Xbox Series X Final Impressions
It’s been nearly a month since I’ve had this Xbox Series X in my possession. It’s fantastic. Everything performs just as Microsoft said it would. It’s a powerful beast of a machine that features incredible load times, smooth gameplay experiences and has some features I absolutely love. Aside from some minor bugs that have (or will be) patched, I have no major gripes with Microsoft’s latest next-gen console. The Series X is without question a significant leap forward. But do you need to buy it right now? No, you really don’t.
It boils down to the games available at launch. The Xbox Series X lacks in that department. There are no must-have exclusives available from the get-go. Sure, there are several games that have been optimized for the Series X at launch. Hundreds of backwards compatible games will also be available on day one. You’ll be able to play your entire Xbox library on your Series X. Your games will run better and load faster. Yet if you didn’t snag yourself a Series X pre-order, don’t stress, you don’t really need this next-gen console right now. You can wait because the Series X won’t start really hitting its stride for some time yet. Not to mention, all those games you want to play this winter are (or will be) available on current-gen systems.
That said, if you did get yourself a pre-order and you are getting your hands on an Xbox Series X before Christmas, you can rest easy. The Xbox Series X is awesome and it’s capable of things no other console in history is capable of. You won’t regret your purchase. At all.
I have to say, that feeling I get when opening up the box of a brand new console is something special. It’s a great feeling. The Series X was no different. It’s packaged in a way that is super sexy. Everything is neat, orderly and easy to find. Naturally, the Series X comes with the new Xbox controller, power cord, HDMI cable, batteries for the controller and some quick setup guides.
The console itself is impressively chunky. Much heavier than I anticipated, but it feels like an expensive piece of hardware. Sure, many have criticized its look, but I don’t mind its appearance. It blends right in with the rest of the consoles and black equipment I have in my gaming room.
I have the console laying horizontally, which looks a bit odd as I cannot remove the stand. It certainly appears Microsoft intended for users to stand it vertically. It does look better standing in my opinion, but given my home theatre layout, horizontally laying down the Series X was my only option. That said, it is a bit of a bummer I cannot remove that stand. Maybe that was an oversight. Maybe it wasn’t. I just don’t know.
The Series X is also a bit of a fingerprint magnet. Maybe it’s just my greasy mitts, but it does seem to attract fingerprints and dust quite easily. This is nit-picky though and more of a small annoyance as I am handling the console a fair amount as I hook up capture equipment on the daily and testing it out on various TV’s.
I like the included controller. Yet after chatting with my man Paul who is currently reviewing the PS5, the DualSense haptic feedback is apparently a game-changer. He cannot stop talking about it. I am not convinced the Series X controller is a game-changer in any way. It doesn’t offer that haptic feedback the DualSense does but it does vibrate, sometimes a little too much. And a little too intense. When playing Tetris Effect: Connected I found myself shutting off the controller vibrations. It was just too much and loud.
That said, the Series X controller is rock solid and a step up from the base current-gen controllers. I like the new D-pad and the grip textures feel great. While the DualSense is a significant leap for PlayStation fans, the Series X controller feels more like an incremental improvement.
The Series X controller does tend to burn through batteries quickly. Less than two weeks in, I had to replace them. Maybe it was a set of bad batteries out of the box, but I was surprised they died so quickly. It has been a couple of weeks since I have replaced them and the new ones haven’t died yet. So I am optimistic the Series X controller isn’t a battery pig. Regardless, it’s an area I am monitoring closely moving forward.
Setting up the console was a breeze. Well, for the most part, it was. Xbox review material encouraged us to use the mobile app to set things up. But by the time I had the app downloaded on my phone, the code on my TV screen that I was supposed to enter on the app had disappeared and the Series X proceeded to initiate the set-up via the console. Not being able to use the app was a bit of letdown; however, the set-up via the console was a smooth process.
