User Interface

The User Interface (UI) for the Xbox One X is exactly the same as the original console, thanks to the shared platform underneath. In mid October, Microsoft released the Xbox One Fall Update, which made further changes to the UI. As with the Xbox 360, Microsoft is not content to leave the UI alone, but instead they are always trying to improve it. Whether they’ve succeeded in improving it is not always a clear cut answer, but after using the Fall Update for a few weeks, it is an overall nice update. Let’s go over some of the highlights and features.

The new Home screen offers a lot more selections without having to switch screens, but it’s nice to see the Games and Apps very quickly available. You can now pin games to Home, and they get their own home page directly below the main Home page. This does make it harder to get to your pins though, especially if you’ve pinned a couple of games to Home, since you have to scroll past them, so it is really only useful for the one or two games you are playing right now. Others may disagree of course.

What has improved a lot though is the Guide, which is the overlay from the left which pops up when you hit home. Here it’s very easy to get to pins, all games and apps, and your most recent apps, but it’s also easier to sign out, get to settings, or find your game captures. The Guide performance seems like they’ve finally got it where they want it, although the extra performance of the X likely helps a lot in this regard.

The new light theme is a nice touch for those that get tired of the standard dark theme, although the dark theme looks amazing on OLED.

Microsoft has added some features to the Fall Update specifically to get you set up for the Xbox One X upgrade too, which are worth discussing. First, you can backup your games, and your console settings, to a USB hard drive, to make it easy to transfer them to your new console. Or, if you are still going to have both consoles up and running, there’s also a new Network Transfer feature which lets you pull games from one Xbox where they are already downloaded, to the other. Since most people have a much faster network than internet connection, this is a great feature, even though we only saw about 300 Mbps maximum from it even over a wired gigabit Ethernet connection to both consoles. You can select some, or just transfer all of your games.

What would make this feature even better is if it would automatically do this for the user, much like the Branch Cache features of Windows, or even the new Windows Update functionality in Windows 10 where it can pull updates from another machine on the LAN. The method to do this currently is to go into settings, then network, and then start a network transfer, but this isn’t very obvious, and if the system would just pull the data from the other system when you select it in your “Ready to Install” list, that would make it easier.

In addition to the network transfer, if you have an Xbox One, and are upgrading to an Xbox One X, you can also set your Xbox One to download the 4K assets for games that are Xbox One Enhanced, but, like the Network Transfer feature, this is also buried in settings, and not obvious. You have to go to Settings, System, and then Backup & transfer, then check the box that says Download 4K game content. It’s nice to have, but it’s just not obvious to most users, and you pretty much have to know about it ahead of time to even know to look for it. If you are getting an Xbox One X, and you have an earlier model, it’s definitely worth your time though, since the 4K updates can be massive. The update for Gears of War 4 was something like 26 GB, making the game over 90 GB total.

Game DVR also got an update to allow 4K recordings up to 30 seconds max, and the system will automatically convert the videos to SDR for sharing, which is a nice touch. As we saw earlier in the 4K screenshots, they are just presented as PNG files with the HDR info stripped away, resulting in the wrong colors being displayed. It’s hopeful this will get fixed in the future.

The only downside with the UI is that it, once again, changed somewhat dramatically, meaning muscle memory may have to be re-learned. That’s not always ideal, but in this case, it does seem like the overall experience is better than before.

Power Usage Discussing Xbox One X with Kevin Gammill, Xbox Partner Group Program Manager
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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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