The Xbox Series X has been in my hands for 3 weeks from the time of writing. I wanted to spend enough time to give it a fair review. This is why our review has come out a few weeks after the actual launch of the console. And let me tell you, this was a hard piece of hardware to review.
There are many reasons for the difficulty but the issue that permeates throughout is that the Xbox Series X has a distinct lack of a new console feel. That’s not to say the console isn’t good, or even great. Just that the feeling or lack thereof is a bit unfortunate.
Microsoft spent the leadup to the release of the Xbox Series X making changes to the UI on the Xbox One family of consoles. I understand why they did this; they wanted to make it really comfortable when people switched. However, they removed that new feeling I’ve always gotten when I first boot up a new console. Loading up the Series X for the first time didn’t feel new. It felt like more of the same.
Everything from the dashboard, to the games and apps, to the storefront was exactly the same on the Xbox Series X as it was on the Xbox One. This does make it easy for users to find everything. But it would have been nice to see a little bit changed. I honestly forget I’m playing on the Series X rather than the One X at times. (More on that later).
Long time Xbox users can skip the next 3 paragraphs as you already know whether you like or dislike the UI. For those maybe jumping over to the Xbox Series X, here’s a brief rundown of the UI. When you turn on the Xbox you are greeted with the Xbox Dashboard. At the top are 6 squares that represent the most recent games or apps. The seventh square is whatever is in the disc tray. Under than is a square to get to your Games and Apps and to the right are 2 more tabs that are targeted for you. The rightmost square is an advertisement. I hardly notice it and it doesn’t take over the screen, but it is there.
Beneath all that are customizable tiles that you can reorder for your convenience. On my Xbox Series X I have the store at the top because I like browsing (and spending, especially on movies). Underneath I have Microsoft Rewards so I can use the points earned from buying those games and movies to get free Microsoft credit. Beneath all that are the tiles for Entertainment, Game Pass, and more, but I rarely go much further than the Rewards. Overall, the dashboard is easy to use, customizable, and clean.
Double tapping the Xbox button on the controller pulls up a quick menu that can get you anywhere you want to be. It also allows you to see your Friends, Messages, Achievements, Captures, and Profile. Microsoft does tend to tweak this quick menu more often than you want them to, but it’s usually easy to figure out where everything got moved to.
Overall, the entire User Interface is really well put together. It makes finding things easy and also allows you to go quickly through all your games or apps. Those who haven’t played on an Xbox in awhile will quickly figure it out. Those who have played on an Xbox One before jumping to the Xbox Series X will find nothing has changed. Whether that’s good or bad depends on the person.
The Xbox Series X stands like a monument on my entertainment stand. Before the Series X arrived, every console on the stand was flat and looked uniform (mostly). Even the Nintendo Switch dock didn’t stand out. That changed when I replaced the One X with the Series X. It was extremely noticeable… for about 2 days. I mention it because it was jarring at first but quickly disappeared from all thought. I actually have come to like the Xbox Series X especially the vent on top. There’s a nice green color to the vent holes that are cool to look at from an angle. And I’ve put my hand on the vent after playing games for awhile. It gets warm but that’s what it’s supposed to do.
The changes made to the Xbox controller for the Xbox Series X are good ones. I really like the feel of the thumbsticks. By that I mean there’s more grip to them. The whole controller actually has more grip. The Xbox One controllers had those matte-finished triggers. The triggers on the Series X controller feel more like the Elite controller, with the grip. Everything from the bumpers and triggers, to the thumbsticks, to even the palm rests have grip on them which is nice. Or you can use the previous Elite Controllers if you have them. They work perfect on the new console.
Smart Delivery and Backwards Compatibility
Speaking of things working on the Xbox Series X from the Xbox One are a good amount of games. I haven’t noticed a single one of the games that I had on the Xbox One that doesn’t work on the Series X. This is very nice as I can put my One X in another room and not have to worry about pulling it out to the living room when I want to play a game.
In fact, when I first opened up the Xbox Series X and got it set up, all I had to do was unplug the external storage drive and plug it into the Series X. Then I just had to move the Series X|S games onto the internal, as that’s the only way to get the enhancements. This acts as a work around if you don’t want to shell out $220 bucks for Seagate Storage Expansion Card. It does take time to move games across hard drives but it’s faster than redownloading, and the minor annoyance outweighs the cost of the Expansion Card.
