Xbox Series X Unboxing and Hands-On

Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

The Xbox Series X is almost here. While it's launching broadly on November 10, it’s landed in our living room lab a little early. The system contains a custom chip based on AMD's Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures, but we can't get into what that means in terms of performance just yet. For now, we're just here to show you what to expect when you get the system and take a quick tour of the hardware.

The box itself is smaller than I expected. With its focus on specs, I wasn't surprised to see mentions on the front and sides about 4K resolution going up to 120 fps, the Velocity architecture, HDR and more.

When I took the Xbox Series X out of the packaging, my first thought was that it wasn't as big as I expected from pictures. It's 5.9 x 5.9 x 11.8 inches (151 x 151 x 301 mm). While that's not the shape of most consoles we've come to expect, it's still smaller than most PCs, though it may be a bit of a squeeze in some entertainment centers. Still, it's far more compact than it's chief competitor, the PlayStation 5, which is a comparatively monstrous 15.4 x 4.1 x 10.2 inches (390 x 104 x 260 mm). The matte black is a bit of a fingerprint magnet, so you'll want to wipe it down every once in a while.

On the front, there's the disc drive and a USB Type-A port, as well as the eject button (for those who still use discs) and a button to pair controllers.

The sides are totally spartan, but the right side has four subtle feet. This is important, because if you choose to lay it in landscape orientation, you'll want to lay it down that way to protect both the Xbox and your furniture.

On the back, all of the ports are on the bottom (save for a Kensington lock slot in the middle). There are two more USB Type-A ports, an Ethernet jack, a connector for the power cable, the HDMI output and a slot for Xbox's new custom external SSDs. With the exception of the lock slot, each of these ports has some dots above them on the chassis (one for power, two for Ethernet, three for USB, etc.), which should make it easier to get around by feel in an entertainment center. It's a nice, subtle touch.

The stand is permanently attached to the system, even when you lay it down. It's small, though, and while it may take away from the aesthetics a tiny bit when you lay it on its side, it's something I could get used to.

Air flow in the Xbox Series X comes in the bottom, around the stand, and comes out through a fan pointing through the top, which is my favorite aspect of the design. There's a 12 x 12 grid of holes cut into the top of the chassis for venting, and it's slightly convex, which adds a bit of style to the monolithic design. These holes are painted green on the inside, so that when you approach the Xbox, you start to see a green circle reminiscent of the original Xbox, even if the system is off. It's a cool effect that makes the Series X feel more like a living room centerpiece.

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

There are three more items of note in the box: an HDMI 2.1 cable, the power cable, and the new Xbox wireless controller. From a distance, you could mistake new controller for the existing one, but there are some changes. For instance, it's slightly smaller. I haven't gotten to test it in a realistic scenario yet, but in my hands it feels really nice. There's a matte texture to it that I imagine will resist sweaty palms. The other big differences are the USB Type-C port for those who use play and charge kits, a dedicated share button, and a new D-Pad more similar to what you see on the Xbox Elite controller. This is clicker than I expected, though it also makes a bit more noise. It still works on two double-A batteries. I much prefer an internal battery, but you still have to pay extra for that.

Xbox Series X and S Wireless Controller

Of course, if you like your existing Xbox One controller, that will still work with the Series X.

The system feels well made, and I don't think it looks as much like a refrigerator in person. I think it will meld into most people's entertainment centers, though I imagine that to do that, many people will be laying it sideways. I am a bit curious if that has any effect on airflow, as hot air rises, and this has a fan that's top-mounted only when standing vertically.

The one big downside? The back of the box features a very large picture of Master Chief, and was likely intended to push Halo Infinite. But it serves as a reminder that the game was delayed, and was supposed to be the biggest launch window title for this console. Instead, Microsoft probably hopes you'll notice the ad for Game Pass, which should give you access to over 100 titles if you pay for a membership.

The Xbox Series X is in our labs, and we're looking forward to spending lots of testing and gaming time with it. But we have to wait a bit to see just how the new CPU, GPU, split motherboard, Velocity architecture SSDs, and cooling design all lend themselves to the overall gaming experience. Stay tuned for more.

Andrew E. Freedman is a senior editor at Tom's Hardware focusing on laptops, desktops and gaming. He also keeps up with the latest news. A lover of all things gaming and tech, his previous work has shown up in Tom's Guide, Laptop Mag, Kotaku, PCMag and Complex, among others. Follow him on Threads @FreedmanAE and Mastodon