The Xbox One X truly lived up to Microsoft’s boasts: it’s the most powerful console on the market today.
But how do you make the most of this hulking beast of a games machine?
It’s not that hard: you just need to set it up correctly, put some awesome-looking 4K/HDR games and media on it, and then maybe accessorise for extra measure. And we can help with all of that.
If you found an Xbox One X under your Christmas tree – or treated yourself to one for the holidays – here’s our guide to getting started with ease.
1) GET UP AND RUNNING
If you’ve already set up a previous Xbox One, a PlayStation 4, or any other console from the past several years, then all the physical setup shouldn’t be too difficult. It’s just about putting the right cords into the right places.
Once you’ve figured out where to place it – either horizontally or vertically, with the latter option requiring a stand (says Microsoft) – then find the power cable and connect that to both the console and a wall outlet. After that, connect the HDMI cable from your console to the television.
But wait! You’ll want to be a bit choosy on that step. Assuming you’re plugging into a 4K TV, some televisions have specific HDMI 2.0 ports that support higher frame rates at 4K resolution, and you’ll definitely want to plug it into one of those. If you can’t tell the difference, snoop around the back of your TV, find the manual, or search around online. This is critical.
If you’re plugging into a sound system, then you’ll also need to connect an optical cable from the console to your receiver. And you can connect an Ethernet cable from your router for hardwired internet, although the Xbox One X also handles Wi-Fi. One more option: you can also plug your cable or satellite TV set-top box into the Xbox One X by plugging it into the HDMI IN port on the Xbox One X. That lets you use the console’s guide features on your TV.
All that’s left is popping some batteries in the controller and getting on to digital setup.
You’ll choose your language and region, display preferences (make sure you enable HDR if your TV supports it), and internet connection details, and almost certainly need to undergo a system update. That last bit might take a while, so consider grabbing a fresh cup of coffee… or reading the rest of this article in the meantime. Both, ideally.
All done? Good. Now you’ll pop in a Microsoft account (they’re free if you don’t have one) and pick a gamertag to represent you online. Once you’re all customised and set up, you’ll need to choose which power option you prefer.
Your Xbox One X can remain in a constant standby mode that sucks up a bit of energy, but helps it start up faster and handles automatic game updates. On the other hand, you can save energy by having the console shut down all the way when you’re not using it, but then it’s slower coming back up and you may have to wait for updates when you want to start games in the future. Your call.
And with that, you’re all set up. You might consider investing in an Xbox Live Gold subscription, which costs R900 a year (or R160 monthly) and unlocks online multiplayer, provides a few free games per month to download and keep (so long as you maintain the membership), enables party chat with friends, and brings extra discounts on downloadable games.
One more thing: if you’re coming over from an Xbox One or Xbox One S, then you’ll surely want to transfer over your games and other content. Microsoft offers a couple different ways of handling this, whether you use an external hard drive or transfer data over your home network. Alternatively, you can just re-download any games and updates from Xbox Live, and access any game saves that you put up in the cloud on your old device.
Just make sure you have everything you need before wiping clean an old Xbox One and selling it or giving it away.
Note: If you’re struggling to get the kind of picture you want from your Xbox One X after all of this, be sure to check out this official Xbox Wire article about configuring both your TV and console to get the best result.
2) GRAB SOME GAMES
You’ll find a few free games to download each month if you have an Xbox Live Gold subscription – but if you want the best of the best, it’s well worth spending a bit of cash to snag some of the top games around. That’s especially true with the power-packed Xbox One X, assuming you have a 4K TV too.
Here are three must-play Xbox One X experiences, and three more cheaper, download-only games that are also well worth your time. And if you need even more picks, here’s a list of 20 of the system’s top games today.
Biggest and best
Forza Motorsport 7 (R850)
Easily the most gorgeous thing you’ll see running on the Xbox One X right now, Forza Motorsport 7 is a dazzling racing simulation with incredible dynamic weather, brilliant use of 4K resolution and HDR lighting, and a staggering 700 vehicles to command. Sister game Forza Horizon 3 offers a bit more pure fun, but Forza 7 is the true showcase game for this console.
