Here are all the crucial details you should know about Microsoft’s flagship next-gen console.
They sure took their sweet time, but Microsoft have now finally pulled back the curtain on the next generation of Xbox completely. On top of recently revealing the Xbox Series S, they also confirmed the pricing and release date of the Xbox Series X, and with pre-orders for both consoles going live on September 22, it finally feels like next-gen is within touching distance at long last. As we count down the days to the launch of the new Xbox consoles, in this feature, we’re going to talk about the key details you need to know about the flagship model that Microsoft are entering the ninth console generation with.
While the PS5 is putting most of its eggs in the SSD basket, the Xbox Series X has some tricks up its sleeve as well, and the one piece of their next-gen architecture puzzle that Microsoft have been putting under the spotlight most often is the Xbox Velocity Architecture. As Microsoft puts it, it is the “the ultimate solution for game asset streaming in the next generation.” With its custom SSD, hardware accelerated decompression, the new Direct Storage API, and Sampler Feedback Streaming working together in conjunction, Microsoft says that the Velocity Architecture “provides a new level of performance and capabilities well beyond the raw specifications of the hardware itself.” All of which is to say that you can expect shorter load times, and larger, more dynamic worlds that will be much smoother to traverse and explore.
The Xbox Series X’s GPU is by far its most impressive component, and easily the most impression GPU we’ve seen in a console to date. It boasts 52 compute units, each running at 1.82 GHz, all of which translates to 12.15 teraflops of clock speed. More than anything else, it is the Xbox Series X’s GPU that Microsoft have been backing their claims of it being the most powerful console in the world on.
Almost equally as impressive as the GPU is the Xbox Series X’s CPU. The console uses a custom AMD Zen 2 chip, which has a bandwidth of 3.8 GHz without simultaneous multi-threading (or SMT), and 3.6 GHz with SMT. Notably enough, the much weaker Xbox Series S’ CPU is nearly identical to the Series X’s processor- though it does make significant sacrifices in areas such as the GPU and RAM.
The Xbox Series X has a 16 GB GDDR6 RAM, which sounds impressive, of course, though there are some considerations that need to be kept in mind. Its RAM is split across two pools- 10 GB of that has a bandwidth of 560 GB/s, while the remaining 6 GB has a bandwidth of 336 GB/s. Architectures that spit their pools can be tricky and prove to be a bottleneck for even the most powerful consoles, though hopefully, the impressive bandwidth of both those pools will help the console overcome some issues. Whether or not that will be the case – or if such an issue will even exist in the first place – remains to be seen.
The SSD is the one area where it feels like the Xbox Series X is at a clear disadvantage when compared to the PS5 from a tech perspective- but it certainly is no slouch. Its custom 1 TB NVMe SSD a compressed throughput of 4.8 GB/s and a raw throughput of 2.4 GB/s, which is impressive no matter how you cut it, especially compared to what consoles have had to work with in the past. No, it’s not on the PS5’s level- but on its own merits, it’s still an important component of the console.
Ray tracing is something that’s been making waves in the PC gaming space for a few years now, and with next-gen, consoles are finally going to catch up. The Xbox Series X is confirmed to have hardware-accelerated ray-tracing support, which means players can expect much more realistic and dynamic lighting, reflections, and shadows in games, which should really help bring games’ worlds to life better than ever before.
RESOLUTION AND FRAME RATE
With all the technical improvements that the Xbox Series X is making , prettier visuals in games that run better is something that everyone is expecting. And Microsoft are certainly making bold promises in that area. They’ve said that they’re prioritizing performance over resolution with the Xbox Series X, with support for up to 120 FPS (some games, such as DiRT 5, are already confirmed to feature 120 FPS options). Meanwhile, on the resolution front, the Xbox Series X is said to be capable of delivering 8K visuals. Whether or not it actually does that enough (or at all) remains to be seen, but we can at least expect 4K to become much more standardized in the coming years.
Unique physical forms seems to be a common thread across all next-gen consoles, and that trend started when we got our first look at the Xbox Series X late last year. Its monolithic tower design is certainly unlike anything we’ve seen in the console space, and it’s clear that it’s going to be a pretty bulky box. Its dimensions have been confirmed to be 151 x 151 x 301 mm (or 5.94 x 5.94 x 11.85 inches). If you’re looking for something smaller, maybe look into the Xbox Series S.
Microsoft are taking an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach with the Xbox controller as they head into the next generation (which is evidenced by the fact that the Xbox One controller will be compatible with the Series X), but you can still expect some improvements in the new controller. It has a new and improved d-pad, boasts lower latency, has special textures on the triggers, bumpers, and grips, and, of course, it finally has a dedicated Share button.
Backward comptibility is something that Microsoft have been pushing a great deal over the last few years, and they’re going to keep that momentum going with the Xbox Series X. The next-gen console is going to be able to play the vast majority of Xbox One games at launch, in addition to all the Xbox 360 and original Xbox games that are already playable via their back compat program, while more games will continue to be added as well. Crucially, Microsoft have also confirmed that the Xbox Series X’s backward compatibility will be boosting older games on a system level, including increasing frame rates and resolutions, and in some cases even adding HDR to games that didn’t originally have it.
The Xbox Series X’s launch will also go hand-in-hand with a new UI (which, incidentally, will also be applied to the Xbox One). The new user interface is being billed as faster, cleaner, and more efficient. There’s a more streamlined landing page, new utilities (such as a search function shortcut buttons in the guide), improved connectivity and social features, and more.
Halo Infinite was going to be the Xbox Series X’s big launch title this Holiday. That’s now been delayed into 2021, which is obviously a huge blow- but there’s still going to be some major games available on the console on day 1. The Medium, Watch Dogs: Legion, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, DiRT 5, Gears Tactics, and The Falconeer are just a few of the games that have been confirmed as Series X (and Series S) launch titles so far.
ANNOUNCED UPCOMING EXCLUSIVES
There’s going to be plenty to look forward to in the time following the Series X’s launch, especially where exclusives are concerned. Microsoft have spent a fair bit of money over the last couple of years in a bid to bolster their first party portfolio, and hopefully, we’ll see the results of that not long from now. Quite a few first party exclusives have been confirmed for Xbox Series X and Series S up until now. There’s Halo Infinite, of course, while others, such as Fable, Forza Motorsport, State of Decay 3, and Everwild have also been confirmed.
“What does the Xbox Series X cost?” That’s a question we’ve been asking for months, and finally, we have an answer to that question. Microsoft have confirmed that the console will launch at a price of $499. That’s not exactly cheap, sure, but given the console’s impressive hardware, as well as the inherent value it will have thanks to things such as Xbox Game Pass and its backward compatibility, that’s actually a pretty compelling price point.
Of course, if that $499 seems like a steep price that you don’t want to pay, Microsoft have Xbox All-Access financing plan for you. There’s no upfront cost, and for $35 per month for 24 months, you get an Xbox Series X, bundled with 24 months of Xbox Game Pass, for a total of roughly $860. That’s roughly the same amount you’d pay for those otherwise, so as financing deals go, it’s actually quite good.