The next generation of consoles is finally here. Xbox Series X made it to the market few weeks ago – and during that time we played games optimized specifically for this console, tested the updated controller and listened to how noisy the device itself was. Below is a great review of the Xbox Series X, where we’ve rounded up everything there is to know about it. Including our impressions!
Microsoft in the last generation, on the example of Xbox One X and Xbox One S, proved that it now takes the appearance of consoles no less seriously than the hardware. The design of the past two devices and the Xbox Series X is, first of all, competent minimalism, almost complete absence of curved lines. A clear desire to make a console that will easily fit into any interior – and not only a modern one, in general in any – although you put it in a country house, it won’t shine too much there either.
At the same time, you shouldn’t think that Xbox Series X is not about futurism at all, and that’s all. On the contrary, the emphasis on the fact that the console is better placed in an upright position, and a clear external resemblance to “smart” speakers suggests that the designers of the company followed the trends.
And yes, immediately about the important thing: you can place the Xbox Series X horizontally, it even has special rubberized legs for this on one of the sides. True, she looks much worse this way – and immediately begins to stand out sharply, in a bad way. In a horizontal position, it does not fit with previous generation consoles and other gadgets, whatever they may be. Moreover, the round stand at the bottom (or on the left – if the console is on its side) is striking, as if hinting to guests that you have installed the device incorrectly.
In an upright position, it looks great – anywhere, next to any device. Although there are three problems here too – of a technical nature.
So, at the top of the Xbox Series X is a fan that blows out warm air. This means that, firstly, it is not recommended to cover the console with anything and put it, for example, on one of the lower shelves of the cabinet. Secondly, you shouldn’t leave it directly under the TV – if your TV hangs on the wall and is slightly tilted forward, then all the warm air will scald directly into its delicate screen. And third, the top of the vertical console is a plastic mesh with many holes. Looks cool, but these holes are big enough to drop anything small into the console itself. And then how to get it out, the devil only knows, – just disassemble everything. Plus dust, again: if the Xbox Series X is not turned on for a long time, dust will settle on the fan blades. Okay, at least you can hardly stick your finger through the holes.
And yet, despite all this, Microsoft’s upright new console looks good. The high-quality matte plastic, from which the body of the device is made, also looks great. Yes, prints remain on it, but it is much less easily soiled than gloss. It is practically absent on the console, as well as on the gamepad (only four controller buttons are made of glossy plastic).
The Xbox Series X has the same redesigned tiled interface that was recently available on the Xbox One. The idea, apparently, is that Xbox fans can move from the old generation to the new one without any problems. To change only the “hardware”, and leave the ecosystem the same – the company has been following this logic for a long time, and there is nothing wrong with that.
True, many are accustomed to the fact that the new generation usually brings not only technical innovations, but also gives a completely different experience of interacting with the device. And this is also normal – from the console, which the world has been waiting for almost 7 years, you expect new emotions. And Xbox Series X – in terms of the interface – does not give these new emotions.
On the other hand, if your previous console was an Xbox 360 and you haven’t seen an Xbox One, the problem will resolve itself. But if you’ve just recently played on, say, Xbox One X, the transition to Series X will be – yes, quite comfortable – but at the same time completely everyday.
As for the interface itself, it is convenient – and this is not just a thoughtless praise. Microsoft went to a clear interface for the Xbox One for a very long time, changed several designs and eventually got it – created a normal “shell” that is not annoying. And it works quickly: the current interface on the Xbox One is nimble, and on the Xbox Series X, with its SSD, and even more so – there were not even short delays and reloads that were noticeable to the eye in my case.
If you haven’t seen the actual Xbox interface in action, here are some details. On the “home page” tiles display the last running games and applications and what is currently being downloaded. Below there is a library icon, to the right of it is an advertisement for Game Pass and offers in the Xbox Store, even lower is the store itself and any custom icons. When you press the Xbox button on your controller, a small menu appears that allows you to minimize / close the game, go to settings, view your profile, achievements and saved screenshots. As you can see, everything is simple.
Starter lineup and backward compatibility
A few years ago, Microsoft stopped betting on exclusives, proposing a new argument in console wars – Game Pass, a service with a large library of games. For this reason, the Xbox Series X does not have the usual starting lineup – you can play the entire current multi-platform on the new console. And more – hundreds of games for Xbox One, Xbox 360 and the original Xbox for backward compatibility.
For the review, we tested about three dozen games from three generations of Xbox – they all started without problems on the new console. The most noticeable difference is in the load times: thanks to the SSD, games load significantly faster. For example, the same Kingdom Come: Deliverance, which took forever to load on the last generation, now lets you into the main menu about 30 seconds after launch. Read about the loading speed of other games below in the text.
There is also a difference in graphics – but so far only a few games optimized for the Xbox Series X will be discussed further. Many recent (Watch Dogs Legion) and future games will also be optimized for the architecture of the new console, and some older games may receive updates accordingly. Until then, Xbox Series X will be launching their Xbox One versions.
Optimizing games for Xbox Series X
At the time we were preparing this review, five games were optimized for the Xbox Series X – Gears 5 and Gears Tactics, Forza Horizon 4, Sea of Thieves, and the puzzle adventure The Touryst. And they all work right now on the console at 4K resolution at 60 FPS.
However, there are, as they say, nuances. At the same Gears 5, according to the material from Digital Foundry, the resolution is dynamic, that is, from time to time it decreases. It is possible that in other optimized games the same thing, however, it is impossible to see it with the naked eye – if the resolution drops, then during the game it is VERY difficult to notice.
New games will soon be optimized for Xbox Series X, including the same Watch Dogs: Legion, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, DIRT 5, Yakuza: Like a Dragon and others. Optimization actually means higher resolution and higher frame rates.
