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Xbox Series X buyer's guide: What you need to know about the flagship Xbox
After a long wait, the Microsoft Xbox Series X is now officially here (if you can get your hands on it)! With a new design and improved hardware, the Series X is the most powerful console the company has ever released. The Series X packs a punch and is a worthy entrant in the everlasting Xbox vs Playstation debate.
It’s also just one console in Microsoft’s next-gen lineup, with the Xbox Series S launching as a more budget-friendly alternative. If you can’t decide between the Series X and the Series S, don’t forget to check our full comparison. In this article though, we take a closer look at everything about the Xbox Series X!
At a glance
The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s latest flagship gaming system. It features cutting-edge technology that, on paper, offers peak performance that surpasses the competition. Unfortunately, it struggled a little out the gate due to a less-than-impressive launch library, but that will improve by the end of 2021 and into 2022.
The good news is that everyone will have access to all titles at their highest possible quality thanks to Smart Delivery (more on this later), and access to Microsoft’s fantastic game subscription service Xbox Game Pass. Even better, all first-party next-gen titles will launch onto Xbox Game Pass, offering day-one access for a low monthly fee. That includes heavy-hitters like Halo: Infinite.
We’ll dive into all the finer details below, but here’s the short version: Microsoft is playing the long game with the Xbox Series X. You won’t get the instant gratification most expect with a new launch, but the next-gen console has what it takes to prove itself in the long run.
Is the Xbox Series X worth it?
The Xbox Series X is an impressive upgrade over its predecessor and features the same starting price as the Xbox One X that launched back in 2017. For buyers, the console has a lot going for it. It’s powerful, offers amazing backwards compatibility, and has an ace in the hole in Xbox Game Pass. Overall, it offers a great balance of power and value for money.
That said, there isn’t a truly compelling reason to buy one just yet, especially if you have the Xbox One X. The library is still limited more than a year after release, and you can play most new games on an older console as well, even if not at the highest possible quality.
There’s definitely a lot to look forward to though! To answer the question, the Xbox Series X is absolutely worth it. If you’re looking to buy into the Xbox ecosystem for the first time, the Series X is the best choice (with the Series S a close second). If you’re in the market for an upgrade though, you can hold off for a while. This is probably what you’d have to do regardless, given how difficult it is to get your hands on one right now.
Android Authority‘s own Oliver Cragg reviewed the Xbox Series X and had a lot of good things to say about the Xbox Series X. He’s a fan of the bold, yet understated design that is quite different from previous generations but still recognizably “Xbox.” Setting everything up is also quick and simple, especially if you use the Xbox smartphone app.
He mentions that the Xbox Series X, despite its incredible internals, seems like an iterative update in a few ways. The new controller is straightforward and familiar, but doesn’t necessarily have that wow factor (especially compared to the new PS5 controller). The Xbox UI could use an overhaul, or at the very least, be a higher resolution. And as mentioned, the launch library is woefully lacking.
Oliver didn’t face any problems with the performance though, and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is absolutely worth the subscription fee. The Xbox Series X offers everything we’d expect from a next-generation console, but as he says in his review, “Now it just needs some essential next-gen games to kickstart its legacy.”
Xbox Series X specs
The Xbox Series X is a massive step above the older Xbox One family, and is up to four times as powerful as its predecessor. Under the hood, the Series X features AMD‘s Zen 2 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a custom-made AMD Navi-based 12 teraflop GPU. The new Xbox console also has a custom 1TB NVMe SSD, with 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 also features a Blu-ray disk reader for playing your favorite games and movies and 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 can support up to 120fps and 8K resolution, although it’s unlikely to achieve both simultaneously. 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 even at 1080p.
Microsoft also introduced hardware-accelerated ray tracing on the Xbox Series X, which improves the real-time rendering of light and shadows. On PCs, ray tracing is limited to high-end GPUs like the Nvidia RTX 2080 series and above, 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 ballooned. 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.
We found that to be true in our review as well. The console stayed mostly silent even after a few hours of gaming.
Taking everything into account, the Xbox Series X is a herculean console that will more than hold its own against the latest from its long-time rival Sony PlayStation. Current games won’t take advantage of all that power, but Microsoft has taken the right steps to make sure it’s futureproof.
