The new Xbox One X can deal in 4K and HDR video and produce Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound. It's a potential AV powerhouse, but only if you set it up properly. Here's how to maximise its audio and video to help you create the best-ever gaming experience at home – and it could even give you a competitive advantage.
How to maximize the sound quality of an Xbox One X
Forget surround sound – all hail the new era of object-based audio and verticality.
Games will soon ship with soundtracks specially encoded in Dolby Atmos and/or DTS:X, which stretch the surround sound concept to new levels – literally – with audio also coming from above. And, of course, the Xbox One X can handle both of those new formats.
Is there a helicopter up there? Or a sniper? Only those with the correct audio gear will know for sure. Whether you go for a soundbar, AVR and a home cinema, or a pair of headphones, audio immersion awaits.
Soundbars & all-in-one systems
Since Dolby Atmos is all about channels at different heights as well as directions, the idea of boiling that concept down into a soundbar seems like a classic case of space-saving convenience over core quality. However, there are some clever products out there. The best so far is the Yamaha YSP-5600SW, a Dolby Atmos-enabled (and, soon, DTS:X) sound projector that uses 46 speakers to create a 7.1.2 system. In what's fast becoming a standard feature on flagship soundbars, others spatial sound-compatible examples include the LG SJ9, Pioneer Elite FS-EB70, Onkyo SBT-A500, Samsung HW-K950 and Sony HT-ST5000.
If you want to go beyond a soundbar to ensure you do actually get height channels by physically installing them above your display, go for an all-in-one- home cinema package like the Onkyo HT-S5805 (though in this category there are surprisingly few to choose from).
If you go for separates then you need to find a Dolby Atmos and DTS:X-ready AV receiver to put at the centre of your system, and then add speakers. All the usual AVR brands are on board with Dolby Atmos, and from mid-range to flagship. So you can go for something like the Denon AVR-X6300H or Onkyo TX-RZ3100 for a mind-bending (and very expensive) 7.2.4-channel home cinema system. Or you can head down the ranges and spec the Sony STR-DN1080, Onkyo TX-SR444 or Denon AVR-X2400H to create a 5.1.2 system.
- For more receiver recommendations, give our best AV receivers guide a look
You could then use existing speakers, adding two front height channels using any two satellite speakers (or specialist Atmos products like the KEF R50, Klipsch RP-140SA or Onkyo SKH-410 installed in an elevated position on the wall, or you could consider installing two in-ceiling speakers like the Monitor Audio CT165 or Polk Audio V60.
However, there are also some nice 'bipolar' tower speakers around that combine upward firing speakers with normal front-firing ones, such as the Pioneer S-FS73A, Klipsch RP-280FA and Definitive Technology BP9080x.
Not many people have the space or the budget to spec join enormous Dolby Atmos-compatible home cinemas. Cue Dolby Atmos for Headphones, a more personal, more affordable and possibly the most effective implementation of Dolby's new virtual surround sound format. It's about placement of audio around you, and the good news is that you can use any pair of headphones.
The catch is that you'll have to pay extra for an Atmos license to unlock the functionality.
If that sounds like too much effort to you and you're in the market for a new headset anyway then Plantronics has an exclusive Atmos partnership, which means that you get an Atmos license in the box alongside its RIG 400LX, RIG 600LX and wireless RIG 800LX headphones.
But if you've already got a nice headset that you like to use, then we'd recommend just paying for the Atmos license.
How to optimize the video output of an Xbox One X
When it comes to picture quality, the Xbox One X is all about 4K and HDR. The two new cutting-edge video features are worth preparing for, even though not all games will include both.
4K, also called Ultra HD, consists of 3840×2160 pixel resolution which amounts to four times more pixels than Full HD.
HDR, meanwhile, is all about massively increased colour definition, and increasingly it goes hand-in-hand with 4K on modern TVs and home cinema projectors. It's now almost impossible to buy a 4K TV that isn't compatible with HDR.
That said, a lot of cheaper sets try to claim that they're HDR without meeting the full HDR spec. Make sure your TV is able to hit a peak brightness of 1000 nits (if it's LCD, the requirement for OLED is a more moderate 540 nits), and also check that it supports 10-bit color. These two features will mean it's properly specced for HDR10, which is currently the dominant HDR technology.
A second, more advanced, HDR specification called Dolby Vision is also available on more premium TVs, but since the Xbox One X doesn't support the standard you won't see any benefit with the console.
Equally as important when choosing a display to get the best out of an Xbox One X will be to find one with as minimal input lag as possible; the sweet-spot is around 10ms.
4K HDR TVs
Since the Xbox One X outputs 4K resolution, you should buy a 4K resolution display. You still have to choose between OLED and LED (and that includes QLED) when it comes to display technology, and you should also try to find a display with the lowest input lag.
None of these choices are easy to make. OLED TVs have unbeatable contrast ratio and black levels, but they tend to have slightly more input lag than LED TVs.
Samsung's TVs tend to be rated well for minimal input lag – it's an area they have certainly concentrated on – with screens like the Samsung QE65Q9FAM a candidate.
However, if money is no barrier, LG's W7 OLED TV is unique in that it deals in Dolby Atmos via its included 5.0.2 soundbar. It's also vastly improved in the input lag stakes.
If you wants to take advantage of the 4K resolution the Xbox One X is capable of spitting out, then you're going to need to maximise the size of the display area. And unless you're able to afford a 75-inch TV, a projector is your best bet.
4K projectors are still expensive, but Sony's upcoming VW285ES – due in November – effectively halves the cost of native 4K projection (it will sell for around $4,999). It supports HDR, as do the more affordable JVC DLA-X5000 and Epson EH-TW7300, though both of these upscale into 4K rather than produce it natively. So, for now, 4K projection is still a rich man's hobby.
Full HD televisions still benefit
The above advice should help you get the most out of the Xbox One X, but it's worth noting that even if you still use a standard Full HD set with the new console you'll see a benefit thanks to the way the console will 'super-sample' the extra detail down into a Full HD set.
But if you want to squeeze every bit of performance from the new machine then it might be time to take a look at your entertainment center and work out if anything needs to be upgraded.