At a surface level, there’s a lot to like about the PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra controller. Its modular design allows for much versatility, great for whether you’re sitting on the couch or out on the go. And whether you opt for the full controller setup or the smaller pop-out module for mobile play, you’re getting seriously impressive battery life.
Those factors alone make the PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra a good choice for mobile gaming, especially for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Unfortunately, that versatility comes at a price, and not just the one that’ll sting your wallet. That modular nature leads to the MOGA XP-Ultra feeling somewhat unwieldy; too bulky when slotted in the controller grip dock and a little too small without it.
The PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra could’ve earned some leverage if its modules felt satisfying to use, but that’s sadly not the case. Face and shoulder buttons, triggers and analog sticks are all serviceable, if unremarkable while the D-pad disappoints with an overtly stiff feel. Compared to the PowerA Fusion Pro 3, and other mobile-centric gamepads like the PowerA MOGA XP7-X Plus, the MOGA XP-Ultra sadly feels like a step back despite its emphasis on versatility.
Price and Availability
The PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra is available to buy right now, either directly from PowerA’s online store or from big box retailers including Amazon. If you’re interested, it’ll run you the retail price of $129.99 / £129.99 / AU$249, which puts it in the ballpark of other Pro-adjacent Xbox Series X|S controllers such as the Nacon Revolution X.
Design and Features
The boxed contents of the PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra are fairly straightforward. You’re getting the controller itself, pre-positioned in the controller grip dock, a clip to secure your phone for portable play, and a 10ft braided USB-C cable, which is always a welcome addition in case you prefer wired play.
The XP-Ultra’s box proudly states that the gamepad presents four ways to play your favorite games. But really, that’s just a fancy way of saying you can use the clip for mobile gaming with or without the controller’s grip dock. Either way, the clip itself is of adequate quality, and slots in and out of place with relative ease.
It’s an impressively versatile gamepad, then, but is let down by a number of key factors. Face and shoulder buttons and triggers are serviceable, as are the dual analog sticks which are made better by a ruggedly textured concave design. However, I’m certainly not a fan of the controller’s D-pad, which tries to emulate the look and feel of the one on the official Xbox Wireless Controller.
Sadly, the XP-Ultra’s feels overly stiff in comparison, and makes playing games that rely heavily on D-pad input more difficult than it needs to be. The D-pad is the worst thing about the controller, perhaps tied with the placement of the central Menu and Share buttons which are awkwardly high on the pad. That means you really have to reach your thumbs over, creating a somewhat uncomfortable gaming experience.
The most novel aspect of the PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra’s design is the ability to detach the central pad from the grip dock. It’s a convenient option if you’re playing on your Android or iPhone, but certainly feels cramped in the hands of an adult. And even without that extra bulk, I started to miss holding the grips in my hands after just a few hours.
The PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra performs adequately as a controller, with no glaring flaws when it comes to connectivity or input delay. It’ll certainly get the job done as a spare pad if you have friends round, but any of the best Xbox controllers will be better suited if you’re looking for a new primary gamepad.
That said, the XP-Ultra seriously impresses in one key area: battery life. Offering up to 40 hours via Bluetooth and a whopping 60 hours when paired to an Xbox console, the XP-Ultra’s battery life is among the best in the business, and certainly at its price range. It’s also relatively quick to charge via USB-C, from empty to full in just two to three hours. If the controller was just a bit cheaper, then I’d be able to recommend it on battery life alone.
Sure, you could argue that your phone’s battery will run out long before the XP-Ultra does, and it lacks the amazing phone-charging capabilities of the MOGA XP7-X Plus. But I’ll always be receptive to high battery life, especially when the controller is suited to both mobile and console play. It’s just such a shame that the controller’s overall design quality leaves much to be desired. Otherwise, we could be looking at a seriously compelling alternative to Microsoft’s official offerings.
Should you buy the PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra?
Buy it if...
You’re big on battery life
The XP-Ultra offers an utterly ridiculous amount of battery life that’s perfect for multiple lengthy gaming sessions, on both console and mobile.
You’re after a solid mobile pad
It’s not the best mobile gaming controller out there, but the XP-Ultra’s versatility lends itself well to mobile gaming.
Don't buy it if...
You’re on a budget
The XP-Ultra is far too expensive for what it offers. If you’re after a mobile-specific pad, consider the cheaper MOGA XP7-X Plus.
You’re all about the feel
If satisfying gamepad feel is important to you, then I’d suggest looking elsewhere.
How we tested
The PowerA MOGA XP-Ultra was tested over the course of a week. To get a well-rounded feel for the controller, it was tested as both a standard Xbox controller on console and PC, and for mobile, specifically with my Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
On mobile, it was primarily tested with Xbox Cloud Gaming titles, including Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite and Powerwash Simulator. Games were tested both with the MOGA XP-Ultra in its grip dock, and without it for more portable play on the go.
The Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition looks to bring the precision of the company’s dedicated racing wheels to a much smaller form factor. Instead of having a hulking wheel taking up space in your home setup, here you can just replace an analog stick with something entirely geared around racing.
Designed for Xbox but also working natively with PC, Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition can be considered one of the best Xbox controllers and the best PC controllers for dedicated racing fans. Thanks to its modularity, and some neat pro pad inclusions such as remappable rear paddles, microswitch buttons, and trigger stops, it’s a pretty solid option when gaming off the track as well.
Price and availability
The Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition is available now for $179.99 / £179.99 / AU$379 respectively. For context, that’s around $30 / £30 / AU$50 more than what the standard Thrustmaster eSwap Pro X model debuted at - but it’s worth stating that the first iteration of this controller can be found as cheap as $129.99 / £109.99 / AU$229.96 from Thrustmaster itself and retailers such as Amazon. Alternatively, you can purchase the standalone Thrustmaster eSwap X Racing Module for $29.99 / £26.99 / $62.74. If you already own either the Thrustmaster eSwap X Pro Controller or the cheaper Thrustmaster eSwap S model, this is a cheaper way to get your hands on it.
Design and Features
Aesthetically, the Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition looks great with its white and black color scheme adorned with pink stripes and accents. It's much more visually appealing than the standard black color of the original X variant. It’ll feel familiar to those that have seen the earlier production run of the same page, you’ve got mechanical face buttons, four programmable buttons on the rear, trigger stops, and a media bar on the bottom. Much like with the majority of Thrustmaster’s gamepads, it’s a wired controller which comes with a lengthy 10ft / 3m cable so that you can game from your couch on the Xbox Series X or comfortably at your desk plugged into a gaming PC.
Where some pro-level controllers feature a textured performance grip, such as could be seen with the PS5’s Scuf Reflex Pro, the Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition takes the opposite approach with a smooth and sleek finish. I’m personally not a fan of the slippery nature of this gamepad, which feels a little smoother than even the texture of the DualSense Wireless Controller. It’s far from a dealbreaker, but it is a little less grippy than I would have liked.
The eSwap Pro XR is far from your standard controller, though. True to its name, you’re able to swap out modules for alternatives and rearrange the position to suit your usage. It works with magnets and contacts as you can simply pull the pieces out without the need for a small screwdriver as is the case with the Victrix BFG Pro. Included in the package is the racing wheel module which can be swapped out for a more traditional analog stick, but this gamepad is also compatible with all modules available from the manufacturer.
I was initially skeptical when booting up Forza Horizon 5 with the eSwap XR controller with the Racing Module replacing the left analog stick. This addon eradicates the ability to move in 360 degrees. Instead, much like with some of the company’s best racing wheels, you’re restricted to movement entirely along the X-axis (horizontally). The main advantage of this eliminates the dead zones so you can make more precise turns with what’s been dubbed as the “re-centering system” where the wheel will snap back into the center.
In execution, it does work incredibly well in Forza Horizon 5 with the weighty handling of the vehicles on the rural streets of Mexico. Admittedly, it took a few races to fully get to grips with this system, as the controller’s a little less sensitive than you might expect, but after a couple of laps, I was making tighter turns and braver maneuvers when pacing through Arch Of Mulegé Circuit when drifting around off-road.
While the Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition works incredibly well with the game of its namesake, the same cannot be said for all of the best racing games available. Lego 2K Drive was far from pleasant as the more fast-paced kart racer. This game requires both tight jumps and drifts, which meant I was sent crashing off course and lagging behind the competition more often than not as the wheel module fell short of giving me the agility needed. Dirt 5 was more of a middle ground. The off-road arcade racer, with its lighter handling and more treacherous terrain such as ice and trails, sometimes clicked and other times left me wanting my analog stick instead. While the racing wheel felt good, especially with the throaty controller vibration, it wasn’t as satisfying as having a small wheel could have been.
Should you buy the Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition controller?
Buy it if…
You play the Forza series extensively
If you love the Forza Horizon and Motorsport games then the racing module on the Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR feels like a dream.
You don't want to get a full racing wheel setup
Naturally, one big offering this Forza 5 edition of the controller offers is a solid (if unspectacular) way to provide a racing wheel experience and input type, without the need for investing in a whole wheel - and you get a great controller in the process.
You’re after a modular pro controller
Racing wheel module aside, this gamepad features some of the best adaptivity to different sticks and button layouts leaving you with a ton of different options for all types of games.
Don’t buy it if…
You want a wireless pro controller
Much as is the case with all other Thrustmaster eSwap controllers to date, the Pro XR must be plugged in. While the cable is lengthy and high quality, there’s no option to cut the cord here.
