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Hands-on review: The Xbox Series X console

06 Nov 2020

2020 may not have been a great year so far, but it has been a decent year for video games. Aside from games being released like Final Fantasy 7 Remake and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1+2, this November will also see the release of the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. 

We have had a chance to test out the Xbox Series X console thanks to Microsoft. The hardware is advertised to be the most powerful console ever released. Does this bold statement hold true so far?

Price

The most expensive console released at launch in New Zealand is still the PlayStation 3 back in March 2007. When that console was released, you had to pay around $1200 for the unit itself. To this day, that price has never been beaten. 

Thankfully, you don’t have to pay for an arm or a leg in order to buy Microsoft’s Xbox Series X console. While the Xbox One retailed for $749 in 2013, you can now get the Xbox Series X console for $799 here in New Zealand. The $50 price difference isn’t so bad considering how powerful the Xbox Series X console really is. 

If $799 seems a bit too high for you, you can always opt for the much cheaper $549 Xbox Series S console instead. We didn’t get a chance to review the Series S, but the console has lower specs compared to the Series X. Not to mention the Series S has no disc drive as you have to download all your games digitally. 

It’s also worth mentioning the Xbox Series X is slightly cheaper than the disc version of PS5. The disc PS5’s price is currently $819.95 while the all-digital PS5 is $649.95. 

Size and design

When my brother and I bought the launch Xbox One in 2013, I remember I didn’t like its huge and bulky design. The launch Xbox One was as large as an old-school VCR unit! I preferred the much sleeker and slimmer build of the PS4 instead. It wasn’t until the release of the Xbox One X and Xbox One S did the console receive a much-deserved redesign. 

Thankfully, the Xbox Series X is much lighter and smaller than the launch Xbox One. It is also much shorter and less bulky than Sony’s PlayStation 5. The only thing that annoys me is that the Xbox Series X is still quite bulky when you rest it horizontally. I had to stand the console vertically away from my TV in order for it not to block my screen. 

I also like the fact that the console has a large air vent at the top of it. While the console can get warm after hours of use, it does not overheat like the early Xbox 360 models. I remember my Xbox 360 died from the red ring of death thanks to it overheating! I don’t think overheating is going to be an issue with the Xbox Series X. 

In terms of size dimensions, the Xbox Series X is 30.1cm tall and it is 15.1cm wide and deep. You may need to move the console around if you have a cabinet that cannot fit these aforementioned dimensions. 

The UI and performance features

Usually, when a new console generation enters, you can expect to see a much different user-interface. However, this is not to be the case with the Xbox Series X. The Xbox Series X still has the blocky UI of the Xbox One. It does not appear as if Microsoft made any changes. 

If you loved the UI of the Xbox One, then this is going to be no problem for you. It was easy for me to navigate through the UI because everything was all in the same place. If you don’t like the Xbox One UI design, you may not like the Series X either. 

While the UI is identical, the performance of the Xbox Series X is much better compared Xbox One X. Even though the Xbox One X was released in 2017, I still find it takes too long to boot up at the start. The Xbox One X takes longer to start than the PS4 Pro does. 

Thankfully, a slow start is a thing of the past thanks to the Xbox Series X’s new hardware. It only takes a few seconds for the Xbox Series X to boot up and reach the home screen. As for video games, loading times have been significantly reduced. I remember Forza Horizon 4 taking ages to load on my Xbox One X. As for the Xbox Series X, the game loads much faster now. 

Another cool feature of the Xbox Series X is the console new quick resume feature.  If you want to play another game at the same time, you can resume where you left off. My brother used this feature to great effect when he was playing a long match in Cricket 19 (via backwards compatibility). He was able to resume the match every time he came back from work. 

In terms of hard drive space, the Xbox Series X has a 1TB SSD drive inside. A generous 800GB is usable for you to store all of your downloaded and installed video games. This is double the size of the 512GB SSD drive that is available for the Xbox Series S. 

The graphics

When a new console generation enters, people expect to be wowed with new and shiny looking graphics. While I’m glad to say that playing games on Xbox Series X has been fun because the games look very great running in 4K at 60fps. The best looking games I have played so far include the optimised versions of Gears 5 and Forza Horizon 4. Gears 5’s character models look super realistic while the bright colours of Forza Horizon 4 really pop out of my TV screen. These visuals are a step above what they looked like on my Xbox One X console. 

