On November 10th, 2020, Microsoft‘s Xbox Series X launched worldwide; showing gamers around the world the true meaning of power. Being lucky enough to get one pre-ordered and delivered on launch day, I have spent a lot of time with the new Xbox; and it’s time to provide an honest review on the next-gen console.
It’s important to note that the Xbox has been my platform of choice since 2008; so of course I had a fair amount of hype about the Xbox Series X. However, it’s my responsibility to accurately report the quality of the console; which will feature an equally fair balance objective and subjective views.
I had purchased the Xbox Series X on the official Microsoft website, however was a bit nervous when I saw they would be delivering with FedEx. Thankfully the package arrived early-morning on launch day, and the console was securely packaged in a tight shipping box with no wiggle room.
Upon the opening of the cardboard outer-shell, there it was; the decorative box for the Series X in perfect condition. It’s clearly marked with the large “Series X” on the bottom right hand corner; with the iconic black & green venting as the primary image. Surrounding the box are images of the console itself, and on the back; a neat Halo Infinite image with extra info.
Delicately cutting the tape on the sides, the box naturally unfolds to reveal the internal packaging. In front of me was the Xbox Series X itself, secured tightly by thick foam, wrapped in a soft plastic; and like a bow on a present, a fancy additional wrap displaying “Power Your Dreams” with the iconic logo.
Additionally, the power cable, HDMI 2.1 cable, instructions, a controller and two AA batteries were securely wrapped & organized in the black cardboard lying next to the console. It’s clear that Microsoft took extra care and effort to make the unboxing feel like an event, like Christmas morning; with safe and secure packaging.
It feels as if the design for the Xbox Series X it was inspired by PC towers; which is a compliment. The console is decorated in a beautiful mat-black colour all the way around; with the iconic white Xbox logo continuing to act as the power button. It’s simplistic and it looks gorgeous, and the fan holes with green-highlights on top is the icing on the cake.
There are some great features integrated directly into the front side of the Xbox Series X. It contains a disc drive capable of playing physical games & 4K Blu-Ray discs. The front of the console also features a USB-A port for quick and easy access for anything from plug-in-play controllers to chargers and more!
All the primary connections are located on the back; including the power-plug in and an HDMI 2.1 port to connect to the TV. There are 2x USB-A ports, an Ethernet port for internet; and even an SSD Expansion port to hold even more games (not included) . There’s also a Kensington lock port that allows you to tie the console down, just in case.
The Series X is an absolute unit, being 11.8 inches high, 5.94 inches wide & deep and weighs 9.81 pounds (yea, I measured it). It’s large but it’s compact, and is able to be lied down on its side like the Xbox One X. Overall I adore everything from the console’s design aesthetics to the accessibility, easy-to-understand ports & functionality.
The New Controller
Like all new consoles, the Xbox Series X comes with a new controller; and truthfully it’s the most comfortable one yet! Instead of completely revamping the design, it evolves and improves upon the Xbox One controller; with small improvements that make a big difference.
As previously stated, the controller looks very familiar yet inspired by the Xbox One controller design. The D-Pad is now circular, with the benefit of being easier to press in tense moments. There is now a ‘Share’ button placed between the ‘Menu’ & ‘View’ buttons; making it easier than ever to share clips and screenshots!
Overall the controller is slightly smaller, a bit more rounded and features nice texture grips on the back; making it extremely comfortable & easy to hold. The size of the top bumpers & triggers are slightly reduced as well, with textured grips allowing for easier & more responsive use.
Ultimately the new controller feels comfortable and is a definite improvement over the already great Xbox One controllers. This is by far the most comfortable and user friendly standard controller Xbox has made yet! If I wasn’t so attached to using the Elite Series 2 controller, this would absolutely be my controller of choice.
Controller & Accessory Support
Speaking of the Xbox One controllers, the Series X also supports backwards compatibility with all Xbox One accessories. Yes, this means that you can take your controller of preference and connect it to the Series X with a mere push of a button; allowing your controller collection to remain relevant!
Thankfully this also applies to any Xbox One headsets, chargers and even standard storage devices as well. This makes the Series X extremely accessible to everybody who’s been in the Xbox ecosystem since the Xbox One. This absolutely includes the Elite & Elite Series 2 controllers, if you prefer those like me.
The User Interface (UI)
Whether its your first time or your thousandth time turning on your console, the first thing you’ll see is the menu. Instead of completely redesigning the UI (user interface), Microsoft intelligently decided to evolve the Xbox One’s UI into something functionally similar but slicker than before.
Customization such as filtering games from Optimized to standard, to a variety of different backgrounds and even how the side menu looks; there are more options than ever to personalize your Series X. There is even the addition of beautiful new dynamic backgrounds that make the new menu standout!
Where some may feel this ‘lacks’ the feeling of a new console; I’d argue this is a far better approach, as it’s similar, but functions far smoother than before. With quick, smooth transitions through every page and better organization, the new UI feels so much better than it’s previous iterations.
Functionally, the navigation & functionality is the best that it has been since the Xbox 360’s iteration. Tabs are clearly marked to see such as; Home, My Apps & Games, Xbox Game Pass and Microsoft Store. They are all properly organized to be as easy to navigate and user friendly as possible.
