(Picture credit: Future)
Hands-on time with a not-final version of the Xbox Series X as part of Microsoft’s preview program, and what follows are our initial impressions primarily based on that have.
The Xbox Series X is everything Microsoft promised, primarily based on our time with the console to this point and the games we have performed. The next-gen Xbox console is super-fast, surprisingly quiet, and boasts efficiency that we have previously solely seen from gaming PCs.
Gaming PCs, although, never come at this price ticket for a similar specs, and the Xbox Series X manages to pack in quite a lot of power for underneath $500 / £450 / AU$750. The result’s a console that is not solely technically spectacular, with drastically decreased loading instances and considerably improved visible constancy in games, however one which makes use of quite a few quality-of-life features to make your gameplay expertise extra pleasurable
Mixed with Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass service, the Xbox Series X seems like it’ll be a force to be reckoned with, and it reveals that the company nonetheless has its finger on the heartbeat with regards to placing the players first.
Xbox Series X design
The Xbox Series X design is a significant departure from its flatter predecessors, with an upright tower design extra harking back to a gaming PC, although you possibly can place the console horizontally, too.
Measuring 15.1 x 15 x 30.1cm and weighing 4.45kg (9.8lbs), the long, cuboid-shaped console is matte black throughout aside, from an inexperienced hue inside the indented cooling vents on the highest.
The face of the console is fairly easy, with an Xbox power button on the top left-hand facet, a disc drive (and eject button) on the underside left-hand nook, and a pairing button and USB 3.2 port on the underside right-hand facet. The back of the console has some cooling vents in addition to an HDMI 2.1 output port, two USB 3.2 ports, one networking port, a storage expansion slot and a power input port.
The sides of the console are clean, save for an Xbox logo in the nook of the left facet and a few rubber buttons on the precise facet – this permits the console to sit horizontally. The underside of the console has a barely elevated disc-shaped stand, with some extra cooling vents. Then, as talked about, the highest of the console is entirely made up of cooling vents.
The console itself seems minimalistic. Despite its weight and pretty massive measurement, the symmetrical design of the Series X means it looks significantly smaller than its measurements would recommend. We discovered it slotted with ease into an Ikea Kallax shelving unit (39cm x 39cm), when oriented both horizontally or vertically, and easily blended in with its environment.
A major upside of the Xbox Series X is how unexpectedly quiet it’s. We have virtually turn out to be accustomed to consoles revving up like they’re about to take off when working games that basically put them via their paces. However, the Xbox Series X is the quietest Xbox we’ve had the pleasure of enjoying on – even when we want extra next-gen hands-on time to actually make a name on this.
While you’re on the house screen, the console places out around 30dB of sound – that is in regards to the audio degree of a whisper – and this adjustments little or no if you really load up and play games. When enjoying Sea of Thieves, No Man’s Sky and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, we discovered the decibels by no means exceeded 33dB.
That stated, when putting in a bigger update we have been in a position to file sound ranges as much as 45dB, which is roughly as noisy as a printer in motion. Even then, that is not too loud, and it barely registers over the sound of actually enjoying a game. That is also the case when enjoying the next-gen titles we have sampled so far (Dirt 5 and Yakuza: Like a Dragon).
It is welcome news for individuals who don’t need their gameplay interrupted by the whirring of a struggling machine.
However with this quietness nonetheless comes a good bit of warmth. The Xbox Series X is on a par with the Xbox One X with regards to warmth emission, with warmth dispersed via the cooling vents on the prime, which we advise leaving ample house for. The console itself does get toasty, too, however we did not discover that this impacted efficiency when working more intensive next-gen titles.
Nonetheless, it is value noting once more that this isn’t the ultimate model of the Xbox Series X, which may pull off better heat control.
The Xbox Series X design is one thing you may both love or hate – however we discovered it a welcome change from the low-profile Xboxes of the previous. It is modern, trendy, and appears like something a grown-up would really wish to personal. It is a good evolution from the flat-but-compact One S and One X models. Nonetheless, the matte black design does imply the console is well scuffed and scratched, although it doesn’t get dirty.
