Upon anticipation, we were blown away last year at Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards, when ‘Big Daddy’ Phil Spencer (Yes, that is his nickname and forever will be) took center stage and begun teasing the audience with a huge announcement; but dear lord were we ever not ready for this. The XBOX Series X was unveiled to a roaring crowd who immediately grasped the beauty that had been laid before them. The tower of power birthed from Microsoft had fans salivating with its surprise reveal. An aesthetically crafted piece of beauty that had fans gazing in awe over the spectacle that its sizzle reel had displayed. Demonstrating raw power, Spencer boasted the synonymous tagline that had gamers everywhere buzzing; “the most powerful gaming console ever”. Living by the mantra “Power your Dreams”, XBOX were prepared to front the direct competition heading into the next generation.
After it’s slight PR fumble pre-launch of the XBOX One, Spencer’s new direction and vision for the brand accelerated XBOX’s hopes of making a steady comeback to the console market. Entailing the XBOX Game Pass subscription service, this demonstrates the studio’s progressive outlook within the industry, offering a bountiful variety of titles to play at your leisure. A cavalcade of classics that accompany a myriad of exclusives from prior generations showcase the Series X in an astounding fashion, but of course there is the major factor of exclusive titles for the next gen console omitted at launch. While a seal of approval is blazoned across the front, some may label the unit a little half-baked at the moment. Carrying the analogy of being completely cooked on the surface, but frozen in the center, the XBOX Series X clearly has an uphill battle to climb within its launch window, but has the potential to take the lead this generation.
Same Same, but different…
For any existing XBOX One (X) users, booting right into the main console dashboard will be a cake walk. The familiar XMB covers your 4K tv in excellent structure and leaves those experienced in their capable hands. However, those who may not be familiar with the fresh, updated look to the new gaming unit, may find it a little convoluted and somewhat confronting. In the last generation, XBOX had been criticised for changing their homescreen layout on numerous occasions after fans had just become acclimated with its trademark tiled construction, akin to many Microsoft branded operating systems. Sliding through available options from recently played titles, to Game Pass and onto the XBOX Store is as simple as pressing each shoulder button placed atop of the new XBOX Series X controller.
Crafted with intent, accessibility may be an overstatement due to an exuberant amount of items scattered in odd places in its menu screen. I myself found it difficult on occasion to investigate the XBOX Store, in finding certain software to test out the units capabilities. Upon downloading each program, I did find that the Series X’s bandwidth speed had been vastly improved on its predecessor. While some internal hardware remains identical to the XBOX One X – more specifically its network card which outputs an 802.11ac dual band and 1Gbps Ethernet connection – there is clear refinery made within the network’s ecosystem to accommodate Series X users, and the ability to download video games, at a potentially enormous size. Thanks to XBOX Australia, I was able to acquire Assassin’s Creed Valhalla via their Store and download the entire 50GB title, in less than 10 minutes.
For Australian internet, that is lightning quick. Most definitely a stark difference between my experience downloading 20GB+ titles from PlayStation Network on my PS4. This attests to XBOX’s commitment in delivering the most beneficial online ecosystem in entertainment; not only for acquiring and downloading the aforementioned digital titles, but for its streaming services and online play. Thanks to Activision Australia, I was able to access Call of Duty: Cold War for XBOX Series X, and in the exact phrase I said booting into multiplayer “whoa daddy!” let me tell you what a thrillride it was. The non-existent load times are something that only gamers of the old school, cartridge-top loading era would ever recall. Now while we’re comparing a gigabytes of data transferring at rapid levels compared to kilobytes through copper pins, the NVMe SSD speeds demonstrated here are revolutionary.
Promising 40x the data speeds of an XBOX One, the Series X SSD drive has the ability to access 2.4GBps of data – 4.8GB uncompressed – absolutely smoking the previous generation and their mechanical drives. The custom NVMe built specifically for the unit topples the PC industry standard, which are known to wane in speed over time. Sustaining prime performance, XBOX had designed the drive to allow similar CPU and GPU clock speeds that of a high end PC, with low heat packages; meaning that the NVMe installed carries an exemplary amount of data, but only provides the data packets needed at certain times without straining the SSD’s usage – that’s quality assurance right there. With 1TB packed in – give or take some storage use for its operating system – the Series X delivers quite a substantial amount of space for its launch period, without the need to suddenly rush out and purchase any additional storage.
Let Me Entertain You…
Setting sights on XBOX’s redesigned gamepad, the brand new controller simply lifts key facets that made its generational forebear’s successful. The emerald brand has always attained an amazing ergonomic structure when crafting their remotes; a reputation that had remained firm throughout numerous iterations. Keeping things simple, the XBOX Series X gamepad design remains relatively identical to the XBOX One’s 2nd revision, with some minor tweaks for heightened interpretation. The flush exterior omits any indents on the front where the XBOX emblem or home button is positioned, while the Digital Pad has been completely overhauled for a much more tactile feel. Those who are looking to jump into Tetris Effect Connected will surely appreciate the slight pluck and pull the new directional pad entails.