You already own the Thrustmaster eSwap Pro X or S
If you’re an existing eSwap user then you’re going to be better off buying the standalone Racing Module for the gamepad you already own, unless the color scheme particularly appeals to you.
How we tested
I used the Thrustmaster eSwap Pro XR Forza Horizon 5 Edition as my main controller over the course of several weeks playing racing games as well as other game types to test the functionality on my gaming PC.
Lego 2K Drive may not literally reinvent the wheel but it does build upon it. Equal parts exciting racer and extensive building title, this open world driving game can easily be considered one not just only one of the best Lego games, but one of the best racing games as a whole. With clear inspiration from the likes of Forza Horizon 5 as well as Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed, the sum of its parts come together to be the best new kart racer in years.
Set across the expansive Bricklandia, you play as the next big thing in the Lego racing scene. Guided by Clutch Racington (yes, seriously), you drive across the roads, hills and even rivers, meeting and beating new rivals, and building all manner of vehicles in pursuit of first-place glory. It’s a simple premise, but one that’s done justice by Lego’s typical irreverence, with a wry presentation that largely follows in the wake of the popular Lego Movie duology from a number of years ago.
Lego 2K Drive price and release date
What is it? An open-world racing game based on the Lego franchise
Lego 2K Drive’s most exciting part is how mechanically solid plowing through the game’s biomes feels. Whether you’re going off-road in the rocky expanses of Big Butte County, cruising down the cascading lakes of Hauntsborough, or rushing through the bustling streets of Prospecto Valley, how you get around is unlike any other racing game of its type. That’s because vehicles can transform to suit their environment. With the press of LB / L1 on your controller, your mode of transport becomes one of three different machines based on street, off-road, and water.
That’s because your Lego racer has a loadout of all three. Whilst cruising and drifting on slick city streets, a finely tuned performance car is going to handle best, but could struggle when taking things off the beaten track. What seems like a neat gimmick at first quickly becomes part of the central gameplay loop if you want to actually get anywhere in this game both metaphorically and physically.
Also armed with the ability to jump, boost, quick-turn and drift, the manual transformation of your vehicles adds a new dimension to exploration and racing. These transformations turn what would have otherwise been a pretty standard kart racer into something truly its own. One second you’ll be taking a sharp bend on Vessel Run or Cat Scratch Freeway, looking like you’re about to plummet off course, before a carefully timed jump and change to an offroad vehicle can help you regain momentum. Another moment could see a frantic boat race on the raging rapids of Swampus switch up a gear by strategically ramping off rocks for added height to boost from as you soar above your water-bound rivals.
It's a rewarding core loop that satisfies regardless of whether you’re competing in one of the detailed races, or just driving around and killing time. The extent of the vehicle transformations combined with open-world traversal is something I haven’t experienced with the likes of Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled, or even Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed’s track-to-track format. Races are consistently entertaining, with set pieces happening all around you as you and seven other plastic motorists collide as displaced Lego bricks fly everywhere.
As expected from an open-world racing game, there’s a tonne of things to do in these distinct biome areas other than race, though some are clearly more thought out than others. The open-world experience is segmented by a leveling system. You gain experience points and cash as you complete tasks which can range from quests to minigames that pop up as and when. Quests are generally short but sweet and can range from retrieving lost dolphins near a waterfall to seeing how many sick jumps you can make on a quad bike in 60 seconds. Unfortunately, the minigames don’t offer the same novelty and get old pretty quickly. There are two archetypes that you’ll play through: escort and defense. While fine at first, these missions quickly overstay their welcome, offering repetitive gameplay that fails to capitalize on Lego 2K Drive’s otherwise exciting systems.
Build it up
Lego 2K Drive isn’t just a racer; it’s a builder. The Garage is where you can build new street, off-road, or water vehicles, as well as customize existing ones. It’s an incredibly robust and detailed system giving you free rein to construct just about any vehicle you want. Once you pick your basic chassis, you’ll then be introduced to a blisteringly vast library of Lego bricks with which you can design your ride of choice.
There’s an entire catalog of detailed tutorials which walk you through how to construct lovely-looking cars and boats in an instruction manual format. Much like with LittleBigPlanet Karting or Modnation Racers before it, These tools are an awesome addition, but not a feature that I found myself going out of my way for. Tweaking existing vehicles was something that I found more enjoyable, like giving my hard-won McLaren Solus GT a fresh splash of paint and some much-needed stat adjustments.
What I’m much less keen on is Unkie’s Emporium which serves as an in-game storefront to spend all your Lego Brickbux. It comes down to the fact that you earn a comparatively small amount of money after every race won or quest completed, meaning that it’s going to take you a lot of grinding if you’re pining for a new vehicle, racer, or accessory for your ride. In my time with Lego 2K Drive, I was barely able to scrounge up 4,000 Brickbux, which paled in comparison to the price tags of the Beach Runner, Go Kart, or Zombie Smasher Roadster which all land between 10,000 - 14,000 units of the virtual currency.
Those are some of the cheapest pre-built sets, too. Some bundles can run as high as 22,400 Brickbux, and many designs are locked behind the Drive Pass, which is similar to how free-to-play games like Fortnite do business. For a game that’s base edition costs $69.99 / £59.99 / AU$149.95, it stings to see the full suite of customization options hidden behind paywalls.
Catch me if you can
What I was pleasantly surprised by is just how challenging the races themselves would become as the campaign progressed. Similar to how the Mario Kart series measures speed and intensity from 50cc and up, Lego 2K Drive uses a Class system of C, B, and A to determine the speed and difficulty of a given race.
As you start to rise through the ranks, you’ll quickly see your fellow Lego racers using shortcuts, utilizing power-ups effectively, and undercutting you on tight turns. The enemy A.I. is impressive and really makes you work for those wins. It’s a massive improvement on the tournament setups from the likes of Mario Kart 8, and all the better for it.
Microtransactions aside, Lego 2K Drive is the best thing to happen to the kart racing genre in well over a decade. No matter how many races I’ve won, or the destruction I’ve caused, I find myself forever drawn back to the tight mechanics and wholesome setting. If you’ve been looking for something different to your standard racing sim or arcade title, or for a game to use one of the best racing wheels on then you’ll find it here.
The Logitech G Cloud is the line of handheld games consoles following in the success of the Nintendo Switch and Valve's Steam Deck. Unlike those devices, though, this one's focus isn't to run games natively, but to stream them from the cloud as its name would imply. Armed with respectable hardware for this purpose and an ergonomic form factor, there's a lot going for it on paper.
The reality of the matter is much different though, as its limited usability (thanks in part to a complete lack of 4G/5G support) and high price tag means it cannot be considered one of the best handheld games consoles when compared to the competition. It's built for a very particular niche that I don't think exists; an audience that wants less functionality than what the best tablets can offer to stream content from the best games consoles on the market.
Price and Availability
The Logitech G Cloud initially launched in the US in October 2022 and is now available in the UK and Europe for $349.99 / £329.99. Australian pricing and availability have not been confirmed. However, it should be launching in the next few weeks, given the further availability of the handheld as of May 2023. It’s a steep rate wherever you’re based on the globe, costing the same amount (if not more) than the Nintendo Switch OLED and is comparable to the base 64GB Steam Deck model, which retails at $399.99 / £349.99.
Design and Features
The Logitech G Cloud utilizes a 1080p 7-inch IPS 60 Hz multi-touch screen as its panel of touch and is bolstered by console quality controls and an ergonomic grip on either side. The stick and face button layout should be familiar to those who use the best Xbox controllers with its XYAB format and asymmetrical placement. The D-pad here is solid but isn’t quite as good as what you’ll find on the Xbox Wireless Controller; it’s satisfying enough but doesn’t have the same tactile click with its quiet feedback. As well as the more standard approach, there are buttons acting as start and options, as well as dedicated home and hub ones.
The most striking thing about the Logitech G Cloud is how thin and light it is, even compared to other gaming handhelds from Valve, Nintendo, and AyaNeo. Weighing in at just 463g and measuring at just 1.3 inches in thickness, it’s a slight machine, to say the least. Unfortunately, the main reason Logitech’s latest device comes in lighter and slimmer than its rivals is due to the guts inside. That’s because the Logitech G Cloud is essentially an Android tablet running the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G octa-core processor instead of something more hardware intensive, such as the Nvidia Tegra X1 or an AMD Ryzen APU.
The hardware manufacturer claims you can expect around 12 hours of playback from the Logitech G Cloud’s 6000 mAh battery. From my testing, I can confirm that that’s about right when used purely for cloud streaming through in-built applications like Nvidia GeForce Now, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and Steam Link. However, your mileage may seriously vary when gaming natively on Android in titles that will flex the hardware a little further. If you’re looking at having this as a machine to do both, then you’re looking at a more inconsistent 8-10 hours when all is said and done, but that’s still reasonably good for a handheld, all told.
The Logitech G Cloud features two modes in the software for handheld and tablet use; the former is a streamlined approach with a console-style menu similar to Steam’s Big Picture, and the latter is a basic vanilla Android experience. For the bulk of my testing, I kept the machine in its Logitech G Hub menu just to make navigation straightforward, as it was the fastest way to jump between the various game streaming applications, the Google Play store, and the mobile titles I had installed and ready to go.
