The Xbox Series X has arrived at the editorial office! We were really looking forward to testing it and comparing it to its “ancestors, the One S and One X. So, should we really fall for the new Microsoft console or wait a little longer for the console to refine itself with time ?
Test carried out by Sam Azzemou and Bruno Mathieu
Here it is finally, the one we have been talking about for almost two years: the Xbox Series X, formerly known as Project Scarlett, is making a big splash at the end of 2020. The console is distinguished by a unique design for a console, even if in this small game, its rival the PS5 is even more explosive. But the Series X is not confined to a simple “aesthetic” overhaul compared to the Xbox One S and Xbox One X. The console benefits froman improved heat dissipation system, while its controller benefits from a small refresh. But above all, it equips itself with unmatched performance for a game console, especially in terms of 4K and of rendering (long live ray-tracing?). And at the same time, she sees her reduced loading times.
In addition, in parallel with the launch of the Series X, Microsoft is taking the opportunity to offer a new offer called Xbox All Access, which allows you to purchase the console as a subscription and enjoy a free catalog of 100 games, catalog which regularly updated.
But is the Xbox Series X really ready to invest in the gaming world or will it take a few more months to really take advantage of all its capabilities? Either way, Microsoft’s console, unlike any other before it, is ready to snap up near the TV (but not necessarily inside the TV cabinet, we’ll get to that). We received the console before its release and before being able to test it for two weeks. So here is our big test of the one who has many assets to become the best console of all time … Or not?
Price and availability
Xbox Series X is available from November 10, 2020 at the price of € 499.99. A single color is currently available, but it’s a safe bet that Microsoft will quickly release variants and other collector’s editions of its console.
Xbox Series X can also be purchased as a subscription. In this case, it will cost you € 32.99 / month for 24 months, i.e. a cost price of € 791.76. This formula is called Xbox Game Access. The difference between the buy-now price and the 2-year subscription might seem like a lot, but for this price, you also getan Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription for 24 months. This is priced at $ 12.99 / month, with the first month costing just $ 1. Or a total amount of € 299.77 over 24 months. This corresponds, to around € 8, to the amount that would have to be spent to acquire the console alone and to take out a subscription to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate over 2 years. The Xbox Game Access offer is therefore advantageous if you take into account that there is only € 32.99 to pay in the first month (no deposit is required). See the end of the article to learn all about Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Finally, note that there is a variation of the new Microsoft console: the Xbox Series S. A little less powerful than its big sister and devoid of a Blu-Ray drive, the Series S is less bulky and above all appears at a much lower price: it is only worth € 299.99, i.e. a saving of 200 €. Here too, it is possible to acquire it as a subscription at the price of € 24.99 / month via Xbox All Access for 24 months. And again, you get access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for 2 years. The Xbox Series S will be the subject of a dedicated test in the coming days on the site.
Xbox Series X Datasheet
|CPU||3.8 GHz AMD Ryzen Zen 2 8-core|
|GPU||AMD Navi RDNA 2 – 12.15 Tflops – 52 CU at 1.825 GHz|
|RAM||16 GB GDDR6 SDRAM|
|RAM bandwidth||– 10 GB at 560 Gb / s
– 6 Gb at 336 Gb / s
|Storage||1 TB SSD – NVME|
|SSD transfer speed||2.4 Gb / s – 4.8 Gb / s with data compression|
|Optical drive||4K UHD Blu-Ray|
|Maximum framerate||4K in 120 FPS|
|Cloud Service||Microsoft xCloud|
|Backward compatibility||Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Xbox|
|Release date||November 10, 2020|
At 4.43 kg on the scale, 30.1 cm high and 15.1 cm wide, the Xbox Series X is undoubtedly one of the largest consoles of all time. If previous iterations of the Xbox have often stood out for their massive side, this is even truer for the Series X. The adjective “monolithic” with which Microsoft describes its console suits it perfectly.
Because this time, rather than opting for a longitudinal device, Microsoft has chosen to design a console all in height. The Xbox Series X is an all-black rectangular parallelepiped, which simply reveals a little green on its head. On the top of the console there is an imposing ventilation grid, which reveals the fan blades, as well as the cooler very logically located just below.
On the front, nothing really shocking, but nothing amazing either. We are dealing with a flat surface, provided with a small power button located on the front left part of the device. On the lower part is the Blu-Ray player which, like on the Xbox One, is in the form of a small slot and not a drawer. Just above, there is a small button to eject the disc. Finally, still on the front of the device, but at its right end is the pairing button with the controller, as well as a USB-A port.
