Review Xbox Series X: the monster has arrived and is no joke

It is bizarre to think that 7 years have passed so quickly. It seems that a short time ago we were excited to see the 8th generation of consoles, which was the first to bring social sharing features, streams and captures to the internet natively. Now, the new (and 9th) generation is among us.

Initially unveiled as Project Scarlett at E3 2019, the Xbox Series X was the pioneer to have its initial details revealed, bringing a generational leap that raised contemporary PC flags – like hardware-accelerated ray tracing, increased bandwidth on a new AMD architecture and even a new promise: to bring NVMe SSDs to consoles.

This is something that can dramatically alter the way games work, removing loading times and tricks that mask loading screens, as well as changing the game design of the future.

Also check out the Xbox Series S review

With the dream of standardizing 4K and 60 fps on consoles, bringing the possibility of 120 fps on certain titles and even creating the perfect experience for backwards compatibility, the Xbox Series X is a great promise from Microsoft. But how is the quality of the new generation games? Is the interface more fluid? Do the results really bring all the promises we saw?

Check out our full review for answers to these and many other questions about the Xbox Series X.

Video review:

Technical specifications: a monster is among us

There is much to be discussed here, but first let’s get to the basics: the technical specifications of the Xbox Series X.

The Microsoft console comes equipped with a custom AMD chip with RDNA 2 architecture that is capable of delivering 12 Teraflops of raster graphics processing on the GPU, a calculation that comes from 52 computational units at a frequency of 1,825 MHz. On the CPU side, we have a AMD Zen 2 processor with 3.6 GHz clock speeds up to 3.8 GHz in simultaneous multi-thread mode. As such, both components make a giant leap from the 1.31 Teraflops GCN architecture, with 12 computational units at just 853 Mhz and the original Xbox One’s 1.75 GHz Jaguar processor. Even in relation to the Xbox One X, the jump is also great, leaving the Jaguar of 2.23 GHz and GPU of 40 computational units of 1,172 MHz, which resulted in 6 Teraflops.

Xbox Series X (2020)

Xbox One (2013)

CPU

Custom Zen 2 8 cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz with multithread)

Jaguar 8-core @ 1.75 GHz

GPU

Custom RDNA 2 12 TFLOPS, 52 computational units @ 1.825 GHz

1.31 TFLOPS cutomized GCN, 12 computational units @ 853 MHz

RAM

16 GB GDDR6

8 GB DDR3

RAM memory transfer

10GB @ 560 GB / s, 6GB @ 336 GB / s

8 GB @ 68.3 GB / s

Internal storage

1TB SSD NVMe

500 GB HDD

Data transfer rate

2.4 GB / s and 4.8 GB / s for unzipped files

Optical drive

4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive

Full HD Blu-Ray Drive

Weight

4.45 kg

3.5 kg

Dimensions

151 x 151 x 301 mm (width, depth and height)

333 x 274 x 79 mm (width, depth and height)

Main entries:

  • 1 HDMI 2.1 port

  • 3x USB 3.1

  • SSD expansion slot

  • Ethernet output

  • Power output

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In the internal memories, we see several differences too: the Xbox One was equipped with 8 GB DDR3, while the Xbox One X had 12 GB GDDR5 and now the Xbox Series X has 16 GB GDDR6. This guarantees more RAM for the interface and games, as well as a much higher data transmission speed, helping with system fluidity, loading elements in games and much more.

On the storage side, the Xbox Series X debuts the use of SSDs on consoles, but not any SSD: the device comes equipped with 1 TB NVMe with 2.4 GB / s transfer and up to 4.8 GB / s of compressed data .

It is worth remembering that the 1 TB SSD has, in practice, only 800 GB free. In a generation in which games tend to get bigger and bigger, internal storage will continue to be a problem again, as no more games run on discs. This time, external hard drives are only for backwards compatibility, and that brings back loadings times from past generations, of course.

Increasing your SSD space will not come cheap: the 1 TB expansion card officially costs R $ 2,299 in Brazil, exactly at the time of writing this review, almost half the value of the device. And considering that most new features use SSD, eventually it will be a necessity.

