In December, at The Game Awards, Microsoft gaming boss Phil Spencer unveiled the Xbox Series X; a tall black obelisk that more closely resembles a compact PC tower than a traditional console.
At present this is the only next generation Xbox console we know about, and we know it’s launching in “holiday 2020”, but rumours have long suggested there would be both a powerful console and a second entry level model. Given current Xbox consoles are called “One S” and “One X”, we could assume a less powerful next-gen model could be called Xbox Series S.
As for the internals of the Series X, most of what we know for sure comes from official videos and statements from Xbox, although much of it is vague.
- The machine will run on a custom AMD processor with Zen 2 architecture, apparently making the console four times more powerful than the Xbox One X. The next-gen Xbox will also sport Navi graphics and is confirmed to support real-time ray tracing.
- Comments from developers indicate it will be hardware accelerated. There will be a “new generation” solid state drive for improved loading and streaming, which apparently offers 40 times the performance of the current machine and can be used as virtual RAM.
- The goal is for games to run in 4K and at 60 frames per second, but the machine will be able to output 8K and 120Hz. It will support variable refresh rates with a compatible monitor or TV.
- Series X will be backwards compatible with Xbox One games and controllers, and the existing catalogue of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games will be expanded. Microsoft promises “thousands of games across four console generations”, optimised to work best on Series X.
- The machine will feature an optical disc drive.
- Series X will launch alongside Halo Infinite, the next in Microsoft’s celebrated sci-fi shooter series.
Everything from the physical design to the supposed specs indicates the Series X will be an incredibly powerful machine, and potentially more PC-like than any previous console. In 2016 Phil Spencer indicated that Microsoft wanted to do away with console generations, and have the Xbox you buy today be able to play all future games just like a PC. He’s seemed to walk that back since, indicating that certain (but not all) games will be available across generations. It may be up to the developer as to whether new games are also playable on Xbox One. In those cases, there are also indications that multiplayer will work across different generations of Xbox machines.
In an interview with Gamespot, Microsoft execs said Series X would be able to maintain multiple supsended games at once, meaning if you swap games you should still be able to jump in exactly where you left off.
Not many details have been given on the Series X controller, but in the console reveal video you can see it’s very similar to the existing pad, just a little smaller and with a redesigned D-pad and central “share” button. It’s unclear if it will offer an internal battery and USB-C charging like the recent Elite Series 2.