JBL is famed for its rock-solid audio products, the kind of shiny but affordable gems which reveal themselves as diamonds in the rough more often than not and almost always, always sound excellent for the money. So what happens when the company veers off its successfully navigated low-cost path to go all-in on a flagship set of all-guns-blazing, active noise-cancelling, uniquely screen-toting earbuds? Is our best noise-cancelling earbuds guide about to welcome a new arrival?
The JBL Tour Pro 2 sit above (way above) the brand’s other earbuds – including the splendid JBL Live Pro 2 – which feature possibly the best active noise cancellation at the level I've ever experienced. But the huge upgrades are easy to see from the off; there's a whacking great color touch-screen on the front of the case for starters.
This, dear reader, is a thing of beauty. It is delightful. It's fun, it lets you accept calls with ease (how many times have we tried our best to touch the correct earpiece in the right way, succeeding only in hanging up on our friendly caller?) and it provides simple, scrollable access to ANC profiles, alarms, spatial audio and other perks. During daily use, we find ourselves playing with EQ profiles and useful extras which might have seemed unworthy of the hassle had they been squirrelled away in an app, requiring our phone. Then again, the screen did lose its sparkle, so to speak, after a few days.
Because of said screen, we worried that the battery-life might be a little on the anaemic side. Not so – the total claim of up to 50 hours of playtime (or 30 hours with ANC activated) and a very good 10 in just the buds themselves before they need charging stood up to scrutiny. Fast charge means 10 minutes plugged in will get you five hours of playtime too, which is a smart trick.
So off they go to our best true wireless earbuds guide then? We love the design; we love all of the sound tests and special customizations – including Personi-fi, which is one of the most thorough audio tests within a set of earbuds we've taken to date. We also think the JBL Tour Pro 2 sound good and ANC works well. But that's it. We didn't find the sound stellar, and we wouldn't rate the ANC as fantastic.
Listening to music with the JBL Tour Pro 2 is a pleasant experience for the most part. Instrumental music, jazz, easy listening and soulful tracks sounded smooth. But bassy tracks, rock music and even some vocals didn't sit well with us. Vocals, at times, were a little tinny – especially with the built-in EQ profiles, which we didn't enjoy using – and it was hard to pick out the detail in powerful instrumental tracks, making for a muddy listen at times.
To us it feels a little like JBL nailed it with the JBL Live Pro 2 and tried to go all out with the Tour Pro 2 – slapping a screen on the case, bumping up the specs, improving the sound – when really they're excellent buds and at times it feels like the Tour Pro 2 are a little overcooked somehow.
Don't get us wrong here, the JBL Tour Pro 2 are good. In fact, if you don't have many top-performing buds to compare them to like we do, you might find them great. But are they premium price tag, top-of-the-range great? We're not sure.
JBL Tour Pro 2: price and release date
Launched January 2023
Cost £220 / AU$350 (around $267, but currently unavailable in the USA)
The JBL Tour Pro 2 launched in January 2023 and cost £220 / AU$350 in either champagne or black finishes. At the time of writing, JBL doesn't have US pricing and hasn't confirmed whether the buds will be arriving in the US.
For this money – and toting the smart screen no other audio outfit has offered to date – the JBL Tour Pro 2 are on to a winner, provided the sound is up to snuff.
JBL Tour Pro 2: features
Excellent app adds scope to tailor the case
Sound and fit tests add value
ANC efficacy is easily beaten by AirPods Pro
You can customize the sound by telling the buds which sonic profile sounds best to you, in the Personi-fi 2.0 software. It starts out with an environment noise check (you need to be in a relatively quiet spot), then a wearing status check (you need to have a good seal betwixt ear canal and earbud). It then plays you nine chirpy sounds per ear, and you remove your finger when the sound is imperceptible. We take this test twice, and receive a different pictorial result each time. That said, the second time, the sound augmentation did feel more to our liking.
However, other members of the team weren't as impressed and there was no discernible difference in the audio sample that plays after the test, no matter how many times they tried.
Still, we're not done. The Ear Canal Test (which must be done in a noisy environment) plays another music clip. After it, you can relax as the hybrid True Adaptive ANC does the rest. We note a slight hiss after completion, but toggling 'Leakage Compensation' and 'Ear Canal Compensation' within the 'Customize ANC' tab largely nixes it. We sit under an office heater at work and find it is quashed by the Tour Pro 2 ANC, but certain low-level sounds (cars passing outside, heeled footsteps on concrete) do creep in. Switch to the Apple AirPods Pro 2 and it's a different story – the bottom drops out of the room. With the Tour Pro 2, low-level sounds are diminished, but still, we can hear some extraneous background noise.