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However, looking purely at numbers is not what the reality of the new generation shows us. It has become common to use the famous teraflops as a benchmark, but the reality is that they show only one side of the equation. Especially because, if this were the only metric, in practice the Xbox Series S would be less powerful than the One X, which is not the reality. What matters is what is under the hood: a new architecture on the graphics chip and a generational leap in the AMD line.

What we really see is a powerful new generation console capable of running many games to come, which benefits from a new architecture to bring unprecedented experiences in the future. At this point, it is already possible to see some of these life improvements in practice, but relax that we have already talked about it.

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System usability: do not touch the winning team (but no news)

Although we are seeing a huge generational leap, your experience when turning on the Xbox Series X for the first time may not be surprising, as the interface remains the same as that of Xbox One and One X. In reality, this is not a bad thing. .

The Xbox One dashboard update came recently and paved the way for what was coming. What actually happens is that the new generation interface has also reached the current generation, but is better optimized on the Xbox Series X.

What you will find in the new console from Microsoft is an extremely fluid ecosystem, without gagging, due to the use of SSD and RAM memories at very high speeds. Yes, the experience may be the same, but it is best used in the Series X. When testing the old consoles extensively and bringing comparisons, it is clear how old hardware sometimes suffers with menus and transitions.

One of the strengths of the new Xbox is in a new feature called Quick Resume. Basically, the video game takes advantage of the very high speed of the SSD to create game “save states”, allowing you to resume other games that you had left out, only at the point where you left off. What happens behind the scenes is that the game space allocated in RAM is cached on the SSD, so it is as if the game is still running, but elsewhere.

The transition is very fast, lasting 6 to 8 seconds to get back to playing exactly where it left off, without having to reload everything again. It is a very good resource, which brings convenience and comfort to people who usually play several titles at the same time. In fact, you can even turn off the console as it will still work.

However, there is still a little lack of clarity in the operation of the resource. In theory, Quick Resume works with 4 to 12 games, but the amount depends on which ones are using the functionality. New generation games demand more resources and make the amount more limited, while backwards compatible games need less resources.

Ideally, the Xbox Series X should have a tab dedicated to Quick Resume to let us know precisely which titles are using the feature. When reviewing, it is always a matter of luck whether Quick Resume will be activated.

Games like Yakuza Like a Dragon, for example, often leave Quick Resume for no reason. In practice, it is a great resource, but not having an organization of it is a false security: it is easy to lose progress with games that stop being in Quick Resume and it is very bad not to be able to manage what uses or not the functionality. This can certainly be improved through software updates, but for now it is a criticism of the current model.

Games: How does the main attraction of the Xbox Series X work?

Enough to go into the more technical details, after all, consoles are made to play, right? So the Xbox Series X has a crossgen game lineup, meaning games that have been released for the current generation of Xbox One and PS4 as well.

Unlike what we saw in 2013 with several titles that used the power of new machines, like Ryse, Dead Rising 3 and Forza Motorsport 5, this time we have games already released that use a spare firepower for new features.

THELineup of exclusive Xbox One games at launch

The turbocharged CPU and GPU can accomplish things that the old generation simply couldn’t, adding various graphics features, such as rendering distance, better textures using the additional VRAM, higher resolutions than 4K, framerate at 60 fps (or even 120 fps), lighting system, ray tracing and more.

In theory, the Xbox Series X should stand out as the most powerful console of the generation, but we will have to wait for more technical comparisons to consolidate which approach will be best. So, I separated some games to show the immediate improvements you can expect from the console on its launch, from the most subtle to the most brutal.

Gears 5

Gears 5 since the launch it will have an improvement patch on the Xbox Series X, bringing higher resolutions in 4K in the campaign (which even has actor Dave Bautista as Marcus Phoenix), global lighting via ray tracing, 50% more particles than the Ultra PC and more. When compared to the One X version, we see several improvements in shadows, lighting and higher resolutions.

In this first moment, Gears 5 still uses dynamic resolution on the new Microsoft console, averaging 1728p (information from Digital Foundry), but with many graphics improvements and at 60 fps, while on One X, this resolution was often close to 1080p. Gears 5 is the first to use VRS, Variable Rate Shading, which uses elements that are not very prominent on the screen and renders them at lower resolutions, guaranteeing additional firepower to the GPU and with almost no graphic difference in practice.

