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  • Cheryl Tan

Xbox Series X Review: An Upgrade and The Sensible Option

Updated: Aug 20, 2021

It’s not every day that you get to experience the next generation of consoles. But it’s finally here. This is the Xbox Series X, and it’s honestly a really remarkable piece of hardware and it goes without saying, by far the most powerful console I’ve ever tried.

So I’ve had the Series X with me for about a week, and the first thing which drew my attention was definitely the design. It’s really minimal and unlike any of the other designs preceding it. It’s like a solid monolithic block that’s pretty unassuming and gives that really weighty feel.

I did not really think much about the design at first, even when it was first unveiled. But now that I have it in my hands, I’m honestly really liking it. It looks great when just placed beside my monitors on my desk, and looks plenty fine when placed right by my TV.

Of course, the only caveat is that it isn’t really “console” size any longer. This is pretty tall even when placed on its side and will probably not fit within most TV console cabinets. You’ll have to place it on top for the most part.

But design aside, I think what you’re really here for is the performance uplift. The next-gen experience. And honestly, this delivers.

With Series X, you can expect up to full 4K resolution gaming at 120fps. That in itself, just on paper, is already quite impressive. Especially when you compare to the previous generation One X, where most games require the use of upscaling to achieve 4K and runs at a maximum of 60fps, or even just 30.

This is thanks to the new architecture that powers the Series X. A custom AMD chip that features eight Zen 2 cores clocked up to 3.8GHz and an RDNA 2 GPU with 52 compute units clocking in at 1.825GHz, providing about 12 teraflops of GPU power.

Of course, all that is just jargon to most of you out there, and we aren’t going to delve too deep either, for this is a console, not an upgradable gaming PC with interchangeable parts. To keep it short, it provides an extremely great gaming experience.

The Series X features a UI that’s really similar to the One X. So if you’re familiar with that, you’ll be right at home with this. As you move to your game library, you’ll also be able to easily see which games have been optimized for the next-gen consoles, for it’ll show the X and S logo right on the game icon itself. First up, Gears 5.

The first noticeable difference was the cutscenes. It’s now running at 60fps on the Series X, up from 30fps on the One X. Not too big of a deal, but great nonetheless. What makes more difference is the gameplay.

Now, Gears 5 is one of the games that still use dynamic resolution to achieve 4K60, but the main difference is that it now sticks much closer to the 4K ceiling and an almost locked 60fps, compared to the One X which has noticeable dips at times, especially during intense firefights. What’s more amazing, however, is the multiplayer experience, where the frame rate is essentially doubled. Playing at 120 frames per second on a console really feels much more next-gen than 4K.

Next, we tried out a simpler game like Ori and the Will of the Wisps. With Ori, you get to choose to play the game at either supersampled 6K at 60fps, or 4K at 120fps. Supersampled 6K was something I did not expect, and on Series X, it is really amazing when played on a 4K TV or monitor. The high resolution just really complements the art direction and design of Ori and it just amazes you at first sight. Even if you swap to 4K, it still looks amazing, but now it feels even better because your frame rate is doubled, and frame rate is essential for a platform. The higher, the better. It just feels so good to play.

Of course, the most important upgrade for any game on the Series X is the reduced loading times thanks to the new SSD. Gone are the days where you can grab your drink as you wait for your game to load.

But, the best feature in my opinion has to be Quick Resume.

With Quick Resume, you can basically swap between any games that you’ve launched within 15 seconds or so, and it picks up right where you left off. This works even if you’ve put the system to sleep, or outright shut it down. As long as you didn’t quit the application or unplug the power cable on your Series X, you can get back up and gaming in less than half a minute. This is one area where console gaming has PC gaming beat. Hands down.

But now you might be wondering if the Series X gets any loud, or does it get too hot?

This might surprise you, but it’s really silent. Even when playing games under full load, it’s basically silent from where I’m sitting, and it’s less than a metre away from me on my desk. Now I lucked out with my PS4 Pro. My unit is really quiet while gaming under full load as well, but the Series X takes it a step further.

My only advice is to place the system down on a flat surface, and to not block the ventilation holes around the back where the ports are, because this is where the majority of the air is being pulled from, and not the bottom of the console which is pretty much covered by the round base.

Now we do have a few gripes with the Series X, but let’s talk a little bit about the new controller first. To keep it simple, it’s 95% the same as the previous controller. The main difference would be the slightly rougher matte texture throughout, which extends to the bumpers and triggers as well.

Those are also ever so slightly smaller than the previous, and you, of course, get a USB-C port now instead of Micro-B. The other main difference would be the D-Pad, which is more akin to the Elite controller, and the inclusion of a share button.

It’s still powered by two double-A batteries, which has its pros and cons, but you can also fit the Xbox lithium-ion rechargeable battery should you want to. It is a standard size after all.

It’s basically a more refined version of the previous controller, and that’s fine by me. But now onto our two gripes with the Series X.

The first is storage.

Currently, there’s only a 1TB model. With the average next-gen game coming in around 80GB or so, that means you can only have about 10 games installed and you’ll be running low on space. You can get the expansion card which adds another terabyte. But in general, you’ll want to delete old games once you’ve finished playing them and make that a habit.

The second is Wi-Fi 6, or lack thereof. I feel it was an oversight by Microsoft. With Wi-Fi 6 being readily available nowadays on laptops, smartphones and the like, it feels like a step back. Even more so when Microsoft themselves are trying to push for digital and when their competitor, the PS5, does support Wi-Fi 6.

It doesn’t make a difference for gaming online, of course. Where it really plays a part is when you’re downloading a game and it is a huge difference.

The last is not exactly about the Series X itself, but rather the implementation of HDMI 2.1.

In order to enjoy 4K at 120 frames per second, you require an HDMI 2.1 input on your display of choice… and there just isn’t that many out there at the moment. There are a few select high-end TVs and as far as monitors go… while there are 4K 120 displays, most of them use DisplayPort 1.4 to achieve it, as that’s ideal for the PC side of things, and not HDMI 2.1.

So if you’re picking a Series X now, just note that it’ll take time for the market to saturate with displays that support HDMI 2.1.

In all though, the Xbox Series X is one phenomenal piece of hardware, especially considering what it’s capable of for its size, and more so, its price. People used to say you can build a PC that’ll perform similarly or better than a console.

With the Series X now… I think you’ll be hard-pressed to do so. It’s even more difficult if you take the features as well, such as Quick Resume.

In all honesty, I think the Series X makes a ton of sense if you’re someone who wants to get into next-gen gaming, but can’t necessarily afford a good gaming PC. For just S$699 or US$499, it is extremely worth it in my opinion. Throw in Game Pass Ultimate, and you instantly get access to hundreds of games and you can play online. Once you’ve saved up enough for a gaming PC, well, Game Pass Ultimate will cover you on the games as well.

All in all, I think the Series X makes a lot of sense. It is a next-generation console through and through, and I think it’s well worth the price.

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Content by Soon Kai Hong

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