The Xbox Series X is set to release this Holiday season, bringing Microsoft’s flagship console series into a new generation. It follows the original launch of the Xbox One in 2013 and the release of the Xbox One S and Xbox One X upgrades in 2016 and 2017, respectively. And as we inch closer to that deadline, we’re learning more and more about the Xbox Series X. In fact, there's enough information to put the Xbox Series X up against the PS5 in a face-off.
Microsoft has already officially unveiled the Xbox Series X's full specs, with a commitment towards 4K, 60+ fps frame rates and ray-tracing. However, certain details like price are still unknown. That’s why we’re collecting all the information we know, confirmed and rumored, into one convenient page for our readers to keep up to date on the launch of the Xbox Series X.
Xbox Series X Cheat Sheet: Key details at a glance
|Release Date||Holiday 2020|
|Price||TBD, expected around $499|
|Key features||4K at 60 Fps, 8K, 120 Fps, ray-tracing, fast load times|
|Key games||Halo Infinite, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, Full Xbox native backwards compatibility|
|CPU||Custom AMD Zen 2 CPU|
|RAM||16GB GDDR6 memory|
|GPU||12 teraflop RDNA 2 GPU|
|Storage||1TB NVMe SSD, proprietary SSD expansion slot|
Xbox Series X Release Date
While we don’t have a specific release date yet, Xbox has confirmed both on social media and on its blog that it is planning to release the Xbox Series X this holiday season.
An Xbox product page in some regions inaccurately listed the launch date for Xbox Series X as Thanksgiving 2020. We are committed to launching Holiday 2020March 18, 2020
Fears over coronavirus had analysts suspecting delays earlier this March, but on March 24th, Microsoft announced in an interview with CNBC that its Chinese supply chains are "getting back on track." CEO Satya Nadella did add the caveat that "we’ll have to check back on it" when discussing the release date, but seemed mostly confident it, ending his comments by saying "we feel good about where we are."
Previous Xbox consoles have tended to launch in November, so look out for the Xbox Series X around that time as well.
Xbox Series X Specs
|CPU||AMD Zen 2 custom CPU: 8 cores, 16 threads @ 3.8 GHz|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 custom GPU: 12 Teraflops, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz|
|RAM Bandwidth||10GB @ 560 GBps, 6GB @ 336 GBps|
|Storage||1TB NVMe SSD|
|Expandable Storage||1TB expansion card, external USB 3.2 hard drive support|
|Optical Drive||4K Blu-ray|
Earlier this March, Microsoft announced the full specs for the Xbox Series X, revealing a commitment to bringing PC style power to the living room.
The Xbox Series X will use an AMD Zen 2 custom CPU with 8 cores and 16 threads @ 3.8 GHz, a 12 teraflops AMD RDNA 2 custom GPU with 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz, 16GB of GDDR6 RAM running at a bandwidth of 10GB @560 GBps and 6GB @ 336 GBps, a 1 TB NVMe SSD with a slot for an optional proprietary 1TB SSD expansion card, and a 4K Blu-ray optical drive. It will also feature USB ports for accessories and external hard drives.
Most of these specs are comparable to the PS5 specs Sony announced shortly after Xbox’s post, though the Xbox Series X features a larger SSD than the PS5’s 825 GB one, a slightly more powerful CPU at 3.8GHz vs 3.5 GHz, and a generally more powerful GPU than the PS5’s 10.3 teraflop, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz card.
According to Digital Foundry’s hands-on time with the Xbox Series X, all these specs come together to make it more than “twice as powerful as Xbox One X,” with it being able to run four Xbox One S game sessions simultaneously on the same chip.
Xbox Series X Graphics Performance
The idea behind these specs is to allow the Xbox Series X to support 4K gameplay at 60 fps across all new games, as well as 8K or 120 fps gameplay for some select titles. These Xbox Series X will also support variable refresh rate technology, which allows the console to automatically change its refresh rate based on the TV or monitor it’s hooked up to so as to avoid tearing and ghosting. On a similar note, variable rate shading technology is confirmed for the new Xbox as well, which will allow developers to dedicate certain parts of the GPU to specific effects, allowing for a steadier frame rate at high resolutions.
Microsoft also stated in a July 14th blog post that the Xbox Series X GPU will allow developers to more efficiently hold back graphics data until the exact moment when the game needs it, resulting in "2.5x the effective I/O throughput and memory usage."
However, the most impressive announced graphical feature is hardware accelerated ray tracing, a technique that allows for highly realistic lighting, shadows, and reflection. Traditionally, the rendering time for this technique has been too long for use in games, but both the Xbox Series X and PS5 are promising to bring it to real-time entertainment in the next console generation.
