Microsoft Xbox Series X: An Impressive Console
PC Magazine|December 2020
The newest Xboxes are here, packing plenty of power into boxier frames than ever. Microsoft’s entries into the latest console generation are the Xbox Series X, reviewed here, and the Xbox Series S ($299).
WILL GREENWALD

The Series X stands at the top of the ladder in terms of power and features, with 4K, HDR graphics, impressive performance, and incredibly fast load times thanks to its Zen 2 CPU, RDNA 2 GPU, and SSD storage. It costs $200 more than the Series S, but the extra power and optical drive are well worth it. The Xbox Series X is an excellent game system and stands alongside the Sony PlayStation 5 as the most powerful console for playing games on your TV, earning our Editors’ Choice award.

A BIG, BLACK BOX

The Xbox Series X’s name is perhaps more apt than any other entry in the Xbox line to date. Simply put, it’s a big, black block that features sharp, right-angle corners and measures 12 by 6 by 6 inches (HWD). The sides are smooth, black plastic, with the top featuring a grid-like grille hiding green highlights that evoke the original Xbox’s design. The front of the system holds a slot-loading optical drive that’s vertical when the console is upright, along with a USB port, a controller pairing button, an eject button, and a power button.

The back houses two USB ports, an HDMI output, an Ethernet port, a power cable connector, and a slot for expanding storage. The HDMI input from the Xbox One is missing, which means you can’t use the system as a pass-through for your cable or satellite box.

In addition to standing upright, the Xbox Series X can also rest horizontally on its side. It still needs at least six inches of clearance in this position, so finding enough space in your media center may be tough.

Microsoft Xbox Series X

PROS

Impressive 4K, HDR graphics. Smooth performance. Incredibly fast load times, thanks to SSD. Strong backward compatibility, including accessories.

CONS

You still won’t get 4K/60 in many games. Incomplete backward compatibility list for original Xbox and Xbox 360 games.

BOTTOM LINE

The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s most powerful game system yet, with native 4K graphics and an SSD for blazing-fast load times.

A NEW(ISH) CONTROLLER

The new Xbox Wireless Controller included with the Xbox Series X isn’t much different from the one you get with the Xbox One systems. The new chassis is nearly identical to the old one, as it features the same curved profile, prominent grips, and matte plastic shell. Now a Capture button sits between the Menu and View buttons, below the glowing Guide button in the gamepad’s center. This lets you take screenshots and video clips with just a button press, as on the PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Nintendo Switch.

The direction pad is also new. It now has an octagonal direction plate with stark indentations replacing the plus-shaped pad on the previous controller. Aside from these changes, the gamepad has a USB-C port for wired use and charging (if you use rechargeable batteries; the controller uses two standard AAs) instead of micro USB, but that’s about it. This is pretty much the same controller as before, and that’s just fine—it’s a very functional gamepad.

THE POWER WITHIN

Inside the console is a Custom AMD Zen 2 CPU that features eight cores clocked at 3.87GHz. There’s also a custom RDNA 2 GPU that contains 52 cores at 1.825GHz (for 12 teraflops of processing power), with ray-tracing support. The system also features 16GB of GDDR6 RAM and, perhaps most notably, a 1TB solid-state drive (SSD). The Xbox Series X can output video at up to 4K resolution, with support for high dynamic range (HDR) games and video, including Dolby Vision.

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