The new generation of consoles is almost here, but it still seems like these systems are a bit of a mystery. While Sony has been very tight-lipped with their specs, Microsoft has begun to talk openly about how their new console is going to function. With plenty of information about what’s under the hood and how players will interact with the system, there are nevertheless a few mysteries left surrounding this brand-new gaming system.
When it comes to a new piece of hardware like the Series X, knowing the hardware spec is quite essential. It’s what will give players an idea of what the system will bring to the table when it finally releases and provide a point of fair comparison between the Series X and the Playstation 5. Microsoft has been relatively forthcoming about what is under the hood for the Series X, and the specs do suggest that the console will be quite powerful.
Microsoft is using a custom 8-core AMD Zen 2 processor in the Series X, which is going to provide some unique benefits to developers. Though this is probably not the most exciting feature for the average player, it’s proof that Microsoft is looking at its Xbox line as something very similar to its PC gaming business. The use of AMD’s processor definitely shows the ease of transition between its games on PC and its games on the consoles, making cross-platform development look a little bit easier in the future.
What this also means is that the system is going to be blistering fast, with the architecture of the new processor allowing the system to operate at around 12 TFLOPs. This is about double the current power of the Xbox One X, making it a huge leap forward for Microsoft.
The Series X is also going to feature a Solid State Drive instead of a traditional hard drive, which is going to have huge implications both for the speed at which games load and how they are played. Microsoft notes that the addition of an SSD is going to cut down on loading time significantly, with open-world games potentially no longer having to hide loading behind loading screens or corridors.
Finally, there will also be a new Xbox Controller for Series X. As has tended to be Microsoft’s design philosophy since the original controller, this one is going to be more of an upgrade than a radical departure. The new Series X controller is going to be virtually identical to the Xbox One controller, albeit with a new D-pad taken from the Elite line and a dedicated share button. This controller will work on not only the Series X but also Windows PCs and the Xbox One. Current Xbox One controllers will also be supported on the Series X.
It wouldn’t be a new gaming system if it couldn’t hit some of the more critical gaming buzzwords, and the enhanced power of this system does mean that it can do a few of the things that next-gen gamers have been waiting for.
One of the big jumps forward is that the system should be able to support games at up to 120fps. This is a giant leap forward from the Xbox One, which often seemed like it struggled to run games at 60FPS. Though it’s not quite as much of a leap up from the One X, the fact that the console is looking to match frames per second with some of the higher-end gaming PCs on the market really shows how seriously Microsoft is taking the Series X’s place in the gaming market.
The Series X is also expected to output games natively in 4K, but it may be significantly more powerful than even that. While going to 4K was a massive push for the One X, it looks like the Series X will be able to handle going to 8K without any real difficulty. While there certainly isn’t a lot of chatter about anyone developing games at this resolution rate or any significant signs that consumer TVs are going to start shooting for 8K resolution in the future, this functions as a hint that Microsoft is looking to “future proof” its new console in a way that it didn’t with its older systems.
On the aesthetics front, the Series X should also be able to pull off some reasonably substantial tricks. The system will support Variable Rate Refresh, which will match the refresh rate of the console to the television or monitor into which it has been plugged. The system will also support Variable Rate Shading, which helps with picture quality and rendering speed at the same time. The system even has options to deal with latency and other matters that tend to show up in competitive gaming, though not all of these features are going to be quite so important to most consumers.
Finally, it should be noted that the system will support the most important of the current aesthetic buzzwords – ray tracing. Games will look better than ever before, with a tremendous amount of work going into balancing looks and performance for the new console’s games.
One of the most significant bits of news about the Series X is that it is not going to have the traditional launch divide that has been seen in years past. For at least the early part of its existence, the new Series X will simply add further improvements or features to the existing Xbox One Games. Microsoft will be making use of a new feature called Smart Delivery on their own games to ensure that players will only have to buy a single copy of each of their games and that gameplay experiences will be optimized for whichever console the player chooses to use.
There are, however, going to be at least a few games that are planned to be released at around the same time as the new console. These games might be playable on the older system, but there’s no doubt that they are being developed with the Series X in mind. While there are certainly plenty of third-party titles that will be announced around the release date of the console, there are already a few in-house titles that have been announced by Microsoft.
The biggest release is, of course, Halo Infinite. The flagship series of the Xbox is getting a new release to coincide with the latest hardware, and it looks like one of the more ambitious entries in the series’ long history. While it’s not quite clear exactly what the story of the game will be, it’s poised to make a massive statement upon the launch of the Series X.
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2
The other big name that’s been released is Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. The sequel to the surprise hit psychological action game; this is not only a significant get from the Xbox Series X but one of the more anticipated games of the next year. Developed by Ninja Theory, it looks to leverage the new hardware to make an even more memorable impact on players during the holiday season.
Given Microsoft’s success with backward compatibility this console generation, it does make sense that the company would choose to carry it forward during this next generation. In fact, it actually looks like Microsoft is going to be taking a big step forward with its current model, ensuring that every game that’s playable on the Xbox One will be able to be played on the Series X. This means that players will have not only access to Xbox One games but also a growing library of Xbox 360 and Original Xbox Games at the same time.
Another major feature that has recently been revealed is the Quick Resume. This feature will allow players to resume multiple games from suspended states even after the console has been turned off. This feature seems like it’s ideal for those who share consoles with friends or family members or even for those who try to balance multiple games at once. Right now, the number of suspendable games is a bit nebulous, but more information will be forthcoming.
The Release Date
There’s actually still quite a bit consumers don’t know about Xbox Series X, and most of those things have to do with the process of buying the console. As of March 2020, there is still not a definitive release date for the console – it is expected during Holiday 2020, which can mean a release window anywhere between very late October and Christmas of 2020. It seems like a safe bet that the system will probably hit shelves before Black Friday of 2020, but recent issues with suppliers in China could theoretically cause Microsoft to miss this window.
It should be noted that this lack of a specific release date has impacted pre-orders. As of the date of this article, it’s impossible to pre-order an Xbox Series X. The closest that consumers can get to that point is a promise that existing All Access members will be able to upgrade their consoles sometime around the final release date of the system.
The other big unknown is the price of the system. Microsoft has been incredibly quiet about the actual cost of the system. Analysts have their own thoughts, but there are actually a variety of different price points at which the new system might arrive. Figuring out which one is a matter of trying to figure out what Microsoft’s strategy is going to be during the next console generation.
It seems like the price point for the system is likely to come in somewhere around $499. This was the price point for the Xbox One on its original release and the release price for the Xbox One X, so it seems very likely that Microsoft will want to continue down the same path. The increased price of components does make it possible that Microsoft may raise the price by a bit, though. There are some analysts who can’t really see the system launching for anything less than $600, at least unless the One X gets a significant price drop before the Series X is released.
This seems like a question that is unlikely to be answered until Sony decides on a price point for its Playstation 5. The two companies seem to be playing a game of chicken at the moment insofar as pricing is concerned, with neither looking to have a higher price point. If Sony announces its system at $499, there’s actually a possibility that the Series X will launch a bit lower – probably around $450.