The performance of the Logitech G Cloud is wildly inconsistent depending on the streaming service you choose to run for it. Many of my hours were spent with the Xbox Cloud Gaming (Beta) through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, provided by the PR for review purposes. While I can respect the convenience of being able to boot up any number of titles available to Xbox Series X users on the platform and play some of the best Xbox Series X games without the need for the system itself, the experience is incredibly mixed.
There’s close to what feels like a half-second of delay, regardless of which game I was playing through the Xbox Cloud Gaming’s servers. To make matters worse, the video quality itself was lackluster. It was frequently fuzzy in motion, making faster-paced titles, such as Forza Horizon 5 and Doom Eternal, close to unplayable as the roads merged together and the demons were a blur. Less intense games such as Powerwash Simulator and Skate 3 didn’t have this problem, but I found text hard to read, and the slight lag between pressing buttons and things reacting was frustrating more often than not. Yes, the service is in Beta (and also available for Android and iOS outside of the Logitech G Cloud), but seeing as this handheld pushes Xbox so heavily, it’s far from ideal that the performance is this lacking.
For the record, I have a decent wireless internet connection. Through an internet speed test conducted from the Logitech G Cloud, I got 495.4 MB/s download and 35.7 MB/s upload which greatly exceeds the minimum recommend rates cited by Microsoft itself. It wasn’t the best first impression of the handheld, but things quickly improved when switching over to Nvidia GeForce Now’s Ultimate package. Similar to the ill-fated Google Stadia, this service utilizes high-end gaming PCs to stream gameplay on far weaker devices. My subscription granted me access to rigs running the Nvidia RTX 4080, which meant I was getting far better-looking games overall.
The streaming quality of Nvidia GeForce Now is genuinely excellent. There are only around nine frames of input delay, which is similar to what you’ll find when playing low ping multiplayer titles (near seamless), and the image quality was considerably sharper than through Xbox Game Pass. The trade-off is that you don’t have a vast game library to choose from. Instead, you can boot and stream games you already own through Steam, GOG, Epic, and Ubisoft Connect as licenses. It’s a cool idea for sure, and it made playing through Cyberpunk 2077 and Rayman Legends a breeze as if they were running on native hardware. It’s not all good news, though. That’s because this service tier will run you $19.99 / £14.99 a month to play games you already own, requiring you to have an extensive PC gaming library to make the most of this.
Lastly, I tried out Steam Link, which works similarly to Nvidia GeForce Now but uses local hardware. Streaming from my gaming PC to the Logitech G Cloud was the best of the three services I tried and wouldn’t cost me anything. Playing through the likes of WWE 2K23, Hotline Miami, and Mortal Kombat 11 was nice, as I could kick back on the sofa or lounge on the bed and have the same overall experience. The fact that this works so well as it is free to any Steam users further made the idea of paying an additional fee through Nvidia’s offerings even more baffling.
Comparing the Logitech G Cloud to some of the best Android tablets is where the cracks really begin to show. While the Qualcomm Snapdragon 720G isn’t the weakest mobile processor on the market, it’s far from a flagship, as running games from the Google Play store didn’t exactly paint this handheld in the best light. I was stunned to see occasional stuttering in the likes of Snake.io and even Subway Surfers, but things were shakier when playing through PUBG Mobile, Genshin Impact, and Call of Duty Mobile with the settings scaled down. To make matters worse, there was little I could do to make the latter two games recognize the built-in controller, meaning I was stuck awkwardly using the touchscreen, which was far from ideal.
The reliance on an internet connection to play games instead of being able to natively render them as the Steam Deck and Nintendo Switch can for a similar price makes this handheld nearly impossible to recommend. It’s not a great Android tablet on its own, and the streaming services available feature too many caveats to consider prioritizing when Steam Link does it better. There’s also the fact that all these apps are available on Android phones and iOS, with the price of something like the BackBone One ($99.99 / £99.99 / AU$179.99) or Razer Kishi ($79.99 / £79.99 / AU$115) giving you the same fundamental experience with a device you already own.
Using the AMD-CPU-and-NVIDIA-GPU-set-up that’s become standard for the ROG brand, the latest Strix Scar 17 features a 16-core Ryzen 9 7945HX, 32GB RAM, 1TB of SSD and the option of either an RTX 4090 or 4080. In the U.S., there are two versions for both GPU options each, so you at least have some variety. The specs are more than enough to play some of the best PC games like Cyberpunk 2077 to Metro: Exodus at max settings with little effort.
It doesn’t hurt that the visual/audio presentation is fairly strong as well. The Strix Scar 17 features a lovely 17-inch 1440p display that offers a 240 refresh rate which is good enough for competitive gamers. Meanwhile, being Dolby Vision-capable ensures that HDR enhances images even further.
Audio is even more impressive through being both Dolby Atmos and Hi-Res Audio certified through its dual speakers. Alongside music and films sounding great, the speakers also offer 5.1.2 channel virtual surround sound which is useful for gamers looking for more situational awareness when playing Call of Duty: Warzone or Fortnite. However, the Strix Scar 17 does come with some limitations.
The very limited battery life means users will usually need to have this plugged up regularly. Attempting to use the laptop on a plane ride and the like for tasks outside of general browsing and video content viewing can drain the Strix Scar 17 fairly quickly.
Meanwhile, the design does have a lot of ports but lacks biometric security or a card reader for gamers leaning more toward creative software. Gamers who don’t care about creating or video conferencing on the regular, however, should be fine. Of course, the Strix Scar 17 comes at a steep price regardless of what NVIDIA GPU set-up potential purchasers use.
That said, serious PC gamers with deep pockets who are only looking for the highest visual performance in a laptop form factor should strongly consider the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023). you won't be disappointed.
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023): Price & availability
How much does it cost? Starting at $2,899.99 / £3,099.99 / AU$5,599.99
When is it available? It is available now
Where can you get it? You can get it in the US, UK, and Australia
$2,899.99 / £3,099.99 / AU$5,599
In the United States alone, there are four configurations available for purchase through Asus’ ROG store. Both RTX 4090 and 4080 configurations come with two different storage and RAM options.
The Strix Scar 17 is going to cost $3,499.99 at the highest config, with RTX 4090, 32GB RAM, and 2TB SSD, which can even get you solid 4K video output if you want more than the 1440p display can provide. If that’s too much, though, the somewhere in-between $2,899.99 RTX 4080 provides 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD. This is good enough for 1440p with solid frame rates.
In the UK, there are two versions available with one offering an RTX 4090 and 2TB SSD for £3,799 and 4080/1TB combo at the £3,099.99 price point. Both offer the same AMD Ryzen 9 and RAM set up. Australian buyers are only getting one AU$5,599 version featuring a RTX 4090, 16GB RAM and 1TB SSD.
Price score: 4 / 5
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023): Specs
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 currently comes in all configurations in the United States, two in the UK, and one in Australia, with no options to configure the models independently.
Specs score: 4.5 / 5
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023): Design
Despite a plastic chassis, the laptop design is aesthetically bold yet sturdy
Keyboard features per-key lighting and feels comfortable to use
There are plenty of ports available though it would have been nice to have biometric security and SD Card
The matte-black plastic design of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 chassis gives off an all-around aggressive look. Be mindful that it also smudges pretty easily as well; especially if hands are adequately moisturized. Like the previous iteration of the gaming laptop, the display hinge is offset to make room for the speakers and rear facing ports it sits near when opened. When closed, there is plenty of customizable lighting everywhere from the light bar that slightly wraps around the bottom to the ROG logo.
There are also plenty of ports available on the ROG Strix Scar 17 starting with the right side's two USB-A ports and 3.5 audio combo jack. Meanwhile, the rear features a HDMI 2.1 port, two USB-C ports with DisplayPort support, an ethernet jack and charge port that connects through a fairly large power brick. It would have been nice to have an SD slot considering its powerful enough to edit various content on through Adobe Suite (and there's more than enough space in the honking big chassis for it).
Image 1 of 6
Image 2 of 6
Image 3 of 6
Image 4 of 6
Image 5 of 6
Image 6 of 6
Considering the 17-inch screen size and components stuffed in the laptop, it’s pretty large and may take some maneuvering to fit inside a backpack. Though some may have an issue with the matte-black plastic, it does help keep the ROG Strix Scar 17 weighting significantly under 10 lbs.
Once opened, the same wonderful RGB keyboard with per-key lighting remains as beautiful to look at as ever. This includes the five customizable macro keys that by default handle volume, mic on/off switch and fan speed among others. It doesn’t matter if it's browsing the web and sending emails or gaming, keystrokes on the mechanical feel pretty good.
The lack of security features like a fingerprint scanner or webcam shutter feels behind-the-times, though. Gamers will need a separate mouse to play genres including shooters and RTS but general cursor movement on the touchpad is smooth.
Design score: 4 / 5
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023): Performance
General gaming performance is as fantastic as ever
Image and audio accentuates gaming performance
Weak webcam makes video conferencing a hassle
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023) Benchmarks
Here's how the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023) performed in our suite of benchmark tests:
General computing tasks allow the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023) to show off its relatively quiet nature and ability to stay cool on your lap. When it's gaming time, the laptop handles 1440p gaming without much problems. The ROG Strix Scar 17 really goes to work on modern titles with the ability to play big AAA games at max settings with respectable frame rates.
There isn’t a better example than Cyberpunk 2077 which can play at 144 fps at ultra settings. Adding ray-tracing will slow that performance quite a bit, but thanks to the RTX GPU’s ability to perform DLSS upscaling, it can take ray-traced frame rates to respectable numbers.