Gears Tactics was another optimised game and it looks good so far. The cinematics are movie quality, and the animation is fluid as always. The only downside to the visuals is that you play the game top-down for most of the time. 

Sadly, we were limited to only a few Series X games that we could test out. Other games such as Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed: Vahallla weren’t available to play yet. We can only see what they look like after the Series X’s worldwide launch on November 10th, 2020. 

As for older games, both Xbox One and Xbox 360 games also look awesome running on Xbox Series X. I popped in my copy of the first Red Dead Redemption and the visuals are very impressive thanks to it being in 4K with HDR. Even an old game like GTA: San Andreas was a sight to see on Series X. 

It’s not just games that run smoothly on the Xbox Series X. My 4K Blu-ray copy of Wonder Woman works really well on the Xbox Series X. I also loved watching a 4K stream of The Mandalorian thanks to my Disney+ subscription. I really liked the IMAX style action scenes that were in the first episode of season 2. 

The games

The Xbox Series X is an impressive console, but sadly Halo Infinite is not a game that will launch for the system. Microsoft’s flagship title has now been delayed until 2021. The only new Xbox game launching with the Series X is the strategy game called Gears Tactics

However, that’s not to say that the Series X doesn’t have a huge lineup. If you are subscribed to Game Pass, you can play a ton of other Series X optimised games. Some of the AAA games you should try out on Game Pass include the likes of Forza Horizon 4, Gears 5, Sea of Thieves and many more. 

November 10 will also see the release of many third-party Series X games that you can buy. Big games such as Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Watch Dog: Legion, Yakuza: Like a Dragon and tons more will be available for you to play. 

Unlike the Xbox Series S, the Xbox Series X also contains a disc drive that can play all your favourite Xbox games or Blu-ray movies. It’s not just Xbox Series X games that you can play as Xbox One and Xbox 360 games work on the new system too. A handful of original Xbox games are also playable if you still have them around. 

The only games that don’t seem to work on the system are old Kinect titles. If you love Kinect games for some reason, you will still have to keep your older Xbox consoles.

Media Apps

If for some reason you get bored of playing video games, you can opt to watch many movies or TV shows instead. Much like the Xbox One and Xbox One X, you can use all of your favourite media apps on the Xbox Series X too. The apps that you can expect to see available at launch are Netflix, Disney+, TVNZ OnDemand, Twitch, YouTube and even Apple TV just to name a few. 

The Xbox Series X controller

Much like the UI, there aren’t too many differences between an Xbox One controller and an Xbox Series X controller. This isn’t really a bad thing since most Xbox controllers in the past have always been historically very comfortable to use. 

The Xbox Series X fits nicely inside my small hands and I didn’t feel any aches or pains when I was playing with the controller for several hours. The only differences I can tell is that the Series X controller has a heavier matte finish and some textured grip tape has been used on the triggers. The grip tape is a nice touch as your fingers won’t slip if they get sweaty during the summer. 

The only thing I don’t like about Xbox controllers, in general, is that they still use normal batteries. Rechargeable batteries are everywhere and both Sony and Nintendo use them on their respective consoles. It’s annoying that you still need to buy a play and charge kit for a rechargeable battery. 

The only plus side is that the controller is cheaper than a PlayStation 5 controller. You can also use an old Xbox One controller to play on the Xbox Series X. I also like the fact there’s a new screenshot button that allows you to take photos of your gameplay. 

Verdict

If you only owned an original Xbox One from 2013, getting the Xbox Series X is worth your time. The console loads really fast and you can quick resume more than one game at a time. Not to mention seeing games rendered in 4K and 60fps is a must-have if you own a 4KTV. The only downside to getting a Series X at launch is the lack of AAA Xbox exclusive games. 

If you’re still waiting to play Halo Infinite, you’re better off getting the console in 2021 instead. That being said, you can still play a ton of other games if you have a Game Pass subscription. The Series X is also compatible with several Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One video games too.

The Xbox Series X launches in New Zealand and around the world on November 10th, 2020.