Everything We Know About the Xbox Series X So Far

Microsoft's next generation console is slated to come out this year

Microsoft and Sony are both gearing up to release their next generation machines at the end of 2020, but so far Microsoft has revealed much more information about their machine through various news releases, interviews, and videos. It can be hard to keep track of all the details—and there’s a lot of details—so we’ve compiled everything we know so far about the Xbox Series X.

Xbox Series X Features

Better graphics and raw power are a given for most new consoles, but what really differentiates one from another is the unique features they offer, and the Xbox Series X is bringing a lot of new bells and whistles to the gaming couch.

 
 

Is the Xbox Series X Backwards Compatible?

Microsoft says that the Series X will be fully backwards compatible with Xbox One software due to both machines sharing x86 PC-like architecture. Xbox 360 and original Xbox games will likely be selectively backwards compatible, with Microsoft saying that “thousands of your favorite games across four generations of gaming” will be available on the system.

They also claim the potential for previous generation games to benefit from the Series X’s improved hardware in the way of smoother frame rates and shorter load times, as well as a system to simulate high dynamic range in older games.

Will Xbox Series X use Project xCloud?

The Xbox Series X will take full advantage of Microsoft’s Stadia-like software streaming service, allowing a limited library of games to be played on Android, iOS, or PC over a wi-fi or mobile network via Project xCloud.

Does Xbox Series X Quick Resume?

The Xbox One already allows users to suspend any game, use other software, and then resume their game instantly where they left off. But if the console is turned off or another game is started, the suspended game is closed completely. The Series X improves upon this by allowing multiple games to be suspended at the same time and maintaining their suspended state through total console shutoff. This feature is called Quick Resume.

Will the Xbox Series X Be 4K and 60fps?

The Xbox Series X is built to reach a standard resolution of 4K at 60 fps for all games. Microsoft claims the console is capable of maintaining 8K and 120 fps if desired.

What is Smart Delivery?

For anyone who remembers when the Xbox One launched, buying a game for the Xbox 360 meant buying it again once you upgraded if you wanted the Xbox One version as well. The new Smart Delivery feature aims to remedy this issue by giving users the Series X version of any applicable game purchased on the Xbox One. That means those who want to play Halo Infinite at launch on their Xbox One can do so without worrying about having to pay for it again when they decide to upgrade.

Gears of War Xbox Series X
Gears 5 optimized on the Xbox Series X

When Will the Xbox Series X Launch?

Unfortunately, there's no hard release date at the time of writing. However, Microsoft has been adamant about a Holiday 2020 launch window. That’s as much as we know for now, but we can expect Halo Infinite to launch alongside the system when it does drop, along with Yakuza: Like a Dragon and Scorn.

How Big is the Xbox Series X?

The black obelisk body shape of the Series X had many speculating on its size—with some humorously comparing it to a refrigerator. But now that the Series X has been officially revealed to stand 12.1 inches tall and 6.3 inches wide on either side, in reality it’s more of a lunch box than a Frigidaire.

 

Xbox Series X Hardware

Sleek design and fancy buzzwords are nice, but sometimes the most effective way to understand the power that a new console brings is to see a whole bunch of numbers go way up.

How Powerful is the Xbox Series X’s AMD RDNA 2 GPU?

Both Microsoft and Sony are going with AMD for their GPU this time around, and Microsoft has confirmed that they will be using the cutting-edge RDNA 2 architecture powering AMD’s latest Navi GPUs.

The official specs reveal that the hardware pumps out 12 TFLOPS and 52 CU running at 1.825 GHz. FLOPS  refer to how many floating point operations the GPU can perform in a second–in the case of the Xbox Series X, that’s 12 trillion. CU refers to compute units, which in the case of AMD GPUs is a group of components that share rendering functionality. All of this running at a speed of 1.825 Gigahertz means the Xbox Series X is one powerful machine.

The RDNA 2 units aren’t even available for the PC market yet, meaning that the Series X will be launching with one of the most powerful consumer GPUs available.

 

Will the Xbox Series X Have an SSD?

One of the flagship features touted for the Series X is its near elimination of load times. This is largely thanks to the built-in 1TB SSD, providing up to 10GB of bandwidth. Microsoft is introducing a technology called Xbox Velocity Architecture, which allows 100GB of game assets to be instantly accessible by the system.

Will the Xbox Series X Have Ray Tracing?

Ray tracing has been possible for years, but it has only recently become an industry trend that is defining the next generation. The technique involves realistically tracing light paths in real time, producing extremely realistic lighting. The Series X is capable of rendering true ray tracing by leveraging a portion of the GPU’s total power.