Whereas the exterior design of the Xbox Series X is a substantial departure from its predecessors, the console’s UI and dashboard have undergone extra subtle changes.
The Xbox Series X dashboard is just about the same as that of the Xbox One. The main cause for that’s as a result of Microsoft rolled out a meaty update to the Xbox One back in August to make its UX extra streamlined, and to converge it with that of the Xbox Series X.
That means the Series X UI still has a tiled format, with customizable pins, so you possibly can select which games and apps you wish to see first on your home display screen, and quick access to games, apps, social gathering chat and different features via the Xbox button in your controller. It is a fairly streamlined person interface, and permits for loads of customization choices and easy navigation.
Customization seems to be on the coronary heart of the Series X UX. Along with the ability to transfer around your pinned games and apps, Microsoft can be letting players categorical themselves a bit extra with the inclusion of recent profile themes that act as a themed background for your profile page.
Not solely that, however, players can now lastly use dynamic themed backgrounds, which provides a extra customized dwelling display screen option for those who are bored of the Xbox One’s static providing
Xbox Series X performance
The Xbox Series X is an absolute powerhouse, rocking an eight-core AMD Zen 2 processor working at 3.8GHz, a customized RDNA 2 AMD GPU that puts out 12 TFLOPs of processing power, 16GB of GDDR6 memory, and a 1TB Custom NVME SSD. So what does that imply by way of real-world performance?
Nicely, for a start, the Series X is super-fast because of that SSD. We have seen the Xbox Series X shaving seconds off the loading time for games compared with the identical games on the Xbox One S. The Xbox Series X always loaded faster – in some circumstances by just a few seconds, and in others virtually halving the load time.
To present you a concept of how a lot quicker these loading instances are, we timed how lengthy it took to load right into a game from the ‘Proceed’ button on the menu display screen, for a similar games on each Xbox One S and Xbox Series X.
For Two-Level Hospital, it took six seconds to load into the map after hitting the ‘proceed’ button on Xbox Series X, in comparison with 9 seconds on the Xbox One S. To additional load into the extent Duckworth-Upon-Bilge from the map display screen took 15.8 seconds on Xbox Series X, however 37.26 seconds on the Xbox One S – that is lower than half the time.
You’ll be able to take a look at the loading instances for a number of the games we tested under:
- Two Point Hospital: 9 seconds on Xbox One S, 6 seconds on Series X
- Fable Anniversary: 32.97 seconds on Xbox One S, 21.62 seconds on Series X
- Alan Wake: 7.95 seconds on Xbox One S, 4.49 seconds on Series X
- Ori and the Blind Forest: 4.47 seconds on Xbox One S, 4 seconds on Series X
- A Plague Tale: 66 seconds on Xbox One S, 53 seconds on Series X
- Sea of Thieves: 100 seconds on Xbox One S, 35 seconds on Series X
Whereas some titles profit more than others from quicker loading instances, a saving of even just a few seconds is welcome. Whereas games equivalent to Ori load pretty rapidly anyway, and so the distinction is much less noticeable, it’s with titles like Fable the place these shorter loading instances are undoubtedly welcome.
Video games don’t simply load quicker on the Xbox Series X, they appear higher too, with Microsoft aiming for an efficiency goal of 4k at 60fps and up to 120fps.
To verify we might expertise Series X gameplay the way in which it was meant, we hooked the console as much as a 55-inch Samsung Q80T QLED 4K HDR Smart TV. We made positive the TV’s game mode was enabled, and configured the Xbox’s TV settings to permit for 4K UHD and 120fps, which is simply achievable on an HDMI 2.1-compliant display like Samsung’s here, and which is beneficial for enabling one of the best visible expertise potentials.
Just like the Xbox One, the Series X allows for calibration of HDR for games. We might advise setting this earlier than enjoying any games, because it makes positive the steadiness of distinction is spot-on, providing you with one of the best visuals potential.
Throughout our preview time, we primarily had entry to a choice of backwards-compatible titles which, for the sake of comparability, are one of the best indicator of the boost in efficiency the Xbox Series X delivers over its predecessors. With the above settings enabled, we discovered that the games instantly seemed higher on the Series X – which is not significantly stunning, provided that Microsoft has carried out native HDR for these titles.