Other games from Forza Horizon 5 to Metro:Exodus perform just as well. When it comes to more competitive leaning games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, motion performance is more than fine and input lag is nearly non-existent. Helps that the display itself provides crisp and clear image quality as well.
This also makes the ROG Strix Scar 17 a great option for creatives. During our test of Handbrake 1.6, it encoded a roughly 12 minute 4K video to 1080p in about two minutes and 47 seconds. This means that users of Photoshop and Premiere Pro can get some quick export times. Add Dolby Vision into the mix and compatible video content looks phenomenal too.
Speaker quality is great as well with punchy volume, solid bass and overall clarity. They also feature virtual surround sound and Dolby Atmos for compatible games alongside video content. Some gamers may feel more comfortable gaming on headphones but the internal speakers are good enough.
One of the weaker elements in the ROG Strix Scar 17 is the 720p webcam. Beyond being really terrible in low light conditions, it’s fairly no frills. Individuals who are looking to stream, it’ll probably be best to invest in one of the best webcams for external use.
Performance score:4.5 / 5
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023): Battery
General computing task usage is around four hours.
Battery takes a little under two hours to charge.
Like many gaming laptops using the latest and most powerful CPU and GPU combinations, the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023) features a fairly lackluster battery life.
Thankfully, it’s good enough for four solid hours of general computing usage, according to my testing, so the battery should last long enough for a bi-coastal trip if watching video content or web browsing.
Doing anything beyond that like attempting to play any game with heft to it like Forza Horizon 5 without being plugged in is going to wear down the battery life fairly quickly, unfortunately, but you knew that coming in. Gaming on a gaming laptop just isn't something you can effectively do on battery power.
The Strix Scar 17 does make the most out of its 90WHr battery, however, with a full recharge via its large power brick taking just a couple of hours.
Battery score: 2.5 / 5
Should you buy the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023)?
Buy it if...
You want a 1440p leaning gaming laptop with real performance The AMD Ryzen 9 and NVIDIA RTX 4090 combo allows many modern games to play at max settings with high frame rates.
You require a respectable audio/visual set up Having a 17-inch 1440p display with a 240Hz refresh rate and Dolby Vision makes viewing anything on the gaming laptop a pleasure.
Don't buy it if...
You want above average battery life Gaming without the large power pack is going to be fairly difficult on the Strix Scar 17. On its own, users will get under four or so hours of usage out of the laptop.
Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023): Also consider
If the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023) has you considering other options, here are two more gaming laptops to consider...
How I tested the Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 (2023)
I tested the gaming laptop for a little over a week
I played various games including Cyberpunk 2077, Forza Horizon 5, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and Bright Memory: Infinite
I used other apps used included Google Chrome alongside Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro
The Asus ROG Strix Scar 17 was tested for a little over a week, split between general computing, creative suites, and plenty of games. Games played including Cyberpunk 2077 and Forza Horizon 5 among others.
Those titles were played at full 1440p resolution at max settings, while several photos for this review were edited on Photoshop and a sample 1080p video file was exported through Premiere Pro. Between those times, I browsed the web through Google Chrome and opened several dozen tabs.
I've been testing and reviewing gaming laptops for several years now, and as a professional photographer, among other creative pursuits, I know my way around Adobe Creative Cloud apps and what kind of performance to expect from a high quality laptop with hardware this powerful.
Sony’s PlayStation brand has been making a huge push recently into the competitive gaming space through its Inzone line of headsets and 27-inch monitors. This includes the Sony Inzone M3, the 1080p sibling to the higher priced 4K resolution capable M9.
All of the standard gaming monitor standards within its tier group are there including HDR abilities, 1 ms pixel response time and 1000:1 contrast ratio. There’s also a respectable amount of ports for various display inputs in addition to various USB connections.
When it comes to gaming performance, PS5 owners won’t currently have a need for a 250Hz mode as most games max out at 144Hz which itself requires a game to support VVR (Variable Refresh Rate). Considering many console gamers in the competitive scene play fighting games like Street Fighter V and Dragon Ball Z Fighters or sports games like FIFA and NBA2K, having such a high refresh rate seems more empty bragging than something absolutely required of the best gaming monitor for PC gaming.
For general PS5 usage, playing first-party games like God of War: Ragnarok or The Last of Us: Part I look made for the Inzone M3. Meanwhile, though performance is on par with other gaming monitors on PC, overall image quality isn’t the best and HDR doesn’t help much either. For streamers, there’s also an Auto KVM Switch for usage of one keyboard and mouse for two devices.
The Inzone M3 stands out due to PlayStation 5-focused features such as Auto HDR Tone Mapping alongside Auto Genre Picture mode. That doesn’t even take into consideration the remarkable design that stands reasonably well next to the white and black PS5 colorway.
Owners of Sony’s current-gen console who are aspiring competitive gamers or in the esports scene while making sure they stay color-coordinated may have much to appreciate about the M3. More traditional PC gamers will definitely have better options elsewhere.
The Sony Inzone M3 shines the brightest design-wise. As mentioned previously, the black and white angular stand that holds the display up looks cool, alongside a PS5 and various accessories. Because of the stand’s design, it’s not all that intrusive and viewing adjustment is easy.
Some may have an issue with the fact that the display can’t tilt vertically but considering the PS5 focus, I can’t fault it too much. One thing's for sure, though, the Sony Inzone M3 is one of the best monitors for PS5 you can buy if you want to really create a complete setup.
Though the PS5 obviously requires an HDMI cable, there’s an extra one available for other consoles like an Xbox Series S or Nintendo Switch and DisplayPort. Beyond that is a USB-C, USB-B for upstreaming, three USB-A and 3.5 mm headphone jack. M3 users will most definitely need some headphones as the internal speakers suffer from a flat, hollow sound. Too bad there wasn’t a way for Sony to implement Spatial Audio, which is a huge PS5 feature.
Between the slew of accessibility options in games like The Last of Us Part 1 and the upcoming Project Leonardo, Sony has put heavy emphasis on accessibility. The same goes for the M3 as it’s easy to put together and connect things to their respective port. Weighing around 15 lbs altogether, the M3 is light before putting the neck, base and display together.
Be mindful that connecting the base to the neck does require a screwdriver which may be an issue. Most importantly, there aren’t any weight shifts once everything is connected. Once used, the power button and menu joystick are easily accessible on the back panel for adjustments. Pivoting the display for eye-level comfort works well too. Inzone M3 usage feels as simple as the minimalist design.
PS5 games were the clear focus of the Sony Inzone M3. Playing games like Resident Evil 4 remake or the slew of high-class first-party games like Ghost of Tsushima and The Last of Us Part I on the gaming monitor is a joy. Image quality is good but not good enough to justify the high price tag even though features like Auto HDR Tone Mapping do a great job of optimizing HDR for M3. Supporting VRR improves the visual quality of games that support it like Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection.
Image 1 of 4
Image 2 of 4
Image 3 of 4
Image 4 of 4
Then there’s Auto Genre Picture mode that changes colors alongside motion settings when switching from game to video content. Again, this does enhance PS5 experience when playing more competitive games like Fortnite and Call of Duty: Warzone. As an added measure, there is a crosshair toggle which makes aiming in first-person-shooters a better experience. When it comes to motion performance, the M3 does well with screen smoothness and low input lag. Gaming on this gaming monitor feels fantastic on a PS5 or PC and will make the most use out of the 240Hz refresh rate despite some problems there.
Those issues come down to below-average image quality when using a PC. General computing usage on a 1080p gaming monitor this expensive shouldn’t be this problematic. Color settings have to be changed to even read certain text while browsing websites or checking emails. Even working with Adobe Suite led to ineffective color correction. Playing games like Forza Horizon 5 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare lacked the vividness and contrast of cheaper 1080p monitors. On a positive note, the M3 is G-Sync compatible though the lack of official FreeSync support is strange considering the PS5 is made up of AMD components. There’s also an Inzone app to fine-tune the experience through settings customization. When it comes to pure PC gaming, there are simply better options out there.
Sony Inzone M3: Price & availability
How much does it cost? $499 / £699 (about AU$725)
When is it available? It is available now.
Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK
Buying the Sony Inzone M3 is more of a diehard investment into the PlayStation brand. Aesthetically, it does match Sony’s current minimalistic design philosophy. During the review, the monitor sat well next to a PS5 and PSVR2. The M3 is geared more toward console gamers.
With that said PC Gamers who also own a PS5 have better options out there as the $499.99 price point is a bit much. For that amount of money, users can look into the Acer Nitro, AOC C27G2Z, and ASUS TUF Gaming VG279QM. Those options may lack PS5-leaning features or USB ports, but they’re great 27-inch HD displays that can reach 250Hz between $200 to $300.
Value: 2.5 / 5
Sony Inzone M3: Specs
Should you buy the Sony Inzone M3?
Buy it if...
Don't buy it if...
You want an affordable 1080p 240Hz monitor PC gaming enthusiasts should know there are better options for a 27-inch 1080p monitor because $499 is a tad bit too high.
You require better image and audio quality for PC Image quality isn’t the best on the M3 when using PC and HDR doesn’t make things much better. Then there are the sub-par internal speakers as well.
You are looking to make the most out of your PS5 visuals PS5 owners more concerned with higher resolution should consider Sony’s M9 or other 4K gaming monitors available.
Sony Inzone M3: Also consider
If my Sony Inzone M3 review has you considering other options, here are two more 27-inch monitors to consider.
