When Microsoft introduced the Xbox One in 2013, it was a disaster. They made the wrong moves and said the wrong things while introducing their system then and as a result, it made me buy a PlayStation 4 before eventually getting an Xbox One.
This generation, however, it seems like Microsoft went back to the drawing board and learned from its mistakes. For this new console, they went with acquiring game studios to build their exclusive library and introducing new programs to their platform.
And with the availability of new-gen consoles, I’m fortunate enough to get my hands on Microsoft’s new and most anticipated console — the Xbox Series X.
Design and Aesthetics
We won’t go with the entire unboxing but I just want to quickly mention one aspect. On the outside, there’s nothing too special about it. You have the image of the console as well as some features and specs printed on and we’ve also got Master Chief at the back.
But tilt it on its belly and open the lid and it’s like opening a chest in a game before it reveals the console itself — just like an in-game treasure. This small, but carefully planned presentation just makes unboxing it way cooler if you ask me.
With the console itself, I really like the compact and minimalist design of the Series X. The thick block design is subtle and easily blends well with its environment either on its side or standing up. This is the very opposite of its competitor, the Sony PlayStation 5, which stands out and demands attention with its size and design.
There are a couple of small issues that bother me a little with the general design of the Series X. The plastic body of the box is a bit prone to fingerprints while the power button itself has sort of a cheap hollow click to it upon pressing, unlike its predecessor’s power button (the Xbox One) which is touch-sensitive.
Additionally, when the Series X is placed on its side there is no way of taking out the big round base stand either, and it just looks awkward. But I do like its concave design on top with green accents on the vents that make it seem like it’s illuminating a green light even when it’s powered off.
Up front, you’ll see the power button, disc drive, and USB port while at the back it has two more USB ports, HDMI and Ethernet ports, the power input, and its Seagate external SSD slot.
If you own an Xbox One, you’ll probably feel like you’re booting up your old console as everything looks familiar with the user interface of the dashboard. For some, this could be disappointing because it might not feel that you just had an expensive upgrade.
However, Microsoft has decided to stick with its interface for continuity across generations so there’s not much we can do about that. Although in the company’s defense, they have been tweaking it constantly throughout the seven years of their last-gen console lifespan. It may not be a new experience for old Xbox One owners, but it’s concretely tested throughout the years.
One major thing I noticed was it’s now faster to load between different menu pages especially when jumping in and out of a game.
Set up and data migration
The setup starts with your smartphone and a prompt will make you open the accompanying app on your phone. From there, you can choose whether to perform a fresh setup or migrate all your data from an older generation to the Series X while it prepares and updates its firmware.
I migrated mine from the Xbox One and the entire process was easy and seamless. Transferring games was also a breeze if your old Xbox One is still connected to your WiFi as you can port them over via network transfer to the new Xbox Series X.
Another method for when you have games stored on an external hard drive is to simply plug it into the new console which will still be recognized.
From there, you can either play games through your external hard drive or transfer them to the new internal SSD memory of the Series X.
Even when loading saved files from old games on the Series X, there were no issues and games will seamlessly sync and download your data from the cloud. I really appreciate Microsoft’s efforts in giving gamers a smooth and issue-free transition.
Performance, Speed, and Features
Though it feels remarkably familiar when you start up the new console, you will still see the upgrade in power through speed just as its 12.1 teraflops of computational power comes into play. For comparison, that’s twice as powerful as the Xbox One X and also a tad better than the PlayStation 5 with the same US$ 499 price tag.
During gameplay, you’ll really see the difference in graphics performance especially while playing a game that’s optimized for the Series X.
The new standard in console gaming is 4K resolution with a refresh rate of 60Hz. I know that PC rigs go for higher rates but as a console gamer, playing on 60Hz is already a noticeable and welcome upgrade. Some games also have the option to play at a refresh rate of 120Hz but you’d need to sacrifice a bit of resolution.
Another thing that stands out is its new solid-state drive. Loading times are exceptionally faster — within only just seconds, your game is all ready to play. Sometimes I don’t even notice that I’m already at the starting menu.