We go into the element as to how this efficiency increase improves Xbox Series X Optimized titles additional down, however in brief, when enjoying backwards-compatible titles on the Xbox One S and Series X variations facet by facet we might clearly see the visible improve.
Sea of Thieves, for example, appeared brighter, sharper and with much more element on the Series X compared to the Xbox One S, and we additionally discovered this to be the case with the likes of A Plague’s Story, Alan Wake and Fable Anniversary.
Here is a pleasant shot of Sea of Thieves on Xbox Series X – the game will get the type of visible advantages PC players have enjoyed for some time now.
The Xbox Series X’s 1TB Customized NVME SSD interprets to 802GB of precise usable storage, with 198GB reserved for system files and the Xbox working system. We have been in a position to obtain 18 games of various sizes earlier than having to make the most of the console’s expandable storage.
That is a good chunk of games, however we might advise selecting up an expandable storage card for those who actually wish to benefit from features equivalent to Fast Resume and the plethora of titles out there via Xbox Game Cross. Note additionally that the variety of true next-gen titles at the moment on supply to previewers is restricted, and we might anticipate them to have bigger file sizes for textures, profiting from the complete breadth of Xbox Series X’s capabilities.
Together with our console, we have been in a position to take a look at Seagate’s 1TB enlargement storage card for the Xbox Series X – which was extraordinarily simple to make use of, however would not come low-cost at $219.99 / £219.99 / AU$359. When we discovered we have been working out of storage, we merely slotted the card into the again of the Xbox and accessed the additional terabyte. When the console detects that it is approaching its storage capability, it asks if you wish to set up on the card as an alternative, whereas additionally offering a reasonably easy possibility for releasing up house by deleting games.
If the expansion storage card runs a bit costly for your style, you possibly can at all times connect an exterior drive HDD or SSD by way of the console’s USB 3.1 port. Nevertheless, it is value noting that these can solely play Xbox One and backwards appropriate games (with the SSD permitting for quicker loading instances). You’ll be able to store your Xbox Series X games on the exterior HHD or SSD, however solely an NVMe SSD can play Xbox Series X optimized titles. We’ve not examined loading instances with an exterior drive yet, however we’ll accomplish that earlier than launch.
What’s good about the Xbox Series X’s storage is that, when putting in (or uninstalling) games, you possibly can choose specific components of games to put in fairly than the complete factor. So, for instance, you possibly can download Doom Everlasting’s multiplayer however not the marketing campaign, or vice versa. We’re curious to see what number of games will help this type of set up performance at launch, as a result of it is a welcome feature.
Xbox Series X controller
The Xbox Series X Controller feels acquainted within the hand yet subtly completely different, with improved tactile textures and refined geometry making for a extra ergonomically pleasant (and cozy) enjoying expertise.
On the floor, the Xbox Series X controller doesn’t appear like a very drastic departure from its predecessor. It sports activities an identical shape, and retains its conventional button and set off format. On nearer inspection, although, you start to note the refined differences Microsoft has implemented.
For a begin, the gamepad’s beforehand shiny exterior has been changed by a matte end that intently matches the console’s design. Whereas this definitely looks modern, it does include drawbacks – the black controller that comes with the console simply picks up scuffs and scrapes which can be fairly noticeable on its matte end, and contemplating the number of hands-on time gamepads are subjected to, it’s potential that it is going to be laborious to maintain it trying in tip-top situation for years to return. Different shade variants of the controller are available although (you’ll want to purchase these individually), and could also be much less prone to scuffs.
That is a minor quibble, and total we found that the Xbox Series X controller resembles a extra premium controller, each in look and feel.
The revised pad now has a tactile texture on the triggers, grips and bumpers. We discovered this small enhancement made the controller feel safer in our palms, with out inflicting a rub rash.
As well as, whereas the controller is similar size, the bumpers and triggers have been rounded and contracted, which total makes the gamepad really feel much less cumbersome. Should you’re somebody with small palms, previous Xbox One controllers have felt fairly tanky, however this straightforward change improves comfort ranges in a refined however noticeable approach.