Xbox was kind enough to supply us with a Seagate 1TB Storage Expansion Card which is specifically compatible with Xbox Series X, and Xbox Series S consoles. This card works with the Xbox Velocity Architecture and it shows. I managed to move 100gb worth of games from the internal SSD to the external hard drive in under 2 minutes. You likely won’t need this card right away as the Series X has a 1TB internal NVMe SSD. Yet when I read things like the new Call of Duty game could (over the course of the next yeat) take up nearly 300gb of hard drive space, you may need that card sooner than you think. Which stinks, cause it is a pricey little sucker.
Some Like it Hot
Before I get into some of my gameplay experiences, I’ll briefly address the heating issue that somehow gained some traction a few weeks ago. With the air vents at the top of the console, most of the heat accumulates near the surface. The base of the Series X remains cool. It does not get fireplace hot. Sure, it gets warm by the top vent but a lot of the heat issues have been overblown.
While the Xbox Series X dashboard looks largely the same, scrolling through the menu is super fast. It truly is fantastic. I experienced no delays, no lag, and everything was incredibly responsive. It’s hard going back to my current-gen consoles after zipping around the Series X UI. Navigating from the store, to the games and apps menu and to the settings is brilliant.
This isn’t all that surprising. The Xbox Series X is the most powerful console ever. The new system on a chip (SOC) has been built from the ground up with speed and performance in mind. With 12 teraflops of processing power, games from the past four generations all run better. Games on the Series X load up faster than any current generation console on the market. Hard drive hogging games like Final Fantasy XV and Gears 5 load up in seconds. Even the notoriously slow Madden NFL 21 game loads in half the time it does on the Xbox One X.
If CPU speed and fast load times weren’t good enough, the Quick Resume function is a game-changer. The Quick Resume feature lets you continue multiple games from a suspended state almost instantly. It allows you to return to where you were and what you were doing, without waiting through long loading screens. And it works brilliantly. Just see for yourself in the video below.
As someone who always seems to have a couple of games on the go, it is wonderful bouncing back and forth between games without much of a delay at all. On a couple of occasions, it didn’t work or kicked me back to the main menu. Yet, more often than not, it worked without a hitch and I am told that any issues with Quick Resume are being addressed at the time of writing.
Over the past month, I’ve played Xbox 360, Xbox One and Xbox One X games on the Series X. I’ve also played games optimized for the Series X like DIRT 5, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, and Gears 5. I’ve tested and played well over 20 games and I am happy to report that in every instance, games experience improvements in performance, improvement in load times, stable frame rates, and higher resolutions. And they all look great. Not once did I experience any hiccups when it came to performance.
Even games like Hitman and Final Fantasy XV, who don’t have a great reputation for running smoothly on current-gen systems, run at a silky smooth 60fps. The power of the Series X CPU shines with some of those old games which chug on current-gen consoles.
As a game is running, the Series X is as quiet as a mouse. The fan is whisper quiet. Compared to my OG Xbox One that sounds like a jet engine at times, the Series X is almost silent. I can barely hear it. Even when running a large 100 gig game like Modern Warfare, the Series X is remarkably quiet.
Come On Feel the Noise
My only complaint when it comes to the noise is the disc drive. It is rather noisy. It isn’t as bad as some of the current-gen systems but given how quiet everything else is with the Series X, I was surprised that the disk drive made much of noise at all. I don’t think this is preventable but worth mentioning as folks do seem obsessed with how much noise a new console makes. I should also mention, the Xbox Series X can run game discs from the original Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One. That kind of backwards compatibility support is great, even if you don’t plan on playing some of those old games.
Just like previous generations, you can play DVDs, Blu-ray discs, and Ultra HD Blu-ray discs on the Series X. All you need to do is download the Blu-ray Player app from the Store app and you are good to go. I threw in my Planet Earth Ultra HD disk I had laying around collecting dust and it looked amazing. The detail and picture quality was absolutely superb.
The power of the Xbox Series X is showcased from the very moment you fire up the console for the first time. The Series X feels like a significant leap forward that should stand the test of time. It’s an excellent investment. I cannot wait to see how developers eventually take full advantage of the impressive hardware. Sure, the launch lineup is somewhat lacklustre and you really don’t need to rush out to snag one at launch. But if you are one of the fortunate ones who managed to secure an Xbox Series X, you won’t be disappointed.
***Xbox Series X was provided by Xbox Canada***