So you just got a… Microsoft Xbox One X

Get started with Microsoft's monster-console with our handy guide

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've just 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 of 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 mulled wine… 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 £40 a year (or £6 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 of the latest 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 25 of the system's top games today.

Biggest and best

Red Dead Redemption 2 (£53)

Stuff's pick for the 2018 game of the year is another Rockstar Games masterpiece, this time with arguably its most impressive open-world setting to date. Red Dead Redemption 2 is a prequel to the original game... which really means that you don't need to know anything about this Western tale to jump right in and have an amazing time exploring the land and blasting anyone who messes with you.

Forza Horizon 4 (£37)

Forza Horizon 4 is the latest and greatest entry in what has become Microsoft's most reliable exclusive franchise. This arcade-tinged open-road racer lets you explore the English countryside in an array of fast, flashy rides, all while taking down the competition and enjoying the dynamic weather from all four seasons. We called it the "best racing game ever created." Seriously!

Monster Hunter World (£22)

Past Monster Hunter games weren't the most approachable around, but Monster Hunter World manages to be a much more welcoming affair without losing the hook that snagged earlier die-hard fans. This engrossing affair finds you equipping massive weapons, teaming up with other players, and taking down enormous monsters – and it's varied enough to keep you coming back for more.

Digital picks

Dead Cells (£20)

Dead Cells takes the thrilling, tough-as-nails combat of Dark Souls and translates it into what looks like the best 16-bit action game you never played. The expanding world is Metroid-esque in nature, sucking you in as you search for more secrets, and the disparate components all come together into a cheap digital game that's as great and memorable as almost anything released in 2018.

Lumines Remastered (£12)

One of the best puzzle games of all time gets a fresh lease on life with Lumines Remastered, and it's still a blast today. It's a little Tetris-esque, but the goal here is to link together big like-coloured chunks of blocks and then clear them. The gameplay is tied into the backing music, too, with a wide array of songs and skins only amplifying the gripping puzzle play.

Cuphead (£16)

Cuphead looks like it fell out of the 1930s, but this Xbox exclusive is both modern 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 indeed.

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.

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

The Xbox One X costs a pretty hefty chunk of change on its own, but you can add a few key accessories to get even more out of the console. Here are four that you should check out.

Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller (£110)

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 Design Lab Controller (From £70)

On the other hand, if you don't want to spend big on bells and whistles and just want to put your own visual stamp on the Xbox One controller, hit Microsoft's Design Lab. From the website, you can choose the main colours, add a rubberised grip, toss on metallic buttons, and even add laser engraving. What glorious beauty (or monstrosity) can you dream up?

Razer Kraken Pro V2 (£70)

Need a great headset that won't break the bank? Razer's Kraken Pro V2 is a strong choice. The 50mm drivers deliver stellar audio, it's plenty comfortable, and the retractable microphone is handy. It also uses a basic 3.5mm plug, so you can use this with any other console or device as well.

PDP Talon Media Remote (£18)

Don't want to reach for the gamepad every time you need to stream Netflix or watch a 4K Blu-ray? Grab PDP's Talon Media Remote instead. It looks like any other TV remote, but it's capable of flipping through Xbox menus, making selections, and navigating streaming apps with ease.

Seagate 2TB Game Drive (£70)

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.