Back in 2013, Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox One was to be a $500 internet-required gaming set top box with voice commands and gesture tracking. Those lofty goals never came to pass and its successor would have you forget those bloated dreams. Instead, the Xbox Series X focuses on delivering high-fidelity gaming content, even if its headlining franchise is missing in action.
The XSX is an engineering marvel. What looks like a small PC tower feels like a cement block due to how much tech is packed into the monolith. The console includes an 8-core 3.8Ghz Custom Zen 2 CPU and 12TFLOPS 1.825 Ghz Custom RDNA 2 GPU by AMD, 16GB GDDR6 RAM, 1TB Custom NVME SSD, 1TB Expansion Card, USB 3.2 External HDD Support, and a 4K UHD Blu-ray disc drive. It’s quite unassuming as a tower, but looks like it was knocked over when placed on its side. The console is also incredibly quiet with nothing above a whisper even during intense action.
If the XSX was built to leverage its powerful architecture for impressive graphics, it largely succeeds in its effort. Current-generation titles have been boosted to PC gaming-tier 4K/60FPS fidelity. For X|S Optimized titles, frame rates can blaze upwards to 120FPS. New RDNA 2 wizardry like sampler feedback streaming, variable rate shading, and ray tracing help render realistic graphics without hampering performance. Launch title stunners include Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, all of which run at 4K/60FPS.
In addition, the XSX can improve fidelity from backward compatible titles. Games including Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown and Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition now lock at 60FPS on the XSX compared to 30FPS to 60FPS on the Xbox One S.
The 1TB SSD, part of the Xbox Velocity Architecture, helps to reduce load times to mere seconds. Games can still be offloaded to a USB 3.0 external hard drive and a 1TB Seagate Expansion card that matches the hefty speed of the internal drive can be purchased for $219.99.
The new Xbox controller is improved with a smaller size, textured back, updated d-pad, and matte finish grips and triggers. However, it doesn’t add any innovation to the standard controller from the prior generation and is the least interesting part of the new console.
One part of the Xbox experience that remains under construction is the Xbox UI. The UI can skip back to the Home page when queuing update and download information, and remain unresponsive after input execution. System updates will undoubtedly fix post-launch quirks, but if Microsoft intended to build a console more like a PC, it has, faults and all.
While the XSX launch is blemished with the lack of Halo: Infinite, Microsoft’s impressive catalog of X|S Optimized titles and backward compatibility library make its absence less palpable. From the dynamic RPG Yakuza: Like a Dragon to Xbox launch title Fusion Frenzy, there are plenty of games to unpack. For only $10 a month, XSX owners can have a library of more than 100 games titles to download, including all new first-party releases from Microsoft. In addition, Microsoft’s purchase of Bethesda and inclusion of EA Play offer a bulk of third-party titles to choose from.
At $499, the Xbox Series X is a console powerhouse waiting to be harnessed. It stands tall, unassuming, quietly biding its time to unleash the beast.