Xbox Series X Review: The World’s Most Powerful Console

Performance: 10
Features: 10
Design: 9
Value: 10

Overall Score: 10

Price: From $599.99

Positives
  • Native 4K gaming
  • Amazing backward compatibility
  • Blazing fast loading times
  • Great value
  • Instant game library through Xbox Game Pass

Negatives
  • Official storage expansion is expensive

In late 2020, Xbox entered its fourth generation. The newest console from Microsoft is a technological marvel, but that hasn’t stopped the Redmond tech giant from the habit of giving its consoles confusing names. After the original Xbox, we had the Xbox 360 and then the Xbox One. Now it’s time for the Xbox Series X: a tall black monolith of a console that’s an absolute 4K gaming powerhouse.

But, just how good are the Xbox Series X specs, and should you buy it over other consoles such as the PS5? That’s what we’ll be answering here today. Strap on, and let’s get started.

Xbox Series X: More Than a Monolith

Unlike Sony, Microsoft decided for a more rectangular, almost minimalist design for its console. The Xbox Series X is, really, a big black box, a dark monolith that stands on top of your entertainment system.

Its front panel is simple, housing a single USB port and a front-loading disc drive. The Xbox logo doubles as both the power button and the indicator that the console is on.

But, it’s not an entirely black and perfectly rectangular console. The top section houses a giant cooling system and is slightly concave in shape, giving the impression that the console “took a breath.” It’s also green-tinted to provide contrast to all the dark areas. All in all, this design is top-notch and the reason we’ve given it high scores in our Xbox Series X review.

The console doesn’t take up too much space, either. That is, as long as you place it on its vertical stand. Its footprint is just 5.9 in × 5.9 inches, while the console is 11.9 inches high. Unlike the smaller, more affordable Series S console, the “bigger brother” is also heavier, weighing 9.8 lb. Of course, you don’t have to keep it upright and can place the console on its side, so the disc drive is facing you. Just make sure you leave ample space for proper airflow.

Lastly, let’s talk about the Xbox Series X controller. For the updated controller, it’s evident that Microsoft took the “if it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” approach. At a glance, it looks exactly like the Xbox One controller, featuring the same colour scheme and button layout. It is not entirely unchanged, though, and the engineers at Microsoft did include some tweaks and quality-of-life improvements.

First of all, the d-pad is now an 8-side plate, making it easier to hit diagonal inputs. The triggers are textured and include individual rumble motors for better immersion. There’s also an extra button on the controller dedicated to capturing screenshots and gameplay video clips. While the controller still needs AA batteries, the battery life remains excellent. A pair of alkalines should last you 20 to 25 hours.

Xbox Series X Specs

When Microsoft announced this console, the manufacturer claimed it would be the most powerful console ever made. We have to agree with that sentiment, as the hardware inside the Xbox Series X is seriously impressive, especially considering the price this console retails at.

The core of the system is a custom-made AMD CPU based on the Zen 2 architecture. It’s an 8-core processor that runs at 3.6 GHz with simultaneous multithreading (SMT) enabled, but it can go up to 3.8 GHz. For the graphics horsepower, Microsoft chose the AMD RDNA 2 chip, which has ray tracing capabilities and produces 12 teraflops of raw computing power. The console comes with 16 GB of GDDR6 RAM, with 10 GB reserved for graphics processing.

For us, the main star is the storage solution in Xbox Series X consoles. The new generation needed to be faster in processing graphics, and it had to cut down loading times, so Microsoft developed Velocity architecture and used PCIe 4.0 SSDs. This, combined with DirectStorage technology that allows developers to load assets directly into GPU memory, means that this console has incredibly short loading times.

While the box says that the Xbox Series X has 1 TB of storage, the available space is actually only 802 GB. Storage is expandable, and you can either use the official expansion card or hook up a USB drive with 64 GB or more storage space, but you can’t run current-gen games from a USB.

Connectivity-wise, the console can get online either via a Gigabit Ethernet port or through an integrated Wi-Fi IEEE 802.11ac protocol. There are two USB 3.2 ports on the back, next to the expansion slot that fits the aforementioned storage expansion cards, with an extra USB slot on the front.

Unfortunately, the digital audio output was dropped last minute, and, unlike the Xbox One, the Series X doesn’t support HDMI passthrough.

Xbox Series X Performance

We expected a lot from these specs and were not left disappointed. After all, a major new console should be able to provide considerable improvements in terms of performance over the previous generation.

