At the 2019 Game Awards, Microsoft finally unveiled their upcoming console – the Xbox Series X. Previously known only as Project Scarlett, the next-gen console is quite the departure from previous models. With a new design and improved hardware, it promises to be the most powerful console the company has released yet. It’s also just one console in Microsoft’s next-gen lineup, which will be collectively known as just Xbox.
Official information about the console is still trickling out, but at this point we have a pretty good idea of what the new Xbox console will be all about. It still doesn’t have an exact price or release date, but just about everything else has already been revealed.
From launch games to new console and controller designs, we have gathered and analyzed everything you need to know about the Xbox Series X.
Read also: These Xbox One bundles are cheaper than ever
Xbox Series X specs
It’s only natural to expect the Xbox Series X specs to be a step above the Xbox One, and Microsoft has delivered in spades. The Redmond giant has stated that the console will be up to four times as powerful as its predecessor.
Under the hood, the Series X will feature AMD‘s Zen 2 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a custom-made AMD Navi-based 12 teraflop GPU. The new Xbox console will also have a custom 1TB NVMe SSD, with speculated read speeds as high as 2GB per second.
There’s also an expansion slot in the back of the console for additional storage, which plugs right into the motherboard to provide the same incredible speeds. The goal is to decrease loading times to a minimum and provide ultra-fast environment rendering.
On top of the new internals the Series X will also feature a Blu-ray disk reader. This is capable of playing games and movies, supporting 4K, HDR10, and Dolby Vision technology.
The Xbox Series X offers support for up to 120fps and 8K resolution.
As for games, the next-gen console promises support for up to 120fps and 8K resolution, although it’s unlikely to achieve both at the same time. The goal is to provide a consistent 60fps at 4K, which current-gen consoles like the Xbox One X and PlayStation 4 Pro struggle to achieve, in some cases even at 1080p.
Microsoft is also introducing hardware accelerated ray tracing on the 2020 Xbox, which will improve real-time rendering of light and shadows. On PCs ray tracing is limited to high-end GPUs like the Nvidia RTX 2080 series, which alone can cost more than a new gaming console. You’ll also need a TV or a monitor with a high refresh rate and high resolution to take advantage of Xbox Series X’s great visuals.
To house all this powerful new Xbox hardware, the console’s physical size has increased dramatically. The Xbox Series X resembles a small PC tower that’s approximately 6 inches by 6 inches at the base, and 18 inches tall. It also features a perforated top with a powerful (but quiet) fan inside. According to Microsoft, its size and highly engineered airflow design will guarantee minimal noise while gaming.
With this information, the Xbox Series X already looks to be a herculean console that will more than hold its own against the latest from its long-time rival Sony PlayStation.
New Xbox Series X features
One new Xbox feature that is all but confirmed for the new console is Microsoft’s new cloud streaming platform Project xCloud. Similar to and Google Stadia or Geforce Now, it allows you to stream games from the cloud onto your console, PC, or smartphone. This allows you to bypass download, install, and update times to hop right into the game.
Microsoft is already touting its superiority over other budding cloud gaming services like Stadia thanks to its access to the massive Xbox content library. But rumors suggest that Project xCloud might have another ingenious use. It might be utilized to reduce wait times, allowing you to stream purchased games as they are being installed.
Once those games are installed, the upgraded SSD should drastically reduce load times in-game. While it is a hair shy of the speeds offered by the PS5’s new storage option, it does have a slightly larger capacity so it should fit more games. Either way, it’s a massive upgrade from current-gen consoles that will be felt in every game — new or old.
The Xbox Series X can add HDR and improve framerates of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.
For those of you who share a console or just like to switch games often, one of the most exciting features is Quick Resume. The Xbox Series X is capable of storing several exact game states, so you can switch between games without having to start from the loading screen.
