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Here’s everything we know about the Xbox Series X

The new console offers improvements across the board.

xbox series x announcement
Image: Microsoft

Well, it’s here folks, the top has finally been blown off Microsoft’s next Xbox console, the Xbox Series X. Officially unveiled last year, there have been plenty of tidbits of information trickled out, but now Microsoft is giving select outlets a comprehensive look at what the next-gen system will entail.

Digital Foundry had the chance to dive into the new console to learn more about its specs, features and more, so keep reading to see what to expect from the next Microsoft console expected to release during the holiday season of this year.

What to expect from the Xbox Series X

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with a bulleted-list highlighting some of the biggest news regarding the console.

  • Reportedly twice as powerful as the Xbox One X
  • Huge strides for compatibility with past-gen games
  • Hardware-accelerated ray tracing

Obviously, that is just the tip of the iceberg, but it does help give gamers an idea of what to expect from the next-gen console. As for a release date for the new console, that is still unknown, but it is expected to release around the holiday season of 2020.

The specs list for the Xbox Series X

CPU8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT)8x Custom Jaguar Cores at 2.13GHz8x Custom Jaguar Cores at 1.75GHz
GPU12 TFLOPs, 52 CUs at 1.825GHz, Custom RDNA 26 TFLOPs, 40 CUs at 1.172GHz, Custom GCN + Polaris Features1.4 TFLOPS, 12 CUs at 914MHz, Custom GCN GPU
Die Size360.45mm2366.94mm2227.1mm2
ProcessTSMC 7nm EnhancedTSMC 16nmFF+TSMC 16nmFF
Memory16GB GDDR612GB GDDR58GB DDR3, 32MB ESRAM
Memory Bandwidth10GB at 560GB/s, 6GB at 336GB/s326GB/s68GB/s, ESRAM at 219GB/s
Internal Storage1TB Custom NVMe SSD1TB HDD1TB HDD
IO Throughput2.4GB/s (Raw), 4.8GB/s (Compressed)120MB/s120MB/s
Expandable Storage1TB Expansion Card
External StorageUSB 3.2 HDD SupportUSB 3.2 HDD SupportUSB 3.2 HDD Support
Optical Drive4K UHD Blu-ray Drive4K UHD Blu-ray Drive4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
Performance Target4K at 60fps – up to 120fps4K at 30fps – up to 60fps1080p at 30fps up to 60fps

Again, thanks to Digital Foundry, we now have a specs list for the upcoming console, as well as comparisons to previous consoles. The first console shows the new Xbox Series X, the second column is the Xbox One X, and the third column is for the Xbox One S.

Eight CPU cores and ray tracing

microsoft xbox project scarlett

Image: Xbox

Digital Foundry notes that the processor is a Project Scarlett SoC (system on chip) and that the Xbox Series X will feature “eight CPU cores and 16 threads, delivered via two quad-core units on the silicon, with one CPU core (or two threads) reserved for running the underlying operating system and the front-end ‘shell’.”

Digital Foundry also praises the console’s hardware-accelerated ray tracing abilities. To catch everyone up to speed, ray tracing is a rendering technique for light sources that improve the overall look of a game. Until now, ray tracing for consoles hasn’t been possible, so seeing it here now is definitely exciting. The report also notes that because of how the Series X’s internals work alongside of each other, the system strain normally experienced with ray-tracing is kept to a minimum.

Microsoft’s storage system will change the way games are delivered

xbox series x ssd drive in hand

Image: Digital Foundry

So, this is going to be a bit technical, but the best way to look at Microsoft’s new storage solution is as a vehicle to deliver games to players more efficiently. The custom NVMe drive is basically a souped-up SSD with a smaller form factor that delivers games to the screen in a new, unique way. This isn’t about downloading your games, but instead how your console displays, handles, and loads the games on your screen.

As games get larger and more demanding due to texture increases brought on by expanded use of 4K televisions, Microsoft needed to find a better way to deliver the games. As Digital Foundry puts it, “the game package that sits on storage essentially becomes extended memory, allowing 100GB of game assets stored on the SSD to be instantly accessible by the developer.”

This compounds with a myriad of other updates that basically make it so your console is working on the things it needs to work on and not on loading assets and other game elements that may never be accessed during a play session.

We now know that the SSD also enables suspended save states for your games, a feature that emulators have had for years and this will be well received by fans. And yes, that even means those saves will persist if the console is turned off. Multiple games will be able to be paused and resumed, building on the single resume on existing Xbox One consoles.