Gears of War 4 (R975)
Microsoft’s premier run-and-gun shooter series made a fine splash on Xbox One in 2016, but it looks better than ever on Xbox One X now thanks to a recent patch. Gears of War 4 doesn’t do much to shake up the decade-old formula here, but it’s still a blast to shoot alien baddies to bits in the campaign, plus the online play and Horde mode are brilliant.
Assassin’s Creed Origins (R800)
For a while there, Assassin’s Creed showed the pain of diminishing returns – but Ubisoft’s once-annual series took a breather, and now it’s back refreshed and newly essential again. Origins is a fresh start for the series, looping back to Ancient Egypt as you explore the gorgeous terrain across multiple cities, battle myriad threats, and discover the beginnings of the Assassins.
Cuphead looks like it fell out of the 1930s, but this Xbox exclusive is both new and fabulous. It’s a love letter to classic cartoons and 16-bit run-and-gun games, but this isn’t a platformer: it’s a boss rush, as you go from level to level defeating newly weird and wonderful antagonists. It might be too punishing for some, but tolerate its challenge and you’ll be rewarded.
Both unsettling and truly captivating, Inside is the successor to the great Limbo, and it builds upon that game’s unique design tenets. It’s a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer in a mostly black-and-white world, and as a young boy who stumbles upon a strange conspiracy, you’re being hunted as you explore the horrors of the laboratory. You won’t soon forget this one.
Killer Instinct (Free)
Killer Instinct has been around for a few years now, but it has been gradually expanded and enhanced over time – plus it’s free to download and try, although fighter packs will cost you cash. Microsoft’s reboot of Rare’s classic fighter is frenetic fun and looks great, plus it’s best on Xbox One X thanks to a recent 4K patch.
What about 4K media?
The Xbox One X supports both physical and digital 4K media, which means you can pop high-end 4K Blu-ray discs in or watch compatible content from the likes of Netflix and Amazon.
You’ll get the best possible picture with 4K Blu-ray discs, since you’re not reliant on an internet connection for video quality, and there are currently hundreds of 4K discs out there with more on the horizon. Movies like The Martian, Mad Max Fury Road, and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 have 4K editions, and you’ll need the 4K disc to get the best result. The trick, really, is getting your hand on the discs here in SA but it’s doable if you’re determined.
You can play a standard, 1080p Blu-Ray on your Xbox One X and it’ll be upscaled, but it won’t look quite as crisp as a native 4K source. And you also won’t get the benefit of HDR, which often makes more of a difference than the resolution bump.
As for streaming media, Netflix and Amazon are your best bets for 4K content. Netflix has original shows like Luke Cage, House of Cards, Chef’s Table, and Master of None in 4K, although not all of those support HDR as well. Meanwhile, Amazon shows like Man in the High Castle, Mozart in the Jungle, and Transparent are all 4K and HDR-ready to stream.
3) GET SOME EXTRA GEAR
Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller (R2,600)
You’ve got the best of the best when it comes to console hardware, so why not get the best of the best when it comes to controllers? The Elite Wireless Controller makes some key tweaks to the standard Xbox One gamepad: it has swappable thumbsticks and d-pads, paddles on the rear, hair-trigger locks, and premium components. It’s only for the truly hardcore, though.
Xbox One Media Remote (R500)
Don’t want to reach for the gamepad every time you need to stream Netflix or watch a 4K Blu-ray? Grab Microsoft’s official Media Remote instead. It’s small and simplistic, but capable of flipping through menus, making selections, and navigating streaming apps with ease.
Seagate 2TB Game Drive (R1,500)
Sure, 1TB seems like a lot of space… but when you’re talking about 4K-optimized games that regularly weigh in over 50GB apiece, that internal hard drive will be filled up pretty quickly. Here’s an easy way to add to your stash: Seagate’s Xbox-branded 2TB Game Drive, which plugs in over USB and triples your total storage. That ought to keep you from deleting things.