One other thing the new console does notably better is noise. That’s to say, the big monolith runs nearly silent, despite the beefy hardware it has under the hood. The chunky cooling solution is definitely doing its job while not interfering with the audio coming out of the TV.

The Series X is a fully 4K-ready console that runs games at rock-solid 60 frames per second. On some titles, you can enable the 120 Hz mode, which doubles the frame rate, providing a much smoother gaming experience, but compromising the crisp resolution.

It’s up to the player to choose how to use the Xbox Series X hardware – either aiming for maximum performance at a lower visual fidelity or a crisper image at a locked framerate. Some games even offer 4K at 120 fps, like Gears 5 multiplayer.

That said, you’ll need to shell out for a rather expensive TV to get that 4K 120 fps experience, and only older and incredibly well-optimized games can hope to run at those settings consistently.

Backwards compatibility is a big deal for the Xbox brand, and the Series X can run games from all previous console generations. On top of that, the Xbox One accessories are compatible with this console, and some games have even received optimization patches.

In general, running any Xbox One game is a smoother experience on the Xbox X, even if the game hasn’t been manually optimized for this Xbox series console.

Loading times are the most considerable improvement with this console generation. Not only are the games loaded in just a few seconds, but the Velocity architecture also has a feature called Quick Resume. This nifty trick lets you suspend a game while playing and switch to another title.

Going back to the suspended game will return you exactly where you left off, and the process takes less than 10 seconds. You can have up to six games ready through Quick Resume, and it works for both current and last-gen titles and even games you may have on a USB drive.

Xbox Series X Games: What To Play?

Despite all the hype around the console’s launch, the Xbox Series X didn’t really have a bombastic launch games-wise. There were, at the time, no exclusive games or any massive system-seller title like Halo for the original Xbox.

Instead, gamers could choose between new Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs games, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, Dirt 5, and Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition. Of course, the standard annual sports releases were also present on launch.

The reason was simple – the console launched during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, many studios were pushing the game releases months past the originally announced dates. There were also many cross-gen titles that didn’t utilize the full potential of Xbox Series X hardware specs.

Luckily, the backwards compatibility helped gamers access a vast library of older Xbox games to keep them occupied until the games made for the Series X arrived.

These days, the situation is a lot different. Many months after the Xbox Series X release date, the games library is full of big hitters. Halo is back with the ambitious Halo Infinite sequel that introduced fully-fledged open-world mechanics and picked up many glowing reviews.

Fans of racing games should check out Forza Horizon 5, while adventure-lovers can play the quirky platformer Psychonauts 2, the horror drama The Medium, or the adrenaline-pumping shooter Gears 5. Of course, all of the big multiplatform games are on Xbox, too, including Elden Ring, Hitman 3, It Takes Two, and Resident Evil: Village.

We’ve mentioned it earlier in this review of the Xbox Series X, but it’s worth repeating: Microsoft has worked hard to expand support for older generation games, which means every title from the Xbox One runs natively on the Series X, too.

Additionally, you can pop in some of your Xbox 360 and older Xbox games, and they’ll work without a hitch. The same goes with digital games, so you won’t be losing your purchases if you used to buy your games through the Xbox Live service.

Xbox Game Pass and Digital Services

Speaking of digital games, the Xbox team is pushing hard for digital services in this generation. Aside from the Xbox Live Gold, which you’ll still need to pay for to play online multiplayer and grab some free monthly games, there’s also the Xbox Game Pass, arguably the best addition to your new Microsoft Xbox Series X console.

The Game Pass is a subscription-based service that acts as an instant games library. Think of it as Netflix for games, except you can download each game and play it locally (but streaming is also supported).

Currently, there are 400+ games available through Game Pass, and it has a player base of around 18 million gamers. The selection couldn’t be more varied, as it’s not limited to just the games from Microsoft and its studios. A lot of third-party publishers and indies are included, too.

The largest-selling points of the service are its Day 1 releases. Microsoft promised that every first-party would be available on the Game Pass the same moment it’s also available in stores. Considering Xbox now owns a bunch of game developers, that means potentially hundreds of games you’ll get to play with a single subscription.

Unsurprisingly, the service quickly became very popular, attracting numerous publishers and over 30 million subscribers, many of whom became regulars on the platform.

Let’s talk about price. The basic Game Pass costs $11.99/month, but you’ll probably want to upgrade to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate to reap even more benefits.

For $16.99 a month, you’ll also get access to a library of EA games, a Game Pass for PC subscription, exclusive discounts on digital purchases, and access to cloud streaming through a smartphone or via the console itself. This tier also includes the Xbox Live Gold subscription, so you won’t have to pay extra for it.