In multiplayer, if the player chooses and has a compatible TV, he can double the frame rate, playing at 120 fps with lower resolutions, prioritizing response time and image smoothness. I was able to test the functionality using a Predator X27 monitor and, in fact, it is very noticeable to play at 120 fps. It is not something that brings absurd advantages, but having extra fluidity, less response time and a control that has faster commands is a powerful combination to bring precision and faster reflexes in multiplayer.

Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4 uses all the potential already seen on the PC, delivering a “crunchy” gameplay in glorious 4K and 60 fps, with 4X MSAA, a very expensive anti-aliasing technique. Comparing the result to the old generation, the Xbox One X runs at 1080p and 60 fps or 4K 30 fps. On Xbox One, only 1080p and 30 fps.

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Yakuza Like a Dragon

Yakuza: Like a Dragon offers two graphics options: 1440p at constant 60 fps or native 4K at 30 fps. For comparison, Xbox One X renders the image just above 1080p and only at 30 fps, while Xbox One is below 900p and at 30 fps as well.

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It is worth remembering that not all games mentioned work on Microsoft’s current Velocity architecture and, as a result, are not getting the most out of the console. But even so we see considerably lower load times on the new device and cool features.

A quick addendum: unfortunately, minutes after we recorded all the content and started editing the review, Microsoft said that Codemasters did not allow us to talk about the experience Dirt 5 on new consoles by the date of publication of this review. Therefore, we will be missing out on a comparative, even though it has already been tested and collecting grounded opinions. In addition, the company also reported that some titles are experiencing problems with Quick Resume and a patch is in progress through the developers, which may explain the problems we had with Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

How are games next to a big PC?

And when do we put these colossi side by side with a compatible PC? After all, Microsoft’s ecosystem encompasses the platform, including Game Pass and Play Anywhere, games that can be played on both the computer and the Xbox. Results here vary from case to case. As a benchmark, we use an RTX 2080 Ti, the Nvidia card that most closely matches the Xbox Series X GPU.

Gears 5 on the PC it was the biggest surprise in relation to the Series X. In addition to looking better, it was possible to run everything on Ultra, including some details on Insano, which goes beyond Ultra, at 60 fps and native 4K, without variable console resolution, which is at 1728p. Some elements, like ambient occlusion and shadows, looked better on the computer, but it is difficult to know if it is the Global Lighting of the Series X in action, creating an artistic difference, or a lower quality. We are not going to nail a champion in the graphic configuration, but you can see in the images the differences between each one.

Below, you can see an image comparison of Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X and PC, in this sequence, showing shadows and other differences between the versions:

Yakuza: Like a Dragon it was another game that, apparently, in the PC version still stands out, even if in minimalist details. On the PC, with everything on Ultra, we see better shadows, and it is possible to run the game in 4K in the range of 55 fps, while in Series X, 4K is only at 30 fps and 1440p for 60 fps.

Below, you can see an image comparison of Xbox One, Xbox One X, Xbox Series S with performance and resolution mode, Xbox Series X in performance and resolution mode, and PC, in this sequence, showing shadows and other differences between the versions:

Backwards compatibility improves what was almost perfect

The new generation games are still scarce, there are many other resources that we can still talk about games. Backwards compatibility is one of the icing on the Xbox Series X cake and should further enhance what was already great. In a large battery of tests, I was able to test the difference between 4 consoles and see in practice the additions of the Heuchy method, one of Microsoft’s great technologies.

As of now, the new generation of Xbox automatically implements 3 incredible features in Original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles: 16x anisotropic filter, Auto HDR and greater firepower to run games in higher framerate in some cases. If you install games on the console’s SSD, you still benefit from a 4th feature, which is considerably faster loading.

On Xbox One X, select titles used the Heuchy method to bring 16x and 4K anisotropic filters. On the Xbox Series X, all games from past generations automatically have a 16x filter, which significantly improves texture filtering, such as Kingdom Hearts 3 Xbox One. We see the same thing happening when we compare Final Fantasy XV with Xbox One X and One Fat. Below, you see the difference between Xbox One, Xbox One X and Xbox Series X.