The six-mic setup does promote crystal-clear audio during our tests – and the advanced built-in voice recognition can react to your voice, pause music and enable Ambient Aware, then resume the tunes once your conversation is over. This is really good, (it can be set to low, mid or high, depending on how loudly you and your colleagues speak) and we also find call-handling a breeze. But those are just two of a slew of perks, including an EQ tab with five different presets (or create your own), Spatial Sound profiles for music, movies or games, 'smart' audio and video modes, SilentNow (which aims to create a no-music silent bubble by turning on ANC but disconnecting Bluetooth – ideal for naps, because it can be set on a timer with an alarm at the end), Personal Sound Amplification (which can amplify situational sound from your surroundings – and between each ear) adding a volume limit and a Find My Buds feature, if one goes missing. All of this, and we've yet to talk about the features afforded by the case… All in good time.
Before that, the buds: they feature a capacitive touch panel at the very top of the stem. You can switch noise cancelling on and off with a tap on the left stem, double tap for TalkThru and tap and hold to trigger Siri. All of these are customizable – at least to a point. You can’t decide which gestures do what, but you can select which gets priority on each bud. If you want on-ear volume control (which most of us do) you have to sacrifice either ambient sound control or playback options, which is a shame – but a relatively small gripe.
We need to stress that the case helps in a big way, but we do think this experience could be subjective. The screen built into it never fails to acquiesce to our taps first time, quickly becoming a joy and a pleasure we wonder how we ever lived without. For example, we find ourselves scrolling straight to the volume tile (you swipe across) to alter volume rather than even attempt to use the buds. It's a brilliant addition – and within the JBL Headphones app, you can alter the screen brightness, choose one of five screensavers, toggle on message notifications and select which of seven further feature shortcuts you'd like to have access to on-screen. We toggle off SilentNow, since it's a feature we'll rarely use (we don't get to sleep on the job!) but for some that may be a priority. It's also very handy that notifications appear on this screen too – it really is like a smartwatch on your charging case – like calls and messages.
Although we were excited by the case – and do think it could be game-changing for some – it's worth mentioning we did use it less and less once the novelty had worn off. If you find yourself forever opening apps that control your earbuds or headphones, it'll make a big difference. If you don't need to tweak settings much, it may be more of a gimmick.
Features score: 4.5/5
JBL Tour Pro 2: sound quality
Easy-listening, jazz and instrumental genres sound good
Not for those who prioritize detail and dynamic breadth
Doesn't have the punch or power we were expecting
These buds sound good, they really do. But they're not fantastic and that's what we expected with their price tag. Having said that, with lots of settings we did find a sound we enjoyed and think they definitely suit some genres more than others.
We experimented with the different EQ profiles on offer and settled on leaving these off in favor of Harman's revered curve (the company's own heavily researched target sound signature, said to produce the best sound quality that most listeners prefer). That's because we found the EQ sound profiles to be a bit of a disappointment, especially vocals which were tinny and studio, which sounded far away. We didn't notice much of a difference in the others.
We most enjoyed the JBL Tour Pro 2 for easy listening and soulful tracks. Proxima Parada's Musta Been a Ghost was smooth and the balance felt perfect here. The same can be said for instrumental and ambient music, like Geoff Barrow and Ben Salisbury's score for Devs. We like to listen to that while working and it provided an enjoyable soundtrack to our day. Having said that, instrumental music only sounded good to a point. Hildur Guðnadóttir's Joker soundtrack lacked the detail and the power we're used to from other buds. We had just been using the LG Tone Free T90Q buds so compared the two and the LGs felt more expansive, more powerful and enjoyable to listen with.
It's worth mentioning that spoken word sounded great and, strangely enough, the not-totally-perfect-but-fine ANC coupled with this fact made these good buds to wear outside if you like walking and listening to audiobooks and podcasts. We don't like feeling completely isolated from the world when we're listening on-the-move, so these did seem like the best of both worlds.
Tracks with more bass or rock music didn't sound as rich or powerful as we'd have liked. For example the 2023 Remaster of Iggy & The Stooges' Search and Destroy was a little muddied and we couldn't differentiate between instruments and vocals as much as we'd have liked, meaning there was an overall flat effect. Likewise, the Dead Weather's Treat Me Like Your Mother lacked detail, resulting in a muddied listen that wasn't altogether pleasant.
