Gaming

The Xbox Series X is a silent, powerful gaming monster

Microsoft's next-gen Xbox is the most powerful console ever created. Here's all the important details you need to know before it launches.

Microsoft's packaging is simple with easy pull tabs that give way to the carefully wrapped Xbox Series X console, controller, HDMI 2.1 cable, a power cable.

The plain blocky design of the Xbox Series X perfectly matches Microsoft's gaming strategy: the box is simply a vessel to access Xbox games. The box needs to be more functional than flashy.

This might be the most minimalist console ever made. The disc you see attached here is for keeping the console steady when it's stood up vertically, otherwise, it'd vibrate off surfaces.

Placed horizontally the Xbox Series X is nearly twice as tall as the Xbox One X. But it's also not as deep.

You should definitely take measurements of your entertainment cabinet to see if the console fits horizontally unless you plan to set it up vertically outside.

Part of the reason why the Xbox Series X is so chunky is because it has an optical drive. If you've still got a love for Blu-rays, DVDs, or games on a physical disc, this is the Xbox to get. However, if you've already migrated your games and movies to digital, the Xbox Series S may be better, though it's only capable of performance at 1440p and not 4K at up to 120 fps.

It runs silent

With entirely flash storage (no spinning hard drives!) and a massive fan for airflow, the Xbox Series X runs virtually silent.

The holes at the top of the Xbox have a nice little detail: green accents on the inside that are only visible at a certain angle. Viewed dead-center from the top, the holes appear black. A lot of people think these are LEDs — they're not.

One thing you might immediately notice is how easily the plastic scratches and scuffs. It's not high-quality plastic by any means. The matte finish also picks up fingerprints quite easily and you can see it in certain lighting. Get a pair of white gloves if these things trigger you!

802GB

Microsoft advertises 1TB of SSD storage, but only 802GB of it's usable.

Way faster loading

The super fast NVMe SSD storage means shorter loading times. We'll have more analysis of how much faster different types of games are, but for now, here's the kind of speed you can expect.

Video: Microsoft

The Xbox Series X has three USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports (one on the front and two on the back), an HDMI 2.1 out port, an Ethernet port and a Storage Expansion slot. I'm all for more USB ports, but I really wish at least some of them were USB-C ports instead of them all being USB-A. Even the PS5 has one USB-C port.

You can run backward compatible games off an external hard drive or SSD, but if you really want to get the Xbox Series X's much faster load times for games not installed on the internal SSD, you're going to need a Storage Expansion card. It doesn't come cheap: $220 for a 1TB card.

Use the included HDMI cable!

The Series X comes with an unassuming black HDMI cable. USE THIS ONE. It's tempting to simply use an HDMI cable you already have plugged into your TV. To ensure you're getting proper 4K resolution at 120 fps, use the HDMI that comes in the box. I know it's short, but unless you're sure your existing HDMI cable is capable of the higher resolution and frame rate, use the included one.

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Ports that got cut

Compared to the last-gen Xbox One consoles, you'll notice the Series X doesn't have a Kinect, HDMI In, or Optical Audio ports. Nixing the first two ports makes sense considering Kinect is no more and connecting a cable TV box into the Xbox wasn't popular. But removing the Optical Audio port has upset some people. Xbox boss Phil Spencer explained why.

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“We also, frankly, know how many people use it today on the console. So I know you do, but we see it. So we also kind of do the math of we have to put a part in every console that X percent of people use, is there a better place for us to spend that money if we can support it in different ways.”

Phil Spencer, via IGN

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Gently tweaked controller

The Xbox Series X controller isn't very different from Xbox One gamepad. It largely looks and feels the same with a few subtle tweaks. The triggers have a dotted pattern for more grip, the D-pad is more ergonomic for your thumb (great for fighting games), and there's a Share button.

Turn sound on for some button ASMR!

The triggers have texture to them so that they're less slippery.

12 TFLOPS

The number of teraflops of GPU power the Xbox Series X has.

Raw power

  • CPU: 8X Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz w/SMT)
  • GPU: 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @1.825 GHz
  • RAM: 16GB GDDR6 w/320 bit-wide bus
  • Storage: 1TB Custom NVME SSD

All of this power translates to bigger and prettier games that run at 4K resolution with up to 120 fps in HDR. Most games will run at 60 fps, but game developers can unlock higher frame rates should they choose to. The Series X also supports HDR at up to 8K resolution, but let's be real: 8K TVs are still way too expensive for everyone.

Ray tracing

Realistic lighting effects that reflect off surfaces in real-time is the big new buzzword for the Xbox Series X/S and PS5. The big question is whether the launch titles will live up to the graphics hype.

We're nowhere near close to unlocking the full capabilities of the Xbox Series X. We've got tons of games to test in the coming months, backward compatibility performance to critique, and so much more. And does Xbox's launch really count until Halo Infinite comes out in 2021?

We'll have more thoughts and deeper dives on the Xbox Series X and its launch games in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, unless you have to have ray-tracing and the faster game loading times, there aren't many exclusive launch titles that aren't also coming out on Xbox One to justify the Series X yet. And that's OK! Microsoft doesn't really care whether you play games on Xbox Series X, S, Xbox One consoles, on PC, or via Android. That's the beauty of Xbox's cross-platform strategy: games work on whatever device you want to play on.

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