Above, you can check Kingdom Hearts 3 on Xbox One X vs. Xbox Series X: See floor textures with 16x anisotropic filter.

Games that run with unlocked framerate or have the Xbox One X performance option use the power of the Series X GPU and CPU to normalize generation shortages. In other words, titles like Monster Hunter World, Kingdom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy XV now run at 60 fps with no drops or minimums, in addition to benefiting from the 16x anisotropic filter, absent at the time, and Auto HDR, which works miracles in image quality (as you can see in photos taken from TV for those without a monitor) HDR). Below, images without HDR and with Auto HDR:

Charging times also improve significantly. Anthem, a game with serious load problems that get in the way of gambling, goes from 2 minutes and 15 seconds on Xbox One to 1 minute and 5 seconds on Series X. Monster Hunter World spends more than 20 seconds on One X for just 6 seconds in the Series X.

The Heuchy method still promises one last miracle that at least during the review period was not available. Some select games, such as Fallout 4, which has no unlocked framerate (ie locked at a maximum of 30 or 60 fps), will double, going from 30 to 60 fps or 60 to 120 fps. These examples are likely to be sparse, just like 4K backward compatible games on Xbox One X, but they show yet another of Microsoft’s backwards compatibility features.

Other resources to keep an eye on the future

Unfortunately, none of the games we had available in early access to the console offered advanced new generation features, such as ray tracing. Watch Dogs Legion it will be the first game to use the hardware accelerated feature, but we will have to wait and see how it compares to PC technology.

There are other features that we haven’t seen in practice yet, but are natively in the Xbox Series X architecture, such as VRR, Variable Rate Shading, which always uses the best TV refresh rate possible, such as 120 Hz, to offer more responsiveness and fluidity in games.

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DirectML is another interesting technology, which uses Machine Learning from DirectX, which promises to improve the intelligence of NPCs, visual quality and even animations. Another feature that we are dying to see in practice is the SFS, the Sampler Feedback Streaming, which manages 4K textures with greater intelligence and loads only textures necessary for a scene, leaving the GPU VRAM free for other things, avoiding waste of video resources. RAM and SSD as well.

Ray tracing is one of the main features coming from the PC and will certainly play an important role in this generation. However, until the time of the analysis, no game uses hardware accelerated functionality and there is no way to know how it compares with current Nvidia video cards. The only game confirmed at launch is Watch Dogs Legion and, according to official information, will have ray tracing in a 4K and 30 fps graphic model, but with slightly lower quality than the PC.

The reality is that the Xbox Series X is a very powerful video game and that we barely scratch the surface of its potential at launch. Console is a closed box and easier to optimize. Certainly, we should see the great potential of the device used soon, but not during the launch.

Robust, compact design, quiet and with great cooling

Although monstrous in performance, the Xbox Series X surprised quite a bit in its robust, yet elegant design and extremely quiet and cool. If you imagine that such power causes serious warming up, you can prepare to be surprised just like I was.

Initially, let’s go to the basics: the Xbox Series X is a compact device in relation to what it has to offer. Although not very large, Microsoft chose to use other measures and an unusual design to combine all the pieces. In reality, it is even smaller than it looks and can be used both lying and standing.

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The company followed the design guidelines since the Xbox One S and brought a robust product, with a premium appearance, with beautiful colors, continuing the lead gray characteristic of the One X. The video game still has the Bluray disc drive, which can be used for both games and 4K movies.

A strange detail is that, although the tone is matte black, the console is left with many fingerprints. You won’t be stirring all the time, but be prepared to see fat marks. Finally, video games still have the Blu-ray disc drive, which can be used for both games and 4K movies.

What you will have when opening the box, in addition to the device, is a control, a pair of batteries, an HDMI 2.1 cable to enjoy 4K at 120 Hz or up to 8K at 60 Hz, in addition to a power cable to connect to the outlet, without the need for an external source equal to the original Xbox One.

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In this regard, it is worth highlighting some aspects. The new console from Microsoft left aside some features of the past generation, such as the connector for Kinect, the HDMI input for other devices, the optical audio output used for home theaters and also no longer brings a headset for conversation. In addition, the box does not include a USB-C cable for those who want to play connected directly to the console. They are not critical, but information you may want to know.

