The Microsoft Xbox Series X is now officially here! With a new design and improved hardware, the Series X is the most powerful console the company has ever released. It’s also just one console in Microsoft’s next-gen lineup, with the Xbox Series S launching as a more budget-friendly alternative.
The Microsoft Xbox Series X is a powerful device, but struggles a little out the gate due to a less-than-impressive launch library. The good news is that plenty of next-gen titles will launch throughout 2021 and in the meantime the Xbox Series X is the best way to play your favorite Xbox games as the highest possible resolutions. Curious what the Xbox Series X brings to the table? Here’s everything we know about the next-gen console.
Read also: These Xbox One bundles are cheaper than ever
Xbox Series X specs
The Xbox Series X is a massive step above the older Xbox One family, and is up to four times as powerful as its predecessor. Under the hood, the Series X features AMD‘s Zen 2 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a custom-made AMD Navi-based 12 teraflop GPU. The new Xbox console also has a custom 1TB NVMe SSD, with read speeds as high as 2GB per second./There’s also an expansion slot in the back of the console for additional storage, which plugs right into the motherboard to provide the same incredible speeds. The goal is to decrease loading times to a minimum and provide ultra-fast environment rendering.
On top of the new internals the Series X will also feature a Blu-ray disk reader for playing your favorite games and movies, and with support for 4K, HDR10, and Dolby Vision technology.
The Xbox Series X offers support for up to 120fps and 8K resolution.
As for games, the next-gen console can support up to 120fps and 8K resolution, although it’s unlikely to achieve both at the same time. The goal is to provide a consistent 60fps at 4K, which current-gen consoles like the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro struggle to achieve even at 1080p.
Microsoft is also introducing hardware accelerated ray tracing on the Xbox Series X, which will improve real-time rendering of light and shadows. On PCs ray tracing is limited to high-end GPUs like the Nvidia RTX 2080 series, which alone can cost more than a new gaming console. You’ll also need a TV or a monitor with a high refresh rate and high resolution to take advantage of Xbox Series X’s great visuals.
To house all this powerful new Xbox hardware, the console’s physical size has balloned. The Xbox Series X resembles a small PC tower that’s approximately 6 inches by 6 inches at the base, and 18 inches tall. It also features a perforated top with a powerful (but quiet) fan inside. According to Microsoft, its size and highly engineered airflow design will guarantee minimal noise while gaming.
The Xbox Series X is a herculean console that will more than hold its own against the latest from its long-time rival Sony PlayStation.
New Xbox Series X features
One new Xbox feature is Microsoft’s new cloud streaming service, included as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Similar to and Google Stadia or Geforce Now, it allows you to stream games from the cloud onto your console, PC, or smartphone. This allows you to bypass download, install, and update times to hop right into the game.
Microsoft is already touting its superiority over other budding cloud gaming services like Stadia thanks to its access to the massive Xbox content library. But rumors suggest that Project xCloud might have another ingenious use. It might be utilized to reduce wait times, allowing you to stream purchased games as they are being installed. Microsoft has yet to confirm this, but we’ll find out more as we play around with our new Xbox Series X and prepare to write our full review.
Once games are installed, the upgraded SSD should drastically reduce load times in-game vs the HDDs of older-gen Xbox consoles. While it is a hair shy of the speeds offered by the PS5’s new storage option, it does have a slightly larger capacity so it should fit more games. Either way, it’s a massive upgrade from current-gen consoles that will be felt in every game — new or old.
The Xbox Series X can add HDR and improve framerates of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.
For those of you who share a console or just like to switch games often, one of the most exciting features is Quick Resume. The Xbox Series X is capable of storing several exact game states, so you can switch between games without having to start from the loading screen.
Another interesting new feature breathes new life into older titles by enhancing their graphics. Using its powerful internals and machine learning technology, the Xbox Series X can add HDR and improve framerates of games that were launched years ago. Even Xbox 360 games are compatible, and will look better than ever on the new Xbox consoles.
What about the Xbox Series S?
