After enjoying for several days the hundreds of games compatible with the new Microsoft console, we tell you our opinion of Xbox Series X in an analysis in which we review the technical characteristics of the console, but in which we also do all kinds of tests to see how the performance, consumption, noise, and temperature of the new Xbox.
- Noise and heat dissipation
- Image quality + ray tracing
- SSD speed
- Game and hardware compatibility
- Remote share button
- SSD space
- Good command, but not a generational leap
- No exclusives taking advantage of the hardware
- We have no feeling of brand new gene
On 10 November, Microsoft will launch Xbox Series X and Series S. These are two machines with very unequal power, but they have new generation hardware that will allow us to enjoy visual improvements, performance and, above all, a storage unit that will leave behind the obsolete HDD of the previous consoles.
We have been playing on both systems for a few days and now is the time to put all the data and videos that we have been collecting to give you our opinion in this Xbox Series X analysis. The spoiler is that it is a machine that surprises from the packaging to the performance and that, despite not being accompanied by a game that demonstrates the benefits of the system, it makes us feel like we are a new generation.
Things have changed and we are not going to see jumps as big as the one from Xbox to Xbox 360 … or like the one from Xbox 360 to One (with that Ryse that continues to leave us speechless). The philosophy is different now, but of course, it is a console with which you want to consume content a lot.
|Xbox series x|
|Architecture||7nm custom SoC|
|CPU||3.8GHz 8-core AMD Zen 2 Processor 3.6GHz with SMT Enabled|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 with 52 CUs at 1.825 GHz|
|Graphics power||12.5 TFLOPs|
|RAM||16GB GDDR6 (10GB at 560GB / s and 6GB at 36GB / s)|
|Storage||NVME PCI-e 4 SSD with 1TB|
|Extended storage||1 TB expansion card | Games not optimized on external USB 3.0 SSD / HDD|
|Disk||4K UHD Blu-ray|
|Retro compatibility||All Xbox, Xbox 360 games that were already backward compatible | Xbox One games and accessories|
|Game performance||4K and up to 120 fps|
An elegant and quite compact monolith that needs space
We started the analysis of Xbox Series X by talking about the design, and it is one of the keys to the Microsoft console. It is a console with a square perimeter that yes, it attracts attention, but in photos, it really seems larger than it is in reality.
However, before talking about the design, I would like to make a mention of the packaging. And the thing is, opening a new device is always something special and companies take more and more care of that ‘packaging’, but Microsoft and Apple are the ones that are most aware of this and have departments in which employees open several different box designs to ensure the best possible first impression.
However, in the case of a console, this is even more important because they are devices that are not renewed annually or biannually, and that first impression count.
That said, let’s go with the console design data. We have a system that has dimensions of 12 inches high with a depth/width of 6 inches. It is a machine that fits, miraculously, in the hole that I have under the TV if I put it horizontally, but for cooling reasons, I decided to put it vertically next to the TV.
We can put it as we want, although, for dissipation reasons and thermal performance, I would recommend putting it vertically. In addition, the design makes clear Microsoft’s intention to do so, with a ventilation grille at the bottom rear that allows fresh air to pass through and out through a curiously designed upper part.
It is a grille that has a green color facing the interior, which offers a very striking aesthetic. In addition, the power logo of the console has that vertical orientation and details such as that we cannot remove the base when we put it horizontally, indicate that the “correct” mode is vertical.
This goes in taste, but I like the design. It is elegant, understated, and efficient, as we will see later, but having that generous dissipation slit at the top gives me doubts in the face of dust accumulation. We will see what happens in the long term.
On the front, we have the power button with the logo, as well as the 4K Blu-Ray reader, the button to synchronize peripherals, and a USB Type-A 3.2. On the side that is to the right, we only find some “legs” to place the console horizontally.
If we go to the back, we have the HDMI 2.1, another two USB Type-A 3.2, the RJ45 port to connect by cable to the internet, a Kensington port, and the power input. The source is internal and it is an achievement that Microsoft has managed to put all that hardware in this chassis.
Microsoft’s accessibility team has introduced a system of raised dots and lines to indicate each port. This is useful for visually impaired users, but also for inserting connectors in the right place without having to move the console to watch. Good point for Microsoft.
Of course, we are missing two ports. On the one hand, an optical output that I give less importance to because my audio system is connected to the television with that optical port, but I understand that it can be a nuisance for some users. On the other hand, I don’t understand how a console coming out in late 2020 doesn’t have a USB Type-C for connecting high-speed drives that expand storage.
