It finally happened and yesterday was the day. Microsoft and team Xbox dropped some juicy information about their next-generation console, the Xbox Series X. Finally, all those silly rumours can be laid to rest and we can deal with the cold hard facts as we know them.
So, what makes the Xbox Series X tick? Well at the heart of this mechanical marvel is the AMD Zen 2 CPU which it’s 8 cores clock in at 3.8Ghz. Then there is the GPU, which is also a custom built AMD GPU, which is a RDNA 2.0 graphics chip that will output at 12 teraflops and has 52 CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) cores coming in at 1.825Ghz. On top of this we get 16 GB of GDDR6 RAM which is double the RAM that is currently in the Xbox One X. The Xbox team have also decided to make the leap to an SSD drive instead of the standard mechanical drives of previous gens. With the Series X we get a 1TB custom NVME SSD and to be honest, is this big enough?
With the size of the hard drive being only 1TB and games continuing to grow with each passing year, I feel that it’s simply not big enough. However, we are given the option of expanding on this with an integrated memory slot in the back of the console. We can slot in 1TB expansion cards which are currently being made by Seagate and more companies will start to make their own versions once the Series X has been released. My only concern about these cards is pricing and are they going to be ridiculously overpriced? Only time will tell, and we can only be hopeful that they are not too expensive.
The teams have made everything compact and when you watch the Digital Foundry video you get to see how everything fits in snugly with one another, it’s almost like compatible LEGO and I love it. To help cool this beast, Microsoft have placed a 130mm fan on the top which will pull air through the bottom and push it out of the top. This hopefully will keep the console cool when we are playing our favourite titles this holiday. It’s also going to matter how loud that fan is when running too in our own homes when we are gaming. They did a fantastic job with the Xbox One X cooling system and I feel confident that the team will repeat that level of dedication with Series X
Game developers will now have 16GB of RAM to play with and will have more freedom to work with when creating the worlds that they want with the aim of targeting 4K/60fps on their games and even 120fps in some cases. Though to reach these types of frames, it’s probably safe to say that it won’t be 4K but more aiming at 1440p or even an adaptable 4K with Checkerboard rendering. At this point in time, it’s more or less just guessed work and we have to again wait and see what it console can do in our own homes.
Developers will be using the overall 16GB of memory in two ways: there’s 10GB for fast GPU optimal memory, 3.5GB for standard memory, and 2.5GB reserved by the OS. All of this power will include the ability to expand storage through 1TB expansion cards at the rear of the console, with USB 3.2 external HDD support and a 4K Blu-ray drive. Microsoft is targeting overall performance at 4K 60fps, up to 120fps.
With all the tech babble out of the way, kind of, can the average gamer understand it all or will they notice any difference in terms of performance, graphics and gameplay? The short answer would be yes. The thing is, it really depends on how each developer decides to use the console to its strengths and how they want to utilise it. One of the biggest features you will notice straight off the bat will be the ridiculously fast load times. The Xbox team released a tech demo showing the load times of the Xbox Series X and the Xbox One X to show you how much of an improvement their next-gen console is. The video shows that State of Decay 2 loads up in just 11 seconds, while the Xbox One X loads in at around 55 seconds. It’s a huge deal and when it comes to playing in an open world title like Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3 and we are using fast travel. The loading screens should be almost non-existent, which is massive feature to have, as how often are we left waiting to get stuck back into our favourite games only to be greeted with loading screen after loading screen while we wait. Loading screens being a thing of the past would be a nice feature to have.
Another great feature that you will notice is the resume feature that lets you have multiple games instantly resume from a saved state. Which is a huge feature to have for people who love to game solo and with friends. Just picture it, you are playing some a game like Fable or Ori and the Will of the Wisps, when your friends pop online to play some Halo Infinite. You can jump onto Halo and play some games with friends and then come back and finish right where you left off on Fable or Ori, all in the matter of a couple of seconds. From the screenshots and videos we have seen, it looks like you can have up to 4 titles ready to quick resume, which apparently can also be done after the console as had an update or even if the console has been turned off for a few days. I do hope it’s true as with a family like mine, someone is always on the Xbox and this feature would come in handy, so that we can continue our games whenever we want without having to reload up our games etc.. Small miracles in technology.
Another huge factor for me in the news that we got with the Xbox Series X is Ray Tracing. What is ray tracing and what will achieve? Ray tracing is something new to us console gamers and it’s exciting to finally have it as a feature in our games. What it does is enable more realistic lighting effects to our worlds, improved shadows and effects that PC gamers have enjoyed for quite a while. Microsoft showed off some ray tracing features on Minecraft and it looks amazing how much it improves the overall look of the game. I have seen ray tracing working on games like Battlefield V on PC and it looks amazing and to finally have it come to Xbox and PlayStation consoles, will be something we can all finally appreciate it on our favourite titles.
I can’t wait to jump back into games like Gears 5 and hopefully Battlefield 5 with ray tracing added. Even with the added extra “enhancements” that we should get just with the Series X itself should be amazing. Game developers like CD Projekt Red have stated that those of us who pick up Cyberpunk 2077 on release, will get a free upgraded version of their game for the Xbox Series X. It’s also safe to say that many other developers may follow, and I believe that’s what publishers like Ubisoft have delayed their games, just so they can get their games ready for the new wave of consoles.
With the console being a monster, it’s great to see the team giving their controller more love and attention. The controller looks slightly smaller and seems to fit perfect in your hands, with the added grips on the controller’s bumpers and triggers. There is also a new SHARE button for those of us who love to capture our favourite moments from our games. I hope we can finally capture in HDR as well, as I have always had an issue with the Xbox One X when trying to capture video in HDR, it would always appear washed out.
The Series X controller also uses AA batteries and I am one that loves this. While an integrated battery pack would have been handy in terms of not having to look for batteries and just plug it in to your console to charge. I much prefer reaching for my rechargeable batteries and this is due to keeping wires down to a minimum. Microsoft is also allowing us to keep our controllers we have now and use them with the Series X. Some of us have our favourite controllers that we like to use and plus those of you who have already picked up the latest Elite 2.0 controllers need not worry since they will work too.
There is so much more to find out about the Xbox Series X and we should hopefully hear more about it in the coming months. June should be a big month and with E3 being cancelled, the Xbox team will be hosting a digital event to showcase their upcoming console and games that their studios have been working on. It’s definitely exciting times we are in now with what Microsoft are showing us and things are only going from strength to strength as we edge closer to June.