May 23, 2022

Xbox Series X Console Review

James goes all fanboy as he explains his early experiences with the brand new Xbox Series X

So, you’ve had a look at the ninth gen consoles releasing. You’ve had teraflops, FPS and SSD numbers beat into you so much that you don’t know how you survived not knowing how fast Spider-Man loaded on a PlayStation 4. There’s a lot to take in and a lot of hype that may (or may not) make getting these new consoles worth the money. And that’s where we come in.

This console review was conducted on a purchase unit.

Overview

The chonkiest Xbox that ever did live, the Series X is Microsoft’s big bad booty daddy of a console. Proclaiming to be the world’s most powerful console [sound familiar?], the Series X is what the ninth generation is all about! With the largest hard drive available of the two new Xboxes, the Series X is certainly a powerful beast.

But don’t just take my word for it, check out these specifications;

  • 12+ Teraflops coming from the GPU
  • 16GB of memory
  • 1TB SSD (internal), expandable with 1TB external hard drive [currently only “official” one for sale]
  • 4K at 60 FPS

But those are merely numbers and techno-jargon. What is it like living with a Series X, and should I bother with a Series S, PS5, or hold off completely? Well…

The Console Itself

Honestly, aside from knowing it’s a brand new console, the Series X just feels like a [much] bigger version of my Xbox One. Or even just an extension of it. Like an Xbox One 2.0 or something.

That might come across as being a bit of a put-down, but trust me, it isn’t. For anyone happy with the way their current console UI experience is, the transition from Xbox One to Series X/S will feel natural.

Microsoft has opted to keep the same UI implemented on last-gen as it has next-gen. You’ll know where everything is, and how it works.

However, there’s one key difference; the Series X will get to it quicker. A problem I had at times with my Xbox One was the load times getting onto the Store. Sometimes, it would be okay, but others would see the store simply crash or time-out. Arguably, that’s a server error rather than a processing speed issue, but it ties in nicely with my next point.

On the Series X, I can access the Store at a much quicker pace. Or, have it crash on me near instantly. Hey, at least I know I won’t have to wait to stare at a loading page for three minutes until it tells me it’s crashed.

The X’s Load-times

That speed is most prominent in the console’s delivery of games. If you’ve got anything installed internally, the load-times will be mere seconds. Granted, the bigger, more tasking games will be a bit longer, but you will definitely see a difference.

My go-to experiment for this has been Grand Theft Auto Online. On Xbox One, my girlfriend and I counted that to go from launching the game to actually landing in Los Santos took in excess of four minutes. Granted, the Rockstar servers have notoriously not been the best around, but still.

In comparison, the exact same load-up procedure [launching the game, getting through opening credits, logging onto Online, getting online] took just shy of two minutes. Two minutes difference might not sound a lot, but to be fair to the Series X, that was most definitely a server issue as opposed to processing speed.

Did I already say that?

4K-ing Beautiful Graphics

It’s not just a massive downturn in load-times that the Series X boasts. The graphics look crisper, the colours seem sharper, and the details look near enough lifelike in the right games [shit, I’m turning into my dad].

Of course, that’s not to be unexpected; each new generation of console promises better graphics. However, with the affordability that the next-gen consoles provide devs, we’re damn close to photo-realistic textures being the norm.

Why the X Over the S, Though?

If you go for a Series X, you’ll have access to your previously acquired digital and physical games.

Each and every one of them will be playable on the Series X straight from the Xbox One. This is a notable advantage over the Series S for anyone who hasn’t made the transition to an all-digital lifestyle yet.

Of course, with games getting bigger and bigger each year, you’ll need as much storage as you can get. Thankfully, the Series X’s 1TB is capable of storing a staggering amount of games from the get-go. Granted, it won’t necessarily hold all of your games, but, it does offer that previously mentioned external hard drive capability.

My 6TB Seagate is nearly full, so I’d have struggled massively trying to figure out which of my beloved games to install on the Series X’s internal hard drive. Obviously, the largest games should go on there, because they’d benefit from the Series X’s improvements over last-gen [ray tracing, etc].

Unless, of course, you opt to use the Series X’s in-built optical drive. So, best of both worlds really. And, it probably goes without saying at this point considering all of the bumf that’s been paraded around about the two consoles, but, only the Series X will only you to play discs.

So, for anyone who hasn’t made the all-digital dive yet, you may need to think hard about whether you want to or not before you go next-gen.

And Here’s the Cost…

Of course, all of these benefits do come at a cost. The Series X – if you were lucky enough to bag one at launch – comes in at £449.99. Which, actually, isn’t that bad. Yes, you could get the cheaper Series S for around half the price, but you do miss out on a lot of features that way around.

Whilst we’re on about it, Jason has written a similar review on the Series S that I wholeheartedly recommend you check out.

But James, it Looks Like a Fridge!

Some people might think that Series X is unsightly or would look out of place in their homes. I’ve lived with the console – that I’ve affectionately named “Sammy” – since 18th November. And, honestly, it seems less out of place than my Xbox One.

