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Xbox Series S review
1:50 pm | January 30, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Xbox Series S two-minute review

The Xbox Series S can be slightly challenging to separate from Microsoft's flagship console, the Xbox Series X, but once you start reading between the lines there are several blatant differences to differentiate the pair. The Xbox Series S is designed to take the same generational leaps as the Series X, like including ray tracing, hosting super fast load times, and showcasing higher frame rates, but due to it's smaller price tag, some notable compromises are bound to happen. 

The Xbox Series S is praised for its digital-only build, but surprisingly there is significantly less storage than the Xbox Series X. The console also targets a 1440p resolution rather than 4K, with the opportunity to upscale when connected to an Ultra HD display. But, the console is designed to run at lower resolutions, which is another essential element to consider should you want to experience gaming at it's very best. 

Microsoft's more affordable Xbox also does away with the 4K HD Blu-Ray drive of the Xbox Series X, making this a digital-only affair. If you've amassed a large library of the best Xbox Series X games over the years, this alone could be a deal-breaker, and means you're at the mercy of Microsoft's store pricing when it comes to buying new titles.

Xbox Series S one year on

Xbox Series S against a black background

(Image credit: Shutterstock/m.andrei)

We've updated our Xbox Series S review to reflect our impressions after using the console for nearly two years. Microsoft has rolled out a few welcome improvements to the Series S, and we now finally have exclusive titles that take full advantage of the hardware's power like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5.

These cutbacks might be too much for some users, then, but it makes the Xbox Series S a much cheaper and less hefty device as a result. Crucially, it's still capable of playing new-gen games, making this a great entry point into the Xbox ecosystem.

During our time with the Xbox Series S, we tested dozens of games – from last-gen Xbox Series X/S optimized hits including Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Forza Horizon 4, Doom Eternal, and Gears 5, to launch titles like Yakuza: Like a Dragon.

Each one impressed us, with smoother frame rates, increased resolutions (when compared to Xbox One, and Xbox One S), and faster load times, even if the games didn't look quite as pretty as they did running on the Xbox Series X. But that's mostly due to Xbox Series S targeting a lower resolution.

That said, for gamers who have no qualms about buying games digitally, or subscribing to Xbox Game Pass, you’re getting the full suite of next-gen features on Microsoft's cheaper console: Quick Resume, Auto HDR, 120Hz, you name it. The Xbox Series S is a great option for those wanting to experience new-gen gaming, without the sizable financial outlay required to own a full-blown console.

Xbox Series S photo from the top

(Image credit: Future)

As we've alluded to already, there are drawbacks to consider. If you prefer to purchase games physically, or have amassed a large collection of Xbox One games over the years, the Xbox Series S's lack of disc drive may put you off. 

You only get a 512GB SSD, too, as there's no higher-capacity option. And while the console's SSD is dramatically faster than the old mechanical drives in the Xbox One X and Xbox One S, it can fill up fast. The five games we mentioned above almost took up the entire 512GB SSD on our review unit (you only get 364GB of usable space), leaving us with just 30GB of storage to play with. 

That means if we wanted to install a game of that size to the system's internal drive, we'd likely have to delete something first (or additionally purchase the Seagate Xbox storage expansion card, which costs nearly as much as the Xbox Series S itself).

Xbox Series X review

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)

The Xbox Series X utilizes its powerful specs to significantly reduce load times and increase overall game performance and visual fidelity. But, while features such as Quick Resume, Smart Delivery, and backward compatibility give it that extra boost, it's hard to deny that it’s lacking in key areas, notably significant UI improvements and captivating exclusive launch titles.

Read our Xbox Series X review

What may deter people from buying Microsoft's more affordable Xbox is the fact that it outputs at 1440p for gaming. This lower resolution is a firm favourite in the PC gaming space due to the superior image quality it provides over 1080p, and the lower amount of graphical grunt it requires from developers to achieve. This has allowed Microsoft to create a lower-spec machine that still boasts next-gen features. 

