Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine

The Xbox Series X is a powerful, capable, and surprisingly versatile system that ushers in a new exciting era of console gaming.

@DeekeTweak
Published Tue, Feb 9 2021 12:39 PM CST
Rating: 93%Manufacturer: Microsoft

The new age - Introduction, specifications, and impressions

  • Developer: Microsoft
  • Release Date: November 10, 2020
  • MSRP: $499

The Xbox Series X finds itself in a unique position. It's poised perfectly to complement and not replace the current Xbox One family of consoles while also re-defining a new generation. There's no immediate reason to upgrade to the Series X other than high-end performance.

In fact, that's the console's main selling point.

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VIEW GALLERY - 91 IMAGES

The Xbox Series X plays all existing Xbox games better. It doesn't have exclusives, but it arguably doesn't need them. The Series X has extensive backwards compatibility and leverages four generations' worth of Xbox games; original Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and soon, Xbox Series X/S titles. If a game plays on the Xbox One, it'll play on the Series X.

The Xbox Series X isn't just the world's most powerful console. It's not just Microsoft flexing its capabilities, or a big statement for the industry. The Series X is a celebration of Xbox as a whole. It's the physical manifestation of nearly 20 years of innovation, and represents the peak union of Xbox hardware and software.

Everything Microsoft has ever done in gaming has led up to this point.

After considerable time with the Xbox Series X, I can say the Xbox Series X is a potent, capable, and surprisingly versatile console. It's a bit more than that; the Series X is an exciting system because of its potential. The Series X is lightning in a bottle that captures both the past, present, and future in one sleek, seamless package. It has the allure of a nostalgia box that plays those old experiences you haven't thought of in years--but it doesn't just play them, it adds a new dimension to those old memories with all sorts of upgrades.

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The Series X embodies the present by playing all Xbox One games and new releases. The future is the most exciting prospect, though. If the Series X is this good right now, imagine what the games will be like when they're exclusively optimized for the Navi GPU, Zen 2 CPU, and high-end NVMe SSD.

Microsoft is in a better position than ever to completely blitz the market with new games from its huge array of first-party developers, which now includes ZeniMax's Bethesda, id Software, and many, many others.

Right now, though, the main selling point of the Series X is the past and present. Here's how I'd summarize the Xbox Series X's current position with a single phrase: What's old is new again.

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Having grown up with the original Xbox, I can say the Series X is a peak evolution of an ecosystem that's defined a good portion of my gaming life. I had a blast returning to old games only to find them play astronomically better, complete with faster loading and some big jumps in graphics/detail. It's awesome to fire up a new console in 2021 and still play Halo 3 or even Halo Combat Evolved in 4K 60FPS.

These experiences are old, but they're also new at the same time thanks to the console's powerhouse capabilities.

The Series X is not just a games console, though, and can circumvent the limits of what you thought possible on a modern system. The Series X has extensive multimedia functionality and can even boot up emulators to run classic games.

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The Series X's compatibility technically goes beyond Xbox games. This system isn't just a powerful monster that pushes 4K 120FPS, but a Windows 10-powered PC-console that can run UWP apps.

The box can be tinkered with on a software and OS level to do some interesting things (like the aforementioned emulation). It's an all-in-one gaming and multimedia hub; it can play 4K UHD Blu-rays, stream videos wirelessly from other devices on a local network via DLNA connectivity, and Dev Mode allows for unique experiences not available on the vanilla/base machine.

This level of inter-combability, unique app support, and high-end gaming experiences makes the Xbox Series X a formidable and more complete console than the PlayStation 5. Sony may have exclusives and a faster SSD, but the Xbox Series X simply does more things the PS5 can't.

On paper, the Series X's specs make a hefty flex on the PlayStation 5 in terms of graphical horsepower.

The Series X utilizes a custom 7nm SoC designed by AMD with a built-in APU that combines both GPU and CPU on the same chip. Spec-wise, the system has a beefy 12.15 teraflop GPU built on AMD's powerful Navi graphics tech, which is optimized for higher-end 1440p and 4K gaming.

The Series X's GPU has 52 compute units in the RDNA 2.0 architecture and hits a clock speed of 1.825 GHz. This on-chip GPU power allows for native 4K 60FPS gaming in some of the industry's most demanding experiences, as well as true next-gen features like ray-traced reflections that simply aren't possible on older hardware.

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The GPU itself has dual compute units that are specifically built to handle real-time ray-traced visuals, including reflections, lighting, and even audio.

CPU-wise, the Series X is a monumental leap over previous generations. The outdated Jaguar cores used in the Xbox One, One S, and One X has been traded out for a considerably more optimized solution. The Series X's new Zen 2 CPU has been specifically built to complement the Navi GPU and practically remove cross-generation bottlenecks. The 8-core Zen 2 CPU is clocked in at a substantial 3.8GHz and drops down to 3.6GHz when simultaneously multi-threading (SMT) is turned on for specific demanding workloads.

While the console's Zen 2 CPU was outdated as the system launched, these processors are an incredible breakthrough for console gaming performance.

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The new CPU offers more headroom and can process data much more efficiently and quickly, working in tandem with the new high-end PCIe 4.0 SSD and Navi 2x GPU to process and render data into playable on-screen experiences.

The Zen 2 CPU is one of the biggest upgrades the Series X offers. Armed with this kind of processing tech, developers can now create bigger, more reactive worlds that aren't hampered or held back by the massively outdated Jaguar cores.

Games can now break the 30FPS threshold and maintain solid 60FPS perf at 1080p, 1440p, or even 4K. Some games like Destiny 2, Dirt 5, Halo MCC, and Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War can all hit 120FPS. For the first time ever, consoles are smashing the 60FPS barrier and rushing towards the 120Hz refresh rates.

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Memory has always been the Achilles heel of console gaming. Developers typically run out of memory faster than anything else, and the 8GB of unified GDDR5 memory (12GB on the Xbox One X) of older consoles filled up very fast.

The Series X is a breakthrough in terms of memory, too. The console has a whopping 16GB of GDDR6 RAM set in a unified memory pool that's shared by the CPU, GPU, and system storage. A substantial 6GB of the total 16GB of system memory (37.5%) runs at 336GB/s and is accessible for base computing functions. The other 63%, of 10GB, runs at 560GB/s and is used for the demanding graphics processing workloads facilitated in part by APIs like the myriad of DirectX 12 Ultimate toolsets, Variable Rate Shading, and hardware-accelerated ray-tracing.

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All-told, games and apps have access to 13.5GB of available system memory, which is nearly 70% more RAM than the Xbox One and Xbox One S. This means developers don't have to compromise as much. That's really the essence of these next-gen consoles: removing compromises, roadblocks, and making console game dev much easier than it's ever been.