With the tagline of “Power Your Dreams”, the Xbox Series X promotes and prides itself as the fastest, most powerful console on the market. While there is quite a bit of technical jargon as evidence to back this up; all that matters is how it actually preforms. Of course, this is all going to be given from my personal experience.
The console’s initial bootup, even after being unplugged, is insanely fast. Taking only about 5-8 seconds to boot up along with the implemented Xbox splash screen animation makes it feel even more seamless.
Selecting almost any given game only takes a few moments to boot into the menu; and the actual loading the games takes only a fraction of the time; even twice as fast as my $1,300 gaming PC.
The fan remains dead-silent, even with graphically demanding gaming being played for hours. This luckily means the console remains at an acceptable temperature the entire time and doesn’t run the risk of overheating. This is a big step of from the One X, who’s fan was noticeable and didn’t have as good of an air flow.
Most importantly, the console seems to enhance even non-optimized games, making for the best playable performance possible. The optimized games largely run so incredibly fast & well that it’s hard to go back to lesser platforms. Ultimately it does exactly what a new console should do, and it does it flawlessly.
The “Fatal” Flaw
So far, the Xbox Series X itself has been a near flawless experience. However it has a temporary but fatal flaw, one that can alter a player’s choice; the lack of any major first-party launch games. It’s clear to see that the Xbox Series X’s ace in the hole was going to be Halo Infinite; which has recently been delayed until fall 2021.
With Xbox’s flagship franchise and primary launch game Halo Infinite delayed, and nothing big enough to substitute it; it’s understandable to feel disappointed by the lack of any major first party games. It doesn’t help when the other major first-party game, The Medium, was also delayed from December 2020 to January 2021, causing a 2 month void of Xbox Exclusives.
In a normal situation, this would be setup for a quite disasters launch; as many may choose their console based on a console’s first-party titles. This understandably may affect many gamer’s need to get the Xbox Series X right away; and may leave current owners a bit disappointed for a few months.
That being said it’s unreasonable to criticize this too harshly; as major unforeseen events that have severely impacted the development of many games. Instead of releasing unfinished products to coincide with the Xbox’s launch, they were rightfully delayed for better quality.
While their absence is certainly felt, it’s an understandable situation that can be forgiven; as it’s only a temporary issue.
The Great Silver Lining
Despite there being no big first party titles at launch, there are quite a few AAA third party games well worth jumping into. Games such as Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion & Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War have launched and play great, as they are optimized on the Xbox Series X.
The Xbox Series X also allows you to access your entire library of Xbox One games! Everything from early titles such as Battlefield 4, to recently released games such as DOOM Eternal! There’s also a fair amount of optimized games such as; Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4 and more to take advantage of the Series X’s power.
It doesn’t stop there however; the Xbox Series X also supports backwards compatibility on many eligible Original & 360 games! This is a huge deal for those who love to take a nostalgia trip, or just prefer some older games.
To wrap things up, those who have a subscription to Xbox Game Pass gain access to over 100+ games that they can play with no additional charge. This makes the Xbox Series X an extremely accessible console to play on, which is what truly carries it at this point of time.
The Xbox Series X had the goal to “Power Your Dreams”, to show console players like me what real power is; and it has succeeded in its task. This console fully lives up to the high expectations that its marketing and official claims have set. It is everything a next-gen console should be and more!
From its’ impressive general performance to long gaming sessions in visually demanding games; The Xbox Series X delivers in excellence across the board. It is without a doubt the best Xbox console that has ever released, and I feel Microsoft has crafted something truly special here.
Truly the only real flaw is its lack of first-party launch games; especially as the long-awaited Halo Infinite was its’ ace in the hole. However with the obvious setbacks outside of their control, I cannot in good conscious criticize that flaw too harshly; especially if the delays truly make the games better when they launch in the rapidly approaching 2021!
The Xbox Series X is so impressive that it is hands-down my new platform of choice as we enter a new era of gaming. The Xbox Series X earns a score of 95% for its extremely impressive performance & wonderful presentation across the board; with it’s only current flaw being the lack of first-party launch games.
I pre-ordered & purchased my own Xbox Series X at retail price, with no review hardware being provided for authenticity purposes. Experience with the console may vary, and this review is based on my own personal experience with the console as honestly as possible. Thankfully, now Xbox hardware was harmed in the making of this review.
The Xbox Series X is now available (if not sold out) on the Microsoft store and other major retailers worldwide for $499. Due to unforeseen events outside of Microsoft‘s control, the stock is unfortunately quite thin; but will hopefully grow more stable as we enter 2021.
For more Xbox Series X coverage, reviews, gaming news and more; you can keep up to date at Informed Pixel. Want to speak to the team and interact with other gamers? You can do so over on the Informed Pixel Facebook page or on the Informed Pixel Twitter account.
Listen to my personal project, The Noble Core Podcast on Spotify and Apple. Our weekly Podcast primarily focuses on Halo news and content! Follow us on Twitter @TheNobleCore, you can also find me @TheNobleGrunt and my co-host @JonTheChief117 as well. Join us as we get absolutely hyped about Halo Infinite!