Control all the things!

The Series X will come with an all-new controller, with a more tactile d-pad, a screenshot sharing button like on Nintendo Switch controllers, and new triggers with grippy material on them. Rumble has been added to the triggers, and the coolest thing? The new controller with all of its new features will work on every other Xbox One console, and also on Windows PCs.

Microsoft is all-in on backwards compatibility on the Xbox Series X

For years, Microsoft has understood the importance of making past console games available on the latest consoles, and that is no exception with the Xbox Series X. Not only will the existing backwards compatible titles from the original Xbox and Xbox 360 be available on the console, but also all USB-A peripherals available, as well.

In addition, Microsoft will be improving things like frame-rate, loading times, and image fidelity on many of these games, bringing them more in-line with modern titles. The company did note in that they will go into more detail regarding these systems in the future, as they still work on figuring out the best delivery systems for the new Series X.

Game demos showing off the power of the Series X

If you’re more of a “show, don’t tell” kind of person, Microsoft is starting to release footage that shows the power of the new console. You can check out how the new console handles the latest Gears of War game plus some Minecraft ray tracing footage by checking out the included video above.

Even more games

Xbox just had a huge Games Showcase stream, where we got to see what the company’s developers have been working on. This list is pretty awesome, so get ready.

Dragon Quest: Echoes of an Elusive Age

This was previously released in 2018 on the PS4 and PC, and the Nintendo Switch last year. It’s about time it arrived on Xbox…

Exomecha

New free-to-play FPS coming in late 2021

Echo Generation

Pixel art made into a 3D game, it’s like someone made Stranger Things in the Minecraft engine, and I’m extremely ready for it.

Balan WonderWorld

What do you get if you cross video games with musical theater? Before now, you’d be hard pressed to guess, but now you don’t need to as Balan will be showing you what’s what. Put on costumes, get new powers, vanquish the bad guys. Simples.

Halo Infinite

Whoo Master Chief for eva. This time around you get a new grappling hook, so you can get to higher up areas, which you’ll need as the maps are more open-world than any other Halo title. It’ll be interesting to see how that works once it lands on our screens.

State of Decay 3

Because we never tire of video games that show the world in a worse state than the one we actually live in. It’s a zombie game, what else can I say? This’ll sell like barely-reanimated hotcakes.

Forza Motorsport

Ah something that’ll be able to use all the power of the Xbox Series X. Forza has a reputation for fast cars, sweet graphics, and all the tracks you could ever want to drive on, so expect racing pulses when this drives onto store shelves.

Everwild

The latest game from Rare is Everwild, which gives you an “untamed natural world to explore” which probably means lots of animals with sharp teeth to fight off (or hide from). Maybe you can decide to help nature by living in harmony, or maybe you can be a dick and strip mine the planet. Either way, it’ll look gorgeous.

Tell Me Why

Ah, story time. This episodic game unravels the story of a brother and sister who were kept apart as children for some mysterious reason. Ooh, spooky.

We got a huge list of other games as well, notably Fable 4, New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, Stalker 2, and Crossfire.

Psychonauts 2 is coming, Hellblade 2 is coming, and there’s a cool RPG from Obsidian called Grounded, with shrunken antics.

Oh the biggest thing? All of the first-party games shown off will be on Xbox Game Pass at launch. Sweet.

Pricing and availability for the Xbox Series X

Currently, Microsoft is keeping its mouth shut about when exactly the Xbox Series X will release. It is expected to release around the holiday season of 2020, but there has been no official date given. A recent investor’s call gave us a more accurate date, November, said by Microsoft’s CFO Amy Hood. Better start saving…

As for pricing, the same goes true. It seems both Microsoft and Sony are waiting to see what the other will price their next-gen console before confirming to pricing. That said, many expect the console to release in the $499 range.

It’s an exciting time to be a console gamer

Overall, there are definitely some exciting things happening with Microsoft’s upcoming console. Between the basic stuff (better graphics, bigger games, etc.), seeing some of the technical improvements is a good way to see just exactly what is happening behind the scenes and within the console.

If videos are more your style, make sure to check Digital Foundry’s in-depth report on the Microsoft Series X. They go over what we’ve discussed above, as well as plenty more technical aspects of the console.

What do you think? Are you interested in the Microsoft Xbox Series X or will you be going the PlayStation 5 route?  Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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