At the back of the beast, there are two other USB-A ports, an HDMI output connector, an Ethernet connector, a power outlet and a dedicated port for a external storage. Two ventilation grids complete the whole on both sides of the different connectors. Here again, Microsoft has played the card of sobriety. Same thing on the right and left sides: on one side we have a perfectly flat surface with a simple Xbox logo, while on the other, we simply find 4 small pads that remind you that the console can also be place flat.
As Microsoft explains of its Xbox Series X and Series S, “their design follows function”. Clearly, if the Series X adopts such a “cubic” look, it is mainly because the console has been designed to offer the best possible heat dissipation. With its components worthy of a good PC dedicated to gaming (but not necessarily the most powerful), it seems that Microsoft had no other choice but to offer its console a decidedly massive form. If the device ultimately adopts a go-anywhere design, still plan for plenty of space on the TV cabinet or next to it. For our part, our TV cabinet being ready to accommodate only consoles placed lengthwise and not very thick, even laid flat, we had to put the Series X on a second small stool located next to the TV. While waiting to acquire a better arranged TV cabinet, it is better than nothing, even if it is not necessarily the most aesthetic configuration of the living room.
Finally, as mentioned during our unboxing of the Xbox Series X, inside the console box, we take advantage of a classic HDMI cable, the power outlet, the new controller and a game batteries for the latter.
A small detail to mention in this test: even if we did not notice any problem during our test phase, we advise you to put the Series X horizontally if you frequently use the optical drive to launch your old games, and even new ones. From experience, and especially to have seen both on PS2 and Xbox 360, leaving the console horizontal tends to damage optical discs over time.
Noise and heat dissipation
To properly cool its console, Microsoft has spared no efforts to design an advanced cooling system. The console benefits from a consequent ventilation system, the fan occupying almost the entire perimeter of the console. By approaching the hand from the top of the console, we also very well feel a little draft, something we were not really used to on old models or on competing consoles.
If the Xbox Series X makes a bit of noise and still heats up while gaming, we would expect worse. Note that some copies nevertheless seem to suffer from a thermal dissipation problem: if we are to believe some of our sources, the console would still heat up too much. This is not the case with our copy. Without being as quiet as the Xbox One S, the Series X doesn’t make an unbearable blower noise and seems to dissipate heat well.
Good point, finally: the fan being brought to regularly gather dust, Microsoft had the good idea to plan everything. A small screw-on hatch allows access to the fan, in order to clean it easily and as often as possible. Just tell yourself that there will be some maintenance to be done on the console if you decide to acquire it.
Controller: small changes that offer better ergonomics
At first glance, you hardly notice any difference between the old Xbox One controller and the Xbox Series X and S controller (both new consoles share the same game controller that comes in the box). However, a small button appears below the X button, near the button to call up the menu. This allows you to share an action in a game almost instantly: by pressing it, a side menu appears. With it, you can easily send a screenshot on Twitter or as a message to one of your Xbox contacts. In fact, owners of an Xbox Elite or Elite 2 controller already knew about this little button.
Another small difference between the old and the new controller: the directional pad adopts a new shape, again much closer to that of the controllers of the Xbox Elite range. This results in “angles” that are easier to squeeze. A small change that fans of fighting games will no doubt appreciate.
For the rest, the controller is a bit more compact than its previous iteration. The Series X controller is more compact, slightly smaller, and less tall than the Xbox One. Microsoft also added a gripping coating to the back of the controller. A welcome idea to counter the problems of sweating hands. The triggers are also coated with a surface that prevents finger slippage.
Let’s say it right away: the interface of the Xbox Series X is one of its main strengths. On the other hand, there is really nothing new compared to the One S or the One X: it is exactly the same layout, the same options, the same configuration possibilities. With the exception of the page dedicated to Kinect, which has of course disappeared since the accessory is not supported by the Series X, you should not be disoriented by the environment of the new console if you already have the previous generation.
If you’re new to the Xbox environment, let’s take a quick tour of the owner. Remember that the Series X OS is based on Windows 10, as it was already for the Xbox One, One S and One X.
Games library: non-existent exclusives, but an impressive impressive catalog
Let’s not be careful with our words: the Xbox Series X is without a doubt the console with the largest catalog of video games from launch. How has Microsoft managed this sleight of hand when the number of new games coming out at the same time as the console is starving? The explanation is simple, but it is nevertheless a real small technological feat: the Xbox Series X is “compatible” with all Microsoft consoles released for almost 20 years. Clearly, the Series X is capable of launching games published on Xbox (the 1re of the name), but also those released on Xbox 360 and Xbox One (which includes the One S and the One X). Only titles that use the Kinect camera are pushed out of the very long list of games compatible with the Series X, since the accessory is not supported by the new console.