How I tested the Sony Inzone M3
I spent a week testing the Sony Inzone M3
PC games played include Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II and Forza Horizon 5.
PS5 games included Ghost of Tsushima, God of War Ragnorock and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection.
Creative apps used were Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro
Over a week of testing on PS5, many games were tested including Ghost of Tsushima, God of War Ragnorock, and Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection among others. When it comes to PC games, I played Cyberpunk 2077, Forza Horizon 5 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, extensively.
I also tried more PC-focused apps including Google Chrome and Adobe Photoshop which I used to edit the photos used in this review. General computing on this gaming monitor wasn’t the most pleasant experience due to image quality but gaming was much better.
I’ve tested dozens of gaming monitors over the years and I've seen both the best gaming monitors and the worst, so I know what a good monitor should offer for the price you're paying.
We were overwhelmingly impressed with the AOC Agon Pro AG274QG last year for a plethora of reasons, from its visual performance and quality to build design and on a surface level, the AOC Agon Pro AG274QZM builds on nearly everything that made last years model so well-received.
The change to mini-LED backlighting greatly improves image quality, so1440p gaming at a 240Hz refresh rate on the AG274QZM feels better than it does on the AG274QG. That is if one stays away from HDR; the implementation here just doesn’t look good.
Colors by default look considerably washed out and a bit fuzzy and though this could be improved by changing some of the monitor’s internal settings, there’s still some issues with image quality despite being Vesa DisplayHDR 1000 certification.
This time around, there were special accommodations made toward gamers who stream often and need an extra display, namely KVM and picture-in-picture.
KVM allows individuals to switch keyboards and mouses from one display to another. Since many streamers usually need two PCs and monitors to do so, it’s best for streamlining that process. The inclusion of a USB-C port makes this possible and is one of several overall design improvements to the AG274QZM. Enhancements to the internal speakers would have been nice as well, but maybe next year. Similar to the AG274QG, they lack any real punch or bass so grab one of the best PC gaming headsets, you’ll definitely need it.
Having picture-in-picture means that those who rather use one monitor for everything can do so. Considering its 27-inch screen, there’s enough visual real-estate to game and control streaming software like OBS Studio. On the other hand, anyone who wants to do some general computing task while playing a console at their desk can do so as well through picture-in-picture. It’s a great addition overall.
Holding the AG274QZM back from being the best gaming monitor at this size and refresh rate is its price. At $1,099.99, there are 27-inch 1440p/240Hhz gaming monitors that offer similar image quality and performance for much cheaper. If the extra features don’t matter much, you’ll be better off saving the money with one of those. However, there’s much to appreciate with the AG274QZM for PC gamers with deep pockets who need the built-in extras.
AOC Agon Pro AG274QZM: Price & availability
How much does it cost? $1,099 / £999 (about AU$1,600)
When is it available? It is available now.
Where can you get it? Available in the US and UK, Australian availability forthcoming
There are a handful of respectable 27-inch gaming monitors that offer both 1440p resolution and 240Hz refresh rates, like the HyperX Armada 27, Monoprice Dark Matter, and LG UltraGear Ergo 27GN88A. Even the AG274QG is around $300 cheaper. Of course, those aren’t backlit by mini-LEDs like the AG274QZM. Most general consumers looking for great image quality and performance won’t be able to tell the absolute difference unless they’re videophiles.
For those that understand the significance of having a mini-LED display, the price is justifiable to an extent. Let’s not take into account standard features for the gaming monitor including the AOC Agon Pro Quick Switch puck for quicker access to display settings and shield cover which is great for gaming during the day. Add a boatload of features featured on the AG274QZM from KVM to picture-in-picture, there’s some real value here.
Price score: 4 / 5
AOC Agon Pro AG274QZM: Design
Generous amounts of inputs in addition to having USB-C
Customizable back lights alongside logo projector with bottom LED bar
Internal speakers are lacking
On a surface level, the AOC Agon Pro AG274QZM doesn’t look much different from the AG274QG, design wise. However, there are some small additions that make the display feel fresh enough. The most notable is there is an LED bar at the bottom of the monitor.
This, in addition to the standard back LED lights and bottom logo projector, goes a long way to providing an aggressive look. Of course, these are all customizable from the display menu alongside AOC’s G-Menu app. Many in-display options can be controlled that way as well. Despite being DTS certified, the internal speakers are a bit underpowered and lack powerful volume and bass.
We praised the AG274QG for its liberal amount of ports and this continues through the AG274QZM. The ports include two HDMI 2.1 slots, one DisplayPort 1.4, a USB Hub, four USB-A, one 3.5mm headphone jack and 3.5mm mic jack alongside a new USB-C 3.2 port. Besides upstream and power delivery for up to 65W, this is mainly for the KVM capabilities.
Image 1 of 4
Image 2 of 4
Image 3 of 4
Image 4 of 4
Setting up the AG274QZM is a simple process as mentioned previously in the accessibility section. Be mindful that the power brick it uses is pretty big too. Having an added shield cover goes a long way in blocking out a lot of excess light and isn’t difficult to put together. The AG274QZM improves on its predecessor’s already phenomenal design while adding incremental updates that improves the look and functionality of the display in meaningful ways.
Like the AG274QG, putting the monitor together isn't too complicated, though some of the parts are heavy. The base connects to the neck and both to the display lock, it’s really simple and there’s a heaviness to it that definitely brings quality. In terms of accessibility, there are understandable complaints of the weight.
With everything together, users are going to be looking at something in the range of around 17 pounds. The process isn’t difficult but the weight distribution can be a bit tricky to deal with considering how wide the base is. Ports including the power jack point downward which could be a problem for people who have issues bending over and looking up.
Putting the lightweight shield cover together is simple as well. Coming in three parts, both right and left sides connect to the top through a long nail-like bar. One of the best features of the AOC Agon Pro line is the Quick Puck switch that connects to the rear near the display and USB ports. Once connected, it really does help making display changes remarkably easier.
Design score: 4.5 / 5
AOC Agon PRO AG274QZM : Performance
Mini-LED backlight makes SDR image quality look fantastic
Motion performance is buttery smooth
HDR image quality isn’t the best even with settings tinkering
The addition of mini-LED backlight for the display works wonders for image quality on the AG274QZM. With a brightness that maxes out at 750 nits, images look clear, crisp and vivid where it matters most. It doesn’t matter if one is playing Cyberpunk 2077 at 1440p with max settings, creating content on Adobe Suite or watching video content. Considering the competitive gaming lean of the monitor, sessions of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Halo Infinite or even racing games like Forza Horizon 5 played phenomenally.
It also helps that the in-display options have pre-made settings for shooters, racing, RTS and the like, too. When it comes to 1440p at 250Hz in SDR, this is one of the best monitors money can buy. Performance during picture-in-picture mode was fantastic too in displaying two different inputs. Switching between two displays through KVM worked as it was supposed to as well.
We couldn’t say the same thing for its HDR image quality. Default image quality in HDR looks a bit too warm even with the brightness turned all the way up. Collaborations for Windows HDR Collaboration app didn’t help much either. There’s a washed out look that simply doesn’t provide a better image over SDR.
Performance: 4 / 5
Should you buy the AOC Agon AG274QZM?
Buy it if...
Don't buy it if...
You're on a budget Though the AG274QZM may be top tier, there are cheaper gaming monitors that can match image quality and performance.
You require better HDR capabilities SDR is where the AG274QZM shines best as HDR capabilities look a bit muddy and washed.
You need better internal speakers Most PC gamers are going to have headsets but if it matters, the internal speakers on the AG274QZM are fairly weak.
AOC Agon AG274QZM: Also consider
If my AOC Agon AG274QZM review has you considering other options, here are two more 27-inch monitors to consider.
How I tested the AOC Agon AG274QZM
I spent a week testing the AOC Agon AG274QZM
Games played include Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Shadow Warrior 3 and Forza Horizon 5.
Creative apps used were Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro
The AOC Agon AG274QZM was tested over a week. During that time, various games and creative applications were used in testing. Some of the games tested included Cyberpunk 2077, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Shadow Warrior 3 and Forza Horizon 5. On the creative side, Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro were used as well.
We pride ourselves on our independence and our rigorous review-testing process, offering up long-term attention to the products we review and making sure our reviews are updated and maintained - regardless of when a device was released, if you can still buy it, it's on our radar.
When the Xbox Series X launched, it felt as though a lot of features were missing. Of course, the hardware is incredibly impressive, but even that didn't stop it from being a hard sell at first. However, the console has come a long way since its initial release, and several updates along the way have drastically changed the console for the better.
The lack of exclusive games made it feel like you would struggle to get the most out of the Xbox Series X, especially with the competition from PS5 and a number of Sony-exclusive titles being thrown into the ring. Additionally, this wasn’t helped by the console’s continued use of the Xbox One interface. On the other hand, its UI was largely functional and in no need of a drastic overhaul. Quite refreshing, actually, given Microsoft's tendency to switch up its UI regularly in the Xbox 360 days.
So, when you first boot up the Xbox Series X, it’s easy to feel a little underwhelmed. It's not until you explore the console's array of features that it truly begins to shine. The improved library of games that showcase what Microsoft’s new hardware can do is a great starting point. Games like Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, and Microsoft Flight Simulator are prime examples of what the Xbox Series X is capable of, and that’s hardly scratching the surface.
