Your tech news digest, by way of the DGiT Daily tech newsletter, for Friday, 6 November 2020
1. Xbox Series X/S reviews are out, and they’re pretty pretty good
Embargoes dropped on the next-gen Xbox reviews, for both the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S, just a few days before the release on November 10.
I think there’ll be a lot of smiles going around Microsoft HQ, but it’s not a perfect release. But don’t blame the hardware:
- In terms of performance, design, and power draw, the X/S combination feel like you’re taking the superior quality of PC gaming to console.
- And it’s silent, writes AnandTech, with a typically technical deep-dive: “To put this difference in perspective, the new Xbox Series X is quieter playing Gears 5 than the Xbox One X is at idle. The attention to detail on cooling and sound by the Xbox team is really a homerun here.”
- Now, that’s partly because it’s so big, and the heat coming out of the top of the vent is warm to very warm, but not hot. Still, you’ll want to make sure the top isn’t covered.
- And it’s made for standing. Most reviews commented that you can lie it down horizontally, but it’s not really the aesthetic or the way the heating is set up: “When placed horizontally, it’s fair to say that the Xbox Series X looks like it fell over with the base permanently attached,” writes The Verge.
There is some hesitation on the cheaper, less-powerful Series S, though:
- I’ll let Ars Technica take it from here, with a longer quote: “[The Series X] is a remarkable $499 machine. It’s sleek, it’s powerful, and its high-end games currently load at higher speeds than my own $1,000-plus testing PC can manage. Meanwhile, the X’s diminutive cousin/sibling/homeboy, Xbox Series S, is remarkably efficient for its size, price, and power draw. We certainly haven’t seen a “next-gen” gaming machine this small and quiet since the cartridge era, and in some ways, its emphasis on “next-gen, but lower-res” is a smashing success.”
- “But […] I can’t definitively confirm that the $299 Series S locks onto Microsoft’s inherent promise: same gameplay as Series X, with the kinds of downgrades you can’t perceive on a 1080p TV. Sometimes, that pans out exactly as advertised, especially with first-party software like Gears 5 and Sea of Thieves. But with one major performance outlier as of press time, and some concerns about its value compared to Series X, I wade into the Series S half of this review more reluctantly than I’d like.”
- That performance issue was with Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, where the Series S capped out at 30fps, vs the expected 60 fps on Series X. That’s a big problem if it’s not a pre-release bug, and makes the Series S harder to stamp as a success.
And that brings us to the problems, for now, with both the Series X/S: there are no real next-gen AAA hit games, yet.
- The good news is the switch from 30fps to 60fps is being called night and day, and older games running more smoothly will be great to replay. It’ll make older consoles feel old, really fast.
- But… The Day 1 library cupboard is basically bare. Engadget noted “…there aren’t many compelling new games to make it a “must buy” $500 system,” thanks to the delays with Halo Infinite for one, and no pre-installed games on the system, like the PlayStation 5’s Astro’s Playroom, which comes with every system.
- It doesn’t mean the Series X won’t come into its own before long, but Xbox One X owners aren’t missing out. There’s no overwhelming monster title that has to be seen to be believed, just yet.
- The not-so-secret weapon for the Xbox is Game Pass, or Microsoft’s “Netflix for video games.”
- Game Pass is, of course, available on PC and Xbox now, but it’s now a key pillar for Microsoft, and the Series X can play all of these games run at max or almost-max.
- A lot of the reviews are saying Game Pass is by no means required, but it is strongly recommended.
Given the verdict is so strongly positive, without some of the hiccups that can plague new releases, this feels like a pertinent final word from The Verge:
- “There’s one big question that remains for me with the Xbox Series X: when will Microsoft’s 23 first-party studios deliver the next-gen games to truly show what this console is capable of? Powerful hardware and a sleek user experience are only part of the mix. Microsoft will need the games to really make the Series X feel like something brand-new.”
So, will Sony have the upper hand with exclusive titles more readily available on PlayStation? Is the Dual Sense controller really that good? What else will come between them to make purchasing decisions easier? We’ll know more when that embargo drops, probably towards late next week.
2. WhatsApp finally begins rolling out payment service in India (Android Authority).
3. Amazon Fire Stick (2020 edition) review: A solid upgrade on the budget end, with the 4K option better depending on your TV set (Android Authority).
4. Samsung Wireless Charger Stand review: Fan cooling provides a good home office option (Android Authority).
5. Sony says, ‘stay home, be safe, and order online’ with all PS5 launch day sales going online-only. Nothing in stores! (Android Authority).
6. Here’s what storage options the PS5 will and won’t support at launch (Android Authority).
7. We’re finally seeing the iPhone 12 mini and 12 Pro Max, and size really matters with these (The Verge).
8. Impressive from AMD: The new Zen 3 CPUs are seriously good, with detailed reviews now out (Anandtech).
9. You know that $1B in Bitcoin that was mysteriously moved around after years lying dormant? It was the Feds, seizing stolen Silk Road Bitcoin. I still mourn 0.2 BTC I lost years ago (Wired).
10. Algorithm spots ‘Covid cough’ inaudible to humans — imagine if this can work on smartphones (BBC).
11. San Francisco voters pass ‘Overpaid Executive Tax’: The new law adds a 0.1 percent tax on companies whose executives earn 100 times more than the average worker. The tax rises depending on the ratio, too: If a CEO makes 200 times more than the average employee, the surcharge increases to 0.2%; 300 times a 0.3% surcharge, up to 0.6%. (NBC)
12. Tesla Tequila goes from April Fools joke to $250-per-bottle reality (Engadget).
13. Visitor banned from Yellowstone National Park after rangers catch him cooking chickens in the hot springs (Newsweek).
14. SpaceX launches next-gen GPS satellite for US Space Force, lands rocket (Space).
15. “What’s recently entered the Public Domain (copyright’s expired) that most people might not be aware of?” (r/askreddit). Helpful list from Wikipedia, too.
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