The Xbox Series X isn’t the only new console in the 2020 Xbox lineup, with the cheaper all-digital Xbox Series S also now available. For gamers on a budget (or without a 4K TV), it looks like a much better buy.
The Xbox Series S has the same CPU as the Xbox Series X, but with a much less powerful GPU. The console is still more powerful than an Xbox One X, but targets 60fps at 1440p instead of native 4K like the Xbox Series X. It can still be upscaled to 4K, and supports framerates of up to 120fps.
The Xbox Series S has all the same features of the Series X, but with less GPU power to target 1440p at 60fps.
Removing the more powerful GPU hardware and the disk drive has enabled the Xbox team to reduce the size of the console by 60% when compared to the (admittedly beefy) Xbox Series X. This will make it a much more comfortable fit in most entertainment centers, although what this means for heat dissipation and noise is yet to be seen.
Apart from the resolution and size, the two consoles share all the same new features mentioned above, like Quick Resume, an upgraded SSD, ray tracing, and more. It’s the cheapest way to access next-gen hardware and games, although you won’t get next-gen resolutions.
Xbox Series X controller
Another notable change for the Series X is the new controller design seen above. Xbox Series X controllers will be more ergonomic than their predecessors, which are already some of the best controllers on the market. They are expected to be smaller and lighter, with a design that Microsoft claims will fit more shapes and sizes of hands.
Read also: The 10 best PC game controllers you can get
The new Xbox Series X controller’s button layout is virtually identical to previous controllers, and it features a textured surface on the triggers and bumpers. The rubberized surface is also found on the back of the controller for enhanced grip and comfort — even in extended play sessions.
Critics of the current Xbox One Wireless Controller will be happy to learn that the D-pad has been replaced with the improved design from the premium Xbox Elite Wireless controller Series 2. This should make playing fighting games in particular much more precise and enjoyable to play.
Following in Sony’s footsteps, Microsoft will also introduce a screenshot sharing button. This will allow you to capture and share gameplay without resorting to clumsy cables and adaptors.
Like the previous iteration, the Xbox Series X Wireless Controller will be fully compatible with Windows PCs right out of the box. They’ll also be compatible with Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth, and we fully expect them to dethrone the Xbox One Wireless controller as one of the best mobile controllers out there.
It’s also worth noting Xbox Series X/S controllers will work with the older Xbox One family, and vice versa.
Xbox Series X games
We’ll be honest, the initial launch library for the Xbox Series X isn’t great. Thanks largely to COVID-19, many of the better next-gen games have been delayed into 2021, and most of what you get is “upgraded” last-gen titles and third party content. Still, there are 30 games, so it’s a decent number — there’s just no day-one killer app yet.
Many of the launch games will support Microsoft’s Smart Delivery feature, which means if you buy one or bought one of those games for the older Xbox One console, you will get the optimized Xbox Series X or S version for free. Also, some of the games will be available on Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Smart Delivery)
- Borderlands 3 (Smart Delivery)
- Bright Memory 1.0
- Cuisine Royale (Smart Delivery)
- Dead by Daylight (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
- DIRT 5 (Smart Delivery)
- The Falconeer (Smart Delivery)
- Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Gears 5 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Gears Tactics (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Grounded (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- King Oddball (Smart Delivery)
- Maneater (Smart Delivery)
- Manifold Garden (Smart Delivery)
- NBA 2K21
- Observer: System Redux
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Planet Coaster (Smart Delivery)
- Sea of Thieves (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Tetris Effect: Connected (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- The Touryst (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- War Thunder (Smart Delivery)
- Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition
- Watch Dogs: Legion (Smart Delivery)
- WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship (Smart Delivery)
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Smart Delivery)
- Yes, Your Grace (Smart Delivery)
Xbox Series X backwards compatibility
Backwards compatibility has always been a contentious issue with console gaming, but Microsoft has been excellent at extending the life of older libraries. The Xbox Series X will be fully backwards compatible with all Xbox One games. This includes any games that work on the console, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox games that are part of the current backward compatibility program. That’s four generations of backwards compatibility for those keeping score.