We've always been impressed with the Xbox Series X from a hardware perspective. It's lightning-fast, practically silent, and delivers comparably exceptional performance to that of higher-end gaming PCs. This ensures that games – both old and new – look and perform better than they ever have before, providing a solid foundation for Microsoft to build upon as the generation progresses.
Xbox Series X one year on
We've updated our Xbox Series X review to reflect our impressions after using the console for over two years. Microsoft has rolled out a few welcome improvements to the Series X, and now finally has the exclusive titles that take full advantage of the hardware's power like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5.
But unlike the best gaming PCs, which can cost thousands of dollars, Microsoft has packed a considerable amount of power under the Xbox Series X's monolith-esque frame for just $499 / £449 / AU$749. The end result is a competitively priced and technically advanced console providing drastically reduced load times and significantly improved visual fidelity.
The deal is sweetened further thanks to numerous quality-of-life features enhancing your gameplay experience, like Quick Resume and FPS Boost, which we'll discuss in further detail below. However, even though the Xbox Series X’s raw hardware power cannot be understated – and its new time-saving features are most certainly welcome – it's lacking in some critical areas.
The Xbox Series X still doesn't have the same library of ‘must-have’ exclusives that PS5 or even Nintendo Switch can offer, but it does have Xbox Game Pass. It's a subscription service that lets you access hundreds of games for a monthly fee – and if you're someone who loves to play new titles each and every month spanning multiple genres, it's the best deal in gaming right now.
Even though Xbox Game Pass is mostly populated by older titles, many are optimized to take advantage of Xbox Series X's hardware, such as Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, andSea of Thieves. So, it's a great place to experience new-gen games for less. What's more, all first-party titles hit the service on day one, and thanks to Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax Media, Xbox Game Pass is now home to a bunch of Bethesda titles - with future titles like Starfield and The Elder Scrolls 6 landing on the service on day one. Microsoft also plans to acquire Activision Blizzard, which means series like Call of Duty and Diablo will hit this service in the future, if the long-fought-for deal goes through.
As such, the Xbox Series X represents the ideal time to jump into the Xbox ecosystem for the first time. It's also above and beyond the quality long-time Xbox fans have come to expect. And with console availability better now than ever, it's an ideal time to pick up Microsoft's powerhouse flagship.
Xbox Series X review: price and release date
Xbox Series X release date: Out now (released November 10, 2020)
Xbox Series X price: $499 / £449 / AU$749
The Xbox Series X launched globally on November 10, 2020, giving Microsoft a two-day head start against Sony's PS5, which was released on November 12 (in select countries and November 19 for the rest of the world). Check out our PS5 review if you're interested in Sony's console.
The Xbox Series X is priced at $499 / £449 / AU$749. A lower-specced, digital-only version of the console, the Xbox Series S, launched on the same day, priced at $299.99 / £249.99 / AU$499. If that price point sounds more appealing, read our full Xbox Series S review.
While this isn’t exactly pocket money, it’s a decent price for the new Xbox. It’s the same price as the (now discontinued) Xbox One was at launch, also matching the MSRP of the also discontinued Xbox One X. Both are nowhere near as powerful as the Xbox Series X. Considering that the Series X has specs similar to a gaming PC, the $500 mark is pretty great – you’d be hard-pressed to find a good PC at that price.
However, as mentioned, if you want to get the most out of your Xbox Series X we recommend picking up an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, which costs $15 / £10.99 / AU$15.95 a month (annual subscriptions are also available, which cuts a little off the yearly cost). While this is an additional outlay, that grants you extra access to hundreds of Xbox Game Pass games (including Bethesda and EA titles), Xbox Live Gold, Xbox Cloud Gaming, and monthly free games, which should save you money in the long term compared with buying games separately.
If you’re not fussed about the bells and whistles of Game Pass Ultimate, then it may be worth picking up a regular Game Pass subscription instead, which costs ($9.99 / £7.99 / AU$10.95). That only grants access to the service on console (rather than both PC and console) and does away with cloud gaming on mobile devices.
It’s worth pointing out that the Xbox Series X is also available on Microsoft's Xbox All Access subscription service in select regions, including the US, UK, and Australia. Xbox All Access bundles together the console with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on a 24-month plan (giving you access to the latter for the duration) at a price of $34.99 /£28.99 / AU$46 a month, with no upfront costs – which feels like a very good deal.
We won’t delve too much into that here, though, but it currently makes the Xbox Series X the cheaper powerhouse option.
Xbox Series X review: design
Modern, sleek design
Emits same amount of heat as Xbox One X
Minimal UI and dashboard updates
The Xbox Series X design is a major departure from its predecessors – the upright tower design is more reminiscent of a desktop gaming PC, though you can position the console horizontally, too. Measuring 15.1 x 15 x 30.1cm and weighing 4.45kg, the cuboid-shaped console is matte black all over, apart from a green hue inside the indented cooling vents on the top – it’s clever and elevates the console’s design.
The design of the face of the console is pretty straightforward, with the signature Xbox power button at the top-left, a disc drive (and eject button) at the bottom-left, and a pairing button and USB 3.2 port at the bottom-right (the pairing button also acts as an IR receiver). The back of the console has some cooling vents as well as an HDMI 2.1 output port, two USB 3.2 ports, one networking port, a storage expansion slot, and a power input port.
An interesting accessibility feature on the back of the console is that all the ports have tactile indicators (little, raised dots) which indicate which port you are touching. For example, the USB 3.2 ports have three raised ports, while the power input port has just one. This aims to aid reach-around cabling and to make the console more accessible to the visually impaired.
The sides of the console (when it’s upright) are blank, save for a discreet Xbox logo in the corner of the left side and four rubber pads on the right, which allow for the console to sit horizontally. On the bottom of the console is a slightly elevated disc-shaped stand, along with some more vents for cooling – as mentioned, the top of the console is designed to help with ventilation, as this is where the Xbox Series X exhausts any heat it generates.
The console itself looks minimalistic, sleek… monolithic even. Despite its weight and fairly large size, it looks considerably smaller than its measurements would suggest. We found it slotted with ease into an Ikea Kallax shelving unit (39cm x 39cm), when oriented either horizontally or vertically, and comfortably blended in with its surroundings.
The Xbox Series X design is something you’ll either love or hate – we found it a welcome change from the previous low-profile Xbox consoles. It's sleek, modern, and looks like something a grown-up would actually want to own, and it's a nice evolution from the flat-but-compact Xbox One S and Xbox One X models.
Still, the matte black design does mean the console is easily scuffed and scratched, though it doesn't get dirty. While we've seen Logitech show off a white Xbox Series X console in a recent advert, Microsoft has confirmed there's no plans to release the base console in additional colors at this time.
Quiet as a whisper – but pretty toasty
A major upside of the Xbox Series X is how unexpectedly quiet it is. We've almost become accustomed to consoles revving up like they're about to take off when running games that really put them through their paces; but the Xbox Series X is the quietest Xbox we've had the pleasure of playing on.
When you're on the home screen, the console puts out around 30dB of sound – that's about the audio level of a whisper – and this changes very little when you actually load up and play games. When playing Sea of Thieves, No Man's Sky, and PUBG Battlegrounds, we found the decibels never exceeded 33dB.
That said, when installing a larger update we recorded levels up to 45dB, which is roughly as noisy as a printer in action. Even then, that's not too loud, and it barely registers over the sound of actually playing a game. This was also the case when sampling various new-gen titles.
It's welcome news for those who don't want their gameplay interrupted by the whirring of a struggling machine – but with this quietness comes some heat. The Xbox Series X is on a par with the Xbox One X for heat emission, with heat dispersed through the cooling vents at the top, which we advise leaving ample space for. The console itself does get toasty, too, but we didn't find that this impacted performance when running more intensive new-gen titles.
Xbox Series X: UI and dashboard
While the external design of the Xbox Series X is a considerable departure from its predecessors, the console's UI and dashboard contain more subtle changes. The Xbox Series X dashboard is the same as the Xbox One’s. The main reason for this is because Microsoft rolled out a meaty update to the Xbox One back in August 2020 to make its UI more streamlined, and to converge it with that of the Xbox Series X.
That means the Xbox Series X UI still has a tiled layout with customizable pins. So, you can choose which games and apps you want to see first on your home screen, and offers easy access to games, apps, party chat, and other features via the Xbox button on your controller. It's a pretty streamlined interface that allows for plenty of customization options and easy navigation.
Customization seems to be at the heart of the Xbox Series X UI. In addition to moving around your pinned games and apps, Microsoft is also letting players express themselves a bit more with the inclusion of new profile themes, acting as a background for your profile page. Players can also now finally use dynamic backgrounds, which offers a more personalized home screen option for those who are bored of the Xbox One's static offering.
The Xbox Series X dashboard is quicker to navigate than previously, too, but we did find that there were some pop-in issues when content was being pulled in from the internet. We also found ourselves a bit underwhelmed generally by the UI and dashboard, as it’s lacking any real next-gen flair. We would have liked to see an overhaul that really distinguished the Xbox Series X from its predecessor and made it look new, with easier ways to navigate to media outside of having to add your streaming apps to a pin group.
We can expect further changes to come for the UI. If you're an Xbox Insider, Microsoft recently rolled new Xbox Series X homepage layouts but fans aren't happy. While this introduces some quality of life changes, some players weren't so keen on the "tile clutter" this introduced, while others aren't fond of ads still taking up homepage space. As a feature currently in beta testing, this could change, so we'll keep this updated as we learn more.
