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.
Now, a few months before the promised holiday 2020 release date, we know pretty much everything there is to know about the new consoles. That said, there’s still plenty of time for more news to drop, including details on Xbox’s chief rival, the PlayStation 5.
From launch games to release dates and pricing, 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.
What about the Xbox Series S?
The Xbox Series X isn’t the only new console in the 2020 Xbox lineup, with the cheaper all-digital Xbox Series S releasing at the same time. And for gamers on a budget (or without a 4K TV), it looks like a much better buy.
The Xbox Series S has the same CPU as the Xbox Series X, but with a much less powerful GPU. The console is still more powerful than an Xbox One X, but targets 60fps at 1440p instead of native 4K like the Xbox Series X. It can still be upscaled to 4K, and supports framerates of up to 120fps.
The Xbox Series S has all the same features of the Series X, but with less GPU power to target 1440p at 60fps.
Removing the more powerful GPU hardware and the disk drive has enabled the Xbox team to reduce the size of the console by 60% when compared to the (admittedly beefy) Xbox Series X. This will make it a much more comfortable fit in most entertainment centers, although what this means for heat dissipation and noise is yet to be seen.
Apart from the resolution and size, the two consoles share all the same new features mentioned above, like Quick Resume, an upgraded SSD, ray tracing, and more. It’s the cheapest way to access next-gen hardware and games, although you won’t get next-gen resolutions.
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. This service includes not only a huge back catalog of games to play on Xbox or PC, but it will also add brand new games from first party studios as they’re released — including Halo: Infinite.
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 right away. 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
The Xbox Series X is coming out on November 10 alongside the Xbox Series S. Previously Microsoft only announced that the consoles would be hitting store shelves during holiday season 2020, around the same time as the PS5. Microsoft confirmed the November 10 date in early September.
Pre-orders for the new consoles don’t start until September 22, but landing pages have already started going up on major retailers around the globe. If you want to get your order in as soon as possible, you can bookmark the Amazon listing right now.
The November 10 date matches up with the release window of the previous Xbox One consoles, which also dropped in November. In a year filled with delays and cancellations due to COVID-19, it’s surprisingly refreshing to see Microsoft meet its initial release window. Time will tell if Sony can do the same.
How much does the Xbox Series X cost?
The Xbox Series X is slated to cost $499, which is the price that both the original Xbox One and Xbox One X launched at years ago. Microsoft confirmed these prices in early September, shortly after the leaked prices hit Twitter.
The smaller, all-digital Xbox Series S will cost $299, which is slightly more expensive than the most similar current-gen product, the Xbox One S All Digital, at $249. It’s the same price as the original Xbox One S, which had a similar goal but still included a Blu-Ray optical drive.
Here is a full list of Xbox Series X and Series S prices around the globe:
- Australia: AU$749 and AU$499
- Europe: €499 and €299
- India: ₹49,990 and ₹34,990
- United Kingdom: £449 and £249.99
- United States: $499 and $299
The lack of a price hike is great news for fans, and there’s even more good news as the Xbox All Access plan is being expanded around the globe.
What is Xbox All Access?
If you live outside the United States, you might not be familiar with the Xbox All Access program, but it’s one of the best ways to get your hands on the newest Xbox consoles without breaking the bank.
Xbox All Access allows you to pay for the console in monthly installments over the course of two years. You also get access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which features hundreds of games to play on your Xbox console, PC, or Android phone (via xCloud).
To get your hands on an Xbox Series X with the Xbox All Access program, it will cost you $35 a month. Over time, this works out to be slightly cheaper than paying for both the console and two years of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate individually. The Xbox Series S will cost $25 a month, making it a very affordable pathway to next-gen gaming.
With the release of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, Microsoft is expanding the Xbox All Access program to 12 countries. More countries will be added in 2021, but here is the full list of supported countries and retailers for the 2020 launch period.
- Australia (Telstra)
- Canada (EB Games)
- Denmark (Elgiganten)
- Finland (Gigantti)
- France (FNAC)
- New Zealand (Spark)
- Norway (Elkjøp)
- Poland (Media Expert)
- South Korea (SK Telecom)
- Sweden (Elgiganten)
- UK (GAME, Smyths Toys)
- United States (Best Buy, GameStop, Target, Microsoft Store, Walmart)
Microsoft hasn’t announced when Xbox All Access will be available, but we suspect it will match up with the September 22 pre-order date. We’ll update this article as soon as more news is available.
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.