For the past few weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to fiddle with an Xbox Series X. Folks, I am smitten. Of course, this isn’t a secret. I’ve already written about how the console recaptures (and improves upon) the magic of my Xbox 360 game library. And I explained how the hardware may not deliver quite the dramatic graphical upgrade some folks expect from a new console, but that it features a handful of significant quality of life improvements, most notably chopping down the average load times that had gotten tedious on the last generation of consoles.
Today, I can finally answer specific questions about the Xbox Series X. I’ve collected them from folks on Twitter and edited them for brevity and clarity.
What is the Xbox Series X release date?
The Xbox Series X and S will be available on Nov. 10 — assuming you scored a pre-order or know somebody who knows somebody. Presumably brick-and-mortar retail stores will have some consoles at launch. I recommend calling your local shop and asking if they know how many they expect to receive.
How much does the Xbox Series X cost?
The Xbox Series X costs $499, while the Series S costs $299.
It’s hard to make a one-to-one comparison. In theory, you could build something close to the Xbox Series X for a bit more than a $1,000: that would be a last-generation Nvidia GPU, one NVMe SSD, 16 GB RAM, a mid-range power supply unit, and a mid-range CPU. But you wouldn’t get the benefits a console has over PC, like developers optimizing their games for console specifications and Microsoft’s own proprietary wizardry, like its Velocity architecture, which allows for Quick Resume. Which is a jargony way of saying that some games designed for Xbox will make more out of less power than their PC counterparts.
It depends on what you want from a video game console.
If you’re only considering an Xbox for Microsoft’s exclusive games, then maybe a PC (which will play most if not all exclusives) will be fine.
Do you want to revisit your video game library from the original Xbox and the Xbox 360? Or do you want access to the console games on Xbox Game Pass? Or do you not mind spending a fair amount of money to simply have a second gaming system that lives under your TV and requires minimal maintenance? If so, then yeah, the Xbox Series X (or the cheaper, slightly less powerful Series S) might be a good option.
In theory, yes. In practice, it’s complicated.
During the Xbox Series X program, Microsoft has been gradually unlocking hundreds of backward-compatible games. Every game I’ve tested that’s been available to download and play has run well — often better than it did on its original hardware. Tons of games continue to be made available, and I believe Microsoft will deliver on its goal of having all backward-compatible games ready for launch. The only thing that might not make the cut at launch would be some Kinect-only games.
Will my old controllers from the Xbox One work?
Yep, the official controllers will work, and most (if not all) third-party controllers should work too. Even the Rock Band 4 instruments will work—and while we’re on the topic, so will Rock Band 4 DLC that’s currently available to download.
The Xbox Series X can output games at 120 frames per second, but you’ll need the right game, the right TV, and the right HDMI cable. The good news first: The Xbox Series X comes with a good HDMI 2.1 cable, so you won’t have to look for the right cable on Amazon. The bad news: The option only works on new, high-end televisions with high-frame-rate displays, like the LG CX series. These TVs can cost $1,000 or more than comparable TVs of the same size.
So far, I’ve only played one game with a 120 fps mode. It’s neat! But in no way would I recommend buying a new TV for a feature that likely won’t be common for another couple of years. By that point, high-frame-rate displays will be more common and more affordable.
Nope. In Dirt 5, the 120 fps option only appears when the Xbox Series X is connected to a compatible TV via an HDMI 2.1 cable. Otherwise, no dice.
The Xbox Series X doesn’t support Bluetooth audio, but it does support USB headphones.
In an email to Polygon after this story was published, a Microsoft spokesperson clarified that the Xbox Series X supports HDR10, but not HDR10+.
Here’s the spokesperson’s full statement: “Xbox Series X|S support HDR10 for both games and streaming media and Dolby Vision for streaming media apps from partners such as Netflix, Disney+ and Vudu at launch. We also announced Dolby Vision support for games will be coming in 2021. While we don’t support HDR10+ at launch, we continue to listen to feedback from gamers and our partners, but we have nothing to announce at this time.”
There have been reports that the Series X and the expandable memory get hot. What’s your experience been like?
I haven’t noticed this issue, but I rarely play video games for longer than two or three hours at a time. Perhaps this is a larger issue for folks who play in longer stints?
In the online games I’ve tested, Quick Resume boots me to the main menu. It still saved me some time to not have to fully boot an online game, but the feature works best with offline games.
The easiest option, in my experience, is to upload your saves to the cloud. When I played backward-compatible games on the Series X, they loaded directly from the cloud saves without me having to think about transferring anything manually. According to Microsoft, Xbox 360 cloud saves will now be available for free to all Xbox users, not just Xbox Live Gold subscribers.
Yes, but it’s not as big as I expected. Vertically, it looks like an itty-bitty PC. Horizontally, it looks like a video game console that’s roughly twice as tall. It has an unusual profile, but I wouldn’t call it ugly or even obtrusive.
It reminds me of a small boom box or a yoga block.
For now, sure. There won’t be a ton of new games this year, and backward-compatible games work just as well on an affordable external SSD — more on that in a moment.
In the long term, though, it’s probably not enough. AAA games were already unwieldy on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. As developers create larger worlds with higher-resolution assets, we will see far greater storage demands. On PC, Microsoft’s own Flight Simulator can surpass 100 GB, while Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Warzone eat up 222 GB. Four or five big games will eat the entirety of the Xbox Series X’s internal storage.
Is it easy to transfer games from an external hard drive onto the Xbox Series X’s solid-state drive?
It’s easy, for sure, but it’s only fast if you use the optimal hard drive.
Digital Foundry found that transferring games from an NVMe SSD and SATA SSD takes a comparable amount of time. In their testing, they transferred Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (2019) onto the Xbox Series X in roughly nine minutes. However, when testing a mechanical hard drive, the transfer took a little over 20 minutes.
You mentioned an external hard drive. Should I buy an SSD for storing backward compatible games?
Yes! According to Digital Foundry’s research, backward-compatible games don’t take advantage of the benefits of the Series X’s Velocity Architecture. They found that both a SATA SSD and NVMe SSD had load times nearly identical to those of the fancy, more costly official Xbox internal NVMe SSD.
So, you should consider using an external SSD that plugs into the Xbox Series X’s USB port. And since SATA SSDs are cheaper than NVMe SSDs (and, in some tests, ever-so-slightly faster), they’re the best option.
Just tell me which SSD I should buy for backward-compatible games.
Here’s effectively the setup Digital Foundry used for its test: You’ll want this SSD drive. And for that particular drive, you’ll want a SATA-to-USB connector. This other cable isn’t the same brand Digital Foundry used, but it appears to be a faster option. (Thanks to reader Will for the heads-up!)
The power cable is roughly 5 feet long, while the HDMI cable is roughly 6.5 feet long. Yes, I measured them myself.
So far, the system has been shockingly quiet. Like, “I don’t even hear it while playing next-gen games” quiet. That said, in my experience, it takes a few months before a console begins to make noise. My PS4 Pro whispered on launch day. Now it sounds like a Concorde taking its final flight.
Does the Xbox Series X taste and/or smell good?
More people asked me variations of this question than any other question. It smells like a fresh plastic water bottle. I did not eat the Xbox Series X.
I’ve asked Xbox for an official comment.
I dislike the Xbox naming convention, but dear reader, it could be so much worse.
Correction (Nov. 4): The story originally included a statement from a Microsoft spokesperson saying the Xbox Series X would support HDR10+ at launch. The spokesperson later contacted Polygon to clarify that the console supports HDR10, but not HDR10+, at launch. We’ve updated the article to reflect this.