If you own an Xbox One X, the drop to 1440p from native 4K can be noticeable. The Xbox One X could deliver games like Forza Motorsport 7 at 4K/60fps and is still capable of some sumptuous visuals. It's easy, then, to think that the Xbox Series S is a step back – however, it's capable of a lot more than Microsoft's aging Xbox One X, even if it doesn't always beat it in terms of resolution. 

Looking at the system internals, the Xbox Series S separates itself from the One X with its vastly more powerful CPU and more technically capable GPU, courtesy of AMD's RDNA 2 architecture which enables cutting-edge features like ray tracing. Yes, the Series S has fewer teraflops than the Xbox One X (four compared to six), but teraflops are no longer the defining factor in how GPU power is determined. 

For Xbox One owners looking to upgrade without breaking the bank, the Xbox Series S is a great option, if you can accept what it's been designed to achieve. If you've already got the Xbox One X and a 4K display at home, however, we suggest considering the Xbox Series X instead. Read on for our full Xbox Series S review.

Considering the bigger sibling? Check out our Xbox Series X video review below.

Xbox Series S: price and release date

  • Xbox Series S release date: Out now (released November 10, 2020)
  • Xbox Series S price: $299.99 / £249.99 / AU$499
  • Can be bundled with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for $24.99 / £20.99 / AU$33 a month

The Xbox Series S is available now for $299.99 / £249.99 / AU$499 and was released on November 10, 2020. That's the same release date as the Xbox Series X, though the price is significantly cheaper than the Series X's price of $499 / £499 / AU$749. Thankfully, Xbox won't follow PlayStation with price hikes, so while Xbox doesn't rule out future price hikes just yet, this isn't changing anytime soon. 

Keep in mind however that, without a disc drive, you won't be able to buy used games or trade games with your friends: you're dependent on the Xbox Store for any purchases, which means you won't always get the best deal. 

That issue is negated somewhat if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass (a separate expense, but exceptional value nonetheless), or if you only buy the occasional game at full price around launch. Still, it's not ideal for those who rely on physical game sales or trade-ins to fund their favorite pastime.

Xbox Series S is also available on Microsoft's Xbox All Access subscription service in select regions, including the US, UK, and Australia. Xbox All Access bundles the console with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate on a 24-month plan (giving you access to the latter for the duration) for $24.99 / £20.99 / AU$33 a month, with no upfront costs – that's a good deal which proves cheaper than buying the console and 24 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate separately.

Of course, Microsoft isn't the only one with newer hardware out. Sony released the PS5 and PS5 Digital Edition soon after the Xbox Series S and Series X dropped, so if you're still on the fence then it's worth checking out our PS5 review before committing.

Xbox Series S standing vertically next to a TV

(Image credit: Future)

Xbox Series S review: design

  • Looks great when placed horizontally or vertically
  • Can comfortably fit into any setup
  • The console and controller look great in white

While the hardware powering the Xbox Series S is brand-new, the Xbox Series S design is reminiscent of the now-discontinued Xbox One S All-Digital Edition.

The Xbox Series S has a distinctive black fan vent, almost like a speaker grille, on the top that breaks up the swathe of white which encases the rest of the console, and it's where the majority of heat is exhausted. It's the smallest Xbox that Microsoft has ever made, with a plain front face that sports a single USB port and a power button. It's a clean, understated, and functional design.

For ports, you’ll find an HDMI 2.1 output, two USB 3.2 ports, an Ethernet port, a storage expansion slot, and an AC input. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Xbox Series S doesn't have a port for Kinect, Microsoft's now-defunct motion-sensing camera, or a HDMI input for cable boxes. However, that the Xbox Series S only ships with a High-Speed HDMI cable, not an Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable.

With weight and size, the Xbox Series S measures in at 6.5 x 15.1 x 27.5cm and 4.25 pounds (around 2kg). Its size should ensure it easily fits into most entertainment center cabinets and on TV stands, and it's light enough to pack up and bring to a friend's house or take with you on vacation.

As we mentioned above, the Xbox Series S is smaller than the Xbox One S. That's an impressive feat considering that it’s packing a 4 TFLOP GPU and an octa-core Custom Zen 2 CPU that needs to be cooled.