Smart Delivery has been nice as well. I was able to play Watch Dogs: Legion and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla on the Xbox One before playing the upgraded version on the Xbox Series X. Of course the benefit of Smart Delivery is only having to pay for the game one time. Not every game utilizes Smart Delivery and I can’t see it lasting very long, but it is nice to have as people slowly make the switch to the new consoles.
Quick Resume and Quick Load Times
I mentioned earlier that I sometimes forget I’m playing on the Xbox Series X. That’s true until I see two small words in the right hand corner when loading up a game. Those words being Quick Resume. When it works, and there has been times where it hasn’t, the feature is absolutely wonderful. Being able to switch between Call of Duty: Warzone, Tetris Effect Connected and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla quickly and easily has been a game changer.
You can play a round or two of Warzone, take a break with a couple rounds of Tetris, and then jump back into Warzone or AC: Valhalla without needing sit through the boot up screens. This is one of the best features of the Xbox Series X and was more than a little frustrating when it stopped working for a few days. Not every game has the feature enabled, but I imagine more and more games utilizing it as we get further along in the cycle.
Games, Games, and More Games
Speaking of games, it’s why we buy gaming consoles after all, the Xbox Series X runs them really well. Load times are all quick thanks to the SSD inside the box. This is why the expansion card is so much money by the way. They all look great too. Tetris Effect Connected might be my favorite as far as graphics go. The colors all pop off the screen and the dichotomy between the darker backgrounds and the colorful explosions looks really nice. My roommate and I were playing Tetris against each other. He has a One S and I was playing on the Series X. The different in quality was noticeable as well as the load times to get into the game.
There’s an easy way to tell if a game is Xbox Series X|S enhanced and that’s by the X|S symbol in the bottom left of the game tile. Also, you can filter your games to only show the enhanced games. At the time of writing, through both purchases and Xbox Game Pass, I have 16 enhanced games. The other 2 best looking games in my opinion are Forza Horizon 4 and Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Horizon 4 looks as stunning as ever and plays great. Ori meanwhile is absolutely gorgeous and silky smooth.
For those with the capabilities, the game can be played at Supersampled 6K at 60fps or 4K at 120 FPS. Back when the game first came out in March there were definite framerate issues on the One X that have all but disappeared on the Xbox Series X. To be fair though, it’s probable a patch fixed those issues at some point in between. Either way, it’s probably the best game to show off the Series X.
Should You Buy?
Well first off, the Xbox Series X is sold out at every major retailer, but let’s just imagine that it comes back in stock very shortly. The issue that makes it hard to recommend is that there’s nothing new to play on the Series X. Of course there are new games, but nothing that you can only get on the Series X. I understand why Microsoft did this and I think it’s very consumer friendly. But figuring out if you should buy it is basically a case by case basis. So that’s what we will do.
First, if you have a good 4K TV, can spare the expense, and want to buy it then you should. There’s no reason I’ve seen so far to tell someone not to. Of course, this case was probably unnecessary because these people probably have already bought or at least tried to buy the Xbox Series X.
Case 2 is if you have a Xbox One or Xbox One S and a 4K TV. While 500 is not cheap, if you can afford it then it might be worth the upgrade.
If you haven’t owned an Xbox console but definitely want one this generation, than the Xbox Series X is for you and you should get one. I’m a big proponent of future proofing and thus would recommend getting the Series X over any other Xbox console.
If you don’t own a 4K TV/Monitor then maybe that should be the next thing you look at buying over the Xbox Series X unless you really just want the Quick Resume feature and the fast load times.
The hardest case though is for those with an Xbox One X that are on the fence. It’s really hard to say it’s worth the upgrade if you are still not sure. Nothing right now is playable on the Xbox Series X that isn’t also playable on the One. Graphics are a step-up but it’s really hard to say by how much. I would almost recommend waiting to upgrade until either something you really want to play in the best shape possible comes out, or for when there’s a good bundle sometime next year.
The Xbox Series X does nothing new. That doesn’t mean it does what it does poorly though. New isn’t always better. The 4K looks amazing. The load times are quite fast. And the Quick Resume feature is just so convenient. I’ve said on the Generation Xbox Podcast that I thought that this box would not blow anyone away but in time it will be an absolute monster of a console. I still stand by that today. If you are joining Xbox for the first time in awhile that might not hold true, at least in regards to blowing you away from day one. But overall, I think this is a worthy console and worthy of an upgrade. Just maybe not immediately.