Deviating from the traditional rubber grips seen on third party controllers, the rear of the XBOX Series X controller sees its handles capped with an embossed pattern keeping that gamer grip in firm grasp. While the controller may now exhibit a modernised USB-C port for those looking to pick up the XBOX Charge Pack, the unfortunate trend continues with XBOX providing two AA Duracell Batteries for your convenience. This is still a disappointing factor, a criticism we’d hope that the green brand would comply with reconstructing its new hardware. Alas, we’re left with a controller that still needs to be powered with the conventional alkaline battery cells. Sure you can purchase a pack of rechargeables for multi-use, or pick up a third party branded battery pack on the cheap, but it’s recommended that if you are purchasing your unit on day one, just pick up a charge pack. You’re going to need it.
Syphoning through the Store’s multiple media streaming services, I was quick to install the necessities that I had used on my One X; Netflix, YouTube, and Plex. As someone who rips his Blu-Ray discs and stores them on a portable drive connected to his PC, I run a Plex Media server throughout the house, using various android based devices that sync with the digital library. Plex runs like a dream on the Series X. Simply diving into the program, syncing with your user account via mobile or web browser, and streaming any and all 4K feature length films without a hitch is a remarkable achievement. Many transcoders struggle to proliferate such high density within a matter of moments, buffering while doing their best to materialise on-screen. The Plex app on the Series X is an absolute Godsend for the cinephile that streams their own digital library at home.
The XBOX Series X is an essential piece of hardware that gamers around the world will appreciate, and its greatest potential is yet to come.
Everything else runs as expected. 4K Blu-Ray, Netflix, YouTube and other streaming apps have become commonplace within gaming consoles, but are simply luxuries that are now essentials. Navigating the System’s main UI, specifying each setting to customise your needs is as simple as pushing down the home button, and swiping through to the System setting option. There you can choose your display output, your preferred internet connection – either LAN or WiFi – and organise your library of titles. Of course, now you may compartmentalise your software, and pick apart places that will remain unutilised; for example, if you plan on only playing Multiplayer Call of Duty, you may remove the campaign from the title and vice versa. This is an astounding addition made by XBOX and developers to allow gamers the space they may need without having to completely remove their favourite games from their unit.
The Tower of Power…
Let’s talk about this beautiful piece of hardware. The monolith structure most definitely fancies my artistic eye, and its clean aesthetic had me swooning over the dark pillar of potential. Measuring 301mm x 151mm x 151mm, and weighing in at a hefty 4.45KG, this slick monument sits stealthily aside any gamer’s large 4K TV, but has the ability to stand out against any other entertainment hub surrounding it; the defining practice of a talking piece. The shell’s architecture is arranged to sit vertically, much like a modern PC tower, however caters to gamers that are looking to fit the unit inside a slot, within their entertainment center. The nubs on the right hand side, facing forward indicate the disc slot and power button sits atop the unit, with a large cooling fan drawing air from the bottom while the warm air exits from the ventilation at the top.
With 12 Teraflops of processing power, the AMD Zen 2 and RDNA 2 combination allows the unit to run at optimal speeds but will get toasty on certain occasions. Awaiting exclusives to arrive on the unit, I’m expecting the CPU to get cooking real fast, with promises of Ray-tracing, 8K gaming at 60FPS, this will be a monumental occasion that truly exonerates XBOX from its prior generation. But as it stands right now, without the exclusives, our hands are tied to Game Pass. A major concern I’ve had trudging through the previous generation of consoles, but none of concern towards the green brand had been fan noise. While my PlayStation 4 Pro was set for take-off, my XBOX One X remained whisper quiet throughout many sessions. Not a peep was heard from the unit, and the same can be said – for now – about the XBOX Series X. Despite the its large ventilation, not a sound is made from the unit. There is air coming from the top; grazing the roof of the tower, you feel a slight breeze exiting the construction, but barely a peep. Astonishingly discreet to say the least.
Omitting the use of an HDMI IN – a feature some will surely miss from the XBOX One era – the back of the unit entails the industry standard 2.1 HDMI Out, The all new proprietary storage expansion slot that will knock you back a whopping $359AUD RRP, Two USB 3.0 slots for peripherals and other storage purposes, the Ethernet slot for hardline connectivity, and a Figure-8 cable slot, a warm welcome for someone like me who has figure-8 cables fixed onto his entertainment hub. A Blu-Ray Disc slot on the front which once again caters to fans looking for phsyical 4K, Standard Blu-Ray and DVD Media, along with a Sync button for your controller, One USB 3.0 slot for easy access, and of course the trademark emblem that acts as the units power button – still makes the same sound upon booting.
The XBOX Series X promises to deliver gamers a true next generation experience, but we may have to wait a little longer before we get there. However, with the console handed to us by XBOX, I can most certainly stay that this is a promising outlook for the years ahead. An essential to the hardcore devout, the gamers who appreciate any all platforms of gaming and are looking to increase their optimal all-round performance with an expeditious twist. The XBOX Series X carries a pact to its fans, that it will surely grant exclusive participation with patience. While some may say that it’s half baked without HALO or Gears at launch, I’d say that it practices what it preaches, a home entertainment set-piece that utilises each and every facet of raw performance to elevate existing software to new heights. The XBOX Series X is an essential piece of hardware that gamers around the world will appreciate, and its greatest potential is yet to come.
XBOX Series X - Microsoft XBOX
Introducing Xbox Series X, the fastest, most powerful Xbox ever. Play thousands of titles from four generations of consoles – all games look and play best on Xbox Series X. At the heart of Series X is the Xbox Velocity Architecture, which pairs a custom SSD with integrated software for faster, streamlined gameplay with significantly reduced load times. Seamlessly move between multiple games in a flash with Quick Resume.