While some might not like the way Microsoft has aped its own design from the last generation, we're okay with it. It's nice to have some continuity, especially in products that are advertised as a family of devices, although it is fairly straightforward and industrial-like in its appearance. 

Xbox Series S showing the back ports and top fan

(Image credit: Future)

Xbox Series S review: performance

  • Upscaled 4K looks great, and native 1440p is a nice compromise
  • Offers smooth and fluid 120fps gameplay
  • Xbox Velocity Architecture is fast… but not instantaneous

The Xbox Series S's strong suit is its value proposition – it's a compact powerhouse. It can offer either upscaled 4K gaming, native 1440p resolution, or a 1080p picture. 

Its GPU, while not as powerful as the one in the Xbox Series X, can upscale games to 4K (in a similar way to the Xbox One S) and still run games at 120fps at 1440p, but you'll need a HDMI 2.1-compliant TV if you want to keep the resolution at 1440p. It's also capable of ray tracing, and loads games faster than ever, thanks to Microsoft's Xbox Velocity Architecture. 

Combine Velocity Architecture with the 10GB of GDDR6 memory and built-in SSD, and you’ve got all the makings of a powerful console. Better still, Microsoft recently gave a performance boost for Xbox Series S games, which frees up hundreds of additional megabytes of memory. Crucially, this should help improve graphics performance.

Xbox Series S specs

CPU: 8-core 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with SMT) custom AMD 7nm
GPU: 4 teraflops at 1.565GHz
Frame rate: Up to 120fps
Resolution: 1440p with 4K upscaling
Optical: No disk drive
Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
Usable storage space: 364GB

But do you actually need a 4K TV? And furthermore, do you need one that supports HDMI 2.1 for its 120Hz refresh rate? Let’s walk through all the scenarios.

If you're using a 1080p TV, the Xbox Series S uses a technique called supersampling to create better-looking images, even on less-capable displays. Supersampling is a complex process, but the basic idea is that the game is rendered at a higher resolution, and then the console downscales the image to match the output of your TV. 

The end result is a noticeable boost in image clarity and anti-aliasing (the removal of jaggies and pixelated edges) and means that gamers who aren't using a 4K or 1440p -capable screen will still benefit from improved image quality from the Xbox Series S. 

Most folks though, we expect, will be pairing the Xbox Series S with a 4K HDR TV – potentially one with a 120Hz native refresh rate, although the majority of displays sold over the last few years are likely to only support 60Hz at 4K and 1440p. If you do have a capable display, here's how to enable 120Hz on Xbox Series S.

Hook the Xbox Series S up to a 4K panel, and the console uses a technique called upscaling to convert a non-native 4K signal to 4K. While there's a stark difference between rendering in 4K, and rendering in 1440p and then upscaling to 4K – especially if you've got a keen eye for detail – it still makes games on the Xbox Series S look better than if the console was locked to a 1440p output. 

It's worth noting that the Xbox Series S can render some games in native 4K if a developer chooses to enable that option. Just be aware it's done on a game-by-game basis, and isn't something you’re going to see on every game on the system.

The upshot here is that the console can utilize HDR (high dynamic range), which enables a wider color palette, higher peak brightness, and better contrast levels. Skies look bluer, the grass looks greener and colors pop in every scene. If you haven't had the opportunity to game in HDR yet, you're in for a treat.

If you are fortunate enough to have a display that's compliant with HDMI 2.1, you can enable 120fps at 1440p without having to drop down to 1080p resolution. To enable 120fps, simply pop into the console's audio and visual settings, where you can choose from various frame rate and resolution options. 

It's pretty straightforward, but it's worth noting that not all games can hit 120fps, though Microsoft has amassed a handsome collection of titles since launch including Halo Infinite, Gears 5's multiplayer, and Call of Duty: Vanguard. Check out the full list of Xbox Series S games with 120fps support

Even if you don't invest in a new TV, you're still going to see the benefits of the new SSD and Microsoft's Xbox Velocity Architecture. The latter is a multi-step solution that combines the Series S's custom NVMe SSD, hardware-accelerated decompression blocks, a brand-new DirectStorage API layer, and Sampler Feedback Streaming (SFS).