Check below for an expansive breakdown of the Xbox Series X's specifications compared to other consoles:

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RDNA 2.0 architecture

AMD RDNA 2.0 Architecture Features

The Xbox Series X represents a synergized union of hardware and software. For the first time ever, console hardware, OS frameworks, and software stacks have all been built in unison from the ground up. Every piece of the hardware from the customized 7nm SoC from AMD to the SSD and 16GB of GDDR6 RAM has been specifically designed to mesh with the myriad of DX12 APIs and the flexible Xbox Development Kit.

The result is a system whose parts truly come together as a whole to push performance targets never before seen in the console world.

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The Series X's hardware is impressive, and the console's overall design is a technological feat.

The new RDNA 2.0 graphics architecture arms the Series X with fancy new tricks that, when combined together, can significantly streamline demanding workloads. As we outlined above, the raw SoC specs utilize a custom AMD SoC built on the efficient 7nm+ node, complete with a Navi 2X RDNA 2.0-based graphics processing unit with 52 Compute Units, down from the 64 CUs in dedicated graphics cards, and a clock speed of 1.825GHz.

Raw 4K 60FPS/120FPS power isn't all the SoC brings, though: AMD's new RDNA tech gives developers access to new rendering techniques like Variable Rate Shading, and ray-traced illumination and reflections, one of the more revolutionary visual upgrades.

"At the very beginning of development of the Xbox Series X | S, we knew we were setting the foundation for the next decade of gaming innovation and performance across console, PC and cloud. To deliver on this vision we wanted to leverage the full capabilities of RDNA 2 in hardware from day one.

"Through close collaboration and partnership between Xbox and AMD, not only have we delivered on this promise, we have gone even further introducing additional next-generation innovation such as hardware accelerated Machine Learning capabilities for better NPC intelligence, more lifelike animation, and improved visual quality via techniques such as ML powered super resolution.

RDNA 2.0 tricks - Variable Rate Shading

Variable Rate Shading (VRS)

Variable Rate Shading is another way to squeeze out more frame rates by reducing visual fidelity in select areas. It's a clever bit of subterfuge that leads to higher FPS. With VRS, specific areas of the screen have coarser and lower-quality shading to reduce rendering workloads.

Normally, every texture in the frame would be shaded individually. With VRS, developers can reduce shading in specific tiles (such as 8x8 or 16x16) to free up valuable processing power.

Essentially, the main area of the screen is kept the same, whereas peripheral and ancillary areas are slightly blurred. The adjustments are so small that gamers can't even tell what's going on. The result is an FPS boost seen most in games with resolution scaling; Gears Tactics saw a 16% FPS boost with VRS enabled.

From the Microsoft DevBlog:

"VRS allows developers to selectively reduce the shading rate in areas of the frame where it won't affect visual quality, letting them gain extra performance in their games. This is really exciting because extra perf means increased framerates and lower-spec'd hardware being able to run better games than ever before.

"VRS also lets developers do the opposite: using an increased shading rate only in areas where it matters most, meaning even better visual quality in games."

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Although the Series X features a comparatively beefier CPU and GPU than previous generations, it's still an APU and not two dedicated processors, and therefore the power is still limited. Devs need to utilize all tools necessary to maintain persistent high-end gaming on the box without pushing it too far. That's where Variable Rate Shading comes in.

This technique works wonders in games like Gears 5, which uses Tier 2 VRS in tandem with Dynamic Resolution Scaling to maintain 60FPS with HDR on and Ultra PC preset textures.

The upgrades are nearly imperceptible, and you wouldn't know they were even there. These higher-end tricks, features, and engine optimizations are running in the background without any recognition or input required from the user. Everything just works and flows.

DirectX ray tracing

Hardware-accelerated DirectX Ray tracing (DXR)

The Series X uses the new-ish DirectX RayTracing (DXR) tech, which allows for real-time pixel color and simulated illumination effects via an algorithm. Developers who use the Xbox SDK and DirectX 12 Ultimate API framework can essentially use DXR to automatically simulate how light plays on objects, creating an arrangement of shadows and lighting that represent a 3D world. Ray tracing is a new way to render light outside of the current rasterization methods, which require advanced knowledge and skill to make look realistic.

This adds another layer of definition and detail; mirrors and water can scatter light and reflect colors of the world itself, metallic objects gleam as the simulated light bounces off their surface in an assigned way, and light can diffuse in grey fog as the particles are trapped in moisture or smoke.

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The tech isn't widely used in many games, however. Only a handful of titles like Watch Dogs Legion, Gears 5, Forza Motorsport, and The Medium use it. All of these games have varying results in visual quality with DXR, and some titles like Watch Dogs Legion simply don't look that great.

There's lots of variability with DXR, and it's all up to developers how they want to utilize it.

Here's how Microsoft's DevBlog defines DXR:

What is DirectX Raytracing?

At the highest level, DirectX Raytracing (DXR) introduces four, new concepts to the DirectX 12 API:

  1. The acceleration structure is an object that represents a full 3D environment in a format optimal for traversal by the GPU. Represented as a two-level hierarchy, the structure affords both optimized ray traversal by the GPU, as well as efficient modification by the application for dynamic objects.
  2. A new command list method, DispatchRays, which is the starting point for tracing rays into the scene. This is how the game actually submits DXR workloads to the GPU.
  3. A set of new HLSL shader types including ray-generation, closest-hit, any-hit, and miss shaders. These specify what the DXR workload actually does computationally. When DispatchRays is called, the ray-generation shader runs. Using the new TraceRay intrinsic function in HLSL, the ray generation shader causes rays to be traced into the scene.Depending on where the ray goes in the scene, one of several hit or miss shaders may be invoked at the point of intersection. This allows a game to assign each object its own set of shaders and textures, resulting in a unique material.
  4. The raytracing pipeline state, a companion in spirit to today's Graphics and Compute pipeline state objects, encapsulates the raytracing shaders and other state relevant to raytracing workloads.
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That being said, ray tracing is pretty demanding and takes a big bite out of performance, namely frames per second. Even today's high-end dedicated video cards are getting flexed when running RTX ray tracing. As such, developers have to get more creative with how ray tracing is used on Series X's Navi GPU and 16GB of unified RAM; there's only so many resources to tap.

Xbox GPU architect Mark Grossman tells developers to use ray tracing selectively in games in order to mitigate the performance hit. Grossman suggests a mix of traditional rasterization and ray-traced methods for games--something we've seen in titles like The Medium and Gears 5.

