When Microsoft entered the scene nearly two decades ago, not many thought the behemoth would survive. Against luminaries in the industry like SEGA, Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft seemed like the upstart gaijin in a world dominated by the Japanese. With the Xbox Series X, Microsoft’s shown that commitment’s not just a passing fancy.
Today’s gaming industry’s a totally different landscape.
SEGA’s no longer in the hardware business, Nintendo’s afraid to make quality cutting edge hardware and Sony…well, Sony is Sony. Microsoft’s not only hung in the there, they’ve even managed to dominate the previous gaming generation with the Xbox 360!
While the company floundered with the Xbox One (mainly due to a mixed message from leadership and inferior basic hardware), its come out of the gates swinging with the Xbox Series X, their main contender for the next generation.
I’ve had the machine for close to a week now.
Nearly every hour of my waking time since it arrived has been with the console. Trying out OG Xbox games, Xbox 360 games and of course Xbox One games.
So…the bottom line? What do I think about Microsoft’s latest big black box? Continue reading to find out.
What is the Xbox Series X?
The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s most powerful console to date and one of the successors to the Xbox One. The other, the somewhat less powerful and cheaper Xbox Series S, won’t be reviewed here.
Like the Xbox One X, the Xbox Series X is a 4K gaming machine. Unlike the Xbox One X (which aims for 4K performance), the Xbox Series X delivers that performance and 60 FPS for certain games.
Microsoft claims that the Xbox Series X has triple the GPU performance of the Xbox One. It might not sound like it’s a huge improvement, but trust me, the performance of the new machine is worlds apart.
The console also comes with a 4K UHD drive, which allows it to play 4K movies. It’s a feature that the Xbox One X had (so it’s not technically new), but it’s still a great feature nonetheless.
In Singapore, the Xbox Series X retails for $699.
For that, you get the console, with a 1TB SSD, the new Xbox controller (remolded triggers and a new, dedicated button for screen or video capture) and a HDMI and power cable.
The Xbox Series X is a big console.
It’s so big, that it doesn’t fit inside the alcove in my cabinet that used to house an Xbox One X. Right now, it’s just sitting on the floor in front of my TV while I think where to place it.
The huge size comes with a major plus; it’s whisper quiet.
I’ve not heard any sounds from the Xbox Series X no matter what type of game I played…and I’ve played a TON of games on it during the last week.
Just take a look at the vents on this bad boy. It’s a bit too early to say, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the Red Ring of Death issues that most Xbox gamers still have nightmares about won’t be an issue here.
After years with a PS4 Pro that sounds like it’s getting ready for takeoff every time it gets a heavy workload, the Xbox Series X is unbelievably silent.
There are now 3 USB ports (USB 3.1 Gen 1) which supports external HDDs that are able to make use of the standard. You’ll want to find compatible ones because while loading is fast on the internal SSD, the storage isn’t nearly enough.
Two of the USB ports are at the rear of the machine, with one port in the front.
There’s also the Storage Expansion slot, which is used for the optional SSD from Seagate. The extra HDMI slot in the Xbox One is gone now though.
At the bottom of the machine, there’s a built-in stand. If you want to stand it up vertically, it’s there for you to use. It’s stable, so no worries of the machine toppling over by itself.
If you’re not interested in standing the Xbox Series X up, you can also place it on its side. One face of the machine is filled with tiny rubber nubs, which will allow it to rest comfortably horizontally.
I have no idea which side I prefer, but the big holes at the top of the machine have me paranoid something might go in it and clog stuff up if I keep it vertical.
Blazing Fast Loads with the SSD.
The SSD is one of the biggest game changers; load times are negligible on most games I’ve tested when they’re installed to the internal SSD. Some games see more significant improvement than others, but all see a dramatic reduction in load times.
One of the most impressive boosts comes from Capcom’s Marvel VS Capcom Infinite. The insane load times between fights are nearly all eliminated. It’s not as fast as the loading in Ultimate Marvel VS Capcom 3, but it’s lightning fast compared to what it was originally…so much so that it almost makes the game bearable. Almost.
I’ll do a separate article showing off the loading on legacy Xbox titles soon so keep a watch for that.
As somebody who has a ton of games though…that 1TB SSD is nowhere near enough. With some games coming close to a 100GB (Assassin’s Creed Odyssey with all DLC for example tops off at 96.4GB), I quickly filled up that SSD.
I just wished that Microsoft had bit the bullet and upped the storage capacity. It’s completely understandable why they didn’t (it’d be too cost prohibitive), but hopefully as the generation goes on, bigger capacities SSDs will hit the market.
If you’re thinking of buying an off the shelf SSD, you’re out of luck. The one in the Xbox Series X is custom made; you can’t even remove it from the machine if it fails. You can slot in another SSD (there’s an expansion port for it), but removing the original is impossible.
Backwards Compatible with ALL Xbox Consoles.
Unlike the Playstation 5, the Xbox Series X is backwards compatible (even peripherals are compatible) with multiple generations; original Xbox games, Xbox 360 games and Xbox One games.
As long as they’re on the list for backwards compatible games (for the original Xbox and Xbox 360 games, Xbox One games all run no problem (unless they require the Kinect) on the new console), the games will play on this.
You don’t even need to do anything special. Pop in the disc or install the digital version and you’re good to go. No settings to configure, no special hoops to jump through.
On top of being playable, the machine also visually enhances the games with Auto-HDR, which artificially adds in HDR for games that don’t support the feature. If you have a HDR 4K TV, you’ll definitely notice the improved lighting and colors in pretty much every game you’ll play on the Xbox Series X.