That's a lot to parse, but the gist of it is that data is stored in a more efficient way, and can be loaded into memory faster thanks to both the physical storage medium and the software algorithms that Microsoft has implemented to load the data. 

Xbox Series S with Xbox Series X and controllers

(Image credit: Future)

The result is significantly faster load times compared to Xbox One X – we're talking about games that now load in a matter of seconds. The SSD also enables features like Quick Resume, which we’ll get to shortly.  Of course, the one area that's less impressive here is the meager 512GB of storage capacity, which most people will fill up fast. 

While 500GB was sufficient early on during the last console generation, game file sizes have expanded exponentially in the years since, making anything less than 1TB of storage seem like a raw deal. It gets worse when you realise that you can't access the full 512GB of storage. The system OS takes up 148GB of space, meaning you've only got 364GB of usable storage to play with from the outset. 

By the time you've installed four or five games, you'll need to start thinking about what to uninstall, which is never a fun experience. While Microsoft claims that games on Xbox Series S will be up to 30% smaller due to not having 4K texture files, this won’t stop the system's internal drive from rapidly filling up.

The good news is that Microsoft has released an add-on storage solution at launch, in partnership with Seagate, that can add 2TB, 1TB or 500GB of extra storage if you run out of room. The bad news? The 1TB Seagate Storage Expansion Card costs $219.99 / £219.99 / AU$359 – money that could be spent on buying an Xbox Series X instead, which has 1TB built-in storage and better 4K support.

Xbox Series S review: controller

  • More tactile than before thanks to careful refinement
  • Triggers are shorter, controller is easier to grip thanks to new textured finish 
  • Share button is a welcome addition, and the 360-degree D-pad feels great
  • Still uses AA batteries, unfortunately

Coming from the Xbox One Controller, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Xbox Wireless Controller for Series X/S isn't that different. However, it's now more comfortable and easier to use than ever before, due to subtle changes in the controller's ergonomics. 

Its overall dimensions have been tweaked ever so slightly, reducing the size of the controller as a whole, but not to the point where it's noticeable to the average user. It means more hand sizes can use the new Xbox pad comfortably. Other changes include a textured and matte finish on the handles, triggers, and bumpers, that help you get more purchase on the controller during tense gaming sessions.

Probably the biggest change for the controller itself, though, is the new D-pad, which has been revised to be a full 360-degree pad that feels great on the thumb. Each direction clicks with a satisfying sound and tactile feedback (though some might find it noisier than they'd like). Its smooth finish makes pulling off half-circle sweeps in fighting games a real pleasure.

Another minor change is that the triggers have been shortened to make them more accommodating for smaller hands. These triggers still have haptic feedback in the form of rumble motors, but it's not the same as the adaptive triggers in the PS5 DualSense controller, which can change resistance on the fly.

The new Share button does exactly what you'd expect – it captures and shares moments in your game for posting in your Xbox Feed or on social media. One click takes a snapshot, while holding the button down longer captures a 15-second video (you can adjust the duration in the Capture settings). 

It's much easier than on the Xbox One, where you had to press the home button twice and then X or Y, but it takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to the old way. 

Xbox Series S controller leaning against the console

(Image credit: Future)

Overall though, it's mostly what you remember, with two asymmetrical analog sticks, the menu and view buttons that fill in for start and select, and the four face buttons (A, B, X, Y).

The Xbox Series S controller keeps its 3.5mm audio jack and expansion port at the bottom, but it now uses a USB Type-C charging port instead of microUSB. You'll also find the pairing button at the top, which you use to sync the controller to the console, or for pairing when using Bluetooth.

The new Xbox pad is still a comfortable controller to play with, but its biggest weakness is the fact that it still uses AA batteries. That's instead of a rechargeable lithium-ion cell like the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller or Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 houses. We found a pair of AA batteries lasted for around 10 days or so of heavy gaming.