We saw a glimpse of what Xbox Series X ray tracing might look like when Minecraft with RTX launched for the PC earlier this April. In our testing, we found that playing Minecraft with ray tracing enabled at a reasonable 24 chunk render distance required at least an RTX 2070 Super to hit 1080p @ 60 fps gameplay. If the Xbox Series X ray-tracing promises can keep up with that kind of power, that's a pretty good indicator of what it'll be capable of.
Xbox Series X Storage Performance
Powering all of these features is a new 1TB SSD, which compensated for higher resolutions by allowing for faster load times. On the software side, Microsoft is also creating the "Xbox Velocity Architecture," which will take advantage of the SSD to allow "100 GB of game assets to be instantly accessible by the developer."
The goal here is to allow for larger worlds and fewer loading corridors (which is when a game hides load times by trapping the player in an elevator or a thin walkway while it loads the next area).
On July 14th, Microsoft released a blog post detailing the Velocity Architecture's details, where it explained that the Xbox Series X's SSD will feature 2.4 GB/s of I/O throughput, which is "40x the throughput of the Xbox One." The Xbox Series X will also use a custom texture data decompression algorithm named BCPack, which Microsoft will pair with the industry standard LZ decompressor to allow developers to reduce the size of their games.
To increase speed further, Microsoft is also advertising new tools for devs to control I/O operations and latency. For operations, devs will be able to create multiple queues for how the Xbox Series X I/O handles their games' data, which will let them prioritize certain aspects of each game to their taste. For latency, they'll be able to reduce screen tearing by decoupling frame buffering from latency, as well as reduce input lag by using "dynamic latency input" to capture "button presses as fast as 2 ms."
The catch to all of these features is that the Xbox Series X will expect all new games to be running off an SSD, as well as any backwards compatible games looking to take advantage of the new technology. A traditional hard drive just won't be able to keep up, especially when it comes to eliminating loading corridors.
Should your internal SSD fill up, then, users looking to play the most recent titles are expected to buy a proprietary 1TB SSD card for the system. This will run identically to the internal SSD once plugged in, but will likely cost around $200. Microsoft has confirmed that older Xbox games that don’t use the Series X’s new features can still be run off external hard drives, however. There is no confirmed support for third-party external SSDs, whereas the PS5 has announced it will support some M.2 SSDs after launch.
The SSD will also allow for multiple games to be suspended at once, using a new feature called “Quick Resume.”
Another Next-Gen Xbox option?
On June 24th, 2020, rumors started circulating about an additional next-gen Xbox codenamed Lockhart, with the idea being that it would be both cheaper and less powerful but more suited to 1080p and 1440p gaming than the Xbox Series X with its 4K @ 60 fps target. On June 26th, The Verge reported that sources "familiar with Microsoft's Xbox plans" confirmed the console's existence to them.
According to these sources, the Lockhart will have 7.5GB of usable RAM, a slightly underclocked CPU speed and about 4 teraflops of performance. We don't know yet whether it will be included in the Xbox Series X branding, perhaps as the "Xbox Series S," or whether Microsoft will introduce it as something else entirely.
Xbox Series X Price and Payment Options
Microsoft and Sony both have yet to release pricing information on either of their next gen consoles, so we have little to go on here except for prior information and the specs.
Both the original Xbox One and the Xbox One X released for $499, while the PS4 released for $399 and the PS5 is currently being speculated to sell for “around $450.” And with the PS5 specs having confirmed Sony’s new console as having an 825GB PCIe SSD against the Xbox Series X’s 1TB NVMe SSD as well as a weaker GPU (10.3 teraflops against the Xbox’s 12 teraflops), that recent trend of Xbox being more expensive than Playstation seems likely to continue. An initial price point of anywhere from $499 to $550 is likely.
What we do know is that Microsoft’s next Xbox will be available through its Xbox All Access program, allowing users to purchase the Series X on a finance plan assuming their account has enough history financing an Xbox One first. The Xbox All Access program currently lets users finance an Xbox One S or Xbox One X starting at $19.99 a month, and Microsoft announced last October that anyone currently financing an Xbox One who has already made at least 18 payments will be able to upgrade their plan to a Series X when it launches.
Xbox Series X Controller
The Xbox Series X controller is set to be largely identical to the Xbox One controller, aside from a few quality of life upgrades.
In a move that will come as a relief to those of us with tiny hands, the blog post announcing the controller says that its “size and shape have been refined to accommodate an even wider range of people.” The new controller also seems to be taking notes from the PS4 controller by including a dedicated share button. The triggers and bumpers feature a new matte finish, and the bumpers include new textured dots as well. The D-pad has been redesigned to better match the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller.