Maybe the most notable adjustments to the controller are the addition of the ‘Share’ button and the hybrid D-pad. The Share button primarily acts as a seize button, permitting you to snap screenshots of your game at a easy click on. One-click on takes a snapshot, whereas holding the button down longer takes a 15-second video (although you can modify the instances in Seize settings). It is a lot simpler than the Xbox One’s must press the house button then X or Y, however we did discover it a bit fiddly to rapidly take a screenshot – this may range relying on how massive your palms are.
The hybrid D-pad, however, aims to supply a middle-ground between the Xbox One controller’s traditional D-pad and the Xbox Elite Wi-fi Controller Series 2’s changeable disc-shaped, faceted D-pad. What outcomes is a type of traditional D-pad, laid over a disc. Again, it is a small however welcome change and is meant to provide extra management and leverage over the D-pad – whereas typically feeling extra snug.
However there’s quite a bit about the controller’s design that hasn’t modified. The Xbox Series X controller retains its 3.5mm audio jack and enlargement port on the backside, its USB cost port and pairing button on the prime and its View, Menu and Xbox backside on the face.
Outdoors of its industrial adjustments, the Xbox Series X controller has seen improvements in performance too. We discovered the controller to be extra responsive, which is probably going right down to the boasted decrease latency, whereas connecting the gamepad wirelessly by way of Bluetooth to a variety of gadgets – including the Xbox One, an iPhone 11 and a Mac – was an easy process.
It is value noting that the Series X controller once more runs on AA batteries (or an individually purchased charging pack). Our controller ran out of juice after 10 days of enjoying every single day for appreciable duration of time. It isn’t very best for those who do not wish to need to hold selecting up batteries, so spend money on some rechargeable ones.
Xbox Series X features
The Xbox Series X has a variety of helpful features and meaningful quality-of-life enhancements.
Maybe essentially the most welcome of those is Fast Resume. The aim of Quick Resume is to assist you to proceed a game from a suspended state just about immediately. So, inside seconds, you possibly can leap again into the game the place you left off as for those who by no means stopped enjoying – with out having to take a seat via loading screens once more. Not solely that, however you possibly can leap between a number of games which have been left on this suspended state very quickly in any respect.
We discovered that we might seamlessly leap between gameplay in a matter of seconds – so long as the games you are hopping between have already been booted up in some unspecified time in the future beforehand. We have been in a position to leap from being in a timberyard as Alan Wake to being Alyson Ronan in Dontnod’s Inform Me Why inside 11. 4 seconds by urgent the Xbox button on the controller and deciding on the game from the sidebar. That is from gameplay to gameplay – no loading screens. If we needed to entry Inform Me Why from the Xbox dashboard dwelling display screen, chosen as the present game we have been enjoying, the time from the dashboard to gameplay was 2.7 seconds.
Microsoft hasn’t acknowledged if there is a restrict to the variety of titles you can have in a suspended state at one time, however we discovered greater than 4 to begin taking its toll on the machine. If we stacked greater than 4 games in a suspended state, then we discovered that some required a full boot up once more – with the console closing the first game opened. Once more, it is value underlining that this isn’t a ultimate Xbox Series X unit, however.
On-line multiplayer games work a bit in another way to the opposite titles. It would not be possible to permit players to droop mid-play throughout online gameplay, or we might simply have a bunch of AFK players within the servers.
So, for instance, for those who’re mid-game in Sea of Thieves, and then decide to leap into one other game, you can be faraway from the game – however you possibly can Fast Resume from the title display screen.
One other of the Xbox Series X’s best features is the breadth of its backwards compatibility. Throughout our time with the Xbox Series X, there have been around 1,000 backwards appropriate titles out there – however take note, this is not indicative of the console’s ultimate providing.
As talked about beforehand, we discovered these titles loaded quicker and easily performed higher – with extra stability which means fewer body charge drops and making older games really feel nicer, even when they’re in any other case slightly outdated by the standards of modern blockbusters.
This backward compatibility additionally extends to Xbox equipment. We discovered that we might simply join the unique Xbox Wireless Controller and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 to the Xbox Series X with no points.
