Microsoft’s latest and greatest console is here.
The day has come. After all the teasers, sneak peeks, and hands-on experiences, the Xbox Series X is now available. Joined by the Xbox Series S, its slimmer and less expensive variant, Microsoft’s next-generation consoles offer performance that’s worthy of praise. Hardcore gamers would probably choose Series X over the S, and in case you still don’t know what to get we’ve put up a nice comparison article here.
But let’s focus on the big boy here – the Xbox Series X comes in a big black box and that doesn’t scream wow in terms of design, I actually like it more than the first-generation Xbox One launched in 2013 which reminded me of an old school VCR.
A subject of memes since it was introduced with some even calling it a fridge (to which Xbox gracefully embraced), the Series X is meant to be placed in a vertical position, but can also be placed horizontally. Still, the larger build of this console means you might have problems putting it in your media center. In my case, I ended up putting it beside my TV.
The top houses large holes where a large fan blows out the heat. Some of the holes have a green color, making it look like the top lights up when the console is turned on. It could have been a nice touch to have this, but sadly it doesn’t have it.
The front of the Series X houses the slot-loading optical drive that supports 4K Blu-ray playback, along with the eject button. There’s also a USB port along with a controller pairing button next to it, and the power button with the Xbox logo sits on top.
The rear of the consoles houses the rest of the I/O ports. This includes HDMI, Ethernet, and two USB ports. There’s also a proprietary slot for expanding the built-in storage, which is needed in case the 1TB internal drive is not enough for you. You can still connect standard drives on the console, but they would need to be transferred to the internal SSD for you to play it.
The Xbox Series X’s HDMI 2.1 port allows you to play games at 4K 120Hz. The only problem is that not all TVs support 120Hz, meaning that taking advantage of this upgrade would mean buying a new TV.
The hardware inside the Xbox Series X has been discussed multiple times before it was released. But here’s a refresher:
Processor: 8X Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.66 GHz w/SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
GPU: 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU
Memory: 16GB GDDR6 w/320 bit-wide bus
Memory Bandwidth: 10GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s
Internal Storage: 1TB Custom NVME SSD
Optical Drive: Slot loading 4K Blu-ray drive
Video output: 4K with HDR support, up to 120Hz
Aside from that, the Xbox Series X also supports Dolby Vision for viewing content on streaming platforms and on 4K Blu-ray discs. There’s also support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X so you can experience immersive spatial audio. The hardware alone instantly makes the Xbox Series X much like a PC but in a console form.
A Familiar Controller
The Xbox Series X’s controller looks almost identical to the previous generation, with a few refinements. You’re getting a new Capture button that now lies in between the Menu and View buttons. It’s essentially a simple screenshot button that allows you to easily share images and video clips with just one press.
There’s a new direction pad with an octagonal direction plate that’s more clicker compared to the plus-shaped direction pad of the Xbox One controller. Aside from that, you have a more prominent grip that makes it easier to handle. It’s powered by two AA batteries, and there’s a USB-C port that you can use if you put rechargeable batteries or the Play and Charge Kit.
The Same UI
The UI of the Xbox Series X is the same across all Xbox consoles including the current generation Xbox One. You’re getting a large row of tiles (mimicking Windows 10) where you can see a list of previously used apps and games.
These tabs are horizontally organized and fully customizable. In my case, I’ve created separate tabs for my games and apps so I can access them easily. I’ve also created tabs for Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold so I can immediately see if there’s a new game that I can download and play. Pressing the Xbox button on the controller still brings the Xbox Guide with a quick access menu.
The UI is simple and functional, but since it mirrors the same UI like the one I’ve been using on the Xbox One, there’s a certain feel to it that you’re just using the same console.
But you’ll get the feel of next-generation performance when you actually play the games. Since we’re now at a time when games are being transitioned from current to next-gen, most developers are offering free upgrades to Xbox Series X versions of their games if you’ve purchased them on the Xbox One. Microsoft is labeling games optimized for the Xbox Series X on the Microsoft Store and on physical copies, so look for that label to know if the game you’re getting has improved graphics.
With current next-gen compatible games like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Dirt 5, Watch Dogs Legion as well-optimized games like Forza Horizon 4 and Sea of Thieves, performance is clearly seen on the graphics, where character renders are nearly lifelike, and surroundings were made even more alive with ray tracing. Optimized games also saw a big jump in fps, making it smoother to play in 4K HDR.
Even non-optimized games like Assassin’s Creed Origins saw significant improvements in loading times thanks to the new superfast SSD. While it normally takes up to a minute to load a stage when fast traveling in a game, the Xbox Series X casually loads it up in just a few seconds.
It’s really up to the developers to decide how to harness the power of the hardware and while there’s no standout launch title unlike Spider-Man: Miles Morales on the PS5, we’re still excited to see what upcoming games will take advantage of that powerful hardware.
Of course, Microsoft’s strategy here is that you can still play the previous generation Xbox games on the Series X so you don’t have to keep your old consoles. Backward compatibility is the one feature that we love about the Xbox, and we’re glad that it’s fully supported on (most) games on the Series X. Backward compatibility also applies to accessories, meaning that older Xbox One controllers for example can be used on the Xbox Series X.
Aside from the hardware, Microsoft is also pushing for its ‘Netflix for games’ service called Game Pass. With the Game Pass Ultimate variant, it combines the benefits of Xbox Live Gold along with access to Game Pass so you can download hundreds of AAA titles and play online with just one subscription. Starting today as well, EA Play will now become part of Game Pass Ultimate where you can also access EA’s huge game library.
This is actually one of the reasons why I enjoy playing on the Xbox. For the same price as a Netflix subscription, signing up for Game Pass Ultimate makes for a better deal rather than buying each game individually. That being said, I’d still buy some games on launch date especially if I am a fan, but Game Pass Ultimate is one of the stand-out features of the Xbox consoles that you should definitely try out.
More PC than console
The Xbox Series X’s performance easily makes it more PC than a console. It improves upon the best aspects of the Xbox One that essentially makes it worth the upgrade. Launch titles may be lacking, but once these exclusives finally release it’s best you play them on the best Xbox possible.
The Xbox Series X launches today in the UAE for 2,099 AED with the Xbox Series S also available for 1,249 AED.
+ Incredible hardware
+ Amazing gaming performance and load times
+ Compatible with previous-generation Xbox games and accessories
– Limited launch titles
– You need a new TV to get the full experience
– UI doesn’t feel next-gen
Final Rating: 4/5