The System: Microsoft is aided by their ongoing willingness to amend their system UI whenever they have a better idea – or at least a newer one – not just when a new console is being shipped. Their latest UI revision, released in October, is perhaps their most popular and full-featured yet – so why abandon it a month later? This latest UI was already snappy on the Xbox One X and it is lightning fast on the Series X. Jumping into ‘My games & apps’ for example loads up instantly, where it would load up chunk by chunk on the previous system.
Using this ‘old’ UI – again, it released in October – arguably means the console doesn’t have that ‘new’ feeling for players, but it also means the OS side of the equation is free of bugs and that’s a refreshing change. The customization options in this iteration of the UI are top-notch, and I have my Guide tweaked exactly the way I want it to access the things I want as swiftly as possible. This does pose an interesting negative as well, though, as whenever my son is logged in with his Gamertag and I’m at the controls, his layout feels clunky and wrong now.
I will say though that setting the console up was quick and easy, using a phone app to let me walk through the steps while the console was grabbing updates and configuring everything. It was painless, but not particularly exciting or interesting. That may sound like a nitpicky thing, and it is, but after the ultra-premium experience that opening the box was – this thing is packed like the best Apple products of yesteryear – the setup was a bit of a flat point.
You can’t have an Xbox Series X review without talking about Smart Delivery, which took a lot of flak in the lead-up to launch for being nothing but ‘PR fluff’ that didn’t matter. It turns out it really does matter, making it incredibly easy for gamers to get and play the best version of cross-gen games for their console. I didn’t have to go into sub-menus or hit up the store, moving a cross-gen game with a Series X optimized version to the internal drive prompted the system to tell me there’s an upgrade and download it – including all the DLC upgrades for it as well. Games like Call of Duty that don’t use Smart Delivery, it’s not quite so cut and dried – and that’s not the ‘quick and easy’ experience we expect with consoles.
One of the new OS features is a bit spotty in implementations – namely Quick Resume. When it works it’s seamless and amazing, allowing you to fire up your game in record time. The problem is it doesn’t seem to work consistently – it’ll work several times in a row and then fail for no apparent reason. It’s not a huge issue, games load quickly regardless – but it’s one of those small quality of life improvements that you think is silly and pointless…until it isn’t there anymore. After having Quick Resume work well for a few days in a row, it’s noticeable when it doesn’t work. As a side note, I would LOVE to be able to ‘pin’ one game so that it’s always held in Quick Resume…