When you purchase an Xbox Series X console, you’ll get three months of Game Pass Ultimate for just $1. You can score additional freebies with any official accessories you buy. For example, a licensed USB hard drive comes with 1-2 months of bonus Game Pass time, and every additional controller you purchase includes a voucher for Game Pass.

Xbox Series X: Competitor Comparison

So far, we’ve talked about all the pros and cons of owning an Xbox Series X. But, but it’s not the only console on the market today, and there are many discussions among gamers about whether to buy this console or something else. With that in mind, let’s see how it fares against the competition.

Xbox Series X vs PlayStation 5

Sony’s latest and greatest console is naturally the strongest Xbox Series X competitor around. Based on the same AMD architecture, it offers a pretty much equal gaming experience. It can also run games at 4K/120 Hz and play video at up to 8K.

Another similarity is the ultra-fast SSD storage matching the Xbox Series X in benchmark tests and even outperforming it in some. The PS5 is also a larger console, with a more “alien” and edgy design that appeals to some people.

The most significant advantage the PS5 has over the current-gen Xbox is the newly-designed controller called DualSense. It is quite a piece of tech, with haptic feedback, adaptive triggers, gyroscope, and even an internal mic and a speaker.

The controller has a rechargeable battery, but it doesn’t last nearly as long as the Xbox’s does. PS5 owners can also upgrade storage by installing an additional SSD, which is more affordable than Xbox’s expansion card, but the console can only run PS4 and PS5 games. The drive can’t even play audio CDs or DVDs, crippling the multimedia potential of this cool-looking gadget.

Performance on multiplatform titles and the loading times in games are pretty much the same. Even the console and controller prices are identical. Ultimately, your choice between a PlayStation or an Xbox will come down to the game library and services. PlayStation is set to have more blockbuster exclusives, while Xbox offers greater value through the Game Pass. Whichever you choose, you’ll have a powerful gaming machine that will last for years.

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S

If the Xbox Series X price is a bit too high for you, then maybe check out the other new Xbox console. Xbox Series S is more compact, around $200 cheaper, and still supports all the games and digital services the Series X does.

It can even do ray tracing and 120 fps in some games! Bear in mind that it’s a console that targets 2K rather than 4K, so you won’t be able to play the latest titles in as much detail as you would with its larger siblings.

Another downside is the lack of a disc drive, meaning that your old physical games can’t work on this device. The Series S also has half the storage of the Series X, meaning that if you play a lot of games simultaneously, you’ll need the storage expansion. Still, it’s a great entertainment device and currently the most affordable cutting-edge console around.

Conclusion

As you can see, the next-gen Xbox is an impressive piece of tech. The monolithic design hides the best Xbox console Microsoft has ever made, with the most extensive games library to date.

Add to the equation a price that is lower than most mid-to-high-end graphics cards these days, and it’s a no-brainer compared to a PC setup if you’re only looking to game (remember, you can hook up a mouse and keyboard to an Xbox).

The Game Pass service provides terrific value, especially with the Day 1 releases planned for the upcoming months. While the controller isn’t as innovative as the PS5 one, and the storage expansion could’ve been more affordable, the Xbox Series X is still a console we can wholeheartedly recommend.

FAQ

Is Xbox Series X worth buying?

Yes, the newest Xbox system is a significant improvement over the last generation of consoles. It supports higher resolutions and refresh rates than the Xbox One and runs games much better. On top of that, it’s a great value considering the Game Pass and previous-gen compatibility.

Is the Xbox Series X better than the PS5?

The two consoles are nearly identical hardware-wise. They use the same processor and GPU, come with similar storage solutions, and many games are available on both platforms. It’s really up to you which system you prefer based on the game selection and which console your friends prefer.

Is Series X better than Xbox One?

Yes, the Series X is considerably better than Xbox One in terms of processing power and features. It also runs all the Xbox One games and supports all the accessories from that console, but it will get even more great titles in the upcoming years.

Can Xbox Series X run 4K?

Yes. According to Xbox Series X specs that you can read more about in our review, the console achieves 4K resolution at up to 120 frames per second thanks to an HDMI 2.1 connection. Of course, you’ll need to connect it to a TV that supports such a high resolution and refresh rate.

Also, don’t expect the most demanding games to work in both 4K and at 120 fps – not even top-end PC rigs can achieve that in every title these days.

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Overall Score: 10

Price: From $599.99

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