It’s almost time to level-up (pun intended) to the next level of gaming, and Microsoft will be the first company to release its next-gen consoles, the Xbox Series S|X. I got the opportunity to play with the Series X ahead of its launch, and now it’s time to share my experience with the console.
I must admit, I do a lot of my gaming on PS4, and I rarely gave my Xbox One S any attention, so it was like being in a foreign land for me once I powered up the Xbox Series X.BUT, once I pressed the power button, it didn’t take long for me to realize what kind of gaming experience that Micorosft is offering gamers who choose to game on consoles.
The company is a mission bridging the gap between PC and console gaming.
Design and Hardware
When Microsoft first revealed the Xbox Series X, I immediately got PC tower vibes, which I wasn’t quite fond of initially. Now that I got a chance to see it in person, my initial thoughts have been confirmed. The Xbox Series X console is rather large and clunky in design, a rectangular box, but quite sleek. Microsoft kept things rather simple with the design by featuring a 4K UHD Blu-ray optical drive and a USB port in the front.
The console is supported by a non-removable and is used to help the console stand, another PC-like decision. You could lay it down horizontally, but it doesn’t look very appealing in that position. In fact, I had a bit of a hard time trying to figure out how to place it in my entertainment center. While it does stick out like a sore thumb, once you finally figure out your setup, it won’t cross your mind again.
The console’s back is also simple in design featuring two more USB ports, an ethernet port, HDMI 2.1 out, and a memory expansion slot where you can insert the $219.00 storage expansion card that Microsoft teamed up with Seagate to make. Basically, an added boost the 1TB storage that comes with the console, but you can only use about 802GB of it with a portion of it reserved for Quick Resume (I will touch on that further in the review). Also, by each port, there are raised Braile bumps, a nice accessibility touch.
The Xbox Series X’s PC tower-like design is more than likely on purpose. The console’s top where the fan lives underneath a large plastic vent gives off a glow thanks to Microsoft’s signature “Xbox-green” coating. During my play sessions, I am happy to report that I didn’t hear the fan at all, and this was while playing games like Marvel’s Avengers, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and Gears 5, which had the fans in both my PS4 and Xbox One S working hard.
Also, the console was never extremely hot after play sessions. That could be a testament to its design and letting it stand vertically, allowing for optimal airflow. My only concern would be is if you placed the Xbox Series X in a closed compartment where dust build-up could be a problem the later down the line. I highly recommend leaving the Xbox Series X in an open area where the air can flow freely.
I’m not in love with the Xbox Series X’s design, but I don’t hate it either. Also, the glossy black matte design will show fingerprints. So I advise you don’t touch the console too much and if you do, wear gloves.
A Slightly Updated Controller
When it comes to the Xbox Series X controller, Microsoft really didn’t stray too far from the Xbox One’s controller. Instead, they took what made the controller a fave among gamers and slightly updated it. The D-Pad found on the Xbox Elite controller is now standard. Textured grip, the much-needed share button, and a USB-C port are also new to the controller.
With the addition of the new share button, you will now be able to share screenshots and clips with your friends quickly. But, it’s still a painstaking process waiting for the clips and screenshot to be uploaded, and it’s still not a seamless experience like sharing on the PS4. But, it’s still a step in the right direction.
Load Times & Gameplay
The Xbox Series X is FAST, and I mean very F A S T. Thanks to the Xbox Series X vastly improved CPU paired with the SSD, load times are much quicker and, in some cases, almost non-existent. So that break, you had to possibly grab a quick drink or snack while a game is loading is gone.
Load times may differ for certain games. For example, I noticed Ori and The Will of The Wisps loaded a tad bit quicker than Gears 5 but only by just a few seconds. Every game I played on the Xbox Series X via Game Pass Ultimate loaded considerably faster compared to the Xbox One and Xbox One X. While PC gamers will be impressed that a console can pull off such a feat, console-only gamers will be very excited to experience shorter load times giving them more time to enjoy the games.
Speaking of enjoying games, I noticed immediately how much better the gaming experience is on the Xbox Series X thanks to Microsoft’s new Velocity Architecture helping to deliver better load times, significant CPU improvements, and, of course, the massive bump to 12 teraflops of GPU. Gears 5 and Gears Tactics were both optimized for Xbox Series X at the time of my review, and both games looked absolutely stunning and ran very smoothly at 60 FPS without experiencing any drops.
User Interface and Quick Resume
The UI (user interface) isn’t much to marvel at because it’s basically the same one from Xbox One X. I particularly was not a fan of the Xbox dashboard becuase I find it very noisy. It is much more responsive this time around, so navigating around it isn’t the painstaking chore it used to be. It still will take some getting used to.
Quick Resume is one of the Xbox Series X’s other amazing features. During my review, I noticed it didn’t work with every game, but when it did, it was a fantastic experience to be able to switch between games and instantly pick up right where you left off. You will know if the game has the Quick Resume feature enabled because there will be a label located in the top right corner alerting you.
The Xbox Series X can either be regarded as the perfect console for the gamer who refuses to play games on PC or serve as the bridge to PC gaming. For only $499, it allows gamers to enjoy the benefits only PC gamers once enjoyed without having to break the bank trying to build a gaming PC, which could set you back $1,000 or more. Gamers will be very pleased with new features like Quick Resume, the insanely fast load times, noticeably smoother gameplay, and stunning graphics, plus access to Microsoft’s expansive library games that will benefit from the Xbox Series X’s power.
The Xbox Series X isn’t a visual masterpiece due to its very boring design. But, it totally makes up for it with the power it boasts under the hood, which helps it deliver a truly next-gen gaming experience. Some hiccups like Microsoft sticking to the Xbox One dashboard and sharing still being a tad bit complicated exist but doesn’t hamper the experience one bit. Microsoft has delivered an exceptional console that will help lead the way for the foreseeable future.
Microsoft has successfully convinced me to not just be a one console guy. I am very excited to play games developed exclusively to run on the Xbox Series X to see the console’s power on full display.
The Xbox Series X officially launches on November 10.
Photo: Microsoft / Xbox Series X