More comfortable and with slight novelties that are appreciated
In the end, the design of the console matters relatively, since in most cases (even if we take it sporadically to another address) it will be fixed in one place for a long time. What does matter, and a lot, is the control design.
After a first remote control (the original Xbox one) failed due to the layout of buttons and dimensions, the truth is that they have been refining the design of the Xbox Controller and have achieved that, practically, their control is the standard control on PC from Xbox 360.
With Xbox One they reached a very sweet spot, although they clicked on some elements: not including a button to make captures or some LB / RB buttons that were not very comfortable. The latter was solved with the Xbox One Controller V2 and, with the Xbox Series X / S controller, they reach that summit they had been looking for for a while.
They have achieved a design that I think is perfect for ergonomics and materials and that has interesting news. The first is the inclusion of that Share button to take screenshots. It is a button that we can configure in the accessibility section of the remote control on the console and that, for example, I have configured to take a capture with a press, capture video with a long press, and with a double press, open the video library.
In the week that I have been playing Xbox Series X intensively, the controller has not run out of steam. Also, the kit for charging and playing that I have from the previous-gen is compatible. That said, it is true that I would prefer a built-in battery, but the battery performance is quite satisfactory.
At the bottom we find a texture to improve grip and, at the end, what we have is a continuous control that improves the feeling in the hand and also the functions thanks to that new crosshead and the content share button. Something that it also maintains is the auxiliary port and the 3.5mm headphone jack.
It weighs 288 grams with batteries and, as I say, is comfortable, but does not convey a sense of generational change. With the Xbox One controller, Microsoft introduced a trigger vibration system that is noticeable in some games and here I notice that the range of action of that vibration is improved, but it does not give the feeling of being in front of new hardware. And this is something that we also see in the software.
RDNA 2 and Zen 2 in 7 nanometers for the most powerful console
But first, let’s talk about the guts. And it is that here there is no type of doubt or “but”. Xbox Series X is the most powerful next-gen console, hands down. We have a system that returns to bet on AMD (Sony is betting on the same architecture for its PS5, which we will analyze in due course) and we found an SoC with Zen 2 RDNA 2 architecture for the GPU.
It is a System on Chip, which means that the same chip has the GPU and the CPU and is built in 7-nanometer lithography. As we have told you in our mobile reviews, the smaller the lithography, the more components fit on the chip, the more powerful they are, and the more energy-efficient they are.
The numbers, of course, are impressive and we see a jump in all aspects, but especially in a CPU that in 2013 -Xbox One- was tremendously out of date. We are facing an 8-core CPU with Zen 2 architecture and a total frequency of 3.8 GHz, 3.66 GHz with SMT technology.
SMT is an AMD technology that stands for ‘Simultaneous Multithreading. This means that the CPU can make each of its cores divide tasks to execute two at the same time. Basically, we have 8 cores and 16 threads on a practical level, a configuration that we have seen for some time on PCs with Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology, but with a really beastly frequency.
It is an extraordinary CPU that, in fact, we will start to see on PCs next year, but of which we have a preview right now on the Microsoft machine. The more CPU power, the better tasks in some calculations of specific functions in games, something that can mark a generational jump when PS4 and Xbox One are put aside.
If we go to the GPU, we see another important jump with respect to Xbox One X. It is a GPU with AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture (the same that will have the next graphics of the company) and a frequency of 1.852 GHz. It has 52 units of computing and those famous 12 TFLOPS. Teraflops are a measure of power that indicates the calculations per second that a processor can do, but it is just a unit of measurement that does not have the last word when it comes to overall performance.
Of course, the more TFLOPS, the more resolution we can achieve by raising the level of game parameters, for example. Beyond CPU and GPU, we have 16GB of GDDR6 memory with a 320-bit bus. This is something very positive because the more memory the GPU has available, the higher resolutions we can achieve with better antialiasing and higher resolution textures.
Although it cannot be compared to a PC, when we analyzed the RTX 3070 we realized that those 8 GB fall short in some powerful games when it comes to uploading resolution, textures, and AA, so the 16 GB is more than welcome.
It is a shared memory that has a curious internal division system. And, of those 16 GB, 10 GB has a bandwidth of 560 GB / s and another 6 have a bandwidth of 336 GB / s . I’m interested in looking at developer documents at trade shows like the GDC to see how those resources are used and in which processes the super-high-speed 10GB is used and when those slower 6GB come into play.
