“Hey, honey… you are finally here”. That was my reaction when I received the Xbox Series X review unit a few days back.
There has been huge interest in both the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5, both pandemic launches gamers have been waiting for. Also, I have had a lot of queries from people on how the two stack up against each other.
Here is my review of the Xbox Series X.
Microsoft Xbox Series X price in India: Rs 49,990
Xbox Series X: Minimalistic design
The Xbox Series X looks way better than the PlayStation 5. While the PS5 looks retro-futuristic, the Xbox Series X has a simplistic design. In fact, my love for its industrial design has grown over time. Some may say it looks like a mini-fridge, and while I completely agree, the fact is that the machine blends well into the entertainment center — whether you keep it vertically or horizontally unlike the PS5 which is a more cumbersome device.
I, somehow, feel that the Series X is designed to keep in a vertical position and has the same height as the Xbox One X. But it’s much wider and takes up a little more space. In the end, it’s a big, thick black plastic box. The sides are smooth, while the top features the venting array. It’s there for a purpose: to maximise airflow.
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The front of the console has a slot-loading optical drive, while the Xbox logo adorns the power button in the top left corner. In terms of ports and connectivity, the Series X offers three USB 3.1 Gen ports (one on the front, and two on the back), an ethernet port, and an HDMI 2.1 port.
There is also an expansion slot, which can be found at the rear. For a system that packs in so much power, it’s astonishing to find that the Series X isn’t as big and bulky as the PlayStation 5.
Xbox Series X: Performance, quiet console
The Xbox Series X is a giant leap over the original Xbox One in terms of performance, and I really meant it. Just look at the raw specifications of the Series X: an eight-core AMD Zen 2 processor running at 3.8GHz, 12-teraflop GPU, and 16GB GDDR6 memory, and a 1TB Custom NVMe SSD. The full specs make the Xbox Series X one of the most powerful Xbox consoles Microsoft has ever made, even dwarfing the PlayStation 5’s specs. Sure, the Xbox Series X is a powerful console, does it translate to anything meaningful in terms of experience? The answer is ‘Yes’, and I will tell you how.
If you are someone who owned the Xbox One in the past, you will feel the difference between that console and the Series X. The next-gen upgrades are clearly visible, with loading times reduced significantly. Everything from loading screens to UI animations feels snappy. Perhaps the biggest reason to pick the Xbox Series X is the console’s SSD. Dirt 5, one of the enhanced titles for the Series X/S took approximately 24 seconds to open on my review unit. Yakuza 6: Song of Life also boots up instantly and runs smoothly on the Series X.
The visuals on the Series X are also a step up from the original Xbox One or Xbox One S. While playing Forza Horizon 4, perhaps the best racing games at the moment, the Series X’s graphics fidelity was on the display. I ran the game at 4K 60 fps on my 4K UHD TV, and boy the graphics blew me away.
The catalogue of games that are optimised for the Series X/S is increasing, and titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War, Gears 5, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps try to take advantage of the systems’ horsepower, with rich visuals, faster loading times and realistic graphics thanks to ray tracing.
But there are games like Dirt 5 and Devil May Cry 5 Special Edition that can be played in 4K with frame rates at 120 frames per second. However, to run a compatible game at 4K 120 fps, you need to own a 4K TV that can achieve 120fps. That’s a significant investment on top of a console which costs Rs 50,000. But I must say the Xbox Series X, unlike the Series S, is designed for 4K TVs in mind.
The Series X ships with 1TB of SSD, and while it may look like a lot of space, in reality, the SSD starts filling up space quickly. I installed Dirt 5 and Yakuza 6 on my Series X on day one, and pretty quickly the size of the console’s SSD reduced to 699.4 GB. That said, the Xbox Series X’s 802GB of base usable storage is still better than just 667GB of usable space one would get on the PS5. Thankfully, Microsoft does allow you to expand an additional 1TB using a Seagate Storage Expansion Card into the back of the system but the solution isn’t cheap. You can, of course, use a USB hard drive or SSD over USB 3.1 but the internal SSD would always deliver faster loading times.
One of the things I liked about the Series X is that it doesn’t run hot. Even after long gaming sessions, the console remained cool. This is a major improvement over the previous generation console.
Xbox Series X: User interface, controller
Unlike the PS5 which has a redesigned user interface, the UI on the Xbox Series X reminded me of the old interface on the Xbox One. The familiarity is definitely there, but it’s no more a clunky user interface. Just press the Xbox button on the controller, and it takes you to the home screen. Searching a game on Game Pass or the Store and jumping from one menu to another has been simplified. My favorite part of Series X is the quick resume feature. It essentially suspends the game you are in and lets you start other games. The quick resume feature reminds me of how a suspended app works on your smartphone.
At first, the controller that comes with the Xbox Series X doesn’t look different from the one you get with the Xbox One. However, there are small changes that make a huge impact on how you use the controller with the Series X. The form factor has been slightly tweaked, and I think the controller now fits perfectly in smaller hands. Having a tactile grip on the back is more comfortable. This makes long gaming sessions more enjoyable. Another change is the new capture button that sits between the menu and view buttons, below the guide button. The more visible change comes in the form of the D-pad which has a circular, concave shape. It feels clicky, accurate, much more improved to handle fighting games. While I do find the controller impressive, it is no match to the PS5’s DualSense which is at another level.
Xbox Series X: Exclusive games, Game Pass
I remember when the original Xbox One was announced, the console did struggle with first-party, exclusive games. The lack of high-profile games on the Xbox One gave Sony the edge over Microsoft’s console with the mighty PlayStation 4. With the PS5, Sony is once again using the same tactic, while Microsoft is positioning the Series X as the hub of services.
If you ask whether one should buy the Xbox Series X for exclusive titles, my answer to you is No. To date, Microsoft hasn’t promised many first-party games for the Series X/S. Yes, “Halo Infinite” is coming but it will only arrive towards the end of the year. So where are the killer games on the Series X?
You won’t get to play the “Uncharted” series or “God of War” on the Series X, but Microsoft is promising access to the Game Pass service, which basically allows users to install and play hundreds of games for a monthly fee, similar to how Netflix works. The reason why Microsoft recently shelled out $7.5 billion to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Doom and Fallout studio Bethesda Softworks, is all about beefing up its Game Pass catalogue. Microsoft now owns 23 first-party game studios, and the company will keep shopping for big and small developers. I believe the situation might change for Microsoft and its ability to offer first-party games for the Xbox Series X/S, but at the moment the Series X lacks games that justify its high cost. The PS5 also suffers from the same issues, but Sony does promise a long list of exclusive games that will eventually come to the console.
Xbox Series X: Should you buy it?
The Xbox Series X is no doubt an impressive next-generation console. Not only does it allow users to play games at high frame rates, but also promises backward compatibility with games from all of Microsoft’s previous consoles as well as 3D audio to create a more immersive gaming experience. The Series X is not only a faster console, it also pushes the graphics and frame rate improvements across games. Games load quickly thanks to the SSD, something even Sony promises with the PS5. The fact that the Xbox Series X delivers a performance that was previously possible on only high-end PCs is a big deal. If you own a 4K TV, the Xbox Series X does make sense, provided you are paying a monthly subscription for Game Pass. For now, the main problem with the Xbox Series X/S is the lack of exclusives. Well, that might change in the near future.