The next generation of game consoles has kicked off with the launch of the Xbox Series X, Microsoft’s latest Xbox. Is the console already worth your money or should you wait a little longer? The answer to that requires some nuance.
The Xbox Series X has been launched. The start of a new console generation is always a good time. The consoles become more powerful, the games become more beautiful and the worlds we can explore are getting bigger. We can certainly reveal that the difference in pure graphic quality is not that big between the previous and the current generation, especially if you have bought the Xbox One X in between. But that’s not the most important thing this time.
This time the emphasis is on a number of other things: faster loading times, higher and stable frame rates and broad support for games that you may have owned for years. And, not unimportantly, an installation that takes place via the Xbox app on Android and iOS .
That all sounds very nice, but there are also some snags to those promises. Your television plays a greater role than ever in the experience of the current generation of game consoles. Plus: if you just want to enjoy gaming and don’t care so much about all kinds of graphic effects and better frame rates, you may wonder aloud whether you should make the switch. For the time being, many games will simply be released on the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X and Series S. Do you really need the Series X as a gamer?
Since a console can be placed in the living room, it is important that it does not stand out. But game consoles can also have a playful or cool touch. The design of the Xbox Series X is just the right amount of cool and playful in our opinion.
The rectangular colossus is quite high when you put it upright and has the power button at the top left. You can press it to turn it on or off and it lights up when it is on. At the bottom left is the disc slot, with the button above that to remove the disc from the slot. On the right, also at the bottom, we see the connection button (for the controller and wireless headsets) and a USB port, with which you can charge a controller.
The left side is completely smooth, while on the right there are four small legs. You can place the Xbox Series X upright, but also on its side. Then of course everything turns a quarter turn. The only thing that does not look good is the Xbox button (the logo is no longer correct), but otherwise the console still looks very robust.
If you place the Xbox Series X upright, it will stand on a round leg. You don’t have to install that leg on it first; it is fixed by default. This allows the console to move air from the bottom up, keeping the internal hardware very cool. On top is a grid that curves slightly inwards, with green accents underneath for that little bit of playfulness. No matter how big that fan is, you just can’t hear the console while gaming. That has sometimes been different with previous generations of game consoles in general.
At the back we find the other connections, as well as a ventilation grille. The Xbox Series X has two USB ports, an HDMI port, a slot for an external SSD card (which is available separately) and an Ethernet port. The outside is beautiful black and solid, but also a fingerprint magnet.
The Xbox Series X has impressive hardware on board. The colossus has an AMD Zen 2 processor with a clock speed of 3.8 GHz. There is also a custom RDNA 2 AMD GPU with a maximum output of 12 teraflops (for comparison: the Xbox One X has 6 teraflops, the PlayStation 5 has 10.8 teraflops). Furthermore, there is 16 GB of RAM and no less than 1 TB of internal storage space, on a built-in SSD. In addition, there is of course the 4k UHD Blu-ray player.
More than 200 GB of that 1 TB of internal storage space is spent on the operating system. More on that later. So keep in mind that you have about 802 GB of storage space. You can connect an external hard drive to it, but the games on it cannot enjoy the performance improvements that the system makes. For this, the games must be on the internal or the separately purchased external solid state drive. You can leave your older games on that disc and just play them like you did on your old One (X or S). The biggest advantage of the SSD is the loading times. Some games no longer have loading times, while others suddenly load very quickly. It is really fantastic to see.
What does all this mean now? It means we play a lot of games in the 4k resolution. In addition, many games run at 60 Hz and sometimes even 120 Hz. The hardware is also able to offer support for ray tracing. This is a graphic technique that gives games a realistic representation of, for example, mirror images and other special effects. It takes games, such as Watch Dogs, to a different level graphically. When you see this for the first time, it is quite impressive.
Compared to the Xbox One X, the graphical leap is nevertheless relatively small. That console could also present games at 60 fps, but 4k games are usually played at 30 frames per second. That is now different. For example, if you first play Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on the One X (as we did in early November) and then you play it on the Series X, you will notice the difference in image quality. Those 30 fps more per second look incredibly smooth.