During the excessive use of the device, I never noticed noises relevant enough to be mentioned in this analysis. In fact, the device is so quiet, but so quiet, that you can hardly tell the difference when it’s on or off. The Xbox One X was already quiet, but it was audible, unlike the Series X.

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In this sense, even when the console is under heavy use, the temperature has always remained warm. Yes, really warm, you can hardly call it hot. This is due to the parallel cooling architecture, which uses the housing space intelligently to make everything very cold.

Almost equal control, but brings essential changes

The Xbox One controller is iconic for its ergonomics that few face. Once again, Microsoft decided not to change “the winning team” and just refined what was already great, returning with the P2 input, Bluetooth connection and input for accessories. At a glance, the Xbox Series X controller looks virtually identical to the previous one, with only a dedicated capture button.

In practice, the changes are a little more profound. The new accessory is slightly smaller, has UBS-C entry and has non-slip textures on the rear and on the triggers, making it even more comfortable during use. The D-Pad, the famous “little arrows”, was also redesigned and follows the design of the Elite Controller, with much better responsiveness and use than you can imagine.

The “Share” button is a great addition and brings customizable functions to capture videos, images and share your achievements on social networks. And if you want to use the controller on your Xbox One, you can go without fear: both the One and Series controllers work on both consoles.

Continuing further, there are technologies in action that further enhance the experience, such as easier connection to Windows 10 for PC players and the DLI feature, or Dynamic Latency Input, which basically causes the refresh rate of the console in search of commands to be increased, generating even less lag in the insertion of commands.

Finally, there is a single observation: the discussion has been the subject of fights on the internet for years, but the reality is that the control still uses batteries. As practical as the solution is in relation to accessories that damage the internal battery, I believe that the perfect solution would be to have the space for batteries, but already come with the Play and Charge kit battery, which is still sold separately.

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Thus, replacing exhausted or broken batteries would be the best of both worlds, after all the battery space would still be there. At least you can still use your old Xbox One controller battery, but you’ll need a separate USB-C cable.

Systems and services remain a strong pillar

Continuing the extremely consolidated foundation that Microsoft has built for years, the Xbox Series X is very prepared to have the best ecosystem of services and functions of the consoles. If you value the high quality of the Game Pass, know that you will be well attended.

Microsoft is increasingly expanding the service, which is now even unified with EA Play, the equivalent of EA Games. In addition, the company is very focused on its Smart Delivery seal or “Smart Delivery” (official translation in Portuguese), which means that games of the past generation do not need to be bought again in the new generation, have saves and even crossplay between the generations.

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Worth it?

O Xbox Series X it’s a monster, that’s a fact, but not in the pejorative sense of the word, but as an extremely powerful, elegant machine with everything you can expect from a top-of-the-line device with an enviable engineering. Quiet, with great cooling and able to hit head on with some extremely strong PCs today.

The generational leap is gigantic and it is very evident that CPU and GPU bottlenecks almost disappear in this first moment of 2020. Without a doubt, the Xbox Series X is a great console for those who will stay on the Xbox side, extremely attractive for those who want to change sides e até mesmo uma solução muito viável para quem quer comodidade ou custo-benefício melhor a curto prazo em relação a um computador similar.

Como qualquer produto que exista por aí, o Xbox Series X tem sua fatia de críticas. O Quick Resume ainda carece de uma interface que o deixe melhor e o SSD ainda sofrerá problemas de falta de armazenamento. Recursos, como o ray tracing, ainda precisam ser colocados à prova, já que dessa vez não há um jogo first party que extraia cada recurso e “esprema todas as gotas do suco potente” que o hardware tem a oferecer.

Contudo, também há diversos recursos novos que são grandes trunfos para Microsoft continuar a se fortalecer como uma gigante dos video games, como o Quick Resume e serviços igual ao Game Pass. Certamente, o alicerce criado agora é promissor e o Xbox Series X mostrou que não veio para brincadeiras. Em breve, veremos jogos incríveis utilizando todo o poder desse monstro desenfreado e sem coleiras, mas teremos que esperar um pouquinho para ver todo o potencial em ação.

O Xbox Series X foi gentilmente cedido pela Microsoft para a realização desta análise.

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