Additionally, the Series X supports ray tracing which allows for better simulation of lighting effects in games. Unfortunately, since the launch title games have been delayed, there are not many Series X-optimized games that we can test right now and we’ll just have to wait when they become available to fully experience its performances for ray tracing.
Other features I personally found useful include the Quick Resume option. You can now jump out of one game and open a new one while leaving the previous game suspended. And anytime you want to switch back to it, you can easily do so just like jumping from a phone’s app to another.
This allowed me to pause my game while playing Cyberpunk 2077 after I got invited by friends to play Destiny 2. I got out of my first game, opened another, played for a few rounds, and within seconds jumped back to my original game exactly where I left off. I even tried suspending up to five games at a time and the Series X still ran fast and without hiccups.
Another commendable feature is Microsoft’s Smart Delivery. It’s a technology that allows you to buy a game once and whether you play it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X, you’re getting the right version of that game for the Xbox you’re playing on.
This means that when you buy Dirt 5 on Xbox One for example, you wouldn’t have to buy the game again once you get a Series X. It will also automatically enhance the resolution and frame rate of the game as you play on either console.
Of course, backward compatibility is a feature that we won’t miss out on. It’s not a first for the console since the older Xbox One already had this feature. But with it, you get access to the library of the classic Xbox, Xbox 360, and now the Xbox One.
When it comes to the console’s noise levels, it’s really quiet even while playing a game that requires some serious processing power. It doesn’t get too hot as well and maintains a cooler temperature than my Xbox One after hours of game time.
I believe the controller is the most important component of the entire gaming experience since it’s the bridge that connects us to the virtual world.
Having said that, there’s nothing much that has changed with the new Xbox Series X controller and it almost looks and feels the same as the Xbox One’s. That’s not a bad thing, though, since it’s ergonomically built and can be comfortably used for hours.
There have been subtle changes to the design, though, and one is the addition of textured bumps found on the shoulder buttons and triggers which add a bit more grip to the controller. It’s also slightly smaller when compared to its predecessor.
Another update on the Series X controller is its new Share button. Yes, Microsoft is the last of the big three console companies to add this feature, but this still is an appreciated addition for Xbox players. Better late than never I’d say.
More changes done on the controller’s design is the D-pad as it closely mirrors their Elite Wireless Controller. It is a hybrid of a four-way and eight-way directional pad with a concave design that’s comfortable for the thumb. Furthermore, the controller DLI (Dynamic Latency Input) feature should communicate in perfect sync with your console. This means that hardcore first-person shooter gamers will be rewarded better using their lightning-fast reflexes.
Aside from that, the new controller will be compatible with more devices as well. The Series X now has Xbox Wireless Radio feature which will allow you to connect with IOS, Android, and PC devices.
On top of that, the new controller can now remember multiple devices so you don’t have to sync them every time you play. It’s just not confirmed yet how many devices it can remember. This feature is great especially now that Microsoft is introducing its new service called Project xCloud that lets you stream Xbox games on an Android device anywhere, using a controller you’re familiar with.
Additionally, the new controller now has USB-C connectivity for charging with a wide range of headset compatibility just like the previous controller. And speaking of the previous controllers, you can still use them on the new Series X together with the current Elite Controller, and the opposite is also possible — using Series X controllers on an older Xbox One. It’s great that Microsoft went for this so customers won’t be forced to buy a new controller to accommodate more players.
I’m really enjoying the Xbox Series X so far, but the only disappointment I have is there are no first-party launch game titles to showcase the new console’s capabilities. Because of this, we will have to wait until next year to get the full experience of the new Xbox Series X. Thankfully, because of Xbox Smart Delivery, we can have a slight taste of the next-gen experience to pacify our excitement for now.
Most of you might be thinking about whether to buy this or the PS5. While both consoles have their pros and cons, the Xbox Series X is the unassuming console that just sits there unsuspiciously but churns out speedy performances with useful features.
The Series X is quiet and compact in size for the power it carries. Comparing its specs side by side with the Sony PlayStation 5 also shows that it has more crunching power for the same price of US$ 499 (though it’s more expensive here in the Philippines).
On top of that, it gives you convenient features like Quick Resume that lets you jump in and out of multiple games. I’m excited to see game developers unlock the Series X’s full potential in future games.