If you prefer your existing stuff, the Xbox Series X is also set to work with all existing Xbox One accessories, including controllers.
Xbox Series X Backwards Compatibility
The Xbox Series X is set to include full native backwards compatibility with all Xbox One games, as well as an unspecified but seemingly wide selection of original Xbox and Xbox 360 games.
Some Xbox One games running on the Xbox Series X via SSD are also set to be “Optimized for Xbox Series X,” meaning that they will feature higher frame rates and resolution than when playing on Xbox One. For instance, Gears of War 5 is currently being optimized for Xbox Series X, with the team already hitting 4K 60 fps resolution on equivalent settings to PCs running the game on “Ultra,” as well as 100 fps at lower resolutions. Other older games like Destiny 2 will also be optimized for Xbox Series X, though curiously, all new Xbox Series X games will also have branding to indicate their optimization for the system on the box. This is presumably because these newer games are also set to be playable on the Xbox One, at least for the first few years of the console's lifespan (more below).
Microsoft is also planning a new “Smart Delivery” feature, which will allow gamers to only buy games once and then share them across multiple consoles. No more having to buy PS3 games remade for PS4 to use the new console’s higher specs. Just buy the base game once, and it will automatically use the highest specs available depending on the system it’s being played on. In other words, like a PC, your system determines your performance more than the game.
The move to native compatibility is also a step-up from the emulation-based compatibility that the Xbox team relied on for backwards compatibility on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Microsoft hasn't specified just how many games from past consoles will get this treatment, though a May 28th blog post claims the Xbox Series X will have "thousands of games at launch."
Xbox Series X Games
On July 23rd, Xbox held an event that outlined 27 games that are confirmed for Xbox Series X. These include exclusives like Halo Infinite and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, as well as a number of multi-platform releases like Watch Dogs Legion. Outside of the event, Xbox has also previously confirmed that games like Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin's Creed: Valhalla and Starfield will be coming the Xbox Series X as well.
Most of these games have trailers that help give us an idea of what the console can do. This includes Hellblade II, which is confirmed to be the first Xbox Series X game to use Epic's impressive new Unreal Engine 5. Halo Infinite also premiered an extended gameplay demonstration during the July 23rd event.
To give you an idea of what Unreal Engine 5 on Xbox Series X means, a PS5 demo Epic released to show off UE5's capabilities used an environment constructed from 8K cinematic assets, including a room with over 500 instances of full 33 million triangle direct ZBrush imports, with no frame drops. The Xbox Series X will no doubt target the same kind of power, so get ready for some big games.
Microsoft has also confirmed that all exclusives for the Xbox Series X will also be playable on Xbox One and PC. This mirrors the company's recent initiative to release all of its new Xbox One games on PC as well. However, this might change in the future, as Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty only confirmed the promise for “the next year, two years,” according to MCV. That's probably because Microsoft doesn't want the Xbox One to hold it back as developers get more familiar with the Series X.
Xbox has promised that the Xbox Series X will have "over 100 titles" at launch. Here's a full list of games confirmed for Xbox Series X:
- Dragon Quest XI
- Watch Dogs Legion
- Echo Generation
- Balan Wonderland
- Halo Infinite
- State of Decay 3
- Unnamed Forza Motorsport game
- The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon
- Tell Me Why
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Optimized for Xbox Series X)
- As Dusk Falls
- Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2
- Psychonauts II
- Destiny 2 (Optimized for Xbox Series X)
- S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2
- Warhammer 40000: Darktide
- Tetris Effect Connected
- The Gunk
- The Medium
- New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2
- Unnamed Fable game
- Assassin's Creed: Valhalla
- Cyberpunk: 2077
- Gears of War 5
- The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon
- Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines 2
- The Ascent
- Second Extinction
- Scarlet Nexus
- Dirt 5
- Call of the Sea
- Bright Memory Infinite
- Gods and Monsters
- Rainbow Six Quarantine
- Rainbow Six Siege
- Madden NFL 21
- Ultimate Fishing Simulator 2
Xbox Series X Pre-order
Currently, there is no way to pre-order an Xbox Series X, though prospective owners can start working towards financing one through Xbox All Access starting now.
Xbox Series X Design
Yes, it still looks like a fridge.
Fridge for scale. #PowerYourDreams pic.twitter.com/2n4OEUKXUzMarch 16, 2020
The Xbox Series X focuses on a vertical orientation and a featureless black exterior with big "monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey" vibes. While it can be placed horizontally, its rectangular design resembles a computer tower more than a game console, so it's unlikely to be thin enough to fit under a monitor. On the top is an indented cooling vent with what looks to be a green light inside, with the back housing the I/O, including the proprietary SSD expansion slot.