We additionally discovered we might join our earlier headsets to the console. Nevertheless, whereas the Turtle Seashore Recon Spark (which connects by way of audio jack) simply plugged into the Series X controller and was appropriate, we skilled a bit extra bother with the SteelArctis Arctis 5 – which linked by audio jack however wasn’t picked up by USB. It is value noting, nevertheless, this once more is not the ultimate Xbox Series X product so compatibility probably is not prepared yet.
Along with these useful features, the Series X also provides a variety of multimedia features. For one, the console boasts a built-in 4K Blu-ray participant that’s easy and straightforward to make use of. You then have entry to a variety of streaming providers that features Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus (to call only a few). All of which can benefit from the console’s 4K UHD capabilities – although some require an honest internet connection.
Xbox Series X gameplay
Even for those who’re not somebody who can identify issues like frequency and body charges with regards to game efficiency, you’ll discover a distinction in Xbox Series X games.
We acquired hands-on time with preview builds of Yakuza: Like A Dragon and Dirt 5 as a part of our early entry (each games are Xbox Series X Optimized, meaning they’re variations made particularly for the console). That is when the power of the Series X really turns into clear, as all that horsepower is put to work.
Contemplating that neither Yakuza nor Dirt 5 are out yet, we have been unable to check the titles to their Xbox One equivalents, so instead we in contrast them to their predecessors: Dirt 4 and Yakuza Kiwami 2 (respectively).
Filth Four doesn’t maintain a light-weight to Filth 5 by way of efficiency, which isn’t any shock given it is an older last-gen game. Dirt 4 often suffered from dropped body charges on Xbox One and the graphics have been removed from sharp – although with a racing game that is arguably less of a precedence. On the other hand, Dirt 5 gameplay is easy, responsive and the visuals are simply beautiful on Xbox Series X.
The game has three video modes, both prioritizing 120hz, picture quality or body charges. And, whilst you might see the distinction in prioritizing video high quality, even the opposite video modes seemed implausible – whereas we had no efficiency points in any modes. Load instances are quick, and navigation is seamless.
We had an identical expertise with Yakuza: Like A Dragon. Loading screens were minimal and even after they did seem, they lasted mere seconds earlier than throwing you again into the motion. Whereas Yakuza Kiwami 2 is not inundated with loading screens, we discovered some lasted around 24 seconds when loading between scenes – considerably longer than with Like a Dragon. This was even clearer when utilizing quick journey taxis in Like a Dragon, which acquired us to our vacation spot in less than 5 seconds. We will not pretty examine the 2, actually, since they’re games separated by a era, however this offers you an concept of what a next-gen improve will get you by way of expertise.
But it surely’s the visuals of Like A Dragon that basically stood out to us. Whereas Kiwami 2 usually sees blurred edges around textures, Like A Dragon is tremendous sharp to take a look at. Belongings in Like A Dragon are extra detailed and the colours are vibrant, whereas motion is extremely easy.
Going from the Xbox Series X games to their predecessors highlighted simply how a lot of a distinction these minimized load instances and improved visuals make, and this bodes nicely for future titles.
Microsoft has to this point delivered with the Xbox Series X, providing a quick, highly effective console that makes even older games perform higher.
The Xbox Series X slashes load instances, vastly improves visible constancy and provides appreciable stability to Xbox games, nevertheless it’s features equivalent to Fast Resume and backwards compatibility that might see it going above and past what we hoped.
Thus far, the Xbox Series X appears to provide participant expertise, providing higher trying, sounding and performing games than we have seen earlier than whereas eliminating irritants like loading instances.
It is an unassuming black field, but, mixed with Xbox Game Pass’ huge library, it could possibly be the generational leap we have been hoping for. That stated, we might want to play extra next-gen games on the console to have a greater concept of its capabilities. As well as, we’re a bit involved in regards to the lack of big-hitting launch exclusives coming to the Xbox Series X – particularly with the delay of Halo Infinite.
Even with Xbox Game Pass providing a large number of games to leap between, Microsoft will nonetheless want some unique, flagship titles to make the Xbox Series X value selecting up – and to correctly showcase this console’s immense power.