"We do support DirectX Raytracing acceleration, for the ultimate in realism, but in this generation developers still want to use traditional rendering techniques, developed over decades, without a performance penalty. They can apply ray tracing selectively, where materials and environments demand, so we wanted a good balance of die resources dedicated to the two techniques," Grossman said in a HotChips presentation.

Luckily, some first-party developers can use tricks like Variable Rate Shading to help offset the perf punch from DXR. That's why Gears of War 5 looks so incredible on the Series X.

Sampler Feedback Streaming

The Series X's new Velocity Architecture isn't just about speed. It's also focused strongly on efficiency. One of the major building blocks that streamlines data flows is Sampler Feedback Streaming, a highly technical feature that allows developers to have much greater control over how data is fed to the console's graphics processor.

In short, SFS gives devs much more granular and fine-tuned control over how data is prepared and delivered to the Navi GPU for rendering. SFS takes data that's uncompressed by the I/O system--in this case, the new DirectX 12 StorageAPI--and then helps streamline the data asset pipeline as the content is delivered on through to the GDDR6 RAM, which is then passed to the CPU for processing and the GPU for rendering.

So how does this tangibly affect game development?

SFS can eliminate redundant mips (texture maps) and significantly reduce overall texture data sets, which is extremely important for 4K (or even 8K) games. As Stevens explains, textures require mipmaps, or downscaled versions of the textures. If textures don't have mipmapping then the scene will look too stark and unrealistic. Mipmaps blend the textures together to make them look more natural and easier on the eyes.

Essentially SFS will only load the required mip at any given time for any given solution. The result is a lot less data that's loaded into the RAM, which means less congestion and more space in the memory pool and less taxation on the I/O storage throughput that's constantly moving data.

The GPU is only fed data that it needs for a specific scene and reduces redundant mips and textures.

Blazing-fast PCIe 4.0 SSD and Velocity Architecture

NVMe M.2 PCIe 4.0 SSD at 2.4GB/sec speeds, new Velocity Architecture

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The single most revolutionary upgrade is the console's PCIe 4.0 SSD, which is 40x faster than the slow and clunky mechanical hard drives in the Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X consoles.

The new custom NVMe solid-state drive storage is the heart that pumps the assets through a supercharged pipeline. For the first time ever, consoles are being built with specialized high-end memory controllers and hardware-based compression blocks to dramatically optimize data flow, processing, and rendering.

Capacity-wise, the SSD is advertised as a 1TB drive, but in reality, only 802GB of it is actually usable. The SSD is about 931GB after formatting and partitioning (yes, the Series X's SSD uses similar multi-level partitions as the Xbox One). A quick bit of math shows the Series X has roughly 129GB of space reserved for the OS and other functions. Luckily this space reservation doesn't increase depending on the number of installed games, unlike the PS5.

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The console's SSD can shoot compressed data at 4.8GB/sec to the 7nm SoC's built-in decompression block, which is then passed through to the RAM at 2.4GB/sec and blasted at ultra-fast rates to the CPU for processing, and the GPU for rendering. The Series X utilizes Microsoft's BCPack proprietary compression technology, which has been newly optimized for higher-end textures.

On paper, the SSD is a custom WD SN530 drive with a special ASIC to enable PCIe Gen4x2 performance, complete with:

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Xbox Series X SSD specifications

  • Custom WD SN530 SSD with special ASIC enabling PCIe Gen4x2 perf (up to 3.8GB/sec max throughput
  • M.2 2230 form factor
  • SanDisk 60662 1T00 1TB NAND Flash Memory
  • SanDisk 20-82-10048-A1 NVMe SSD Controller
  • Western Digital 90430VM330 Power Management IC

The Series X's hardware power is nothing without adequate software. Luckily, Microsoft has developed the the perfect convergence of technology and APIs specifically for the new Xbox generation.

If the Series X's hardware is a roaring v12 engine, the underpinning software stack is the oil that keeps things running smoothly. Microsoft's new DirectX 12 Ultimate suite is the real magic behind the new storage jump.

The truth is the Series X's SSD was 13 years in the making. Microsoft always had ambitious plans to shift to NVMe flash once it could manage pricing and remove the hardware bottlenecks. When the price was right, they created the Velocity Architecture, an advanced system of toolsets and APIs to supercharge data pipeline flows.

A new DirectX 12 API called DirectStorage was specifically built to remove traditional hardware bottlenecks with PCIe 4.0 SSDs and massively optimize asset management and compression/decompression. DirectStorage unlocks the potential of high-speed NVMe SSDs by matching the real-time IO data processing of games with the high bandwidth of Gen4 SSD storage.

DirectStorage is responsible for the underlying fabric of the Xbox Series X's Velocity Architecture and essentially makes next-gen gaming possible on the Xbox Series X.

The Velocity Architecture framework marries all components together in a more intimate way: GPU, CPU, RAM, and storage are all woven with the architecture's power. The DirectStorage API significantly improves communication latency between processors and system memory/storage. When data is blasted to the RAM more quickly and efficiently, the CPU and GPU can process and render images on the screen much more quickly.

The DX12 API also directly controls the SoC's IO block to significantly reduce CPU workloads and reduce compression/decompression demands from 5 cores down to just one core. That means the CPU is freed up to process demanding tasks like 120FPS gaming and managing tons of on-screen objects.

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High-resolution textures and assets can be fetched as they're needed and shot right through the 6GB of SSD-allocated memory pipeline. Also, remember that SSDs have no seek times, so asset management and processing is significantly improved because the storage doesn't have to waste time looking for data. Games not only load faster, but developers can completely change how they make games.

Developers won't have to deal with limited system memory now, nor will they have to build their games around outdated storage. Devs have been disguising in-game loading sequences for a long time now with elevator levels, quick animated transition cutscenes, and winding long corridors. When these limitations are broken, developers can reshape their worlds without bottlenecks, leading to truly next-generation game experiences.

The result will see ultra-fast loading with instant transition points and respawns, games that are much more diverse and unique, and experiences with new graphical effects and big NPC counts. Just imagine what Grand Theft Auto VI will play like on the Series X.

One of the most impressive feats of the new Velocity Architecture is that it can use SSD storage as a VRAM cache buffer. The RAM can pull and offload data to and from the PCIe 4.0 SSD as an extra resource.

Graphics and visuals - 4K 60FPS, 1440p 120FPS

Next-gen graphics and visuals

When it comes to console gameplay, the Series X is a perfect storm of concentrated power. The system seamlessly delivers incredible-looking gameplay at multiple performance points, from 1080p 60FPS to native 4K 60FPS--a first for consoles. The sweet spot to me, though, is 1440p 120FPS in the games that support it. Luckily the Series X lets you manually set 1440p as an output resolution, unlike the PlayStation 5, which is limited to 720p, 1080p, and 4K.

