Microsoft deserves to be proud of the Xbox One Series X console
There’s something new on the shelf in my office. It’s a solid black rectangle of a box. When I turn it on, a familiar green glow emanates from it.
It’s the new Xbox Series X ($600), and it’s so much more than just a black box.
This is high-powered hardware. It will deliver 4K images (and will be able to give you 8K when the time comes) and up to 120 frames per second. And while the console is large it runs quiet.
You can stand the Series X up on end, or orient it horizontally. Using the Xbox app on your smartphone you can configure the console with your gamer profile in a matter of minutes.
Some things haven’t changed as much
One thing you won’t need to do is learn how to use the interface. That’s because the Series X system is exactly the same as what we’ve been using on the Xbox One X for the past few weeks.
And the new controller is also very similar. It adds a textured grip, a new disc-based directional pad (borrowed from the Elite controller), and a button for sharing content to social networks.
In fact, you can use the Xbox One controllers with the Series X, so you don’t have to run out and purchase all new gamepads for when you’re playing with friends and family.
No waiting when switching between games
The killer feature on the Series X is “Quick Start”, which is enabled by the console’s solid-state drive and some clever programming that keeps the games you’re playing in a buffer. This means you can switch between games in a matter of seconds.
In our house, that meant that when I turned over the system to my kids for a couple of hours, they stepped right back into Minecraft Dungeons. I was able to tap a button to return to Gears 5 when it was their bedtime.
Managing your game library
With the exception of some games designed for the Kinect motion-sensing interface, the Series X is fully backwards compatible. You can instantly play hundreds of Xbox One and Xbox 360 games on the new console. (You can even play a few original Xbox games.)
But while the Series X is equipped with a 1 TB hard drive, only 802 GB is available. You can get a proprietary 1 TB expansion card developed by Seagate which plugs into the back of the Series X, but it’s pricey ($299).
While games developed for the Series X must run from the internal drive or the Seagate expansion card, you can also use standard external USB 3.1 drives for previous generation games. There are three of those ports on the system.
Getting next-gen versions of the games you already own
While there aren’t many games from Xbox Game Studios that are launching with the Series X—Gears Tactics, which has its console debut, is the exception—there are a number of games from publishers like Activision, Bungie, Electronic Arts, Sega, and Ubisoft that have editions intended for the new console.
And with the Smart Delivery program from Xbox, you’ll automatically get the Series X version of the game if and when you upgrade to the new system. This means you don’t need to repurchase your favourite games.
Even better, if you’re playing an Xbox One version of a game on your Series X and the game gets an update for the new console, your system will replace the version on your hard drive. That way you don’t have to manually manage your storage.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the difference
I was disappointed when Halo Infinite—originally planned to be a launch title—was postponed. On the other hand, there’s no lack of games to play on the Series X. You can bring nearly all of your earlier Xbox games to the new console. The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription gives you some 200 more games to play.
A one-month subscription costs $17. It provides access to Xbox Game Studio games both old and new. These include series like Elder Scrolls and Fallout, which are now part of the vault because of Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Bethesda.
And the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes games from EA Play, the subscription service from Electronic Arts.
The Xbox Series S option
In addition to the Xbox Series X, Microsoft also released the Series S ($380). That one has no disc drive and is digital only. Compared to the monolith that is the Series X, the white Series S is svelte and streamlined—about half the size.
It’s a less costly system, but you’re giving up processing and graphics power —4 teraflops instead of over 12—so your upper resolution is only 1440 (at 60 frames per second).
It also has a smaller hard drive, only 364 GB of storage space available. So if this is the Xbox for you, be prepared to have an external USB on hand to manage those downloads.
Microsoft’s Xbox payment plan
While stock of the two Xbox Series consoles is limited in this launch period, Microsoft developed the “Xbox All Access” program to make it easier for gamers to upgrade their system.
In conjunction with EB Games, you can pay for either of the consoles over a two year period. The price, which is interest-free, includes the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for the full 24 months.
With no upfront cost—there is a credit check requirement—you can get the new Xbox Series X for $40 a month. The Xbox Series S is $30 a month.