Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
After the coverage of Sony’s PlayStation 5 earlier this week, we now turn to Microsoft’s newest console the Xbox Series X. This one was actually a little harder to put into words than the PlayStation 5 was. The main reason is while the physical case is definitely something new in its rectangular tower shape format like a compact PC, from an operation standpoint it’s an Xbox and unless you really know what you’re looking for you’d be hard-pressed to know if you were on your Xbox One or your Xbox Series X.
Just this alone is in a way a great thing as it keeps users in a more unified state whether they are transferring from one generation of console to the next or simply changing rooms with an Xbox One in one room while a Series X is in another. Unlike Sony that went for new and shiny, Microsoft went for an experience that could be shared across generations of hardware. So with this in mind, starting off with the interface, next to nothing has changed from the last visual update pushed out to the Xbox One. The main screen still has your titles for installed titles, the store or the GamePass with the ability to add specific tiles to your home screen instead of having to dive into your installed games’ folder.
This said, like Sony’s PlayStation 5, Microsoft’s Xbox Series X has a lot more power under the hood and it shows. From our review of Bright Memory to kick off coverage for this console to other titles that I’ve been playing such as Dragon Quest XI S: Echoes of an Elusive Age – Definitive Edition, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, and The Falconeer, there’s a clear difference and it’s a welcome one. What used to be longer load times in certain cases are almost gone allowing you to just jump into the action. A prime example would be over the past weekend when friends were ready to jump into a planned night of Horde Mode for Gears 5, swapping games and jumping into chats took seconds and things were ready to go from my side.
Physically, the console is… odd. Unlike the more “VCR” shapes that the previous models have taken, as well as Sony with its PlayStation, the Series X is a tower and surprisingly, doesn’t take up that much space because of it. I honestly have it standing up behind my TV and most of the time, like my Nintendo Switch, forget that it’s there because it’s not a space hog nor something to figure out because of its shape. On the console you have your USB port, your sync button for your controller and the power button. You’ve also got your disk tray to put in order games from the previous generations like the Xbox One and they just work. The fact that backwards compatibility was a prime feature going in made me quite happy as there are several Xbox 360 titles that I still need to play such as Magna Carta 2 and finally finish Lost Odyssey as I have yet to. I know, I’m disappointed in myself too on that one.
The controller is basically the same but with one new button in order to help take screenshots. It’s a nice addition as it’s much simpler to click on that one button than it is to hit the Xbox Button and then “Y” in order to get a screenshot which also doesn’t always work as I would often get the pause menu instead. Otherwise, as a bonus, unlike the PlayStation 5 which forces you to get brand new controllers if you want to play local coop on something, the Series X allows you to keep using your old controllers which was fantastic as it honestly took me weeks to unpack the Series X controller. Why move to a new one when I absolutely love the Elite Series 2? Again, it’s this creating an experience that makes it more than just a new machine but a good evolution without sacrificing where it’s coming from that made me fall in love with this new machine as much as my new PlayStation which went in the direction of new and shiny.
The other feature that is a constant blessing to have, yes blessing, is the integration that Microsoft have done between the Xbox and Windows. We often have articles under embargo and the only safe way to get screenshots is often to plug in a USB key, copy what we need, go to our laptops or computers, plug it in, copy the files over, and then upload them. With the ability to upload screenshots and videos straight to OneDrive, there are several steps no longer in the way and the speeds in which the Series X does this is fantastic. Again, the shared experience is great and in this case easier to come by as Microsoft makes both the Xbox and the Windows PC software.
So overall, while Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X looks a tad odd visually as a rectangular tower compared to the rest in its line of predecessors, the power under the hood is hard to dispute. With a familiar controller and interfaces though, it takes second to get back to whatever you were doing and with the backwards compatibility to the older generations, you can finally remove the clutter as you can now play everything under one hood.Score: 9 / 10