The most surprising part about the Series X's gameplay is how it seamlessly pushes high-end console gaming without missing a beat. At first, the difference between 1080p 60FPS and 4K 60FPS is eye-opening, but you'd be surprised how easily you adjust, and it becomes the new normal. Going back to old-gen hardware is painful, especially the slow loading times.

The Series X upscales, boosts, and dramatically upgrades the performance of the games you play on it. Everything from old-school early 2000's games to Xbox 360 era titles and Xbox One games are boosted behind the scenes. First-party games, in particular, see massive surges and optimizations on the Series X.

Games like Gears of War 5, for instance, now run at native 4K resolution at Ultra PC-level graphical presets--something that's achievable on an RTX 2080 GPU.

Below we've cataloged various screenshots, impressions, and footage of select games played on the Series X.

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Gears of War 5

Gears 5 is one of the best-looking games the Series X has to offer. The Coalition has gone through great lengths to utilize every major new console feature, from variable rate shading, sample feedback streaming, and ray tracing, to the ultra-fast loading times and even Ultra-level PC textures. The game runs at a dynamic resolution and a buttery-smooth 60FPS, complete with HDR too.

Gears 5 is an example of how far an Xbox One game can be pushed and upgraded on new hardware and fully showcases the system's true potential as a powerhouse of gaming performance.

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Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Ubisoft's new Assassin's Creed can look amazing on the Series X...if you ignore the technical glitches. The colors are crisp and vibrant, the frame rates are smooth, and the game really pops with expanded draw distances and strong lighting and reflections. The game's multitude of colors and higher-end textures really flex and showcase what the Series X is capable of, and the ultra-fast loading and quick resume combo gets you back into the action as soon as possible.

That being said, there were a lot of glitches and bugs that I didn't experience on the PS5. I ran into various issues in Performance Mode, which prioritizes frame rates over visuals. Textures popped in and out, and at some points, assets failed to load entirely--invisible ziplines were prevalent, and artifacted textures were prevalent. Texture pop in is also noticeable on the Series X and I did see screen tearing while playing on a 4K UHDTV.

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Destiny 2

Destiny 2 is a flawless experience on the Series X. The game is a representation of strong third-party optimization that leverages the full might of the hardware, delivering smooth 4K 60FPS gaming. There isn't anything bad to say about Destiny 2's performance on the Series X, and it stands as one of the must-have games on the platform--especially if you have Game Pass because you get the new Beyond Light expansion for free.

There weren't any real major performance leaps we noticed on the Series X that wasn't also on the PS5, though.

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Watch Dogs Legion

Watch Dogs Legion doesn't look super amazing on the Series X. It does have its moments--particularly during sunsets--but overall, it feels like Ubisoft didn't get their bearings with the new DXR toolsets. The colors are interesting, and the game does a great job faithfully recreating authentic London areas, historical buildings, and entire districts, but the game has one very big flaw: The ray-traced reflections.

At first glance, it's amazing to see ray-traced reflections in Watch Dogs Legion. Seeing the world accurately reflected back at you through car surfaces, windows, and water is eye-opening. But closer inspection reveals rather awful-looking visuals when ray tracing is involved, especially on water surfaces. Puddle reflections are acceptable, but bigger bodies of water show significant pixellation.

I can see why Valhalla doesn't have ray tracing now, and Ubisoft obviously needs to put more work in their console ray-tracing features.

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Halo CE Anniversary (and Halo 1)

Halo CE was the first game I ever played on Xbox, and it looks better than ever on the Xbox Series X. Faster loading times zaps you right into the gameplay, and the FPS optimizations offer a big jump in performance when re-visiting those old memories.

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Halo 2 Anniversary

H2A is arguably one of the best remasters ever made, and it shines incredibly bright on the Series X. Like other Halo games, the campaign can hit 4K 60FPS native with FOV sliders and graphics settings that match the PC version.

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Halo 3

While Halo 3 didn't get the full remaster jump like H1 and H2, it really doesn't need any kind of refinements. The game looks downright gorgeous on the Series X, and the fluid frame rates blend perfectly with the higher-end visuals. Reflections are dazzling, the lighting is a mix of old-school and next-gen tech, and the colors just pop on the screen.

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Halo 4

Like the other Halo games, Halo 4 is a real looker on the Series X. The upgraded 4K textures add a distinct PC look and feel to the experience, although lighting was washed out in some areas. Overall the game has stark imagery and the ultra high-tech environs of the Forerunners really pop on the screen.

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Skyrim Special Edition

Skyrim might be over a decade old, but Bethesda's enhancement remaster is a real treat on the Series X. Coupled with enhanced and expansive mod support, the Series X version has been upgraded with higher-end textures and better effects to immerse you into the frosty world. Atmospheric fog curls around your ankles, water glimmers and shines in the light, ambient shadows engulf ruins and add definition to their ancient markings.

The Series X is the definitive way to play Skyrim on consoles for sure.

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Jedi Fallen Order

This one plays great on the Series X, but the overall graphics aren't too spellbinding. Gamers can enjoy a performance that hits 60FPS with dynamic resolution between 1080p and 1440p. There's also a graphics mode that hits upscaled 4K 60FPS too. This is definitely a good game, and some environments and sequences look good, but overall I wasn't incredibly impressed.

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Yakuza Like a Dragon

SEGA's new Yakuza game is dazzling on the Series X, particularly the cityscapes with their bright colors and neon lights. That being said, there's not a whole lot of optimizations on the Series X...but there arguably doesn't need to be when the game is fun, looks great, and is very fluid.

Loading times

Ultra-fast loading times

The Series X's SSD is so fast it'll spoil you. PC gamers have known the blessings of higher-end SSD flash for years now and haven't had to deal with slow mechanical drives. Console gamers might be late to the party, but they're still dancing all the same.

Some games like Yakuza Like a Dragon loaded in just 7 seconds time. Others like Destiny 2 took over 50 seconds to load from menu into the Tower. The SSD isn't just super fast for newer games, though; even older Xbox 360 and original Xbox games benefit:

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  • Morrowind - 12.29 seconds
  • Fallout 3 - 9.45 seconds
  • Oblivion - 6.24 seconds

Going back to a PS4 or Xbox One is a painful experience after playing on the PS5 and Series X. There's just so much time wasted on loading screens. Next-gen consoles have a vested interest in getting you into the game faster, though. Sony and Microsoft want you playing for as long as possible, and reducing frictional barriers is a big part of that.