Another interesting new feature breathes new life into older titles by enhancing their graphics. Using its powerful internals and machine learning technology, the Xbox Series X can add HDR and improve framerates of games that were launched years ago. Even Xbox 360 games are compatible, and will look better than ever on the new Xbox consoles.
Project xCloud will officially launch in September, and will be included in the $15 per month subscription for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Xbox Series X controller
Another notable change for the Series X is the new controller design seen above. Xbox Series X controllers will be more ergonomic than their predecessors, which are already some of the best controllers on the market. They are expected to be smaller and lighter, with a design that Microsoft claims will fit more shapes and sizes of hands.
Read also: The 10 best PC game controllers you can get
The new Xbox Series X controller’s button layout is virtually identical to previous controllers, and it features a textured surface on the triggers and bumpers. The rubberized surface is also found on the back of the controller for enhanced grip and comfort — even in extended play sessions.
Critics of the current Xbox One Wireless Controller will be happy to learn that the D-pad has been replaced with the improved design from the premium Xbox Elite Wireless controller Series 2. This should make playing fighting games in particular much more precise and enjoyable to play.
Following in Sony’s footsteps, Microsoft will also introduce a screenshot sharing button. This will allow you to capture and share gameplay without resorting to clumsy cables and adaptors.
Like the previous iteration, the Xbox Series X Wireless Controller will be fully compatible with Windows PCs right out of the box. They’ll also be compatible with Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth, and we fully expect them to dethrone the Xbox One Wireless controller as one of the best mobile controllers out there.
Xbox Series X games
Microsoft hasn’t gone too crazy announcing Xbox Series X games yet, but there have been a few announcements of games to look forward to. First and foremost is Halo: Infinite, which is set to be one of the premier launch titles for the new Xbox console, although it will also be released on the current-gen Xbox One.
Xbox exclusives have never been as big of a selling point as they are for Sony’s PlayStation consoles, but a few exclusive titles other than Halo have also been announced. They include the Grimdark Scorn and psychological horror game The Medium.
It’s also worth mentioning that Xbox Series X will support the Xbox Game Pass, unlocking hundreds of games for a small subscription fee.
The launch lineup might not sound too impressive for now, but the Xbox Series X has an ace up its sleeve in the new Smart Delivery system. This unlocks the best version of any supported Xbox game you buy. In practical terms, this means that if you buy the Xbox One version of Halo: Infinite, you will unlock the Xbox Series X version for free as soon as you buy the new console.
Here’s a short list of cross-generation Xbox Series X launch games that support Smart Delivery and are optimized for the console:
- Halo: Infinite
- Cyberpunk 2077
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
- Madden NFL ’21
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon
- Scarlet Nexus
- Call of The Sea
- Tell Me Why
- Ori and the Will of the Whips
- Destiny 2
- Tetris Effect: Connected
- The Medium
- Forza Horizon 4
- Gears 5
- Gears Tactics
- Sea of Thieves
Other first and third-party games that will be optimized for the XBox Series X after the launch of the console include:
- Balan Wonderworld
- Forza Motorsport (working title)
- State of Decay 3
- Fable (reboot)
- As Dusk Falls
- The Gunk
- Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2
- Hello Neighbor 2
- Psychonauts 2
- Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
- Vampire: The Masquerade — Bloodlines 2
When the Xbox Series X launches, over 100 games will be available to play on it. They will either be made exclusively for the console, or optimized to run best on Xbox Series X.
Will the Xbox Series X have backwards compatibility?
Backwards compatibility has always been a contentious issue with console gaming, but Microsoft has been excellent at extending the life of older libraries. The Xbox Series X will be fully backwards compatible with all Xbox One games. This includes any games that work on the console, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox games that are part of the current backwards compatibility program. That’s four generations of backwards compatibility for those keeping score.
Older games will also look even better than before thanks to the previously mentioned visual enhancements. Things that were impossible at the time like higher framerates and HDR are added after the fact by the new Xbox’s powerful processor and machine learning tech.
