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Xbox Series X Review

The Hardware

Microsoft’s big black monolith is…well, it’s actually smaller than I’d expected. I mean this is a sizable console, but it’s not as looming as I had anticipated in all the pre-release hype and after the fridge memes. It’s got some weight to it, but it’s not as heavy as I’d thought it would be either.

It’s every bit as quiet as I hoped though, and that’s huge for me. My gaming setup is different from most, I think, with the console set up on a computer desk next to the monitor it powers so I sit about three feet away from it. It’s a setup I swapped to as the kids started commandeering the TV more and more often, but I don’t know that I’d swap back now that I’m used to it. There’s a lot to be said for playing on a monitor up close instead of a 65” TV that’s hung on the wall eight feet away, and I feel like I do better in quick-reaction games like Call of Duty.

Support for VRR, short for variable refresh rate, makes a return, and I’m a big fan of Microsoft’s push to eliminate display latency with ALLM – auto low latency mode – support, as well as work done to reduce lag in the controller-console interface. Everything from navigating the UI to controlling games feels incredibly snappy and I’m loving that.

As I said the controller-console interface is streamlined thanks to tech I don’t fully understand, but it’s also had its design tweaked in ways that are immediately noticeable. For example, there’s a texture to the underside of the grips that I wasn’t a big fan of at first, but now that I’ve gotten used to it whenever I use an Xbox One controller – the new console allows you to use older controllers and other accessories with it if you’d like – those old controllers feel almost slippery by comparison. That grippy texture is also featured on the face of the triggers, helping keep fingers in place when play sessions get heated.

Having the capture button built into the face of the controller is smart, and the ‘tap for screenshot, hold for video’ functionality is a great idea even though I find still myself hitting Guide+Y out of force of habit from time to time. This feels like an evolution of the Xbox One controller in some minor – but important – ways, and while I’m glad I don’t have to dump my collection of old controllers I’m not sure I’ll be using them again any time soon.

Backwards compatibility – though not a hardware feature – is greatly aided by both the included SSD and the increased CPU power available. Install your BC games to the SSD and their load times virtually disappear. Elex, for example, goes from 68 seconds to load up on the Xbox One X and external HDD to just 6 seconds on the Series X internal SSD. Comparing the load times by just moving the external HDD to the Series X showed a slight improvement – 46 seconds start to finish – which is likely down to the excess CPU power available for decompression. Divinity: Original Sin II went from 171 seconds on the One X external, down to 84 seconds on the Series X external, down to just 20 seconds on the Series X SSD.