It is an architecture that, on paper, is the most interesting and intelligent, but in the end, we have to see how this translates into games. At least, we do not have the 2013 scenario, that of a console that was out of date at launch. It is clear that they are machines (PS5 / Series X and S) that are more similar than ever to a PC and I would like them to have their own chips (like the IBM PS3 -Cell- and the Xbox 360), but taking into account situation in which we are, without a doubt it is new generation hardware.
Another key, beyond raw power, is Xbox Velocity Architecture. It is a technology like RTX I / O from Nvidia and that in the end, drinks from Microsoft Direct Storage. It is an architecture that allows the GPU and SSD to take care of certain processes without having to duplicate information or this information first passing through the CPU. This will lighten load times, but also the calculation of certain elements that are done faster on the GPU than on the CPU.
And to finish with the hardware, we remember that in the back we have the HDMI 2.1. It’s what you need to enjoy 8K resolution (which I doubt we’ll see in games) and 120fps, as well as improvements like VRR. You need a compatible television or monitor, but if you do not have one, you will be able to enjoy HDR 4K and 60 fps without problems.
1 TB internal that falls short of a curious expansion system
Before we look at loading times in games, let’s dive into the hardware a bit more. Just as we say that the Series X SoC is extraordinary, I must say that the speed of the SSD is not the highest that we will see in this generation and, moreover, it falls short.
We have 1 TB internal that stays at 802 GB after system and formatting. This SSD has a speed of 2.4 GB / s in compressed files and gives a total of 4.8 GB / s in unzipped files and in games that use Microsoft’s custom decompression system. It is a lower speed than what we see in PS5, but without a doubt, it is a tremendous Vance coming from where we came from.
From a SATA II, which also seemed like a lie in One X in the middle of 2017, we went on to an SSD that gives us tremendous agility in the system and that has benefits in load times, but also in something as simple as download speed because there are no bottlenecks, at least in these first tests.
Seeing that there are games that are in the 100 GB and that others like the new Call of Duty will occupy almost a quarter of that SSD, yes, the Series X TB is going to fall short in some cases. We can expand it in two different ways and, moreover, at the same time.
One of them is through the proprietary expansion cards that are inserted in the back of the console and that communicate with the board through the PCIe interface. It has the same speed as the internal SSD, but the price is 250 euros.
In the internal SDD or in this Seagate unit you can install games that have S / X Series improvements, but we can expand the storage through external hard drives / SSDs via USB. In these units, we can install the games, but the specific improvements of the new generation will only be effective in the internal SSD / expansion card.
So if we had USB Type-C, we may have been able to enjoy those specific enhancements in high-speed external PCIe drives.
Microsoft hits the key with hardware and bets on services
So far our analysis Xbox X Series. We have been reeling off all the key points of the new Xbox and now is the time to continue playing those games that are going to receive patches these days to make a small article commenting on those specific improvements, but it is also going to be time to enjoy more for pleasure than for machine work.
And it is that, as hardware, it is a spectacular system. We see games that have a level of visual quality comparable to the best versions of PC and the best thing is that it is no longer lazy to do some tasks with the console thanks to an SSD that makes the system, games and loads fly.
You have to understand Xbox Series X, in my opinion, as if it were a new PC in which everything that was already in the previous machine works, but where we are going to play at a better visual and performance quality. As a machine to stream and record gameplay it is a real beast thanks to the 4K60 HDR capture function and the new button on the controller.
The new controller, as we are, is a revision of the current one that allows us to play more comfortably, but the best thing is that if you have an Xbox One Pro Controller, it will be fully compatible with Series X. You lose the button catches, obviously, but we win the rear levers and triggers with different pressure levels.
Xbox Series X does not make noise, it does not heat up with the most demanding game of the moment on the console -Gears- and thanks to its data transfer speed, you want to download games from Game Pass constantly.
The thorn stuck? That the system and the control do not give the feeling of being a generational leap … and that there are no exclusive games that take advantage of the hardware of the machine. We are left with that feeling that Series X can give much more of itself, but for this, we will have to wait for the exclusive launches of the new generation.
Until then, we have a machine, a new Xbox, where everything that already worked in the One X works here, but better. It is nice to play the most modern games with improvements, but also those that were not updated for One X and to which that automatic HDR can be applied which is spectacular.