If you're appalled by the idea of a controller using AA batteries in 2020, you can also pick up Microsoft's play-and-charge kit, which comprises a rechargeable battery and USB-C cable, for $24.99 (£20.99 / AU$29.95 ) to save you money in the long term (you can also use rechargeable AAs).

While the kit is obviously an extra expense that may irk some, there's an element of flexibility at least – and you're also not at the mercy of a lithium-ion cell battery, which can degrade over time, and which is more costly to replace should anything go awry.

Our advice? Pick up rechargeable batteries, or Microsoft's play-and-charge kit, if you plan on doing more than 40 hours of gaming a week.

Xbox Series S review: features

  • User interface feels a bit overcrowded and, in some places, slow
  • Quick Resume feels really cutting-edge
  • Smart Delivery ensures you get the best possible version of a game
  • Good selection of streaming apps, plus Dolby Vision and Atmos support

If it's been a few years since you bought an Xbox console, and you're worried that the process of setting it up might be confusing, don't be. Setting up the Xbox Series S proved to be a streamlined process, thanks in no small part to the new-and-improved Xbox app for Android and iOS. We've even seen Discord become available for all Xbox Series S players.

You’ll need to download the Xbox app from the App Store for iOS or Google Play Store on Android devices, and log in to your Microsoft account. Once you're in, power on the console and type in the code you see in the app, which appears on your TV screen – this pulls in all your data without you having to type it all in. You'll still need to enter a few details via the console, like Wi-Fi password, but then you're off to the races after waiting for an update to land.

The UI that greets you when you’ve finished setting up the Xbox Series S will be instantly familiar to anyone who's used an Xbox One in the last three months. The 'new' Xbox Dashboard rolled out in August 2020, and is the same across both Xbox Series X and S and the older hardware. It isn’t the most intuitive of interfaces, though. 

There's a lot of information on display at once, and it's fair to say there's a small learning curve when it comes to figuring out how to navigate the UI effectively.  The downside to the new consoles having the same user interface as the One series is that the Xbox Series S doesn't feel any different right away. It doesn't feel that new, even if navigating the dashboard feels snappier than before thanks to the extra power underneath the hood. 

Moreover, the new UI still presents some of the same problems we've noticed in the past with Xbox One's interface: some images on the screen take a few seconds to load as content is pulled from the internet, and it's generally a bit too busy for most tastes, with far more information on the screen than you actually need at one time. Look past the UI, however, and you'll begin to see some areas where the Xbox Series S really innovates, though they're admittedly more subtle. 

We can expect further changes to come for the UI, too. 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 Wireless controller laying on top of the Xbox Series S

(Image credit: Future)

Smart Delivery from the Xbox Store means you'll always get the best possible version of a game when you download it, or if it's upgraded in the future. Your save data also carries over seamlessly, even if you jump back and forth between your old Xbox One / One X / One S and new Xbox Series S. It's simultaneously backward and forward compatibility, which is reassuring.

Jumping between multiple games is now possible thanks to Quick Resume, a new feature that allows the Xbox Series S to hold multiple game states in the memory at one time, so you can jump back and forth between games without having to reload them. 

The number of games that can be suspended varies – we had as many as eight in rotation at one point – and it won't work with every title, especially those with ever-changing online worlds, like Sea of Thieves. It's a handy, time-saving feature that's only possible thanks to the console's SSD, and game states are preserved even if the console is completely powered down. 

Lastly, we have to talk about the console's multimedia capabilities. As a streaming device, the Xbox Series S carries most major services. That goes between 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. There's also region-specific apps such as Hulu in the US, and Sky Go in the UK. 

Accessing these requires navigating to the Apps section of your library. Or, if you frequently use particular apps you can pin them to the home screen or create a specific group that can be accessed from the Xbox guide. We noticed that, like games, apps stayed in a suspended state when we flicked between them.

It's important to note that while the Xbox Series S only outputs at 1440p resolution when you're gaming, the console is capable of displaying streaming apps in 4K HDR. That means the likes of Netflix, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus will output in 4K if you're using a compatible display.

