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Xbox Series X – Everything You Need to Know

Twice as powerful as Xbox One X and backward compatible across four generations.

by Diego Perez

Xbox-Series-X

At the Game Awards, the world got its first look at the next generation of console gaming in the form of the Xbox Series X, which had been known simply as Project Scarlett until this point. Alongside the official console reveal, we also got an impressive trailer for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, the sequel to the acclaimed Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Other than that, though, details about the new console, like its exact specs, weren’t talked about too much on stage. That’s why we’ve compiled all the important facts about the Xbox Series X right here, including its exact hardware specs, backward compatibility features, and what that weird new button in the middle of the controller is all about.

Twice As Powerful As Xbox One X

At E3 2019, Microsoft described the next-generation Xbox console as being so powerful that it’s not just a monster, but that it “eats monsters for breakfast.” They weren’t kidding around, because the Xbox Series X is packing 12 Teraflops of graphical processing power per an interview with Gamespot, which is double that of the Xbox One X and eight times more powerful than a base Xbox One.  The graphical horsepower will be put to good use, as the Series X is fully capable of ray tracing, a lighting technique that is only available on high-end graphics cards at the moment. The CPU upgrade is even more impressive, with the Series X’s CPU being four times as fast as the current Xbox generation. To cool these top of the line parts, the Series X utilizes a single fan that should be as quiet as the Xbox One X.

In terms of storage, the Xbox Series X will employ lightning-fast SSDs. The console won’t just use any old solid-state drives, however. The Series X will use NVMe SSDs that will reduce load times for most games down to mere seconds. Spencer told Gamespot that the NVMe solid-state drives, when paired with some of the new capabilities developers have with the new hardware, will hopefully “virtually eliminate load times.”The Xbox Series X is also built with the future in mind, and Microsoft has its sights set on the years following launch, with the company accounting for ultra-high resolutions and refresh rates further down the line.

Backward Compatible Across Four Generations

Backward compatibility has been a huge priority for Microsoft over the past few years, and the Xbox Series X will continue that trend. The Xbox One can currently play a good number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles, and these will also be playable on Microsoft’s next-gen machine. The Series X will support “thousands of games across four generations of gaming” according to Microsoft. Some backward compatible titles receive graphical enhancements when played on Xbox One X, so it’s safe to assume that Xbox Series X will continue that tradition, especially with its significant performance upgrade.

Old Controllers and Hardware Are Supported

With the Xbox Series X, backward compatibility is extended to more than just games. All of your existing Xbox One controllers and accessories will work on Xbox Series X and vice versa. Of course, the new controller revision for the Xbox Series X has a few new features, but the original Xbox One controller, as well as both versions of the Xbox One Elite controller, will work on the next-generation machine.

Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold will carry over to Xbox Series X as well. Just like they’ve been doing throughout this generation, Microsoft wants to shift the Xbox brand from a platform to an ecosystem, and the unification of hardware and services across generations is part of that plan.

The Controller Has Some Slight Changes

The Series X controller looks very similar to an Xbox One controller on a surface level, but there are a few new additions that give it some added functionality. The shell has been slightly reshaped and made a bit smaller, but the most important changes are the addition of a share button and a hybrid d-pad.

Both the PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch controllers have a share button, something the Xbox One controller lacked. The new Series X controller has a share button smack dab in the middle of the controller, and it’ll function just as you’d expect it to. Also, the heavily-criticized Xbox One d-pad is getting replaced with a new design that more closely resembles the d-pad of the Elite controller. Xbox One mainstays like trigger rumble are still incorporated into the controller, though. The Series X controller takes an already great foundation and tweaks it just enough to make an improvement. There aren’t any crazy new additions like light bars or touchpads, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Xbox-Series-X-Controller

Yes, You Can Lay It On Its Side

The first thing people tend to notice about the Xbox Series X is its vertical, PC tower-like design. While this design is certainly unique, it might present some problems for those who don’t want their console to stick out like a sore thumb in their entertainment centers. Thankfully, the console can be laid horizontally like its predecessors. It’s still a bulky powerhouse of a console, but it’ll blend in better with other devices when laid on its side.

The bulky, vertical design of the Xbox Series X console actually has some significance. In an interview, Phil Spencer told Gamespot that the team wanted to “design a console where the form was driven by the function.” The console’s function is to “play the highest power, most immersive games possible,” and in order to effectively achieve that function, they had to forego some of the more traditional design tropes that game consoles tend to adhere to. They tried to make it match the Xbox One’s aesthetically, but they had to make room for all that horsepower somehow.

Tons of Games

The Xbox Series X will launch with a huge back catalog of titles thanks to its backward compatibility with previous generations, but everybody knows you buy a new console to play new games. Thankfully, the Series X isn’t lacking in that regard. Hellblade II was shown off alongside the console at the Game Awards, and it looks to be even more of a graphical showcase than the first game. We don’t know for sure when we’ll see Senua next, though, but we do have confirmation of at least one Xbox Series X launch title.

It was confirmed at E3 earlier this year that Halo Infinite will be a launch title for Microsoft’s next-gen console. Of course, Halo Infinite will also release on Xbox One, but Xbox Series X will without a doubt be the best place to play it (besides PC). The great thing about the Series X is that it’s launching in a post-Xbox Game Pass world, meaning that you’ll get Halo Infinite at launch as well as other first-party titles in the future if you’re subscribed. All of Microsoft’s newly-acquired studios are no doubt cooking up games for the new console right now, and that means there will be no shortage of games once the Series X comes around.

Releasing Holiday 2020

The Xbox Series X will launch sometime late next year, more specifically Holiday 2020. Given the time periods that previous consoles have released, expect to be able to get your hands on an Xbox Series X sometime around November 2020. It’ll be competing directly with the PlayStation 5, which has also been officially announced for the same launch window.

We should get a concrete release date sometime in the first half of next year, probably at E3 2020. Alongside a release date confirmation, expect to see the full list of launch titles and launch window games sometime in the next few months. While we only know of a few titles at the moment, Holiday 2020 is shaping up to be a monumental season for video games.

- This article was updated on:December 13th, 2019

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