Quick Resume function
Quick Resume allows you to “freeze” the game in absolutely any place, then start another game or even restart the console, and then return to the “frozen” game and resume where you left off. Before the official launch of the Xbox Series X, this feature, however, does not work in all games, although it is impressive in those that do.
Microsoft left the gamepad almost unchanged. And if you can still argue about the “old” interface (about it – above in the text), then the gamepad did not need to be radically changed – it is already excellent. Nevertheless, there are still some minor changes to the controller for Xbox Series X.
- Slightly (really – slightly) the appearance of the gamepad has changed. Moreover, it is the appearance, not the form, that is important. A comparison with the previous version of the controller can be seen in the photos nearby.
- The crosspiece has changed noticeably. It is solid again, but the block with directions is now round, which makes it easier to press intermediate directions (up-down or left-down there). The main directions emit a distinct click when the button is pressed. Compared to the D-pad on the previous gamepad, we didn’t notice much of a difference: it’s still very difficult to play fighting games and 2D platformers with an Xbox controller (DualShock is better for this), but in all other genres you still have to look for an equal to this gamepad.
- A new button has appeared in the center of the controller – for instant saving screenshots from games. Not that it’s some kind of revolutionary innovation, but it’s more convenient than before.
- The connector for connecting a gamepad over the wire is no longer Micro-USB, but USB Type-C. There are no wires included with the console. The controller itself still runs on two AA batteries.
- The gamepad is entirely made of plastic with a matte finish, the triggers are also (they used to be glossy). Glossy plastic – only buttons X, Y, B and A. On the handles, triggers and bumpers, the surface is embossed to make it easier to grip.
The gamepad itself has become a little smaller and heavier, the ergonomics are the same. In a word, this is a slightly improved proprietary Xbox controller – convenient for shooters, action games and races, slightly less convenient for fighting games, 2D games and platformers.
We are not technical specialists or employees of the Digital Foundry, and we suppose for most readers it is not that important to know what size the SOC crystal is installed in the Xbox Series X. Therefore, it seems to us pointless to understand absolutely all the intricacies of the architecture of the new console and its “hardware”. However, it is worth talking about the main technical characteristics.
- The console features an 8-core Custom Zen 2 processor @ 3.8 GHz and an RDNA 2 GPU @ 1.825 GHz.
- RAM – 16GB GDDR6.
- A custom SSD with a claimed 1 TB capacity is used for data storage, although the actual amount of disk available for use is 802 GB.
- The console supports HDR and is capable of playing 4K resolution at frame rates up to 120 FPS, although it is understandable that far (far!) Not all games will be able to do this.
- On the back of the console there is a connector for an HDMI cable, a connector for a power cable, two USB ports, an Ethernet connector for connecting a wired Internet (Wi-Fi, of course, is also supported) and a slot for an external memory card.
- Console dimensions: 151 millimeters wide and long, 301 millimeters high.
- The drive reads 4K UHD Blu-ray.
Noise and heat level during operation
Xbox Series X is a very quiet console. Even in “heavy” games like Kingdom Come: Deliverance, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare or Doom Eternal, which made the Xbox One X sound so loud that it was impossible to play at night, the new console barely shows signs of life. Yes, you can still hear it – if you approach the device and put your ear on, however, there were no situations when the fan noise overlapped the sounds of the game during the tests.
As for the degree of heating, then, according to tests by Digital Foundry, the temperature of the console can reach 62 degrees Celsius, but this is the limit. On average, it heats up to 40-50 degrees – and this only affects the upper part of the console where the fan is installed.
General impressions and conclusions
The Xbox Series X is a great and good-looking console that, if you know what you want, you don’t even need to consider buying it. It looks great, runs fast thanks to an SSD, and handles all current games without any problems. And,we suppose, it will be just as successful in dealing with the entire future multiplatform.
Yes, it has no exclusives, but do not forget about the Game Pass service, which means a lot to many. And you should also remember that Microsoft is now actively increasing its internal development and not so long ago even bought Bethesda. No one claims (yet) that The Elder Scrolls VI will only be released on Xbox Series X – but we all got the hint, Microsoft, thanks.
Someone would say that all Xbox games are now coming to Windows PCs anyway, and they’ll be right – yes, they are. Nobody hides that the Xbox Series X is, in fact, a relatively inexpensive PC. And it really is inexpensive when compared to the price of computers of the same performance level. So, at the beginning of 2020, we bought a PC at a cost slightly more expensive than the new Microsoft console – just playing on it, say, Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War, we won’t be able to comfortably. And on Xbox Series X, we can. It’s good that the game has crossplay.
In addition, many people just love the console ecosystem – and this is also a reason to buy such a device. In a world where PC players are at war with the Epic Games Store because there are no achievements there, people who deliberately choose the console not only as a platform but also as a service don’t look all that crazy, right?
Nevertheless, it is also impossible to extol the Xbox Series X endlessly. The main problem with this console is that in terms of gaming experience and emotions, this is not a new generation, but a well-pumped old one. Yes, SSD and new architecture. Yes, 60 FPS in many games and 4K resolution for very small – again, by the standards of the PC market – money. All this is great, but for some, the lack of real innovation can be a problem, and such people can be understood. In addition, not everyone is now ready to put up with the fact that Microsoft in the console wars chose not exclusives, but Game Pass as the main argument.
This, however, is only now. The company clearly wants to strengthen its position and is doing it very successfully – remember at least the deal with Bethesda. Microsoft has already avoided all the mistakes that it made at the start of the Xbox One, and it doesn’t seem to be planning to make any new ones.