Wondering if this was just something to do with rock music than the buds themselves, we listened to BANKS' Waiting Game and found the vocals more tinny than we expected – that's usually such a smooth listen – and the bass was powerful, but it had a fuzzy-sounding effect. Look, all of these examples sounded objectively fine, but we're used to trialling a pair of new earbuds at this level and being blown away by the new things we discover from our favorite tracks, that didn't happen here. Instead, we were underwhelmed.
If you want buds for music while you're working or podcasts, we like these. If you're after audiophile quality or like powerful tracks – whether that's classical or rock – we think you might be disappointed here.
Sound quality score: 3.5/5
JBL Tour Pro 2: design
Smart case is really fun to use
Battery life is surprisingly good
Some will struggle to achieve a seal
As with Apple's AirPods range, the Honor Earbuds 3 Pro, Huawei Freebuds Pro 2 and Nothing Ear (1) to name just a few, the JBL Tour Pro 2 sport little stems. Despite thinking that the driver housings look a little on the bulky side at first glance, some of the team with smaller ears downsize once and find the earpieces fit well very little fiddling. That said, those with larger ears may struggle – only three ear tips are provided, and one of the team couldn't achieve a seal good enough to pass any of the fit tests (more on these in a moment) even with the largest set, despite several minutes of adjusting them. At this level, a few more ear tip size options – and in different materials – is desirable.
JBL has added its own more angular, look-at-me take on the AirPods' ice-white, no-sharp-edges design though. Here, there are lips and notches in various materials and finishes, including the rubberised driver housings, matte top plate and mirror-finish accents on the stems. There's even a little 'TOUR' embellishment written on the circumference of each bud, as well as JBL's branding on the tails. These are every inch JBL's top-tier offering and the design choices reflect that.
Let's bypass the touchscreen for a second. The underside of the case hasn't been forgotten. This has a rubberized portion which adds traction and means you won't inadvertently swipe it off your desk – a small detail, but the gestural among us will love it.
The 10mm dynamic drivers represent a significant leap up from the 6.8mm drivers found in the JBL Tour Pro+, and they're listed as Bluetooth 5.3 LE audio-compatible, too. So, it seems a shame that no higher-resolutions codecs are supported – no LDAC, no aptX (standard, HD, Low Latency or otherwise).
With up to 50 hours of playtime (or 30 hours with ANC activated) and a very good 10 in just the buds themselves before they need charging, they also trounce most of the competition at the level for stamina. For comparison, the Sony XM4s have 8 hours in each bud, but only 16 in the case, and the latest Apple AirPods Pro 2 offer 6 hours in the buds and a further 30 hours in the case. Fast charge means 10 minutes plugged in will get you five hours of playtime too, but the case can also charge wirelessly.
The JBL Tour Pro 2 have an IPX5 water and dust-proof rating. Interestingly, the case itself has a rating of IPX2 (just make sure you close it). So the whole package is splash-proof, but not waterproof. Many earbuds at the level offer at least an IPX4 certification (which means they'll survive a sweaty gym session) but certain options go much further. The Jabra Elite 7 Active carry an IP57 rating, which means they're dustproof and can be submerged in water at up to one meter in depth, for up to 30 minutes, and survive.
There’s a feature in the JBL Headphones app called 'Check My Best Fit', which plays a short clip of music to ensure you’ve got a good seal in each ear. It's no slouch either, telling us to alter the bud in our troublesomely-shaped right ear until we're good to go. We pass this test, but some of the team fail time and time again. To speak plainly, this is why we removed a star from the design score – if they don't fit, it's impossible to get the best sound from them. And that's not the end of the story when it comes to aural tests! We'll get to grips with further features below.
Design score: 4/5
JBL Tour Pro 2: value
The screen is currently unique – and thus, hard to quantify
Myriad extra fit and hearing tests
Audio and ANC can be beaten at the level
We don't hate these buds, far from it. If you want that case, you can't currently buy anything like it from anyone else. It's almost akin to adding a smartwatch to the front of an earbuds case. And if you're wondering whether it's fun to use, it is. We really enjoy the unique feature but know this is bound to be a matter of personal taste. The novelty did wear off after a few days.
Despite some of our issues, the JBL Tour Pro 2 also sound good and we're always singing the praises of JBL's plethora of settings within its user-friendly app. But for us it's a question of value. Are they worth the premium price tag? Unless you're completely swayed by the screen, we think you can find a better sound and fit elsewhere.
