and output ports, so Microsoft has kept the TV input capabilities intact. There’s also two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, along with S/PDIF, Ethernet, and an IR output, which would need to be paired with an IR cable if you want the Xbox to control your TV or cable box.

The back of the device gives a hint at what’s inside. Cooling is one of the most important aspects to the design of the Xbox One X, and not only for product longevity. No one wants a loud cooling system. The original Xbox One was decent in this regard, but was definitely audible, even across the room. Despite the increased performance, and smaller chassis, the Xbox One X is practically silent, even at load.

At idle, with a SPL meter about 6-inches in front of the Xbox One X, the SPL reading was just around 38 dB(A). Considering the 36 dB(A) sound floor in the room, that’s pretty good. It’s not silent, but across the room, it’s practically silent. Under the load of Gears of War 4, which is a 4K title, the Xbox One X only went up to 41 dB(A) which is fantastic.

The move to put the power supply inside the console also adds to the thermal load that the Xbox One X has to deal with, compared to the original where the power supply was an external brick attached to the power cord. But the benefits to the user are a much neater package, without having to deal with finding a place to hide the power supply. In the case of the Xbox One X, Microsoft has outfitted it with a 245-Watt universal voltage PSU, and the company claims it is the most efficient ever put into an Xbox. Also thanks to the internal power supply, the power cable itself is a standard cable as well, compared to the much larger cable on the original, since it won’t need to carry as many amps with the higher input voltage of a power outlet feeding directly into the console.

The Controller: Standard and Custom

The Xbox One X ships with the new standard Xbox controller. There’s a few changes from the launch device, but the overall design is very similar. The latest generation of controller from Microsoft incorporates a 3.5mm headset jack into the bottom of the controller, rather than requiring a proprietary headset connector. This alone is a big update. The other major change is that the new controllers also support Bluetooth, for connecting to PCs, in addition to the Wi-Fi Direct connection the controller still uses for connections to the Xbox and select PCs with Xbox Wireless built-in.

The top of the controller has been subtly changed as well, with the front face now enclosing the Xbox button at the top, rather than having it somewhat separated as it was when the console first launched. It’s a small styling cue, but it’s also an easy way to tell if your controller is the updated model offering Bluetooth.

It’s still powered by two AA batteries, although you can purchase the Play & Charge Kit, or third-party solutions as well, if you want a rechargeable solution.

As previously mentioned, Microsoft has really upped their game in terms of controllers, even though the standard model that comes with the Xbox One X hasn’t changed dramatically from the launch version.

First, you can visit the Xbox Design Lab to create your own controller. You can pick the body, back, bumpers, triggers, D-Pad, ABXY, and menu buttons from an array of colors and styles, including rubberized hand grips, and metallic triggers. You can also get it engraved with up to 16 characters, if you want to put your gamertag on the controller. It may sound a bit gimmicky to some, but it starts at just $20 more than the standard controller, and can be a great way to create an attachment between the device and the owner. If you're into the NFL, Xbox Design Labs now lets you add your team logo to your controller.

If you don’t want to design your own, Microsoft also offers a wide array of custom controller colors, including some with some very cool shadow effects.

Finally, Microsoft offers the Xbox One Elite Controller. Yes, it does have a $149.99 MSRP, but it has a very solid feel, on top of the interchangeable components included with it. It comes with three sets of thumb sticks, two D-pads, and rear paddles that can be mapped to any button. There’s hair-trigger locks for the triggers themselves, an app to customize it all, and a very nice carrying case for the controller and all of its accessories. If you’re an Xbox fan, and you haven’t tried this controller out, you should.

The Xbox One controller design has held up pretty well, and it’s great to see small tweaks to it over the years to make it even better. If you want something other than the included standard black model though, there’s plenty of first-party options.

Introduction Powering Xbox One X: Custom AMD APU
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  • abrowne1993 - Friday, November 3, 2017 - link

    Wow, surprised to see a console review here. And before it even launches, at that. Reply
  • yhselp - Friday, November 3, 2017 - link

    Great article. Thanks. Just one thing I didn't understand - why would XBO's DDR3 account for its performance deficit when its eSRAM buffer actually has higher bandwidth than PS4's GDDR5, albeit limited to 32 MB? I thought XBO's performance deficit comes from its weaker GPU. Can you explain, please? Reply
  • yhselp - Friday, November 3, 2017 - link

    Ignore me, I apologize, just realized what you meant to say - that picking DDR3 necessitated an eSRAM buffer, which limited their ability to put more stuff on-chip, which resulted in a weaker GPU. Have never thought of it this way, thanks for making it clear. Reply
  • yhselp - Friday, November 3, 2017 - link

    It's also quite ironic that by deciding against GDDR5, Microsoft essentially guaranteed that Sony would not run into production limitations with the PS4. Reply
  • rasmithuk - Friday, November 3, 2017 - link

    I think the article is wrong here.

    GDDR5 was available in volume, but not in 4Gb packages (which were required to get a sensible board layout).
    2Gb were available, but without going for riser cards they could only get 16 on the board, giving a limit of 4GB of RAM.

    4Gb chips became available late 2012, too late for Microsoft to change the whole console design to use, but early enough for Sony (who were happy with 4GB of RAM on the PS4) to switch.
    Reply
  • Rufnek - Monday, November 6, 2017 - link

    @rasmithuk
    You may be entirely correct, but the reality is that Sony found a way to get GDDR5 memory in the console, with a built in power supply now less, in a much smaller space than the One Without an internal power supply. Reasoning is really that one company chose to spend real money on a compact design, and the other company was really looking to keep costs at a minimum.
    Reply
  • novastar78 - Monday, November 6, 2017 - link

    This is actually 100% correct based on the sources I've talked to.

    MS wanted 8GB because of the vitualized OS they wanted to give more headroom so they needed 8GB.
    Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, November 3, 2017 - link

    32MB of high bandwidth memory vs all 8GB being that bandwidth. Reply
  • Samus - Saturday, November 4, 2017 - link

    The real problem is the SRAM just isn't much faster than GDDR5 in the first place. It only looks fast when you compare it to DDR3.

    Microsoft really screwed up going with DDR3. There was no excuse really. I agree with rasmithuk that the packaging they needed wasn't available for the board footprint, but that could have been worked out in the short turn (in the form of bigger initial losses on hardware sales as well) but the real head scratcher is consoles don't even use high speed GDDR5.

    They use the 6-7Ghz variety. Which is not only substantially less expensive, but has never been remotely close to a "supply shortage." When you read about shortages, it's of stuff at the ultra high end. Look at 3D NAND, GDDR5X, HBM2. These all have low yields because they are new technology. GDDR5 at 8Ghz initially had low yields as well, and it was never considered for consoles, particularly because AMD has historically stayed away from 8GHz GDDR5.
    Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Friday, November 3, 2017 - link

    No mention of how the ROPS don't align perfectly with the memory bus? Resulting in a Radeon 7970-memory like situation? Reply

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