The Xbox Series X is officially the next Xbox, and it’s coming out this November up against Sony’s PlayStation 5.
Microsoft showed the console itself off a while ago, and now we finally know what day it goes on sale, when pre-orders start, and perhaps most importantly how much it’ll cost.
Not to mention we’ve seen how the new Halo and other Xbox Game Studios games will look and play on the next-gen Xbox, with gameplay footage for loads of games now revealed and a hundred playable games promised for launch.
When will the Xbox Series X be released?
Microsoft has confirmed that the next-gen Xbox Series X console will launch on 10 November 2020. That’s not surprising as the Xbox One had a similar release window, and it’s also just before when Sony is aiming for with the PS5 – 12 November in the US, and 19 November in the UK.
Pre-orders for the console begin earlier, on 22 September, and start from 8am in whatever country you’re in. For the US and Canada that means 8am PT, and anyone in other countries with multiple time zones should double check theirs too.
Microsoft has already confirmed a few retailers that will definitely have stock, but this isn’t an exhaustive list:
UK: Microsoft Store, Game, Amazon, Carphone Warehouse, Currys PC World, Argos, John Lewis, Smyths Toys, Very, AO, Tesco, Simply Games, ShopTo
US: Microsoft Store, Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, Newegg
How much will the next Xbox cost?
The Series X will cost £449/$499 when it launches – the exact same price as the current Xbox One X, and the same as the PS5.
It will be joined by a cheaper, disc-less variant with lower specs in the Xbox Series S, and this will cost £249/$299 – significantly cheaper than the £359/$399 entry-level PS5 Digital Edition.
It’s a competitive price, which lines up with previous comments from Xbox head Phil Spencer. He told The Verge that unlike with the Xbox One, this time around the company “will not be out of position on power or price.”
What should we expect from Xbox Series X?
On 16 March 2020, Microsoft revealed full specs for Xbox Series X on its website. The big news is the custom eight-core AMD Zen 2 CPU, which is combined with a 12 teraflop, 52 compute unit GPU.
There will also be native support for expandable storage up to 1TB, while there will also be a 4K Blu-ray drive and USB 3.2 external HDD support.
Regular output will be at 4K 60fps, although this can be scaled up to 120fps.
See the full list of specs below:
8-core 3.8Ghz custom CPU
12 teraflop, 52 compute unit 1.825Ghz GPU
16GB GDDR6 memory with up to 10GB bandwidth
1TB custom NVMe SSD
Expandable storage up to 1TB
USB 3.2 HDD Support
4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
4K 60fps target performance – up to 120fps
Alongside this announcement, two videos were released to demonstrate the performance enhancements over the Xbox Series X. Firstly, there was one on loading times:
It then followed this up with a demonstration on the new Quick Resume technology:
The console is powered by a custom AMD chip on Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures. It’s capable of providing four times more computing power than the original Xbox One, and a whopping 12 teraflops of GPU performance – more than eight times the original One, and double the more powerful One X.
In practical terms, that translates to support for 120fps, hardware accelerated DirectX ray-tracing (and even new tech Microsoft is calling audio ray-tracing), and support for Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) over HDMI 2.1.
Along with vastly improved graphical support, the console is set to get an upgrade in the storage department. Current-gen consoles come with mechanical hard drives as standard and as such, gamers are left with noticeably long loading times.
That’s set to change with the next-gen console, which will offer a fast SSD as standard. Microsoft has gone into even more detail on the tech behind this – which it has dubbed Velocity Architecture – explaining that it’s using a custom SSD with 40x the throughput of the Xbox One hard drive.
This is optimised for consistent, sustained performance as opposed to peak performance, and is combined with hardware accelerated decompression, a new DirectStorage API, and a new system called Sampler Feedback Streaming that helps make sure that textures are only loaded as and when the GPU needs them. That may sound like a lot of tech buzz words, but it’ll translate to faster loading, bigger game worlds, and few tricks like narrow corridors to mask loading.
Improved Quick Resume features will help too – the console will let you jump back into a game right where you left off even after a reboot.
Its tall chassis will be able to be placed on its side as well as upright, so should be able to blend into your existing home entertainment setup. There’s no denying that it looks like a PC tower, but that might not be a bad thing as Microsoft finally tries to bridge the gap to desktop gaming.
The large fan grille will be important for temperature control. but we hope the loud whirring sounds aren’t present every time you play a graphics-intensive title.
A major lure will be backwards compatibility. Microsoft has already said that at launch the Series X will be capable of playing “thousands” of games from the Xbox One, Xbox 360, and even original Xbox.
While there will be supported games from every Xbox generation, more specifically Microsoft is aiming for the Series X to support every single game from the Xbox One, except those that require Kinect to play – as the Series X won’t support Kinect at all.
They’ll all run natively on the console hardware, with no downclocking, meaning they should run better than they ever have before, especially given the faster load times of the SSD.
Even better, Microsoft has build in platform-level tech to add HDR to older titles that never had it, and a “select set” of games will even benefit from frame-rate enhancements that could see frame-rates double from 30fps to 60fps, and even from 60fps to 120fps in some games.
Perhaps more importantly, a program called Smart Delivery will ensure that if you buy a compatible game once you’ll be able to play it on either Xbox One or Xbox Series X and play the right version for the console you’re on at the time. All Xbox Game Studios titles will be included, along with some third-party titles like Cyberpunk 2077.
The controller has also been updated, but it looks remarkably similar to the one currently available, and current-gen controllers will still work on the Series X. We’d expect the ergonomics to be improved, but Microsoft hasn’t said much about it yet.
Will the Series X software be different?
Yes and no. Microsoft is updating the Xbox dashboard for the launch of the Xbox Series X, but all of the changes it’s making will also roll out to existing Xbox One consoles.
The big changes are to efficiency and speed. Microsoft says that the home screen on the Series X should load more than 50% faster from booting up, and almost a third faster when you’re coming out of a game – all while using 40% less memory.
Animations and readability have also been tweaked and improved across the UI, but the biggest change is to video sharing. Clips you capture from your console will now automatically be sent to the Xbox app on your phone, if you have it, so you can quickly send them to friends or post them on social media without trying to faff about logging into Twitter with your controller.
Xbox Series X games
Microsoft has ambitious plans for Xbox Series X games, including the upcoming Halo Infinite – but surprisingly it won’t be an exclusive.
That’s because the Xbox Series X will have barely any exclusives in its first few years – at least not from Microsoft itself. The company has confirmed that for the next two years at least, almost every new game published by Xbox Game Studios will be playable on any Xbox or PC – meaning all the first few first-party Series X games will also released on the Xbox One.
They’ll also be cross-compatible thanks to the Smart Delivery program mentioned above. Third-party publishers may take a different approach, however.
That doesn’t mean that this will always be the case – at some point Microsoft will likely have to cut off Xbox One support – but it will take the pressure off upgrading straight away. It helps that the Series X will also be backwards compatible, so any new Xbox One games you buy in that time will still work on the Series X whenever you upgrade.
It would be impossible to keep track of every game on its way to the Xbox Series X, so check out our full guide to the best upcoming games for a more comprehensive list.
We do at least have a bit of a sense of what the console’s launch lineup will be, though this will no doubt change between now and 10 November:
Check out our guide to the Xbox Series X launch games for a more up-to-date list.
Xbox also stated that “hundreds of games” will be on the way in 2021, with every major publisher working on something Xbox Series X related (obviously with the exception of Sony and Nintendo).