Even noise cancellation, which we enjoyed, can be bested. The Bose QuietComfort Earbuds 2, Sony WF-1000XM4 and AirPods Pro 2 outshine the JBL Tour Pro with relative ease – and although those first two options are priced close-to and a little more than the JBL proposition, the Sonys are now quite a bit cheaper.
Value score: 3/5
JBL Tour Pro 2: should you buy them?
Buy them if…
Don't buy them if…
If our JBL Tour Pro 2 review has you considering other, non screen-toting true wireless earbuds, then take a look at these three alternatives.
Honor split off from Huawei in 2020 and has proven that it's been able to find its feet as a separate entity impressively quickly; producing some of the most advanced and capable phones on the market (just take a look at our rundown of the best Honor phones for some examples).
At the start of 2022, we were introduced to the company's first play into the foldable space, with the Honor Magic V – a book-style foldable akin to Samsung's category-defining Galaxy Z Fold series – that served as a strong first-generation device. The Magic V arrived in January 2022.
Fast-forward to late November and the company unveiled the revised Honor Magic Vs, boasting a more powerful chipset, a refined folding form factor and a revised camera system, and unlike the original Magic V, the Vs is set to launch beyond Chinese borders, making our opportunity to go hands-on with it all the more important.
Honor Magic Vs price and availability
The Honor Magic V made its Chinese debut on January 10, going on sale a week later on January 18. Ten months later and the company brought forth the Magic Vs on November 23, with regional availability kicking off from November 30. But what about elsewhere?
Honor was clearly emboldened by the initial reception the Honor Magic V received, represented not only in its decision to produce a successor so soon afterwards but by its plans to take this latest foldable international. During our Honor Magic Vs briefing, Honor UK's marketing director, Olivier Dobo, confirmed to TechRadar that the phone "will come overseas, including to the UK."
As such, don't expect a release in the US or Australia anytime soon, but a UK release is confirmed, and other parts of Europe are likely. The phone goes on sale in the UK on May 19 from Honor directly, or from Amazon, Argos and Very in June (though only the black model is available at the latter retailers). The Magic Vs will also be available to purchase from Three in June.
Beyond hardware upgrades, one of the notable shifts between the Magic V and Vs is a welcome drop in price – but only in China. The base 256GB Magic V cost CNY¥9,999 (approximately $1,435 / £1,180 / AU$2,150), while the 512GB version cost ¥10,999 (approximately $1,580 / £1,295 / AU$2,360).
In China, the Magic Vs starts at a relatively reasonable ¥7,499 (approximately $1,075 / £885 / AU$1,610) for the 8GB RAM / 256GB storage model (undercutting fresh-faced rival, the new Oppo Find N2), ¥7,999 (approximately $1,150 / £945 / AU$1,720) for 12GB of RAM, or ¥8,999 (approximately $1,290 / £1,060 / AU$1,930) for 12GB of RAM and 512GB of storage.
There's also the Ultimate Edition, which packs a whopping 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage, and boasts stylus support (something not available to the standard Magic Vs), priced at ¥10,888 (approximately $1,560 / £1,285 / AU$2,340); which is still less than the 512GB Magic V from earlier in the year.
As for the phone's actual UK price, however, additional shipping and tax costs make for less appealing reading. The Magic Vs ships for £1,399 in the UK, though with launch offers from Honor, you can purchase the Magic Vs from as low as £1,199 if subscribing to the brand for more info before May 26.
Of course, Honor isn't the only manufacturer to hike its product prices overseas. For reference, Huawei's last vertical foldable – the Mate Xs 2 – cost ¥11,499 (around $1,650 / £1,350 / AU$2,470) in China for the 8GB RAM / 512GB model, which eventually landed in the UK priced at £1,799.
As above, a similar sized premium lands the starting price of Honor Magic Vs at £1,399 – but that's still several hundred pounds less than the base Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4, which costs £1,649. All told, then, this is a competitively-priced handset.
Honor Magic Vs design and display
Honor is delivering exactly what you'd hope from a second-generation foldable: less weight, smaller bezels and tighter dimensions, without compromising on display size.
The Magic Vs sports the same 6.45-inch 21.3:9 120Hz external display and 7.9-inch 10.3:9 90Hz folding main display as its predecessor, in a smaller body that's also significantly lighter, at 261 grams (that's a 27-gram reduction on the Magic V).
Despite packing a larger battery compared to the V, it's undoubtedly the new magnesium alloy hinge that's allowed Honor to trim the fat so effectively; in terms of both weight and volume.