The fast loading is a gigantic leap above existing systems and is the most convenient new upgrade the Series X has to offer.

Backwards compatibility is magical

Backwards compatibility adds a new dimension of play

Xbox has the best and most expansive backwards compatibility in gaming. The Series X carries the legacy of the entire Xbox brand forward, and as we mentioned, it can play tons of original Xbox, Xbox 360, and every single Xbox One game ever made.

This wide-sweeping compatibility is necessary and extremely important to ensure the current Xbox One userbase isn't fractured. The Series X lets gamers bring all of their currently-owned Xbox games forward with them instead of making next-gen exclusives right out of the gate.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 92 | TweakTown.com

Read Also: Full list of Xbox backward compatible games

Microsoft will make Xbox Series X/S exclusive titles--Fable is one such game--but for now cross-gen is the name of the game. This preservation also gives you tons of games to play at a time where Microsoft simply doesn't supply them at launch.

Backwards compatibility is one of the biggest advantages the Xbox Series X has over the PlayStation 5. Being able to pop in an old Xbox 360 game into your brand new $500 next-gen machine and pick up where you left off is nothing short of technical sorcery.

The real magic isn't that the Series X plays all of these games, but that it plays these games better than ever before. The Series X literally breathes new life into entire generations of classic gaming experiences. The console gives a golden opportunity revisit an entire generation with a new dimension of play; the games are still the same, but the experience has been fundamentally enhanced. It's kind of like native remastering.

The console's SoC framework can natively boost in-game performance on multiple levels. Some older Xbox One games can run in native 4K with higher frame rates and even HDR. Fallout 3 and Oblivion both received substantial 6.5GB optimization patches that upgraded textures, dramatically boosted loading times, and added HDR support on the Series X.

Other 10-year old games get tightened frame rates, improved textures, and dramatically faster load times. Morrowind, for example, loads in just 12 seconds on the Xbox Series X as opposed to the massive 1 minute 46 seconds on the Xbox 360. That's a huge 88% reduction in load times.

Just like the console's tagline says, Microsoft has made a few of my dreams come true with the Xbox Series X.

I've always wanted to play old-school Halo games at high refresh rates on a console. The Series X can push every Halo game at 4K 120FPS, and I managed to experience these titles at 1440p 120Hz on an Acer XG270HU 27" LED LCD Monitor. The fact that the Series X can switch right over to 1440p with variable refresh rates so easily makes it genuinely feel like a next-generation device.

Playing Halo 3 at higher refresh rates was a treat, ditto with online Firefight matchmaking in ODST. These are games I've experienced many times before, but jumping back in with this new level of refresh rates really breathed new life into the game. Newer games like Destiny 2 ran great on the Series X and maintained a nice ~120FPS cap on my 1440p monitor

Another really big dream come true involves my favorite game of all time: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The Series X actually boosts Morrowind's in-game performance. After putting in my original Morrowind Xbox disc into the Series X, the console downloaded a 1.2GB update with some awesome optimizations.

Morrowind, a game released 18 years ago on the original Xbox, runs significantly better on the Xbox Series X. The graphics are sharper and look crisp even on 4K UHD displays, or 1440p monitors. Load times are drastically improved, which is a big deal for Morrowind. The game has astronomically high load times on Xbox and Xbox 360, and loading a save take up to two full minutes.

Perhaps the most surprising dream come true moment is booting up Retro Arch and playing old-school games from any console generation. This is something the PlayStation 5 simply can't do. The Series X runs on a special Windows 10 OS version and can connect directly to another Windows 10 PC via remote networking. It's by this avenue you can load up UWP apps and content right to your Xbox.

I've always wanted a modern console that can play old-school games from any era. That's a dream come true for any game, right? The Series X not only plays newer games at high-end performance targets, blasting through 4K 60FPS gaming without missing a beat, but it can also push those beloved 8-bit sidescrollers from your childhood.

Quick Resume, modern save states

Quick Resume and multiple suspend points

Apart from the faster loading times, Quick Resume is my favorite feature of the Xbox Series X.

Next-gen consoles emphasize a few major principles: Access, compatibility, and power. The Series X is no different. It redefines compatibility with its extensive back compat features, and pushes the power threshold with a monstrous 12TFLOP Navi RDNA 2.0 GPU. Access is also a new broken threshold thanks to the DirectX 12-powered APIs, the new Velocity Architecture, and new feature sets like Quick Resume.

Quick Resume is literally a game-changer. It's basically like a save-state slot from your favorite classic emulator. The Xbox Series X automatically keeps multiple games open at the same time and lets you seamlessly swap between them at will. There are no startup screens, no having to select load slots--the games literally boot up right where you left off in the flash of an eye.

This feature is one of the purest examples of Microsoft's innovation with the Series X and represents a big leap for immersion and access for next-gen gaming. Quick Resume is instant access at a time where console games are loading faster than they ever have before. Think of it as a supercharger on a high-speed future car.

There are a few limitations, though.

Not every game supports Quick Resume. Watch Dogs Legion, for example, doesn't support it (this game does have ray-tracing, though). The console can also only store a handful of games in the Quick Resume's allocated storage memory cache. In other words, the instant-access slots are limited.

Also, if you quit a game manually using the Options button, that game won't be saved in the Quick Resume slot anymore. The game has to stay open to support Quick Resume.

Cooling, temperatures, and noise

Cooling, temps, and noise

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 12 | TweakTown.com

The Series X is remarkably cool and quiet. It's actually quieter than the PlayStation 5, even when belting out native 4K gaming at with high-performance FPS and PC-level optimizations.

The console's powerful thermal design helps significantly mitigate heat and keep components under optimal temps while under demanding loads. The more efficient SoC and system design also pulls in markedly less power than previous consoles: The Series X pulls 128W, whereas the One X pulls 180W of power.

There are multiple parts to Series X's thermal design, including a huge 130mm axial fan that simultaneously exhausts hot air from the top while pulling cool air from the bottom vents. The console's top end has robust ventilation with wider holes that's both visually striking and incredibly functional, giving the air enough room to properly exhaust. The only issue with the top grill is that dust and hair can easily drop right into the system.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 16 | TweakTown.com

The air is pulled in a kind of pressurized vortex driven by the pull of specially-contoured fan blades. The box is shaped so air can be pulled from the bottom and the back vents and blasted through the top, and as a result, the console produces 40% more airflow than the Xbox One console family.