The matte black finish goes with a lot of décors and, presuming you have the room for it, you’ll be able to store it almost anywhere. Obviously, if you fancy standing it vertically, you might need to make some sacrifices/alterations to your room space. But, wouldn’t that be the same with any new appliance?

And if you’re wondering about whether or not it’ll be noisy, let me show you;

The whirring in the background is my PC, just in case you were wondering

See? Even the start-up jingle is only just audible! And despite being the size of my head [context; my head is just over 24 inches in diameter], the fan atop the console is as silent as anything.

Seriously, on my first day with it, I had to keep checking that it was still on, it was that quiet. You know when an electric car passes you on the street and you have to do a double-take because you knew a car just passed you but you couldn’t hear it so you weren’t really sure? Yeah, exact same principle here.

I don’t know if anyone had any noise problems with their Xbox One, but mine in comparison is like listening to a Boeing 747 taking off. Okay, maybe not that extreme. After all, it’s not a PlayStation 4!

Let’s Discuss Those Controllers

The aforementioned sense of familiarity extends to the Series X’s controllers. They’re basically the exact same as the Xbox Ones. I put the Series X and an Xbox One controller side-by-side and got my friend to note the differences.

She pulled out the new Share button, the slight grip textures on the LT/RT buttons and handles, and that was it.

Granted, the newer controller has a more streamlined front bevel than last-gen. You’ll notice the controller’s face is flattened as opposed to having a slight indent around the Xbox button.

Beyond those features; zero differences. And why not? The Xbox One controller is, basically, the perfect controller. It fits comfortably in your hands, the thumbstick layout is actually a lot more ergonomic than a symmetrical one. Hell, the new share button is barely even noticeable, meaning you won’t accidentally hit it as you’re going along.

I Suppose I Should Weigh up the Series X’s Downsides now.

It’s …rather heavy? Like, I put it in my bag-for-life bag, and, within a day of lugging it around, the handles had started to tear away under the weight.

Honestly, the only real gripes I’ve had have been related to issues outside of the console itself. Because I’m a noob and chose poorly, I have an HP all-in-one (AIO) PC. It’s great for a lot of things, but it doesn’t do gaming well. Thankfully, I had a workaround for that; the Xbox Console Companion. Presuming you were working on the same network as the Xbox One, you could stream to your PC. Like fucking magic. Which is ideal considering – again because I’m a noob – my AIO doesn’t have an HDMI in port. Meaning I can’t use it as a normal monitor plugging the console straight in.

“How does that relate to the Series X”, you might ask? Well, for now (and, by the looks of things on some forums, for the foreseeable future, too) the Series X is not compatible with that streaming service. Nor is it going to be anytime soon. Meaning, I’d have to utilise an HDMI cable. Which I can’t because my AIO doesn’t have one.

Sounds petty, but that’s legitimately one of the only criticisms I have. In fact, I’ve always believed that the only good thing Microsoft has ever actually done has been the Xbox. And do you know what? I still believe that.

I’ve also been reliably informed that, whilst it’s on, the Series X runs hot. As in, the console gets warm. However, thanks to the power of that James Wright head-sized fan atop the unit, it doesn’t overheat. And, despite that, it still barely whispers. Seriously, I’d have to be inside Sammy before I could hear anything. Wait, I didn’t mean like that. Erm…quick, move along.

Phil Spencer

What About Those Sweet, Next-Gen Exclusives?

If we want to continue with the pettiness, there aren’t any Series X exclusive games available. Yes, all of the previous generation’s games that are available up to now will be available on the new consoles.

However, in terms of new games, we have to wait. Quite frankly though, as I don’t care about when Halo Infinite comes out, it’s not too much of an issue for me.

I guess, in that respect, the Series X is more like when you upgrade your mobile phone whilst still keeping to the same company. By way of example, Samsung, for whatever reason, you dirty peasants. You’ll know from your previous phone what to expect in terms of style, functionality, and layout. However, the new phone will be much better in every aspect. Ditto with the Xbox One to the Series X.

My Closing Thoughts

So, in conclusion, should you get an Xbox Series X?

I mean, if you’ve skipped out on the last-gen of consoles and you’re looking for a new and exciting platform, go for it. You’ll get to experience the best of last-gen at a peak no-one has ever seen before.

If you’ve got an Xbox One that is still functional, don’t bother yet. Unless you really want the absolute best experience an Xbox can give you.

If you’ve got a first-generation Xbox One, maybe consider upgrading. If, however, you’re wanting to upgrade simply because “it’s a new console”, I’d hold off on it if I were you. Yes, it’s a great machine, but outside of (near) instant load times and improved graphics, it’s not shown me anything that makes me want to sell my Xbox One, yet.

Am I glad I have one? Of course, especially as I didn’t have to wait for hours on end going through the pre-order phase. But I’d probably feel no different than if I simply waited until next year, to be honest.

Which is, possibly, the worst feeling to have when it comes to a new console launch?


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