As on the Xbox One X, some of these services are available in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, giving you access to advanced HDR and 3D surround sound respectively, but you may have to pay for a higher subscription tier in order to access those formats.

Xbox Series S review: game library

  • Scarce launch lineup with few exclusives
  • Backwards compatibility with three generations of Xbox consoles
  • Xbox Game Pass is a great way to instantly build up your library

We won't mince words here: the Xbox Series S's game library got off to a bad start. With the delay of Halo Infinite, there weren't any first-party exclusives available at launch on the Xbox Series S, other than titles that have previously been available on Xbox. 

More third-party and first-party exclusives have since arrived like The Medium and Microsoft Flight Simulator, but Microsoft's first-party output is slowly catching up. Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Psychonauts 2, Grounded, and As Dusk Falls are all now available.

Instead of releasing new experiences on day one, Microsoft mainly opted to improve the existing library of games via Xbox Series S optimizations. Games like Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Sea of Thieves have all been optimized to either increase their base resolution or frame rates or to offer greater visual fidelity. 

If you want to quickly see which games have been optimized for the Xbox Series S, head to 'My Games & App' > 'Games' > and then select 'Group by console type'. You can then see all the games optimized for Xbox Series X/S at a glance.

If you're someone who loves having access to the entire library of Xbox games past and present, the Xbox Series S will be appealing because it supports four generations of Xbox titles, stretching all the way back to the original Xbox. Being able to jump back and forth between Xbox 360 classics like Viva Piñata and Red Dead Redemption to more modern-day blockbusters is comforting.

It's nice not having to break out the old hardware or track down an old CRT TV but the caveat here is big. Because the Xbox Series S doesn't have a disc drive, you'll need digital versions of those older games in order to play them – and for that reason alone, Xbox Game Pass is great. 

On it, you'll find over 100 games available to download on the Xbox Series S, with a mix of new first-party titles like Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Gears 5, and Forza 7, and some indie gems from the Xbox 360 era. If you're someone who loves the Xbox Games with Gold program but wished you had a few more options to download, Game Pass is really satisfying.

While Game Pass can't make up for that lack of exclusives, it does enable you to pad out your library and gives you a chance to see some of the best previous-gen games in a new light. You also get access to all of Microsoft's first-party games the day they release, which represents a huge long-term saving in itself.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers can also stream games via Xbox Cloud Gaming. It means that rather than take up storage space, you can play games instantly without having to wait. This is a great option if you simply want to try something out, but we still prefer gaming natively as opposed to via the cloud due to increased input latency and some image issues that can occur.

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

Should I buy the Xbox Series S?

Controller on top of the Xbox Series S console

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

First reviewed: November 2020.

Snapdragon 8cx Gen 4 specs surface, promise powerful CPU, support for external GPU
2:31 pm | January 23, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Mobile phones news | Tags: , | Comments: Off

At the end of 2021 Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3, the first 5nm chipset for Windows on ARM devices. It used ARM-designed cores, so its performance is not too different from its siblings that are used for Android. But soon Qualcomm’s acquisition of Nuvia will pay off with the 8cx Gen 4. As previous rumors reported, the company is working on a 12 core chip. According to Kuba Wojciechowski, these will be divided into 8 performance (~3.4GHz) and 4 efficiency (~2.5GHz) cores. They are based on Nuvia’s Phoenix design and will use the “Oryon” marketing name (rather than “Kryo” like...

Xbox Series X review
5:52 pm | December 20, 2022

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets | Tags: , , , | Comments: Off

Xbox Series X one-minute review

The Xbox Series X wasn't terribly easy to recommend when it launched in 2020. Largely due to missing a number of features you’d typically get from one of Microsoft’s flagship consoles. Thankfully it's come a long way over the last couple of years, only taking a few additional improvements to justify its price. It’s always been a great piece of hardware, but now it’s worth every penny.

But that’s not to say that the Xbox Series X wasn’t missing the wow factor for quite some time. The lack of exclusive games made it feel like you would struggle to get the most out of Microsoft’s newest system, especially with such fierce competition with the PS5 and a number of Sony-exclusive titles being thrown into the ring. In addition, this wasn’t helped by the Xbox Series X’s use of the Xbox One interface. 