New Xbox Series X features
One new Xbox feature is that’s coming soon is Microsoft’s new cloud streaming service called Xbox Cloud Gaming, which is included as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Similar to Google Stadia or Geforce Now, it will allow you to stream games from the cloud onto your device. This way you can bypass download, install, and update times to hop right into the game or demo. As of now, it’s available on mobile, PC, and consoles.
Thanks to its access to the massive Xbox content library, Microsoft is already touting its superiority over other budding cloud gaming services like Stadia. There’s also Remote Play for those that want to stream directly from their console to mobile devices. This is far more stable, though you’ll still have to suffer through some input lag when playing. Nevertheless, it’s a handy option to have when someone else wants to take over the TV and you’re not quite ready to quit.
Once games are installed, the upgraded SSD should drastically reduce load times in-game vs the HDDs of older-gen Xbox consoles. While it is a hair shy of the PS5’s new storage speeds, 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 you play — new or old.
The Xbox Series X can add HDR and improve framerates of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games.
One of the most exciting features for those who share a console or like to switch games is Quick Resume. The Xbox Series X can store several exact game states, so you can switch between games without having to start from the loading screen. This was available on older consoles as well, but now it’s even better. In our review we found that the switch doesn’t take longer than 10 seconds, and the console could keep up to five games running at a time.
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 titles launched years ago. Even Xbox 360 games are compatible and will look better than ever on the new Xbox consoles.
Xbox Series X vs Series S
The Xbox Series X isn’t the only console in the new Xbox lineup, with the cheaper all-digital Xbox Series S also now available. It doesn’t have quite the same raw power, but it might be a much better buy for gamers on a budget (or without a 4K TV).
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 console’s size by 60% compared to the (admittedly beefy) Xbox Series X. This will make it a much more comfortable fit in most entertainment centers, and it doesn’t come at the cost of loud fans or poor heat dispersion.
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 pure next-gen resolutions. Check out our full comparison at the article below.
Xbox Series X controller
Another notable change for the Series X is the new controller design seen above. Xbox Series X controllers are a touch more ergonomic than their predecessors, but they are familiar for the most part.
Read also: The 10 best PC game controllers you can get
The 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 controller’s back for enhanced grip and comfort — even in extended play sessions.
The biggest change is that the D-pad has been replaced with the improved design from the premium Xbox Elite Wireless controller Series 2. This should make inputs while playing fighting games in particular much more precise.
Following in Sony’s footsteps, Microsoft also introduced 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 is fully compatible with Windows PCs right out of the box. They’re also compatible with Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth. We fully expect them to dethrone the Xbox One Wireless controller as one of the best mobile controllers out there as availability improves.
It’s also worth noting Xbox Series X/S controllers will work with the older Xbox One family and vice versa.
Xbox Series X games
We’ll be honest, the initial launch library for the Xbox Series X wasn’t great. Thanks largely to COVID-19, many of the better next-gen games were delayed well into 2021, and most launch titles were simply “upgraded” last-gen games and third-party content. Still, it launched with a respectable 30 games and the library has grown since then — there just isn’t a real killer app quite yet.
Many new Xbox Series X games support Microsoft’s Smart Delivery feature, which means if you buy or bought one of those games for the older Xbox One console, you will get the optimized Xbox Series X or S version for free. Also, some of the games will be available on Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a monthly fee.
Here’s a quick list of Xbox Series X launch titles, but if you want the latest be sure to check out our Xbox Series X/S game guide for new and upcoming releases.
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Smart Delivery)
- Borderlands 3 (Smart Delivery)
- Bright Memory 1.0
- Cuisine Royale (Smart Delivery)
- Dead by Daylight (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
- DIRT 5 (Smart Delivery)
- The Falconeer (Smart Delivery)
- Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Gears 5 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Gears Tactics (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Grounded (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- King Oddball (Smart Delivery)
- Maneater (Smart Delivery)
- Manifold Garden (Smart Delivery)
- NBA 2K21
- Observer: System Redux
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Planet Coaster (Smart Delivery)
- Sea of Thieves (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Tetris Effect: Connected (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- The Touryst (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- War Thunder (Smart Delivery)
- Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition
- Watch Dogs: Legion (Smart Delivery)
- WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship (Smart Delivery)
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Smart Delivery)
- Yes, Your Grace (Smart Delivery)
Xbox Series X backwards compatibility
Backwards compatibility is always a contentious issue with console gaming, but Microsoft has been excellent at extending the life of older libraries. Case in point: the Xbox Series X is fully backward 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 backward compatibility program. That’s four generations of backward compatibility, for those keeping score.
