Now that my Xbox Series X has been sitting in its new home for the past week it’s time to start talking about Microsoft’s latest addition to their console family. I’ve already spent a bit of time going over the excellent packaging that it comes in and it really does create a good first impression and that continues with the way the console is set up.
Sitting it next to my Xbox One X the Series X is similar in height but dwarfs it in depth and is another very solid, heavy machine. These things could be lethal weapons if they fell from a shelf so make sure wherever you have it stand it’s safely out of the way and on a solid base. After finding my One X was not getting enough airflow in my entertainment unit I moved it to sit next to my television so it was an easy decision to have the Series X swap positions to ensure that there was nothing to hinder ventilation.
When starting up the console it encourages your to use your Xbox mobile app to handle the set up (WiFi Direct in action here?) and it is mostly seamless whilst pulling down your existing console settings and applying them. I’m not sure if it’ll get 100% of your settings – I still needed to set up Dolby Digital output again – but it gets enough done to have you up and running quickly. It’s certainly the fastest set up I’ve had to go through compared to the Xbox One and One X (even with an 800+MB update) but worth noting my Internet connection speed is substantially faster since then too. Once it is done you’ll soon be presented with the familiar Xbox dashboard with a little extra spice thanks to the new animated backgrounds. Hooking up any external drives you have for games storage is easy too and the console will pick those up right away allowing you to start playing with your existing library. But don’t think your downloads will end there because once you start playing games you’ll likely get prompted to download patches for those that have Series X/S versions which might mean a longer wait to see the “enhanced” games.
My first game (as expected) was Elite Dangerous. The game is One X Enhanced with a 4K quality mode that would previously strain under load when flying close to a star. However running on the Series X it looks to be running at a nice consistent framerate which makes maneuvering much nicer. A pleasant bonus was that navigating through menu screens was faster too and clearly showed that the CPU clock boost in the new console goes a long way. Calculating long travel routes in the galaxy map halved (or more) because of this and system scans were quicker too. It’s not a high profile game deserving of a Digital Foundry comparison I suppose but it perfectly demonstrated all little things that have improved can add up to making existing games play better.
Things I like
- Everything runs faster – it’s easy to be impressed with how much nicer your games run even without enhancements. If 60 frames per second can become the new minimum for future games then that’s already a big deal. It’s the console equivalent of buying a new video card for your PC in that respect. Even loading from external HDDs has been better for me so I’ve not felt obligated to immediately spend more on new storage options.
- The new controller is really nice – I’m not going to give up my Elite Controller just yet but this new generation of Xbox controller has a feel and finish I could see going into a version 3 of the Elite. The new directional pad looks like it borrowed from the Elite too but I wish it was as good as this one. Time to pack away my older controllers!
- It is very quiet – How quiet? The USB hard drives I have plugged into the console are noisier. And even with a taxing game playing it’s never been too noticeable. In other words you don’t have to worry about it drowning out your game.
- No roadblocks to playing old games – it all just works. Often better too. It feels like the years of Xbox One & One X backward compatibility were leading up to making this console. The lines between generations become blurry as a result of it but it’s all about having owners remain committed to the ecosystem now and Microsoft’s Game Pass goes a long way here too.
Things I don’t like
- Waiting for Halo Infinite – the game’s delay was obviously needed but not having it to play at launch is still a big loss. Even the Xbox One and One X had Forza Motorsport releases (5 and 7 respectively) for which to show off your new toy. We did get enhancements for Forza Horizon 4 and Gears 5 which is nice but a new major title would have gone down better. Gears Tactics is new for console users though and has been a good distraction.
- More needed to help you manage your games – if you have Series X/S enhanced games they need to run off the internal SSD and as a result you’ll find the internal drive fills up VERY quickly as you download those giant sized updates. The tools for moving games around drives has improved a lot on Xbox (they’re quite good) but for some people it’ll be a new experience that could be frustrating to deal with at first.
- Patches are coming in VERY hot – judging from the problems I’ve run into when playing Black Ops: Cold War on the Series X so far not everyone had enough time to get a handle on the hardware and it may be some time before that gets resolved. Also means we may not get a true measure of the console’s performance for some time.
I was approaching the Xbox Series X much as I did with its predecessor (Xbox One X) in that the experience of playing the games I have will improve and any new games supporting it at launch will be a bonus. However I have to admit I’ve been missing the bonuses more this time around that screamed out “this is next gen!”. We know they’re coming… it’s just going to be more of a waiting game than we’d all like. Because of that I could totally understand people who may want to wait a little longer when the consoles are on store shelves and there’s more games to show it off. The potential is there though and it’s a nice improvement over the One X too. I’m now hoping we soon see that come through in future games.