Unlike its predecessor, the hinge of the Magic Vs is now gearless; reducing the number of components from 92 down to just 4. Honor claims that this new hinge design is not only 62% lighter, but also rated to withstand up to 400,000 folds; equivalent to 100 folds a day for 10 years. With no official certification, water and dust ingress are still wholly possible problems that users might run into.
In terms of real-world feel, it does present a fractional amount of play when folded part way or opened completely flat, but not to any degree that undermines the user experience. However, it does raise questions about how the mechanism might feel over time and whether it'll retain the same tension after extended use. The fact that, when closed, the phone boasts a zero-gap design, is unquestionably impressive, though.
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Also like its predecessor, you can pick the Magic Vs up in a number of finishes that adopt a glass back, set against a polished metal frame; with cyan replacing the Magic V's silver colorway; joining an orange and a black option. The aforementioned Ultimate edition can be had in a textured gold or a black with gold accents. That metal frame also conceals a reworked wraparound antenna design, that should result in more resilient connectivity too.
As with every foldable out right now, there's no in-display fingerprint sensor, with the power button on the right side doubling as a means of biometric authentication. The main query we encountered was the high volume rocker placement above the power key, which seems awkwardly positioned, regardless of whether you're operating the Vs with one or two hands.
It would have been nice for a bump to 120Hz on the phone's main folding OLED display, but it still sports plenty of smart technology, like the 1920Hz PWM dimming (on both displays, in fact) – designed to reduce eye strain, alongside stylus support, although that's a premium feature reserved for the Ultimate edition that we suspect won't make its way to international markets, unfortunately.
The Magic Vs also joins a still relatively exclusive club of devices (almost entirely comprised of other Honor phones) that serves up IMAX Enhanced audio from its stereo speakers.
Honor Magic Vs performance and software
This hands-on was conducted using a device running pre-release software, so despite being able to download apps from the Google Play Store and perform other actions not usually possible on a device running on a Chinese ROM, Honor hasn't yet finalized the software experience for the international market; meaning we're unable to comment on how the phone handled in our time with it (stay tuned for the full review for that).
The Magic Vs launches with Honor's latest MagicOS 7.0 (which still runs atop Android 12; like the company's previous user experience), which features a bevy of foldable-specific additions to make the most out of the phone's extra screen real estate; more on that in future too.
Under the hood, memory now starts at 8GB of RAM and (if you include the Ultimate edition) tops out at 16GB, compared to its predecessor's range-wide allocation of 12GB, while the chipset has received a timely bump from the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 to the Snapdragon 8 Plus Gen 1. It's assumed that the Magic Vs was already too far into development for Honor to fit it with Qualcomm's fresh-faced Snapdragon 8 Gen 2.
Honor has also, once again, included a Dual TEE Security System, which features a dedicated chip, built in partnership with Qualcomm.
Even with the weight loss, compared to its predecessor the Magic Vs also boasts a larger total capacity dual battery design. There's still no wireless charging, but with the company's 66W SuperCharge tech, the phone's 5,000mAh battery is quoted as being able to refill to 100 percent in just 46 minutes.
Honor Magic Vs camera
As with the Magic V, the Vs sports a triple rear camera setup with the same distinct 'triple star ring' design, however, it looks to be a different beast to its predecessor's trio of 50MP sensors.
Instead, the phone leads with a 54MP Sony IMX800 sensor (as found in the Honor 70), paired to a familiar 50MP ultrawide (which doubles as a macro camera) – with a 122-degree field of view, while the third sensor is now an 8MP 3x optical zoom telephoto unit, instead of the Magic V's dedicated 50MP Spectra-enhanced sensor.
The front cameras have also been shifted, from 42MP down to 16MP, with the hope that the sensors at play offer better light response and dynamic range.
The cameras are perhaps the most prominent unknown quantity on the Magic Vs at this time, but we'll have to wait until the phone's 2023 launch to establish whether they're flagship-class and worthwhile.
Honor hopes the price / performance balance that the Magic Vs strikes is enough to convince curious buyers that this is the foldable you can live with, as it looks as though it'll be more affordable than the select group of internationally-available rivals, without compromising on capability.
There's already evident room for improvement, with 'only' a 90Hz refresh rate on the Vs' main display, a lack of IP-certified protection against dust and water ingress, and stylus support that's locked to an exclusive variant that looks set to remain a Chinese-only release for the foreseeable.
Regardless, this first encounter with the Honor Magic Vs shows promise and proves that the company isn't just existing in the space, it's keen to push to envelope and take on the biggest and best foldables out there.
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.