Screen tearing can sometimes crop up. You can recognize this by the fact that part of the image gets stuck on a different frame than another part. This creates a horizontal ‘crack’ in the image. This is because the frame rate of the console (the number of frames per second that the console sends out) is variable, and is not synchronized with the refresh rate of the TV (the number of times the TV refreshes its image). Screen tearing then occurs when the console delivers a new frame while the TV is drawing the previous frame.
It happens regularly enough for you to say it stands out, but not so often that it is annoying. The solution for screen tearing is to activate VSync, but that is an option that must be offered within the game. The TV will then only accept new frames when it starts drawing a completely new frame. That can cause another problem, namely stutter. After all, if the TV does not have a new frame when it starts drawing, it will redraw the previous frame. The only real solution is to invest in a television that has VRR. The TV makes its refresh rate variable, and is based entirely on the console. Only when he supplies a new image, does he fully draw the new image.
Software and new features
Compared to the Xbox One X, the Xbox Series X basically does not have a different operating system. Both consoles run on the same software. If you just have the home screen (which is presented in 1080p) open, then you cannot tell that you are playing on a new generation of Xbox. That is an advantage, because it makes the transition seamless. It is also a disadvantage because it does not make the system feel new everywhere. So software is important, and fortunately Microsoft has made quite a few changes behind the scenes that you only notice as a Series X owner.
Think of super-fast loading times. Where Assassin’s Creed Valhalla sometimes takes more than a minute on the old Xbox One to load the world, with the Series X it takes four, sometimes five times less. Fast travel in video games, depending on the game of course, has never been faster either. In Yakuza: Like a Dragon, for example, a taxi takes about five seconds, while a previous gene game when The Witcher 3 is running out of loading times. That is unprecedented for console gamers.
In addition, games from the previous generation can count on Auto HDR: a native function that does justice to the colors much better than when you play them on the original hardware. For example, if you skipped the Xbox One, but still wanted to check out some games, now is the time to do so. Within the Xbox ecosystem, you won’t find better hardware to play your Xbox, Xbox 360, or Xbox One games on right now.
Then we have Quick Resume and Smart Delivery. With the former function you very quickly return to an open video game. Of course, that was already possible on the old Xbox One, by simply returning to the home screen. The game in question would then remain open in the background. With the Xbox Series X you can keep up to four games open at the same time, provided developers build in that support. So you can switch from game to game very quickly, without having to wait for everything to load (but if you have to, the waiting time is also shorter than on Xbox One X).
With Smart Delivery, the Xbox ensures that you always have the correct version of a game on your hardware. For example, if you buy Sea of Thieves, Dirt 5, Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4 or the two aforementioned Ubisoft games, the type of Xbox determines which data is downloaded. Playing on a Series X gives you access to higher frame rates, higher quality textures and more enhancements. Games are also referred to as a type of game optimized for Series X | S.
If you play the same cross-gen game on an Xbox One (X), you only download the necessary files. This way you avoid downloading a lot of unnecessary data on your old console, while your new console enjoys all kinds of great options. And so Microsoft prevents you from having to purchase a game twice. With one copy you can play on all your Xbox consoles at home. And yes, your saved data is automatically synchronized. Unfortunately, this is not the case for every cross-gen game, as developers have to build in that support.
Not much has changed on the controller either. The same arguments apply here as for the software. It’s nice that we don’t have to get used to a new button layout or format, but it does diminish the feeling of having a new console. Basically the controller is the same as on Xbox One, but fortunately there are a few differences. However, those differences are not enough to really realize that you are dealing with a new console.
The controller is slightly narrower compared to the One controller. It is also true that the triggers work a bit more difficult; that provides that little bit more sense of control. The sticks and action buttons are otherwise the same, but the shoulder buttons are different. They are slightly less high, so you can rest your finger more comfortably. Another difference is the grip: due to the robust and rough exterior, the controller never slips out of hand.
