Xbox Series X Review

November 5, 2020 at 7:00am
By Jason Stettner

The next generation is here, and I was very fortunate to be able to review the Xbox Series X. With that, I’ll be diving into the technology that drives the most powerful console in the world. Not only from a hardware perspective, but also in regards to what it does for the games. That’s important, since the key component of a console is how it makes our gaming experiences better.

With that, you’re getting a console that will not only provide the highest quality performance for upcoming games, but one that also greatly improves your favorites from years past. The strength of four generations of Xbox gaming so that don’t have you leave your library behind. I think that’s important not only in terms of being valuable to the consumer, but also in regards to the preservation of gaming history.

If you’re new to the platform Xbox Game Pass is the perfect companion service to really kickstart your library, I thought I’d mention that in case you weren’t aware of what it is. A service that’s been called the Netflix of gaming, delivering hundreds of games within a monthly subscription. It’s really great, and offers a ton of content. With that, time to get back on track with this beautiful device that truly is the best piece of hardware I’ve ever had the privilege of reviewing.

Xbox Series X Setup

It’s really easy to get your console going this generation. You can use the Xbox app on your phone to swiftly set things up, or your controller if you want to go the traditional route. The box itself is very easy to open, with some truly fancy packing work there. There’s also not much to it. You get the console, a controller with batteries and two cords.

The first is a skinny cord for power, the second is a HDMI 2.1 that brings many great features that I’ll be discussing throughout this review. Just as a quick note, this is basically how you’ll get the most out of next generation features if your TV can support it. There is also three USB 3.1 ports present, two on the back and one on the front.

There’s a 802.3 Ethernet port for 10/100/1000 speeds and a wireless 802.11ac dual band. This worked excellently whether I was in my local environment hard wired in, or in another room using the Wifi. I was very pleased by its connection. There is also a slot for the special Seagate Expansion Card that at the time of writing provides an additional 1TB of space. This is something that I feel will be almost essential for an extended library of games.

While you can bring over existing external hard drives (I brought over two which included one thousand games and three Terabytes of extra space), future games will rely heavily on the internal 1TB Custom NVME SSD storage. This is a decent space for now considering the change in technology there, but it still feels limited and that’s going to be something that happens due to this shift to superior technology. I’ll go over the internals more later on though. The final elements to go over here is that it features the dimensions of 15.1cm x 15.1cm x 30.1cm for a weight of 9.8lbs. Oh, and it has a hidden IR Receiver for compatibility with some devices.

It might look big if you’ve just seen visuals of the console, but it’s actually a really great form factor for the sort of power it has. The thing is also insanely silent, quieter than the Xbox One X even. I’ve never once heard it, and with that only gives off a little bit of heat even in the most intense of situations. That being Gears 5 at 120fps or 4k 60fps depending on the situation. Also Forza Horizon 4 at 4k 60fps was another one that seemed to cause minor heat.

I do feel that we haven’t really had something that truly pushed this console however, and I’m eagerly awaiting the games that will. Again, the thing to keep in mind is that this console is silent. With the design you can place it vertically or horizontally. It’s really neat placed vertically, but I will eventually go the horizontal route once I’m fully able to transfer over due to some existing work requirements Xbox One X wise.

I should mention that the dashboard UI isn’t anything new, but they’ve gone to great lengths to improve it over recent months. It’s far snappier, and very fast with so many small nice adjustments to how things are managed. The store is also massively better, and finally a decent way to access content.
Xbox Series X Review

Specs & Features

There is some seriously impressive hardware powering this device. It’s really intriguing how they were able to provide such a form factor design with it, and to keep it so quiet. This features an AMD Custom Zen 2 CPU. It provides 8X cores @ 3.8GHz (3.6 GHz w/SMT). A 7nm enhanced process with a SOC Die size of 360.45mm.

The GPU is also quite powerful here providing 12 TFLOPS within this AMD Custom RDNA 2 GPU. That’s 52 CUs @1.825GHz. When it comes to memory we get 16GB GDDR6 with a 320 bit-wide bus. The memory bandwidth is 10GB @ 560GB/s and 6GB @ 336GB/s. The I/O Throughput provides 2.4GB/s raw and 4.8GB/s compressed with a custom hardware decompression block.

That leads back to the internal storage which I had mentioned prior, a 1TB Custom NVME SSD. This thing is insanely fast and it loads games almost instantly. It eliminates the loading when fast travelling within The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, and in other games you jump in far quicker than ever before. Star Wars Battlefront 2 (classic) in instant action loops through maps without any waiting at all, it’s rather wild.

This is without any real adjustments to the games either, once we start seeing games really take advantage of the technology in the future the loading is really going to fundamentally change how we interact with them. I will miss loading screens though, they make editing deaths out of videos easier. The loading is also a feature you take for granted after awhile, forgetting just how long things used to take.