Smaller objects like ping pong balls can also be suspended as the fan pushes out air.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 10 | TweakTown.com

Another big part of the Series X's cooling is the split motherboard. Usually, consoles are shipped in rectangular boxes that fit a flat motherboard. The Series X's tower design forced Microsoft to cut the motherboard in half; one side has the RAM, APU, and Northbridge, and the other has the SSD and Southbridge (I/O controllers, etc.). The result is something that not only fits but is able to stay cooler as air passes through the vertically-laid components.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 96 | TweakTown.com

Photo credit: Ifixit

Finally, we have the heat sink, and Microsoft made big innovations on this front. The Series X's heat sink takes cues from the Xbox One X's vapor chamber cooler but pushes things to a new level. The copper heat sink is much bigger this time around and makes contact with various chips like the APU and the RAM, pulling heat from critical components and dissipating it from aluminum fins.

All of these features combine to ensure the Series X runs cool and stays quiet even when belting out 4K 120FPS gaming--and like every other major innovation on the Series X, these things happen in the background without you really noticing.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 25 | TweakTown.com

Console design

Console and chassis design

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Unlike the PS5, the Xbox Series X has a footlocker design that's much more living room friendly. It's basically an SFF PC in both design and functionality, which is great for anyone with lots of tech in one space.

The Series X is like a sleek monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey, whereas the PS5 is like an exotic alien artifact from some unknown interstellar civilization.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 97 | TweakTown.com

I personally really like the Series X's design. It's simplistic and minimalistic enough so it can simultaneously capture someone's attention but also melt in the background and become part of your living space. With dimensions of 6 inches x 6 inches x 11.8 inches, the console is not obnoxiously huge, nor does it have an overtly strange design. The Series X fits very well on a shelf while laying down, but it definitely looks better while standing up.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 8 | TweakTown.com

Like all consoles, the Series X's chassis and form factor are dictated by cooling and heat mitigation. The system's tower-like design serves the robust cooling array that keeps the system from overheating and failing...while also looking rather futuristic in the process.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 7 | TweakTown.com

Controller features

New updated controller

The Series X comes with the new revised Xbox controller that takes steps forward and some big steps backwards.

The new gamepad basically an Xbox One controller with an improved D-Pad, USB-C charging, and a screenshot button. Not much seems to have changed on the surface level, but I can say the new controller does feel off.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 32 | TweakTown.com

The joysticks feel a bit too floaty, for one, and for two, the peripheral feels cheap and is already starting to wear after two months of use. The floatiness is hard to explain, but the combination of native 60FPS gaming and the more mobile joysticks have made FPS games harder to play for me. It's an odd thing to get used to native 60FPS gaming on consoles--especially being acclimated to 30FPS for such a long time--but it's made harder because the controller genuinely feels different (in a bad way).

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 36 | TweakTown.com
Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 30 | TweakTown.comXbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 35 | TweakTown.com

As for the damages, the controller isn't starting to drift like our DualSense controller did just weeks after the PS5's release, but the left analog stick is making a creaking noise when pressed into sprint. This is way too soon for something like this to happen, especially since practically every video game uses the left analog stick press to sprint/run.

Another big change is the D-Pad. The new D-Pad is basically the same as the elite controllers and is more reminiscent of the Xbox 360's D-Pad. Rollover is more prevalent, and the pad is more comfortable for specific games, but playing older games via emulation can be wonky. Overall this is an improvement over the Xbox One's D-Pad.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 33 | TweakTown.com

The screenshot button is my favorite feature of the new model. For the longest time, the Xbox One has struggled with basic screenshot features. The PS4 shipped with the Share button in 2013, but the Xbox One didn't even have screenshot functionality at launch. Soon it was added, but you had to open up the home menu and press Y to capture a shot. It was enormously awkward. Now Microsoft has a built-in button dedicated solely for captures.

Long-pressing the button will capture a clip, and short-pressing the button captures screenshots. You can even open up your captures as you play and see what you recorded. It's a seamless way to not only immortalize your favorite gameplay moments, but to share, edit, and manage them all while staying in the game itself.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 31 | TweakTown.comXbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 34 | TweakTown.com

Other improvements include a dedicated aux jack (the 2013 launch Xbox One controller didn't have these), USB-C interfacing for more universal input on PCs, and the Xbox itself (and quick-charging your rechargeable batteries as you play), and more contoured triggers.

The RB and LB buttons are also much easier to press. They're a far cry from the ultra-stuff and chunky buttons on the original controller.

Overall, this controller is a much more refined product that leverages the existing strengths of one of the best-designed peripherals on the market. Sadly, I can't always get used to it due to the more floaty joysticks and the device feeling cheaper despite its new additions.

UI - Cluttered and confusing, yet functional

UI is cluttered and confusing, but functional and powerful

Microsoft has always been bad at designing the Xbox One's UI, but they're getting better at it. The Series X uses a more refined, fluid, and quick UI to arm players with the tools they need to access games, content, and a wide breadth of social features.

The UI is still cluttered and confusing at times.

The PlayStation 5's UI is more straightforward and designed with console interactivity in mind (although it's not perfect and Sony still needs to refine it).

For example, the UI is layered in a cluttered way. The proper way to think about the Xbox is that it's a PC, not really a console. Think of it as a Windows 10 machine and not a consolidated system like, say, the PlayStation 5. Everything is separated into its own application--even basic things like Blu-ray playback are treated as their own apps--and users have to go in and customize their setup to their liking. It takes some work to get the system to appear the way you want it to.

The real problem is that Microsoft tries to jam too much stuff into the UI. It can be pretty jarring.

Pressing the Xbox button brings up a quick launch bar on the left-hand side that features a ton of icons and features. You can view a recent screenshot, check and see who you last played with, send a message, launch game pass, quick-launch into your most recent apps or games, check your achievements, and even view recent gameplay and screenshot captures. This quick launch bar is fine, albeit cluttered and dizzying at first glance.

One of the main issues that I have with the UI is that it doesn't explain itself all that well. Things feel like they're layered and hidden under sub-menus. There's no easy way to check storage, for example, without navigating to the base Systems menu. Storage is limited to 802GB of SSD space on the Series X, so you'd think Microsoft would have a quick-launch icon for that too.

The Series X's UI is more refined than past UIs--the launch Xbox One had a terrible UI--but there's also a steep learning curve at times. Simple things like transferring screenshots to USB devices isn't as straightforward as it is on the PS5, which only requires you to slot in a USB stick and easily export images right over.

That being said, the Series X's UI is snappy and functional. It's an access point to all kinds of interactions and features, whether it be starting up a party chat session, check on a club or looking for group tab, quickly reference your achievements, or swap into another game. Everything is fast, fluid, and seamless, and it's all thanks to the new union of hardware and software.