As mentioned above, Microsoft has also announced a smart delivery program that automatically upgrades certain cross-gen titles as soon as you upgrade your console. This is even better than backwards compatibility because supported games will effectively be native Series X games, even if you bought the boxed Xbox One version.
Xbox Series X release date
Microsoft hasn’t announced a precise release date, but the Xbox Series X will hit store shelves during the holiday season of 2020. This is around the same time the PlayStation 5 is expected to launch. It is also possible that Microsoft will open pre-orders for the next gen console a couple of months earlier in the summer.
Previous Xbox consoles have dropped in November, but it’s unlikely that this will be the case for the Xbox Series X. At some point one of the international pages for the Xbox Series X listed the release date as Thanksgiving 2020, but Microsoft later claimed this was a mistake and recommitted to the Holiday 2020 release date.
An Xbox product page in some regions inaccurately listed the launch date for Xbox Series X as Thanksgiving 2020. We are committed to launching Holiday 2020
— Larry Hryb (@majornelson) March 18, 2020
This year has been filled with game and device delays, but the Xbox Series X seems to have escaped any COVID-related postponements. The only major change was the cancellation of E3, with Microsoft’s major announcements being pushed to another Xbox 20/20 streaming event in July. This may be when we finally get a hard release date, but stay tuned and we’ll update this article as soon as we get more details.
The Xbox Series X’s price still hasn’t been announced, but there is some speculation floating around as to how much the new Xbox console will run. Both the Xbox One (bundled with a Kinect sensor) and more powerful Xbox One X consoles launched with a retail price of $499, so it’s possible that Microsoft will stick to this number for the Xbox Series X.
However, given the amount of hardware upgrades on the table, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a price increase. It could be argued that a price increase of $100 or more would be justified, although this would undoubtedly hurt the Xbox Series X’s mass market appeal.
It’s also worth noting that there will be multiple models in the new Xbox lineup, although so far we’ve only seen the premium Xbox Series X. It’s entirely possible that another model, perhaps without a Blu-Ray reader, comes in at a much cheaper price point. We’ve already seen two versions of the PS5, so we could hear more about this very soon.
Is the Xbox Series X better than the PS5?
Obviously it’s too early to tell, but on paper the Xbox Series X does look more powerful than the PS5. However, which console ultimately comes out on top will have more to do with game selection than raw power. Check out our full Xbox Series X vs PS5 comparison for more details.
Will the Xbox Series X have VR?
No, the Xbox Series X will not support VR at launch. Despite Sony’s PlayStation VR support, VR on consoles remains a tiny portion of gamers and Microsoft doesn’t see it as a priority. That said, it remains popular on Windows PCs, and Xbox head Phil Spencer hasn’t ruled out bringing VR to the Xbox Series X in the near future.
Can the Xbox Series X play PC games?
The Xbox Series X works very closely with Windows PC games through the Xbox Play Anywhere program and Project xCloud. Many Xbox Series X exclusive games, like Halo: Infinite, will also be released as PC games, although Microsoft hasn’t announced if these will be a part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program with cross-saves and shared achievements. There are also rumors that the Series X will support Steam in a new console version of Windows, but these rumors are still unsubstantiated.
Can the Xbox Series X lay on its side?
Yes, it can be placed on it’s side or upright. Airflow has been optimized for both setups, although the physical size of the console may prohibit placement on many shelving systems.
Will the Xbox Series X have Steam?
There are rumors that the console will feature a new Windows Mode that allows you to use your console as a secondary PC, with support for Steam. However, this would be a major shift in strategy for Microsoft and is very unlikely to come to pass.
Will the Xbox Series X have ray tracing?
Yes, the console will feature hardware-accelerated ray tracing, made possible by a custom GPU made in partnership with AMD.
This is our round up of the currently available facts on Microsoft’s upcoming console, the Xbox Series X. We will update the article regularly as new information is revealed. In the meantime, check out some of our other guides for Xbox consoles.