Older games will also look even better than before thanks to the previously mentioned visual enhancements. Things that were impossible at the time like higher framerates and HDR are added after the fact by the new Xbox’s powerful processor and machine learning tech.
As mentioned above, Microsoft has also announced a smart delivery program that automatically upgrades certain cross-gen titles as soon as you upgrade your console. This is even better than backwards compatibility because supported games will effectively be native Series X games, even if you bought the boxed Xbox One version.
Xbox Series X is here, but where can you get it and how much does it cost
The Xbox Series X formally hit shelves November 10 alongside the Xbox Series S. Unfortunately, right now getting an Xbox Series X online is all-but impossible. Your best bet would be to try a local store, especially if you live in a more rural area. Even then, odds aren’t great. Judging by past console launches, you’re looking sometime into mid-2021 before getting an Xbox Series X proves easy.
You can get the Xbox Series X on Amazon right now, but only at a premium. Third-party retailers are charging around $1000, which is double the $499 retail price fo the console. Still if you absolutely want it and money is no object, this is your best chance.
Here is a full list of Xbox Series X and Series S prices around the globe:
- Australia: AU$749 and AU$499
- Europe: €499 and €299
- India: ₹49,990 and ₹34,990
- United Kingdom: £449 and £249.99
- United States: $499 and $299
What is Xbox All Access?
If you live outside the United States, you might not be familiar with the Xbox All Access program, but it’s one of the best ways to get your hands on the newest Xbox consoles without breaking the bank.
Xbox All Access allows you to pay for the console in monthly installments over the course of two years. You also get access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which features hundreds of games to play on your Xbox console, PC, or Android phone (via xCloud).
To get your hands on an Xbox Series X with the Xbox All Access program, it will cost you $35 a month. Over time, this works out to be slightly cheaper than paying for both the console and two years of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate individually. The Xbox Series S will cost $25 a month, making it a very affordable pathway to next-gen gaming.
With the release of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, Microsoft is expanding the Xbox All Access program to 12 countries. More countries will be added in 2021, but here is the full list of supported countries and retailers for the 2020 launch period.
- Australia (Telstra)
- Canada (EB Games)
- Denmark (Elgiganten)
- Finland (Gigantti)
- France (FNAC)
- New Zealand (Spark)
- Norway (Elkjøp)
- Poland (Media Expert)
- South Korea (SK Telecom)
- Sweden (Elgiganten)
- UK (GAME, Smyths Toys)
- United States (Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Microsoft Store, Walmart)
Is the Xbox Series X better than the PS5?
Obviously it’s too early to tell, but on paper the Xbox Series X does look more powerful than the PS5. However, which console ultimately comes out on top will have more to do with game selection than raw power. Check out our full Xbox Series X vs PS5 comparison for more details.
Will the Xbox Series X have VR?
No, the Xbox Series X will not support VR at launch. Despite Sony’s PlayStation VR support, VR on consoles remains a tiny portion of gamers and Microsoft doesn’t see it as a priority. That said, it remains popular on Windows PCs, and Xbox head Phil Spencer hasn’t ruled out bringing VR to the Xbox Series X in the near future.
Can the Xbox Series X play PC games?
The Xbox Series X works very closely with Windows PC games through the Xbox Play Anywhere program and Project xCloud. Many Xbox Series X exclusive games, like Halo: Infinite, will also be released as PC games, although Microsoft hasn’t announced if these will be a part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program with cross-saves and shared achievements. There are also rumors that the Series X will support Steam in a new console version of Windows, but these rumors are still unsubstantiated.
Can the Xbox Series X lay on its side?
Yes, it can be placed on it’s side or upright. Airflow has been optimized for both setups, although the physical size of the console may prohibit placement on many shelving systems.
Does the Xbox Series X have ray tracing?
Yes, the console will feature hardware-accelerated ray tracing, made possible by a custom GPU made in partnership with AMD.