I still have issues with how the games and apps are presented on the home screen, though. Things do feel overwhelming at times, and I'm used to the PlayStation 5's comparatively minimalistic structure.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 27 | TweakTown.com

Once you get used to UI, you can use it to your advantage. Gamers can create custom groups in their home screen that houses installed games and apps (and even content that you don't have installed), set up a custom background, and quickly check out a looking for group tab and party up for a Destiny 2 raid. The PS5 has a simplistic and easy-to-use UI, but the Series X's UI is much more dynamic and powerful when you get used to it.

My favorite thing about the user interface is being able to customize how the layout is. I can control what games appear on the home screen in what place, pop them into a group, and even name that group to my liking. I also love being able to customize the on-screen overlay that pops up. Things get a lot less confusing when you're in the driver seat and can move around the tabs. Checking out screenshots and video clips as you play is also fantastic.

Nifty Xbox Series X tricks

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 21 | TweakTown.com

Custom button mapping is a great little feature the Series X offers. Gamers can fully customize and re-map their controller's buttons and configure new input schemes. This is great if your controller is starting to malfunction, or if you simply want to change global settings for games. You can swap triggers, invert axes, turn off vibration altogether, and pretty much everything else.

The most interesting thing by far is the Series X can run Retroarch, and by extension, it can boot up any game that the emulator package can run. This means you can technically boot up and play pretty much any game from any console generation, provided you have the ROMs.

We managed to get Diablo 1 running on the Series X with pretty good performance. We've included gameplay footage above, along with a step-by-step tutorial in how to set up the emulator.

You'll need to download the Dev Mode app as well as pay a fee for developer access on the system.

Smart Delivery is ultra-convenient

Smart Delivery is convenient

Smart Delivery is one of the best features of the Series X. Gamers can simply download a game, boot it up, and not have to worry about designating next-gen versions or messing with any data streams.

The PS5, on the other hand, has two separate versions of games: It can store both a PS4 and PS5 version. With the Series X, there's only one version of a game that morphs depending on your hardware.

If you pop in or download a game that has next-gen enhancements, the Xbox Series X will automatically download asset packs and optimization updates. There's no messy process of migrating/copying data, downloading the wrong version of a game, or accidentally launching a current-gen version of a game. Instead, the games are instantly transformed into next-gen versions where applicable.

Right now, there aren't any exclusive first-party Microsoft games. Instead, there's only exclusive performance. Microsoft's shifting Smart Delivery feature isn't new, though, and hails back to the Xbox One X era.

Smart Delivery isn't perfect, though. Details are often left out for the sake of convenience. One of the Xbox Series X's biggest problems isn't the console itself, but Microsoft's lack of specific communication to everyday consumers.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 23 | TweakTown.com

The Series X is capable of impressive things that regular consumers may not notice on a conscious level. The boosted performance, frame rates, and visuals wow you at first, but you don't always know why the game looks better--it just does. Microsoft hasn't necessarily been the best at communicating key features of the Xbox Series X and has led the gaming press to sort through and disseminate the information.

It's not just Microsoft, though: Sony is guilty of the same thing. The issue is consumers aren't provided with the knitty-gritty information required to really recognize specific optimizations. This is because not every game is optimized the same. Like the Xbox One X, developers have full control in how they leverage the Series X's power.

Although the Series X is capable of pushing ray-traced visuals in 4K resolution, not every game will support ray-tracing. Not every game will even support native 4K 60FPS. This variability from game-to-game makes things somewhat confusing, and there's no consolidated master list to relay information to consumers.

The Series X was released in a transition period where games perform more differently than ever before. The range of performance can be pretty big on a game-to-game basis. This is especially true now that the Series X automatically scales all Xbox One games natively via Smart Delivery.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 24 | TweakTown.com

That being said, Microsoft has made a considerable effort to let gamers know what to expect from specific titles. There's a full Optimized for Xbox Series S/X section on the Microsoft Store, complete with badges for Smart Delivery and Game Pass.

This isn't enough, though. Gamers need more information. The reality is consumers and gamers don't always know what they're seeing and can't identify why a game looks better. Ray-tracing may not be obvious to most people, neither is native 4K versus super-sampled 1440p, for example. The visceral details are usually provided by tons of blog posts, Digital Foundry videos, and sometimes Microsoft themselves in Xbox Wire posts, but what Microsoft needs is a complete and total list of optimizations from all developers--third-party and first-party--complete with variable ranges across every platform.

Considering there are now five separate Xbox consoles on the market right now that all deliver varying grades of performance and specs, this undertaking is a lot to ask. But I still feel it's important to fully exemplify and underline the Series X's overall power and perf gains.

Final thoughts: Pros and cons

Final thoughts

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The Xbox Series X is a marvelous console that marries functionality, performance, and speed. The higher-end hardware utterly transforms and redefines console gaming as we know it.

Games look better than they ever have and can hit blistering 120FPS frame rates on VRR monitors and TVs. New advanced technologies like ray tracing add a new dimension to light and make objects and scenes much more immersive and realistic. 3D audio adds depth to every aspect of sound, accelerating the

The most obvious and tangible upgrade is the Series X's SSD. The storage is a dramatic shift towards instantaneous gaming and significantly reduces loading sequences. The fast NVMe flash not only streamlines data pipelines to deliver smart, accessible, and powerful 4K gaming experiences, but also respects your time by not wasting it.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 6 | TweakTown.com

The Series X is a dream machine and has made some of my biggest gaming wishes come true. Being able to play Morrowind on console without the intense loading times is incredible, and I absolutely love firing up Halo and belting out 120FPS Firefight action on my 1440p WQHD monitor.

Microsoft's next-gen console isn't perfect, though, and like any dream come true, it comes with some drawbacks. The UI is a bit awkward, and the game update system is still a pain. Functionalities are layered in a way that can be frustrating--like transferring screenshots to a USB stick, for example--and there are no Xbox Series X exclusives yet from Microsoft.

Even still, the Xbox Series X stands as a towering obelisk of power that elevates console gaming to new heights. It's the beginning of a new age of Xbox gaming and will help usher in a fresh generation that's freed from shackles like outdated hardware and development compromises. Armed with new compression systems, powerful Xbox SDK and OS upgrades, the new DirectX 12 Ultimate APIs, and hardware that's not bottlenecked, the Series X realizes the full potential of console gaming.

The future is bright for consoles, and the Xbox Series X is a shining beacon that will help guide this new era.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 9 | TweakTown.com

Is it worth it?

