The Xbox Series X is officially here – the new Xbox is finally out in the world and available to buy – if you can find one in stock.
Microsoft teased the console for months – if not years – ahead of its release, so excitement is at fever pitch for this big black box that packs the most power anyone has ever put into a game console – yes, including the PS5.
reviewed the Xbox Series X ourselves, so go read that if you want to know what we think – or read on for all the info on the console’s price, specs, games, and more.
Where to buy the Xbox Series X
The next-gen Xbox Series X console launched on 10 November 2020, just before Sony’s
PS5 release date – 12 November in the US, and 19 November in the UK.
Unsurprisingly stock sold out fast. Microsoft has promised more stock is on the way, but if you’re struggling, it’s worth checking all of the following sites and signing up for notifications from any that are offering them:
The Series X costs £449/$499 – the exact same price as the older Xbox One X, and the same as the PS5.
It is joined by a cheaper, disc-less variant with lower specs: the
Xbox Series S. This costs £249/$299 – significantly cheaper than the equivalent £359/$399 entry-level PS5 Digital Edition. If you’re not sure which Xbox to buy, check out our full
Xbox Series S vs Series X comparison for a detailed breakdown.
Watch the new Xbox ad
Still not sold? Microsoft’s made a nifty ad to win you over, starring none other than Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya. There are nods to Halo, Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, and more, along with more CGI than you can throw a stick at.
What about the Xbox Series X specs & design?
The headline is the custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, which is combined with a 12 teraflop, 52 compute unit GPU. Regular output is at 4K 60fps, although this can be scaled up to 120fps.
There is also native support for expandable storage, along with a 4K Blu-ray drive and USB 3.0 external HDD support.
See the full list of specs below:
8-core 3.8Ghz custom CPU
12 teraflop, 52 compute unit 1.825Ghz GPU
16GB GDDR6 memory with up to 10GB bandwidth
1TB custom NVMe SSD
USB 3.0 HDD Support
4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
4K 60fps target performance – up to 120fps
The tall, thick chassis is able to be placed on its side as well as upright, so should be able to blend into your existing home entertainment setup. There’s no denying that it looks like a PC tower, but that might not be a bad thing as Microsoft finally tries to bridge the gap to desktop gaming.
In terms of physical measurements, the Series X is 15.1cm x 15.1cm x 30.1cm, and weighs 4.45kg/9.8lbs.
As for ports, you’ll get a single HDMI 2.1 output, three USB-A 3.1 ports, and Ethernet. There’s support for 802.11ac dual band Wi-Fi, but there’s no Bluetooth in the console.
The controller has also been updated, but it looks remarkably similar to the one currently available, and current-gen controllers will still work on the Series X. The ergonomics have been improved a little, and there’s a new Share button and tweaked D-pad, but beyond that things are fundamentally the same, so there’s no need to replace your whole controller collection.
The console is powered by a custom AMD chip on Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures. It’s capable of providing four times more computing power than the original Xbox One, and a whopping 12 teraflops of GPU performance – more than eight times the original One, and double the more powerful One X.
In practical terms, that translates to support for 120fps, hardware accelerated DirectX ray-tracing (and even new tech Microsoft is calling audio ray-tracing), and support for Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) over HDMI 2.1.
4K at 60fps is the target output for most games, but as already mentioned for some titles it will go up to 120fps, and in other cases will support output at up to 8K resolutions.
Along with vastly improved graphical support, the console gets an upgrade in the storage department. Current-gen consoles come with mechanical hard drives as standard and as such, gamers are left with noticeably long loading times.
That’s changed with the new console, which offers a fast SSD as standard. Microsoft has gone into even more detail on the tech behind this – which it has dubbed
Velocity Architecture – explaining that it’s using a custom SSD with 40x the throughput of the Xbox One hard drive.
This is optimised for consistent, sustained performance as opposed to peak performance, and is combined with hardware accelerated decompression, a new DirectStorage API, and a new system called Sampler Feedback Streaming that helps make sure that textures are only loaded as and when the GPU needs them. That may sound like a lot of tech buzz words, but it’ll translate to faster loading, bigger game worlds, and few tricks like narrow corridors to mask loading.
Improved Quick Resume features will help too – the console lets you jump back into a game right where you left off even after a reboot.
Expandable storage is handled through custom SSD cards which slot directly into the console. So far Seagate is the only confirmed manufacturer, with a
1TB card that costs a cool £219/$219 – so it’s not cheap. Other manufacturers and storage sizes are expected to follow.
If you want to expand your storage and play from it directly, this is the only way. You will also be able to plug in an external drive over USB, but you won’t be able to play directly from this drive – at least not any Series X-optimised games. At least you can use it as storage space for games you’re not currently playing, or to play older titles, and move games between the drives when you need them.
A major lure will be backwards compatibility.
Microsoft has already said that at launch the Series X is capable of playing almost every game from the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and even original Xbox, except those that require Kinect to play – as the
Series X won’t support Kinect at all.
They’ll all run natively on the console hardware, with no downclocking, meaning they should run better than they ever have before, especially given the faster load times of the SSD.
Even better, Microsoft has build in platform-level tech to add HDR to older titles that never had it, and a “select set” of games will even benefit from frame-rate enhancements that could see frame-rates double from 30fps to 60fps, and even from 60fps to 120fps in some games.
Perhaps more importantly, a program called Smart Delivery will ensure that if you buy a compatible game once you’ll be able to play it on either Xbox One or Xbox Series X and play the right version for the console you’re on at the time. All Xbox Game Studios titles will be included, along with some third-party titles like
Is the Series X software different?
Yes and no. Microsoft did update the Xbox dashboard for the launch of the Xbox Series X, but all of the changes it’s making also rolled out to existing Xbox One consoles.
The big changes are to efficiency and speed. Microsoft says that the home screen on the Series X should load more than 50% faster from booting up, and almost a third faster when you’re coming out of a game – all while using 40% less memory.
Animations and readability have also been tweaked and improved across the UI, but the biggest change is to video sharing. Clips you capture from your console will now automatically be sent to the Xbox app on your phone, if you have it, so you can quickly send them to friends or post them on social media without trying to faff about logging into Twitter with your controller.
Xbox Series X games
Microsoft has ambitious plans for Xbox Series X games, including the upcoming
Halo Infinite – but surprisingly it won’t be an exclusive.
That’s because the Xbox Series X will have barely any exclusives in its first few years – at least not from Microsoft itself. The company has confirmed that for the next two years at least, almost every new game published by Xbox Game Studios will be playable on any Xbox or PC – meaning all the first few first-party Series X games will also released on the Xbox One.
They’ll also be cross-compatible thanks to the Smart Delivery program mentioned above. Third-party publishers may take a different approach, however.
That doesn’t mean that this will always be the case – at some point Microsoft will likely have to cut off Xbox One support – but it will take the pressure off upgrading straight away. It helps that the Series X will also be backwards compatible, so any new Xbox One games you buy in that time will still work on the Series X whenever you upgrade.
It would be impossible to keep track of every game on its way to the Xbox Series X, so check out our full guide to the
best upcoming games for a more comprehensive list, or our guide to the
Xbox Series X launch games for an up-to-date list of the initial selection of titles.
Xbox also stated that “hundreds of games” will be on the way in 2021, with every major publisher working on something Xbox Series X related (obviously with the exception of Sony and Nintendo).
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Tech Advisor's Deputy Editor, Dom covers everything that runs on electricity, from phones and laptops to wearables, audio, gaming, smart home, and streaming - plus he's a regular fixture on the Tech Advisor YouTube channel.