Xbox Series X review: performance
Significantly faster loading times and more stability
Easily expandable storage
4K/60fps gameplay (up to 120fps support)
The Xbox Series X is an absolute powerhouse, rocking an eight-core AMD Zen 2 processor running at 3.8GHz, a custom RDNA 2 AMD GPU that puts out 12 TFLOPs of processing power, 16GB of GDDR6 memory, and a 1TB Custom NVMe SSD.
Xbox Series X specs
CPU: 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
So what does that mean in terms of real-world performance?
Shorter loading times
Well, for a start, the Xbox Series X is super-fast thanks to its NVMe SSD. We've seen the Xbox Series X shave tens of seconds off the load times in games, compared with how they run on the Xbox One S. The Xbox Series X always loaded quicker – in some cases by a few seconds, and in others almost halving the load time.
To give you an idea of how much faster these load times are, we timed how long it took to load into a game from clicking the 'Continue' button on the menu screen, for the same games on the Xbox One S and Xbox Series X.
While some titles benefit more than others from faster load speeds, even a few seconds saved is welcome. While games such as Ori and the Blind Forest load fairly quickly anyway, meaning the difference is less noticeable, it's with titles like Sea of Thieves where the power of the SSD really shines – we saw the loading time for Sea of Thieves cut down from roughly 100 seconds to just 35.
When it comes to next-gen titles, we found the few loading screens we were presented with lasted mere seconds. The speed advantage was really shown off by Yakuza: Like a Dragon's fast travel, which comes in the form of a taxi ride. It took around 4.7 seconds to fast-travel to a different district from the moment we accepted the ride, a big improvement over our experience on Xbox One.
4K at 60fps (up to 120fps)
The Xbox Series X’s RDNA 2 GPU allows the console to target 4K at 60fps, however, it also means there’s support for up to 120fps.
Reaching 4K at 120fps
To make sure we could experience Series X gameplay the way it was intended, we hooked the console up to a 55-inch Samsung Q80T QLED 4K HDR Smart TV. We made sure the TV's game mode was enabled, and configured the Xbox's TV settings to allow for 4K UHD and 120fps, which is only achievable on an HDMI 2.1-compliant display like Samsung's here, and which is recommended for enabling the best visual experience possible.
Unless you’re fussy about your frame rates, we would say that getting an HDMI 2.1-compliant display isn’t necessarily essential. The Xbox Series X’s native 4K at 60fps means you get the best of both worlds, minimal frame rate drops (resulting in a smoother experience), and pretty stunning visuals. However, it’s worth noting that for this you do require a 4K-ready TV for 4K resolutions.
While 120fps feels buttery-smooth in games such as The Falconeer, these games do sacrifice resolution as a result. So, for example, The Falconeer can be played in 4K at 60fps. But if you choose the 120fps option, you’ll notice fewer frame drops and better response times, at the expense of sharpness as resolution drops to 1080p. It’s all about compromise and personal preference.
That being said, the likes of Gears 5’s multiplayer allows for 4K at 120fps (thanks to Xbox Series X optimization) and, as a result, offers a smooth and visually impressive upgrade over its Xbox One predecessor. If you enjoy fast-paced competitive multiplayer, then you’ll notice a huge difference from the Xbox One family.
To enable 120fps, you can pop into your console’s audio and visual settings, where you can choose from various frame rate and resolution options. It’s pretty straightforward, and we're pleased to see just how many Xbox Series X games with 120fps support there is, including The Falconeer and Gears 5’s multiplayer, Call of Duty Black Ops: Cold War, Halo Infinite multiplayer, and more.
Auto HDR on Xbox Series X
Like the Xbox One, the Xbox Series X allows for calibration of HDR for games. We'd advise setting this before playing any games, as it ensures the balance of contrast is spot-on, giving you the best visuals possible.
For our initial review, we primarily had access to a selection of backwards-compatible titles which are the best indicator of the boost in performance the Xbox Series X delivers over its last-gen counterparts. With the above settings enabled, we found that the games immediately looked better on the Xbox Series X – which isn't particularly surprising, given that Microsoft has implemented native HDR for these titles.
We go into detail as to how this performance boost improves Xbox Series X Optimized titles further down, but in short, when playing backwards-compatible titles on the Xbox One S and Xbox Series X versions side-by-side we could clearly see the visual upgrade.
FPS Boost on Xbox Series X
Microsoft has added a new feature to Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S post-launch called FPS Boost, which has the potential to quadruple the framerates of older titles. It means that games that were previously locked to 30 frames per second can now hit 60fps - some games can even hit 120fps.
At present, FPS Boost only applies to a specific selection of Xbox One games. The list is extensive but unfortunately, Microsoft's not adding any further games to this. Still, FPS Boost is a fantastic upgrade, particularly for those with an Xbox Game Pass subscription, as it allows Xbox One games to utilize the power of the Xbox Series X. So, for compatible games, it feels less of a technological step back when you decide to revisit some of your favorite Xbox One games.
If, for some reason, you don't want to play these games at a higher framerate, you can also turn it off on a per-game basis. However, we'd recommend leaving it on as it makes games look visually smoother and feel far more responsive.
The Xbox Series X's 1TB Custom NVMe SSD translates to 802GB of usable storage, with 198GB reserved for system files and the Xbox operating system. We were able to download 18 games of varying sizes before having to utilize the console's expandable storage.
That's a fair chunk to play through, then, but we'd advise picking up the Seagate Storage Expansion Card if you really want to take advantage of features such as Quick Resume and the plethora of titles available through Xbox Game Pass. It’s important to note that true new-gen titles will likely take up more storage space once their optimizations have been rolled out.
Along with our console, we were able to test Seagate's 1TB expansion storage card for the Xbox Series X, which also comes in 512GB and 2TB options. The 1TB card doesn't come cheap at $219.99 / £219.99 / AU$359, but we found it extremely easy to use – when we were running out of storage, we simply slotted the card into the back of the Xbox and accessed the extra terabyte. When the console detects that it's approaching its storage capacity, it asks if you want to install on the card instead, while also offering a straightforward option for freeing up space by deleting games.
If the expansion storage card runs a bit expensive for your taste, you can always attach an external drive HDD or SSD via the console's USB 3.1 port. However, these can only play Xbox One and backward-compatible games (with the SSD allowing for faster loading times). You can store your Xbox Series X games on the external HDD or SSD, but only an NVMe SSD can play Xbox Series X Optimized titles.
The process of adding an external hard drive works in the same way as it did on Xbox One: you simply plug the storage into one of the system’s USB ports, and the Xbox will detect it. If the drive needs to be formatted, you’ll see a prompt asking you to do this. It’s a plug-and-play solution that works just as you’d hope.
What's good about the Xbox Series X's storage is that, when you’re installing (or uninstalling) games, you can select particular parts of games to install rather than the full thing. For example, you can download Doom Eternal's multiplayer but not the campaign, or vice versa. We're curious to see how many games will support this kind of installation functionality in the future, because it's a welcome feature and should help with storage management.
On the surface, the Xbox Series X controller doesn’t look like a particularly drastic departure from its predecessor. It sports a similar shape and keeps the traditional button and trigger layout. On closer inspection, though, you begin to notice the subtle differences Microsoft has implemented.
The gamepad’s exterior now sports a matte finish that closely matches the console’s design. While this certainly looks sleek, there's a few drawbacks – the black controller that comes with the console easily picks up noticeable scuffs and scrapes, and considering the amount of hands-on time controllers are subjected, you may find it hard to keep yours looking in tip-top condition for years to come. Other color variants are available though (you'll need to buy these separately), including Electric Volt, DayStrike Camo, and Pulse Red, and some may be less prone to scuffs.
That's a minor quibble, though, and overall we found that the Xbox Series X controller resembles a more premium controller, both in look and feel. The revised pad now has a tactile texture on the triggers, grips, and bumpers, which we found made the controller feel more secure in our hands.
In addition, while the controller is the same size as its predecessor, the bumpers and triggers have been rounded and reduced in size by a few millimetres, which makes the gamepad feel less bulky. If you're someone with small hands, past Xbox One controllers have felt quite bulky, but this simple change improves comfort levels in a subtle but noticeable way.
Perhaps the most notable changes to the controller are the addition of the ‘Share’ button and the hybrid D-pad. The Share button essentially acts as a capture button, allowing you to easily snap screenshots of your game – a single click takes a snapshot while holding the button down for longer records a 15-second video by default (you can adjust the video duration in the Capture settings).
This is much easier than on the Xbox One, where you had to press the home button and then X or Y. Still, we did find it a bit fiddly to quickly take a screenshot – your experience may vary depending on how big your hands are.
The hybrid D-pad, on the other hand, aims to provide a middle ground between the Xbox One controller’s classic D-pad and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2’s changeable disc-shaped, faceted D-pad. What results is a kind of traditional D-pad, laid over a disc. Again, this is a small but welcome change and is intended to give more control and leverage over the D-pad – while generally feeling more comfortable.
But there’s a lot about the controller’s design that hasn’t changed. It keeps the 3.5mm audio jack and expansion port at the bottom, its USB charge port and pairing button at the top, and its View, Menu, and Xbox buttons on the face.
In addition to the cosmetic changes, the Xbox Series X controller brings improvements in functionality too. We found the controller to be more responsive, which is likely down to the lower latency Microsoft has boasted about (paired with more frame rate stability), while connecting the gamepad wirelessly via Bluetooth to a range of devices – including the Xbox One, an iPhone 11, and a Mac – was straightforward.