Yes, the Series X is worth its $499 asking price. The value proposition here is very attractive on many levels. Delivering 4K 60FPS performance in your living room is attractive on its own, but the other layers of functionality (media playback, UHD 4K Blu rays, remote streaming, Game Pass, and even Dev Mode features) sweeten the deal.

That being said, you'll get more out of the Series X if you already have a bunch of Xbox games.

Who should buy the Xbox Series X?

Existing Xbox gamers benefit the most from the Series X. It's mostly ideal if you already have an existing library of Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One games--otherwise, you'll be depending on the Xbox Game Pass service and full game sales to build your library.

The system's real value really depends on what games you already own, and what games you're willing to buy. If you've already been part of the Xbox ecosystem with an existing library of titles, and have been redeeming Xbox LIVE Gold games, then you already have a big head start over new buyers.

Right now, the Series X is an investment. There are no Series X exclusives yet, so expect to wait a bit for those heavy-hitters. Microsoft has a huge array of first-party studios (now including Bethesda) working on lots of titles like Fable, Senua's Saga, Halo Infinite, and even an Indiana Jones game from MachineGames.

Those are on the horizon, though. There are not any first-party games built specifically for the Series X right now. Before you buy, you should be comfortable with buying third-party games and existing first-party games. Remember, there's no exclusive games, but exclusive performance. If you buy the Series X as a new gamer, you'll get the best console performance from most games you play on the box.

Xbox Series X Review: Dream Machine 13 | TweakTown.com

What's Hot

+ Quick Resume is a game-changer - Quick Resume is one of the most innovative features of the new Xbox console. Think of Quick Resume as save states you can access instantly. The console auto-loads where you last left off, removing another frictional barrier from gaming.

+ Massive backwards compatibility - The Series X preserves the Xbox lineage in an incredible way. You can pop in your old Xbox discs and play old-school games with boosted visuals, tighter frame rates, and better performance. Xbox One games perform incredibly well, and some get extensive upgrades for native 4K support.

+ Stays cool and quiet under heavy loads - The Series X has remarkable craftsmanship. It can pelt out 4K 60FPS gaming and not make a sound, and it's all thanks to the advanced cooling system. The Series X sports a huge 140mm centrifugal fan and a split motherboard that separates the main APU chip from the SSD, complete with a vapor chamber heat sink and a mini-PC-like chassis that vents heat from the top.

+ Unique chassis design - The new Xbox isn't significantly striking. It's functional, and the shape is dictated by performance, not from style. You won't see the console star in an art gallery, and it's a far cry from the PlayStation 5's exotic frame. Still, the Series X keeps things simplistic, and the console will fit in your entertainment center on its side. Even when standing, the console doesn't have a big footprint--unlike the towering PS5.

+ Incredible graphical performance - The Series X's huge 12 TFLOP Navi 2X GPU opens up new horizons for console gaming, making native 4K 60FPS and even 4K 120FPS gaming possible in the living room space. Even playing at 1440p 120FPS on a VRR monitor is a big deal. The ray-traced visuals show a new depth to gaming experiences, and the high-res 3840 x 2160 textures make games pop in new ways. Games look better than they ever have, from Xbox One games all the way down to OG titles like Morrowind.

+ SSD paves the way for the future - Consoles are finally supporting SSDs. The new era of speed is upon us, and the Series X's SSD represents a paradigm shift for the console market. There's no going back to HDDs unless you absolutely have to because of space limitations.

+ Smart Delivery is a godsend - The PlayStation 5 handles cross-gen gaming in an inefficient way. The PS5 can store both a PS5 and PS4 version of a game on the SSD. The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, uses Smart Delivery to automatically download the version of a game that's applicable to the hardware. So the Series X will auto-install high-res textures and other optimizations as they become available. There's no upgrade path for first-party games--just a single SKU that can transform into an Xbox One, Xbox One X, or Xbox Series X game at will.

+ Saves are stored on the cloud - This is true for every Xbox One, but it's still a big benefit to gamers. Cross-gen saves are very messy on the PS5, and some game saves simply don't carry over to their next-gen versions. The PS5 can hold both PS4 and PS5 saves at the same time, and this often leads to corrupted saves and glitches. The Series X, however, stores all saves on the cloud for easy access. There's no worry about corruption or storage issues.

+ Amazingly fast start-up - The console boots in just seconds and is a big leap over last-gen systems. You can get right into the action nearly instantaneously.

What's Not

- Everything is treated as its own app - Everything from basic console settings to the Microsoft Store is a separate app within the OS. This is how the Xbox OS is set up, but it can be frustrating when you're trying to launch the MS Store only to have to download an update. Something as simple as changing settings on the Xbox Series X can take more time than necessary since you have to hunt down the Settings app.

- Way too many updates - The Series X, like the Xbox One, constantly requires game updates. You can't play the games if you're online without updating. You have to disconnect and go offline first, and then launch the game. It's pretty frustrating. Also, the Series X requires an online connection to set up.

- The OS is still badly designed - The Xbox Series X OS feels like it's meant to get you lost and keep you there. It's worth mentioning the Series X OS is the same as the basic Xbox OS--there's one unified UI now--but the interface is still a confusing mass of tiles and settings that takes some time to get used to. The console is set up, so you have to search for a few things, but the functionality is pretty expansive, so once you learn the ins and outs, you can do some interesting things.

- Doesn't support USB mics or USB-powered headsets with soundcards - This is a nitpick, but it's still worth mentioning. The Series X won't let you hook up a high-quality microphone like a Blue Yeti for voice chats, and it doesn't play nicely with USB-based headsets like the HyperX Cloud II headset with an included 7.1 surround soundcard. The PS5, on the other hand, supported both of these devices.

- Cannot interrupt game updates - The worst problem of the Xbox Series X is by far the updating process. Games that need updates cannot be started when you're online unless they are updated. For example, I started Halo 5, and the game prompted me with a notification and started automatically downloading the update. So I chose to skip it and try to play the game anyway. It didn't work; once the game needs an update, it won't let you start it up unless you do so offline. Since saves are stored in the cloud, this can be problematic.

Gameplay Performance

95%

Cooling and Noise

95%

New Features

90%

Value

90%

Overall

93%

The Bottom Line

With high-end 4K 120FPS gaming, huge backwards compatibility support, and massive upscaling tech, Xbox Series X adds a new dimension to old- and new-school games.

TweakTown award
93%

Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X|S 1TB SSD

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Derek is absorbed with the intersection of technology and gaming, and is always looking forward to new advancements. With over six years in games journalism under his belt, Derek aims to further engage the gaming sector while taking a peek under the tech that powers it. He hopes to one day explore the stars in No Man's Sky with the magic of VR.

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