Read also: The best Xbox One games you can buy
Older games 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. Plus, of course, hugely improved load times.
As mentioned above, Microsoft 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.
Where can you buy an Xbox Series X and how much does it cost?
The Xbox Series X formally hit shelves November 10, 2020, alongside its smaller cousin the Xbox Series S. Unfortunately, over a year later, getting an Xbox Series X online is still incredibly difficult. Your best bet would be to try a local store, especially if you live in a more rural area. Even then, the odds aren’t great. Due to ongoing supply chain issues, you’re looking sometime into late-2021 or even 2022 before getting an Xbox Series X proves easy.
As for how much the two new consoles cost, 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
So where can you buy them? Well, the answer is a bit complicated. Scalpers still control a large section of the global stock, and if you want to buy from them you’re going to pay well above retail value. If you can be patient, retailers receive more consoles from time to time. Check the links below and you might just get lucky.
Save money with 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 Xbox Cloud Gaming).
To get your hands on an Xbox Series X with the Xbox All Access program, it will cost you just $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 Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S release, Microsoft is expanding the Xbox All Access program to 12 countries. More countries will be added later in 2021, but here is the full list of supported countries and retailers for the time being.
- 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)
Xbox Series X accessories
While the base console comes with everything you need to play your first game, every gamer knows that you need to pick up some additional hardware to really get the most out of your console. We’re talking extra controllers, headsets, charging packs, and more.
Below we’ve listed just the essential Xbox Series X accessories, but be sure to check out our full guide below for even more recommendations.
Learn more: The best Xbox Series X and Series S accessories
Xbox Core Controller
Microsoft has released a new controller for the Xbox Series S and X consoles. While the new “Xbox Core Controller” looks very similar to the older gamepad made for the Xbox One consoles, it does have a few new features. The biggest is the new share button that’s right in the middle of the gamepad.
The new controller has a USB-C port used to charge up a rechargeable battery (sold separately) if you don’t want to use two AA batteries. The D-pad has a new design that fighting game fans will enjoy. You can buy extra Xbox Core Controllers now, starting at $59.99.
Xbox Play and Charge Kit
Buying new batteries is a drag, and this simple kit will allow you to do away with AA batteries for good. Much like its predecessors on older Xbox consoles, this pack plugs into the back of your controller to provide power for even the longest of gaming sessions, and recharges when plugged in via USB-C. A single kit will cost $24.99. This sounds expensive, but if you think about how many batteries you’d have to buy over the years, it’s worth it.
SSD extra storage
This 1TB SSD by Seagate is designed specifically for both the Xbox Series S and X consoles. All you have to do is connect it to the back of the console. Seagate claims that its expansion SSD will be just as fast as Microsoft’s internal SSD. The bad news? It’s very pricy. Click below to learn more.
Q: Is the Xbox Series X better than the PS5?
A: 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.
Q: Will the Xbox Series X have VR?
A: No, the Xbox Series X will not support VR at launch. Despite Sony’s commitment to ongoing PlayStation VR support, VR on consoles remains a tiny portion of gamers. As such, Microsoft doesn’t see it as a priority. That said, it remains popular on Windows PCs. Xbox head Phil Spencer hasn’t ruled out bringing VR to the Xbox Series X in the future.
Q: Can the Xbox Series X play PC games?
A: The Xbox Series X works very closely with Windows PC games through the Xbox Play Anywhere program and Xbox Cloud Gaming. Many Xbox Series X exclusive games, like Halo: Infinite, will also be released as PC games. Microsoft hasn’t announced if these will be a part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program with cross-saves and shared achievements though.
Q: Can the Xbox Series X lay on its side?
A: Yes, it can be placed on its side or upright. Airflow has been optimized for both setups, although the console’s physical size may prohibit placement on many shelving systems.
Q: Does the Xbox Series X have ray tracing?
A: Yes, the console features hardware-accelerated ray tracing, made possible by a custom GPU made in partnership with AMD.