So, when you first boot up the Xbox Series X, it’s easy to feel a little underwhelmed. But the further you dive into the console, the vast improvements begin to shine through. 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 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

Xbox Series X release date

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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, and Sea 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 will hit this service in the future.

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

(Image credit: Future)
  • 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.

But the Xbox Series X isn’t the only new-gen console available, and it’s also worth checking out the PS5 and PS5 Digital, which initially launched at similar price points. However, we've recently seen the PS5 get a price hike with Sony blaming this on soaring inflation globally. Thankfully, Xbox won't follow PlayStation with price hikes but as it stands, Xbox doesn't rule out future price hikes

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

Xbox Series X review vertical orientation

(Image credit: Future)
  • Modern, sleek design
  • Extremely quiet
  • 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.

Xbox Series X review rear

(Image credit: TechRadar)

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

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: TechRadar)

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 PlayerUnknown's 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

Xbox Series X UI

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)
  • Significantly faster loading times and more stability
  • Easily expandable storage
  • 4K/60fps gameplay (up to 120fps support)
  • Auto HDR

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

Xbox Series X on a blank background with two plants

(Image credit: Shutterstock / vfhnb12)

CPU: 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU 

GPU: 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU 

Die Size: 360.45 mm2 

Process: 7nm Enhanced 

Memory: 16 GB GDDR6 w/ 320b bus 

Memory Bandwidth: 10GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s 

Internal Storage: 1TB Custom NVME SSD I/O Throughput: 2.4 GB/s (Raw), 4.8 GB/s

Expandable Storage: 1TB Expansion Card (matches internal storage exactly) 

External Storage: USB 3.2 External HDD Support 

Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive 

Performance Target: 4K @ 60fps, Up to 120fps

So what does that mean in terms of real-world performance? 

Shorter loading times

Yakuza: Like a Dragon on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Sega)

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 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 Falconeer on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Wired Productions)

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

Sea of Thieves on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Rare)

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

Watch Dogs 2 free

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

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. 

We've included some of the Xbox Series X/S games that support FPS Boost in the linked list.

Xbox Series X Storage

Xbox Series X storage

(Image credit: TechRadar)

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. 

Xbox Series X review: controller

Xbox Series X controller

(Image credit: TechRadar)
  • Feels familiar in the hand yet subtly different
  • Works on a range of devices
  • Improved tactile textures and refined geometry
  • New ‘Share’ button

The Xbox Series X Wireless Controller feels familiar in the hand yet subtly different. Compared to the Xbox One Controller, it's got improved tactile textures and refined geometry which makes for a more ergonomic, and more comfortable, playing experience. 

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. 

Xbox controller

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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

Xbox Series X logo

(Image credit: TechRadar)
  • Quick Resume is pretty seamless
  • Great backward compatibility with games and accessories
  • 4K UHD Blu-ray drive
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS support

The Xbox Series X has a number of useful features and meaningful quality-of-life improvements. Unlike most consoles, there's active support for using a keyboard and mouse on Xbox Series X, while the 4K Blu-ray drive and access to entertainment apps means the console doubles up as a home entertainment system. We've even seen Discord become available for all Xbox Series X players.

Quick Resume on Xbox Series X

Gears Tactics on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: The Coalition)

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

Alan Wake backwards compatibility on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

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.

Smart Delivery

Watch Dogs: Legion on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

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


(Image credit: Netflix)

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

Gears 5 Xbox Series X

(Image credit: The Coaliton)

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 

Forza Horizon 4 Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Playground Games)

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 4, and Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Xbox App 

Xbox Series X app

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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

The Touryst on Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Shin'en Multimedia)
  • 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 Everwild, Redfall, and 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

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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

Xbox Series X optimized logo

(Image credit: Microsoft)

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.

Should I buy the Xbox Series X?

Xbox Series X horizontal

(Image credit: Future)

Buy it if...

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Future)

Don't buy it if...

Also consider

First reviewed: November 2020.

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