Minecraft Ray Tracing
Minecraft with ray-tracing

What Does DirectML Mean for Games on the Xbox Series X?

Microsoft has referenced a technology called DirectML that harnesses the console’s hardware to allow for a level of machine learning. It is unknown as of yet how this will work, but they describe it as being able to “improve a wide range of areas, such as making NPCs much smarter, providing vastly more lifelike animation, and greatly improving visual quality.”

What Can We Expect from the Xbox Series X’s AMD Zen 2 CPU?

The new 8-core CPU in the Series X runs at a locked clock speed of 3.8 GHz. However, in lieu of a variable clock speed, the system allows developers to invoke Simultaneous Multi-Threading, putting the clock speed at 3.6 GHz and allowing each thread to execute independent operations simultaneously.

AMD Zen 2 CPU
The AMD Zen 2 CPU

What is Variable Rate Shading Technology?

Shading a frame of a video game can be extremely taxing on console hardware, so VRS intends to lighten the load without sacrificing visual fidelity by rendering blocks of pixels at a time instead of each individual pixel. Less resources spent rendering imperceptible pixels in shaded areas means more resources for the image you can actually see.

Is HDMI 2.1 Required to Use the Xbox Series X?

While it looks virtually identical to the HDMI 2.0 cables you’re likely using on your devices today, HDMI 2.1 allows for video signals up to 10k/120fps, and will be required to use some advanced features of the Xbox Series X. However, some current TVs are incompatible with HDMI 2.1, and it isn’t yet clear what the experience will be like for those without the correct display.

Beyond better resolution and frame rate, HDMI 2.1 allows the use of the Series X’s Variable Refresh Rate feature, which “enables capable displays to be refreshed as fast as the console can render images, thereby eliminating tearing, increasing smoothness, and reducing latency.”

Are There Storage Expansion Options For the Xbox Series X?

If 1TB of internal SSD storage wasn’t enough, Microsoft will be introducing 1TB external expansion cards that can run games and software. The Xbox Series X can also run previous generation Xbox games from hard drives plugged in via USB 3.2, but for optimal performance, Microsoft recommends using either the internal SSD or the external expansion cards.

1 TB External Expansion Card
1TB External Expansion Card

Does the Xbox Series X Use Discs?

Yep, the Xbox Series X will use 4k UHD Blu-Ray discs, so clear off some shelf space.


Xbox Series X Controller

Besides the console itself, the controller is one of the biggest questions around any new hardware release. The Xbox family has had a fairly stable controller design since the original Xbox Controller S was released back in 2003, but the new pad for the Series X continues a long lineage of fine tuning.

How Much Lag Does Xbox Series X’s Dynamic Latency Input Remove?

Typical game controllers check for input every 8ms. This is fine for most situations, but it can lead to lag when the game calls for inputs in between these 8ms input signals. The controller for the Series X aims to reduce lag by sampling controller input just before a game calls for them, resulting in “just in time” input delivery. Games can therefore see any input state changes since the last call, instead of only what happens after the next one.

What Kind of D-Pad Will the Xbox Series X Use?

The Xbox One controller originally shipped with a traditional cross-shaped D-pad, and the later Elite Controller featured a customizable D-pad that included a dish-style D-pad better suited to eight-way movement. The Series X D-pad combines both styles into one fancy looking thumb cradle.

D-Pad
The new D-Pad

Can the Xbox Series X Controller Connect to Other Devices?

As the Xbox controller has become the de facto standard for PC (and increasingly mobile) gaming, Microsoft has primed the Series X controller for connectivity with Android, iOS, and PC using Bluetooth low energy connectivity.

Sync Button
The controller allows connectivity with other devices via Bluetooth

Will the Xbox Series X Controller Have a Share Button?

Microsoft may be late to the party, but if online sharing is your thing, you can finally do that with a button press on the Xbox Series X.

Share Button
The share button

Will the Xbox Series X Controller Use Batteries?

Yes, you will have to continue keeping a stockpile of AA batteries on hand to power the Xbox Series X controllers. However, like the Xbox One, it can also be powered by a USB-C cable.

Does the Xbox Series X Controller Work on Xbox One?

A nice surprise is that the new controller can be used retroactively with the Xbox One family of systems. It can also take advantage of Xbox One controller accessories like the chatpad.


Topics | Xbox Series X
Garin Fahlman

Garin Fahlman

Staff Writer

Journalist and videographer with a passion for games big and small. I live in Vancouver, Canada, where you can find me filming around town, triumphantly ascending a mild incline on my bike, or hanging around a karaoke stage. I'm always looking to tell stories about the people who make games and the communities that support them.