Even if you don’t have a HDR capable TV, the other improvements the Xbox Series X bring to legacy titles is nothing to scoff at.
The extra power in the hardware allows it to run all legacy titles smoothly, without any slowdown or hitches originally present due to previously underpowered hardware. Some titles (games with unlocked framerates) will even get their FPS boosted to 60FPS.
One of these is State of Decay 2.
I’ve played a ton of the game over the years, on the original Xbox One, then on the Xbox One X and now, on the Xbox Series X. There was a marked improvement from the Xbox One to the Xbox One X…but that improvement was insignificant to how the game performs on the Xbox Series X.
To put it simply; it just looks and plays better. The framerate’s now a solid 60FPS and the muddy visuals are improved to look cleaner, especially on 4K.
Loads from saves (it only takes 15 seconds from title screen to in-game!) or death are pretty much non-existent, with the game moving from scene to scene in a snap!
Quick Resume is Great…When It Works.
One of the biggest new feature for the Xbox Series X is Quick Resume. It basically lets you pick up right where you left off. It’s something that’s present in the Xbox One but on the Series X, the feature’s been amped up to allow multiple games to be resumed at any time.
It’s a great feature…when it works.
To be fair, the majority of games I tried this on I had no issues. One did however; Yakuza: Like A Dragon.
Resuming the game after shutting down the Xbox Series X kills the sound. You have to quit and restart the game to reenable the sound. It’s definitely something that will be patched, but right now it’s an issue.
The New Controller.
With the new console, comes a new version of the venerable Xbox controller. Like the Xbox 360 and Xbox One controllers before it, the new controller doesn’t reinvent the wheel.
I don’t mind it at all since the Xbox controller’s pretty good as it is.
That’s not saying there aren’t any changes; there’s a new D-pad that’s ripped right out of the Elite Controller’s style, textured triggers, remolded shoulder triggers and of course, the new dedicated, screenshot button.
While the textured triggers are nice, they aren’t really noticeable when you’re playing. The new triggers feel exactly as the older ones, except with a better grip. Is that good or bad? That depends on how you felt about the triggers in the past.
For me? I don’t really mind. I could’ve done with a bit more resistance, but that’s just my personal preference.
Best of all, the new Xbox Wireless Controller comes with a USB Type-C port! No more fumbling around with a cable to find the right way to insert the connector!
There’s another plus!
You don’t need to rebind the controller to the Xbox Series X if you connect to it via PC. Just unplug from the PC and it’ll automatically be usable on the Xbox Series X again, without the need to reregister. It’s a godsend for gamers who switch platforms constantly.
Next Generation…But Not Really. Yet.
I have to admit though, I’m a bit bummed that there aren’t any games that are specifically made for the Xbox Series X. It’s great that games are enhanced to take advantage of the more powerful hardware, but I miss seeing something that’s only possible on the new machine. Most of the launch titles are available on the Xbox One too.
Part of the excitement of moving to a new generation (for me at least) was to see how new games look compared to older games. When I moved to the GameCube from the N64, Rogue Squadron 2: Rogue Leader blew me away. Same like when I moved from the various Playstation or Xbox consoles.
The hardware is there, but there’s nothing that truly looks next generation.
There’s nothing to show off the new Xbox Series X that exclusive launch titles like Halo or Rogue Squadron 2 or Super Mario 64 that you can play to show you that this is what the new machine can do. No killer app that you can use to wow your friends or family with.
All you get are titles that are also available for the Xbox One, just enhanced for the Xbox Series X or titles that are also available on the Playstation 5.
We’re all going to have to wait a few years for the Xbox One and Xbox One X to be phased out before we’re going to see what the Xbox Series X can truly be capable off.
It also doesn’t help that the Xbox Series X User Interface (dashboard) is literally the same as the Xbox One’s. Only the initial boot sequence is different. There are a ton of valid reasons for this (familiarity, ease of use and more) but I feel that it contributes to the feeling that the console doesn’t feel new.
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the Xbox Series X.
I just feel that by catering to the Xbox One userbase, Microsoft is hobbling the Xbox Series X’s potential for the next few years instead of blasting out of the gate with a fresh start.
The Bottom Line.
If you’ve been with the Xbox since the beginning, the Xbox Series X should be a no-brainer. There’s no other console that has the backwards compatibility features present in the Xbox Series X, which spans multiple console generations.
If you’re somebody with a ton of digital purchases throughout the years on the Xbox Marketplace, being able to carry them with you to the next generation is a major plus point. On top of that, the games being enhanced is just icing on the (already) delicious cake.
Even if the Xbox Series X is your first console, it’s still a great purchase. Microsoft’s Game Pass is still unmatched on any other console, and if you subscribe, you get a huge library of games from multiple generations to be played at your leisure.
You don’t even need to purchase a single game if you have a Game Pass subscription, as all Microsoft first party titles which are enhanced for the Xbox Series X are all readily available on the service.
The only downside to the Xbox Series X is the paltry storage.
1TB is nowhere near enough, especially with games that are native 4K. Getting an external SSD helps with the storage but you’ll still want to install to the internal SSD as much as possible because loads are simply much, much faster on it.
Still, at the end of the day, for $699 you’re getting a hell of a lot bang for what you’re paying.
It’s even more of a value if you’ve been with the Xbox brand for awhile but with Game Pass, anybody can just dive in with a huge library ready and waiting…which makes the Xbox Series X a damn good value and a worthy successor to the Xbox One.
- Backwards compatibility.
- Enhanced legacy titles.
- SSD makes loading times insanely short.
- D-pad on new controller.
- Only 1TB storage.
- No exclusives yet.