I should also bring up the Xbox Velocity Architecture that allows things such as quick resume. You can leave a game to play something else, then come back to that game later and be in the exact same spot. You can even do this with multiple games. It’s super weird actually, I went from playing one game to Halo: The Master Chief Collection and was in the same menu spot I had turned the console off at the night prior. I don’t know how often I’ll use this feature, but it’s quite cool to have for those that want to switch games to play with friends.
Xbox Series X console review
For video, the best option is to have a TV that will provide HDMI 2.1 features. That includes ALLM (Auto Low Latency Mode), VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) and AMD FreeSync among other capabilities such as 4k 120fps. That’s really a big part of next gen gaming, is the possibility of some games providing a mode to take advantage of 120hz for incredibly fluid gameplay.

Most likely the target this generation is going to be 4k 60fps, but at times we’ll see 120fps. I just see that from most of the Optimized games I’ve tested thus far with the console, that we’re going to see 4k 60fps as a bit of a standard. There is the capability of the console supporting up to 8k with HDR, I assume that will mostly be in a video situation aside from a small indie game or two. For those still using physical media this does have a 4k UHD Blu-Ray player which is a nice option.

Audio wise we get some solid support, there’s Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Following that is Dolby TrueHD with Atmos which is a type of audio quality that I truly love. That love coming from a cinematic perspective, so it’s great to see some games take advantage of it and that the Xbox platform supports it. Picture wise we do have Dolby Vision support too, I thought I’d mention that as well. The final audio element to mention is support up to 7.1 L-PCM.

The Games

I don’t really feel that there has necessarily been a true showcase of what this console can do at this time, but I’ve been blown away by how it’s improved the games I love. I’ve been doing what I’d consider to be a tour of the greatest games ever made.

Titles from every generation of Xbox, to see how they run and how they play with these boosts. They’re looking sharper, and more vibrant than ever before. From boosted resolutions, to games with improved frame rates. Then there’s auto-HDR with a glorious update that has graced a massive selection of games. It makes the old Star Wars games and their lightsabers just pop with vibrancy. It’s amazing actually.

There’s just, so much that’s been done with the your existing library. There’s a lot to play, and many countless hours of fun to have. There is of course more content to come, and over the generation we’re going to see some incredible offerings. I’ve already been blown away by Forza Horizon 4 and Gears 5 too. They both showcase different next gen features beautifully.

Then there are other options that have been included with the review, though at this time some still haven’t even become available. I also feel that the line-up really needed a premium showcase, and that was supposed to be Halo Infinite. That aside, I’ve had a lot of fun playing my favorite games to just see what this console can do. It had no issues running the games better than they’ve ever been presented and it’s wonderful.
Xbox Series X controller

The Controller

This is all about refinement, it’s the same great gamepad you likely love but in an even comfier form factor. Now, it might seem similar from a glance and I had initially wrote it off as such. Though once you get your hands on it you’ll be shocked at how nice it feels to hold. The extra dotted texture on the triggers and grips is fantastic.

The share button is certainly appreciated and the adjustments to the bumpers alongside the triggers are really going to improve the longevity of the controller. There’s also a way better D-Pad present here as well. That’s not necessarily going to be something great for me, but I know those that play fighting games or certain platformers have wanted a better D-Pad for awhile and you get that here.

I didn’t quite know how to directly include the controller as part of my review since this is focused on the console, so I do have a full in-depth one linked at the bottom if you’d like to know more about what it has to offer. It’s just really quite great and they’ve done a surprising job in making it feel better than ever before. It’s become my go to for games, even though I have some seriously stellar older controllers.

The Conclusion

The Xbox Series X provides an impressively small form factor that delivers the most powerful console ever, being a true next generation experience while improving the existing games you love. They really did nail this console, the wizards over there at Xbox certainly worked to create something small yet extremely capable.

Not only in terms of the hardware, but also the software that will fully take advantage of what this console has to offer for years to come. I think this console has great potential, as it’s already displaying impressive improvements across a variety of my favorite games.

They’re running better, looking greatly improved and I think it’s incredible that I don’t have to leave my library behind. I really do appreciate the backwards compatible program, the work they’ve done continues to fuel nostalgia while opening the doors for future gamers to try out some of these classics.

It’s solving a long term issue with console gaming, and I hope that it continues to bring out the best of older games for a long time to come. There’s really not much else I would have wanted from this console. It’s boosting older titles significantly, the newer games being Optimized for it look incredible and it makes no noise at all. It’s absolutely silent.

For what sort of hardware is inside this console, the scale of it is just amazing. It’s sleek, looks aesthetically pleasing and has this really cool effect at the top when you change how you’re looking at it. I suppose RGB lighting would have been fun there, but also perhaps a bit over the top.

It’s just a great console paired with a well refined controller. I don’ t really have any issues with it, I just can’t wait to see how games take advantage of this wonderful piece of technology over the years to come. Hopefully this was the information you need to know before you buy. Happy gaming.

Read our Xbox Series X Controller Review
View our Xbox Series X Hub

Xbox Series X Review Tested with Games, Movies & Apps
Review Product Provided by Microsoft

Rating Overall: 9.4

Gamerheadquarters Reviewer Jason Stettner