But is this a real backward compatibility or a kind of adaptation of the games carried out on a case-by-case basis? This is what we will see just below.
Backward compatibility that doesn’t look like backward compatibility
As announced, Microsoft has gone to great lengths to ensure that the Xbox Series X is compatible with many games from its three previous consoles. However, unlike the company’s announcements, this is not true backward compatibility. This is especially true for the Xbox 360 and Xbox Classics (the very first model, the one released in 2001) whose games are not natively and directly supported. And the list of supported games is far from complete. However, we believe it will be more and more so over time.
Here is our experience. We have chosen a panel of twenty games, with a large majority coming from the Xbox 360 catalog. And a few titles come from the Japanese catalog of the console (remember that the Xbox 360 is zoned and that a European version does not can natively read Japanese games). In our panel, we find Blue Dragon, The Witcher 2, Rise of the Argonauts, Sleeping Dogs, Darksiders, Mass Effect 2, Lego Harry Potter Year 1 to 4, Lost Odyssey, the first Fable, etc.
First observation, not all games are over. The console recognizes the type of game, but does not launch it. When a game does not play, the console offers to go to the Xbox site where there is an official list of backward compatible games (a list based on that of the Xbox One). On the Xbox Classics, you will find some Star Wars titles (including the two Knights of the Old Republic), some Splinter Cell, Dead to Rights, Jade Empire or the legendary Panzer Dragoon Orta. 39 games are supported today. There is neither Fable nor Halo. Their Xbox 360 remakes are compatible.
On the Xbox 360, the situation is better. 568 games are backward compatible, including many titles sold in physical version, but also some titles from the Xbox Live Arcade (like From Dust and Costume Quest). Among our tested games, Blue Dragon, Lost Odyssey, The Witcher 2, Darksiders worked. Lego Harry Potter is one of the incompatible. The reason is simple: an improved compilation has been released on Xbox One. It’s the one that will be backwards compatible, not the two episodes released on Xbox 360. Same thing for the Lego Star Wars: the two episodes on Xbox Classics are not compatible, but The Complete Saga compilation is good.
At this time, we don’t think Xbox Series X is really backward compatible with Xbox Classics and Xbox 360. Otherwise, we would just insert a disc and install the game on the console’s hard drive. Instead, when you insert a supported game disc, the console recognizes the title and offers to install an “update” that is the size of the game. In practice, you will simply download a version. optimized game and install it on your SSD. To start the game, you will need to insert the original disc.
This is not what we call backward compatibility. When Sony launched the PS2, you could insert a PS1 game into the console and start a game, just like it was a PS1. The very first generation of PS3, the big one with a 20 GB or 60 GB hard drive, was also backward compatible with the PS2. Here, the philosophy is totally different. You will have to wait until a title is compatible before you can enjoy it on your console. In addition, titles that were not marketed in your geographic area will remain inaccessible. The zoning is therefore still there. He just doesn’t see himself.
The Xbox Series X offers a great experience with games from previous generations. First, compared to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One, the load times are clearly much shorter. We won’t go so far as to say that they are non-existent, but the speed is there. Next, we note real efforts to upscale the display quality of games. On The Witcher 2, the intro sequence is masterful, even on a 4K TV. Be careful though, the graphical improvement is not so obvious on all games. Expect some runny textures.
The advantages of Xbox Game Pass
As mentioned at the very beginning of the article, the Xbox Series X can be acquired as a subscription for € 32.99 / month for 2 years. Dubbed Xbox All Access, this offer gives free access to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate during the same period. 24 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you can’t refuse. Beyond that, you will have to pay € 12.99 / month to extend the subscription.
“But what is Xbox Game Pass Ultimate anyway? “Is the question we can legitimately ask, as the service is recent and perhaps still lacking in notoriety. The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is an offer that gives you access to hundreds of playable titles on Xbox, but also on PC and, and this is a big novelty, on Android. The service offers direct access from the Cloud to the hundreds of games mentioned above. Nothing is downloaded, since the games are streamed on your smartphone, a good connection is nevertheless necessary.
The Game Pass Ultimate also allows you to recover all games developed by Xbox Game Studio on the day of their release. Finally, the subscription includes free access to Xbox Live Gold (worth € 6.99 / month), which allows you to download games from Xbox Games with Gold (4 old games offered every month) and offers a access to the console’s multiplayer mode.
Clearly, this is undoubtedly one of the console’s biggest assets: for a ridiculous starting price, we have a large catalog of games right from the start. Enough to be able to wait for truly optimized titles to come out, even if it will be necessary to wait until 2021 to enjoy games like Halo Infinite.