The Series X controller again runs on AA batteries (regular or rechargeable), but if you want to avoid the hassle of changing or charging batteries constantly then you can invest in a Play and Charge Kit (a rechargeable battery back that you can use to charge the controller while you’re playing or between sessions), or connect your controller to the console via USB-C (although this will, of course, limit your freedom of movement).
Xbox Series X review: features
Quick Resume is pretty seamless
Great backward compatibility with games and accessories
Perhaps the most welcome of the Xbox Series X’s features is Quick Resume. The purpose of Quick Resume is to allow you to continue a game from a suspended state pretty much instantly. So, within seconds, you can jump back into the game where you left off, as if you never stopped playing, without having to sit through loading screens again. Not only that, but you can jump between multiple games that have been left in this suspended state in no time at all.
We could seamlessly jump between gameplay in seconds, as long as the games you're hopping between have already been booted up at some point beforehand. We were able to jump from being in a timberyard as Alan Wake to being Alyson Ronan in Dontnod's Tell Me Why within 11.4 seconds, by pressing the Xbox button on the controller and selecting the game from the sidebar. That's from gameplay to gameplay – no loading screens. If we wanted to access Tell Me Why from the Xbox dashboard home screen, selected as the current game we were playing, the time from the dashboard to gameplay was 2.7 seconds.
Online multiplayer games work a bit differently from other titles. Naturally, it wouldn't be feasible to allow players to suspend mid-play during online gameplay, or we'd just have a bunch of AFK players on the servers. For example, if you're mid-game in Sea of Thieves, and then decide to jump into another game, you’ll be removed from the game – but you can Quick Resume from the title screen.
Since its launch, Quick Resume has received an update that makes the feature more reliable, makes it easier to see which games you have stored in a suspended state. That also identifies which games actually support the feature, with the ability to simply select each game from the My Games and Apps menu. It's a very welcome quality-of-life feature that simply makes using Quick Resume a little bit easier.
Backward compatibility on Xbox Series X
Another of the Xbox Series X's best features is the breadth of its backward compatibility. There are well over 1,000 backward-compatible titles available, meaning you’ll be hard-pressed to find an older game you have that isn’t supported on the Series X.
As mentioned previously, we found these titles loaded faster and simply played better; improved stability means fewer frame rate drops, which makes older games feel nicer to play, even if they're otherwise a little outdated by the standards of modern blockbusters. Sadly, Microsoft has confirmed it's unlikely that we'll see more added in the future.
This backward compatibility also extends to Xbox accessories. We found that we could easily connect the original Xbox Wireless Controller and the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 to the Xbox Series X with no issues, and we were also able to connect our headsets.
Any officially licensed Xbox One accessory that connects either wirelessly or via a wired USB connection should work on the Xbox Series X, such as the Xbox Wireless Headset; however, it’s worth noting that optical port connections aren’t supported, although some of these products may work with a firmware update.
Xbox Smart Delivery aims to allow players to always have access to the best possible version of an Xbox game, whichever console they’re playing on. Essentially, it’s a bit like forward compatibility and backward compatibility combined, making the most of cross-generation gaming.
We found that we could access the games we had access to on Xbox Series X on the Xbox One S without issue, and without having to purchase two versions of the same title. So, for example, we could play The Falconeer on Xbox Series X – with its optimizations – then jump onto the Xbox One S and continue playing the game there, just without the Series X optimizations.
Save data is carried between consoles, so we could easily jump between playing on both. Likewise, our Xbox One games were easily accessible on the Xbox Series X, with upgrades becoming immediately available for those that currently have Series X optimizations, such as Gears Tactics and Gears 5.
Multimedia on Xbox Series X
The Series X also offers a range of multimedia features. For one, the console boasts a built-in 4K Blu-ray player that’s simple to use.
You also have access to a range of streaming services: there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, and others that are available on existing Xbox One consoles, plus some that are new to the platform, including Apple TV Plus and region-specific apps such as Hulu in the US and Sky Go in the UK. All of these can take advantage of the console's 4K UHD capabilities, although some require a decent internet connection.
While all the most popular entertainment apps are available, we did find that there are still some (more regional apps) that we wish we had access to, such as ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer in the UK.
Dolby Vision support
Microsoft is also the only new-gen console maker to support Dolby Vision, a more exacting HDR format that allows for superior contrast and color accuracy. In terms of content, you can watch shows and movies in Dolby Vision with Netflix (if you shell out for the premium subscription tier).
The advantage Dolby Vision has over standard HDR10 is that it supports 12-bit color, enabling the console to display more than 68.7 billion colors, far more than the 10-bit HDR format could show. Of course, how good those colors will look ultimately depends on your TV – which also needs to support Dolby Vision, although that’s par for the course. You can now enjoy Dolby Vision gaming too.
It's worth noting that the 4K Blu-ray player in the Xbox Series X doesn't yet support Dolby Vision, though we could see this changing in the near future with a firmware update.
DTS and Dolby Atmos support
While the default headphones setting for Xbox Series X is Windows Sonic, as on the Xbox One before it, the Xbox Series X also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS headphone: X sound – though you need to purchase a separate license for each.
Windows Sonic is fine for those who aren’t too fussed about their audio, but Dolby Atmos and DTS provide a fuller spatial sound experience. This means, for example, that you can tell from an enemy’s footsteps exactly where they are in relation to you. If you’re someone who plays a lot of online multiplayer then it could be worth picking one of these up, especially as you don’t need a specific headset for either to work – though to use Dolby Atmos you require a compatible soundbar.
It’s also worth noting that these only work with games that support Dolby Atmos or DTS sound, which include the likes of Gears 5, Forza Horizon 5, and Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The new Xbox App for iOS and Android is an upgraded version of the companion app that gives you more control than before.
It allows you to specifically manage storage across your Xbox consoles, voice-chat with friends on either Xbox or PC, and easily share clips and screenshots from games and granting easy access to remote play.
You can even use the app as a remote control for your console, which is very handy for multimedia services. Overall, we found the companion app made it easier than ever to access and manage our Xboxes on the go.
Xbox Series X review: library
Launch title lineup is a bit disappointing
Combined with Xbox Game Pass, offers plenty to play
Plenty of backward-compatible games to play
The Xbox Series X game library is perhaps what lets the new console down the most. For a start, there were only a handful of new big-name games that landed on the console at launch – Assassin's Creed Valhalla, Watch Dogs: Legion, Dirt 5, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, none of which were Xbox exclusives.
In fact, every Xbox Series X launch game was already available (or would be available) on Xbox One – and many were released on PS5 too. The launch titles that were Xbox exclusives, such as Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, and Ori and the Will of the Wisps, were all optimized versions of Xbox One titles.
The Xbox exclusive situation has thankfully improved, with Halo Infinite, Microsoft Flight Simulator, and Forza Horizon 5 bolstering Microsoft's lineup. However, there's still a distinct lack of games that can only be played on Xbox Series X|S, like Bloober Team’s psychological thriller The Medium. It’ll be a while yet before we get our hands on big hitters like Everwildand Fable.
While the next few months for Xbox games still look a bit uncertain, Microsoft has a major ace in the hole: its acquisition of ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda, and Activision Blizzard. This is a huge move by Microsoft that could seriously bolster that lackluster exclusive offering, meaning that future Bethesda titles like The Elder Scrolls 6 and Starfield will come exclusively to Xbox and PC.
Now that’s a prospect that makes Xbox Series X very interesting and could give it a serious advantage over the PS5.
Xbox Game Pass
The saving grace, in terms of the games available, is that Xbox Series X players have access to thousands of backward-compatible games, so you'll have plenty of older games to play.
If you’re picking up an Xbox Series X, we would strongly advise picking up an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription to bolster your library. As previously mentioned, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate means you get access to hundreds of Xbox One games off the bat, including first-party Xbox games on day one. So, in terms of money-saving, pairing your Game Pass subscription with your new console means you won’t have to shell out for brand-new games – unless they’re not included on Game Pass.
In the past six months, we’ve seen even more titles added to Game Pass, including a large number of Bethesda titles, with Microsoft confirming we will see future first-party Xbox games hit the service on launch day - that includes Bethesda games. Activision Blizzard games will also come to the service if the aforementioned acquisition is approved.
If you're hoping to get Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for an even cheaper price, we've got good news. While this is currently being trialled in just the Republic of Ireland and Colombia, Microsoft is looking to launch an Xbox Game Pass family plan, allowing you and four players to jump in for a monthly cost of €21.99 – which comes to around $21.99 / £19.99 / AU$32.99
Xbox Series X optimized
A handful of the best Xbox One games have been optimized for the Xbox Series X. These titles have been upgraded or built with the Xbox Series X in mind, in order to make the most of the console’s power – and boy, do they show it.
We tested a few Optimized titles including Gears 5, Yakuza: Like a Dragon, The Falconeer, and Dirt 5, and found that these games boasted minimal loading times, improved stability, and considerably enhanced visuals. For example, Gears 5 on Xbox Series X boasts ray tracing and 4K at 60fps, making the campaign mode look better than ever before, and load faster.
It’s immediately more immersive, thanks to more stable frame rates and a lack of loading screen walls. The difference is even more noticeable in Gears 5’s multiplayer, which allows for 4K at 120fps, resulting in buttery smooth performance that feels much more responsive – which is critical in online multiplayer. With Dolby Atmos support too, it's a brilliant showcase for the Xbox Series X’s unbridled power.