At the bottom is a standard headphone jack, so you can connect all kinds of headsets to it (as is the case with Xbox One controllers, which were released at a later date). Furthermore, the Xbox Series controller has an extra button, with which you can easily take your own screenshots and videos. Press once and you take a screenshot; holding down means you are recording a video. You can then immediately upload the content to all kinds of profiles, which in turn can be done effortlessly via the Xbox dashboard.
Finally, there is now a USB-C port that you can use to charge the controller. It’s good to see Microsoft moving with the times, but on the other hand, it’s a shame we can’t use the old Xbox One controller charging cables anymore. Moreover, Microsoft does not include a standard USB-C cable, so you have to spend extra money on a cable (but you can also charge the controller with a normal USB-C charger, fortunately).
Games and media
We’ve just talked about games, but we’re going to go into them a little deeper now. Two games that have played extensively on Xbox One X and then on Xbox Series X are Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Watch Dogs Legion. The former title lets us play in 60fps and 4k, while the latter offers 4k resolution at 30fps and ray tracing support. The graphics level between both versions of both games is not earth-shatteringly different when you compare the One and Series X versions. But both ray tracing and 60 fps at 4k do make the difference. It’s not a next-gen wow effect, but it does give a next-gen feel.
These are games that are optimized for the new Microsoft game console. Of course you can also play your Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One games on this. The Xbox Series X makes changes for all kinds of games that you don’t have to worry about. Think of higher frame rates, in some cases a higher resolution and Auto HDR. Did you skip the Xbox One at the time, but are there still games you wanted to play? Then you would do well to invest in the Series X. After all, you are playing the best version of that game.
In addition, the Xbox Series X has some surprises in store. So is support for Dolby Vision. This applies to (some) video games (from 2021), series and films that you watch via Netflix or Disney + and films and series that you play via the Blu-ray player. At least, that’s Microsoft’s promise. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, it is not possible to play content from a Blu-ray disc in Dolby Vision. This option may be added later. There is support for the regular HDR standard HDR10, so you can enjoy that HDR quality.
It is also possible to use Dolby Atmos and DTS, but there are quite a few hooks and eyes here. For example, you have to purchase a license for both standards and developers must of course build in the support. Some games from Microsoft support the standards, such as Gears 5 and Forza Horizon 4, but not all of them. However, it is not a sham in comparison to the Dolby Vision support, which is now a lot of confusion.
The Xbox Series X is an incredibly beautiful device. On the outside, but also when we look at what we can do with it. A new console is often just as good as the new games you can play on it. This Xbox should have less of that now, since there are no exclusive games from Microsoft to be seen at the launch. But the games that you can play on it (mainly old titles, with a handful of optimized games), all run very well and load super fast. Combine your purchase with Game Pass and you do not have to be bored for the time being and hardly disturb anything.
Then we have the technical aspect. It used to be like this: you bought a console, you install it and you can start gaming. That already changed with the release of the previous Xbox consoles, but it was still fairly simple. Things you had to take into account were possibly 4k or HDR, but now a lot of technical terms are added. And those technical terms cause some obstacles, especially if you really want to get the most out of your console. You need an expensive TV for something like VRR or to be able to use 120 Hz at 4k, and that is simply not for everyone. It can negatively affect your gaming experience, but it doesn’t have to. On the one hand, it is good to see that modern standards are supported,
All this means that the Xbox Series X is not interesting for every gamer. There are many hooks and eyes to the experience; and that is not always due to the game console. The Series X is primarily intended for those who have already invested a lot of time and fun in the Xbox ecosystem and have built up a large library of games. It does not matter whether those games are physical or digital. The support for four generations of video games is the console’s strongest point. If you don’t have that many Xbox, Xbox 360 and / or Xbox One games, you may want to wait a little longer with the purchase. But if you do, it is a no-brainer that you get the console. Because then you play the best versions of those video games.
- Backward compatibility
- Future-proof hardware
- Ray tracing
- Fast loading times
- 60 and 120 fps
- Cool and playful design
- No charging cable for controller included
- Many technical matters to take into account
- No exclusive games at launch
- Doesn’t feel ‘new’