The Xbox Series X is set to release this November, bringing Microsoft’s flagship console series into a new generation. It follows the original launch of the Xbox One in 2013 and the release of the Xbox One S and Xbox One X upgrades in 2016 and 2017, respectively. And as we inch closer to that deadline, we’re learning more and more about the Xbox Series X. In fact, there’s enough information to put the Xbox Series X up against the PS5 in a face-off

Microsoft has already officially unveiled the Xbox Series X’s full specs, with a commitment towards 4K, 60 fps frame rates and ray-tracing. However, certain details are still unknown. That’s why we’re collecting all the information we know, confirmed and rumored, into one convenient page for our readers to keep up to date on the launch of the Xbox Series X.

Xbox Series X Cheat Sheet: Key details at a glance 

Release Date November 10th, 2020
Price $499 or $34.99 a month for 24 months
Key features 4K at 60 Fps, 8K, 120 Fps, ray-tracing, fast load times
Key games Halo Infinite, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Full Xbox native backwards compatibility
CPU Custom AMD Zen 2 CPU
RAM 16GB GDDR6 memory
GPU 12 teraflop RDNA 2 GPU
Storage 1TB NVMe SSD, proprietary SSD expansion slot

Xbox Series X Release Date 

Avoiding previous worries that the pandemic might delay the console’s release, Microsoft announced on August 11th that the Xbox Series X will release this November, and on September 9th that it will release on November 10th.

This marks the latest in a trend of November releases for the Xbox line, with all three previous Xbox consoles also first hitting store shelves in November as well. That’s not too surprising, since it lets the console hit the holiday rush.

Xbox Series X Specs 

CPU AMD Zen 2 custom CPU: 8 cores, 16 threads @ 3.8 GHz
GPU AMD RDNA 2 custom GPU: 12 Teraflops, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz
Die Size 360.45mm²
RAM Bandwidth 10GB @ 560 GBps, 6GB @ 336 GBps
Storage 1TB NVMe SSD
Expandable Storage 1TB expansion card, external USB 3.2 hard drive support
Optical Drive 4K Blu-ray
Display Out HDMI 2.1

Earlier this March, Microsoft announced the full specs for the Xbox Series X, revealing a commitment to bringing PC style power to the living room.

The Xbox Series X will use an AMD Zen 2 custom CPU with 8 cores and 16 threads @ 3.8 GHz, a 12 teraflops AMD RDNA 2 custom GPU with 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz, 16GB of GDDR6 RAM running at a bandwidth of 10GB @560 GBps and 6GB @ 336 GBps, a 1 TB NVMe SSD with a slot for an optional proprietary 1TB SSD expansion card, and a 4K Blu-ray optical drive. It will also feature USB ports for accessories and external hard drives.

Most of these specs are comparable to the PS5 specs Sony announced shortly after Xbox’s post, though the Xbox Series X features a larger SSD than the PS5’s 825 GB one, a slightly more powerful CPU at 3.8GHz vs 3.5 GHz, and a generally more powerful GPU than the PS5’s 10.3 teraflop, 36 CUs at 2.23GHz card.

According to Digital Foundry’s hands-on time with the Xbox Series X, all these specs come together to make it more than “twice as powerful as Xbox One X,” with it being able to run four Xbox One S game sessions simultaneously on the same chip.

Xbox Series X Graphics Performance

The idea behind these specs is to allow the Xbox Series X to support 4K gameplay at 60 fps across all new games, as well as 8K or 120 fps gameplay for some select titles. These Xbox Series X will also support variable refresh rate technology, which allows the console to automatically change its refresh rate based on the TV or monitor it’s hooked up to so as to avoid tearing and ghosting. On a similar note, variable rate shading technology is confirmed for the new Xbox as well, which will allow developers to dedicate certain parts of the GPU to specific effects, allowing for a steadier frame rate at high resolutions.

Microsoft also stated in a July 14th blog post that the Xbox Series X GPU will allow developers to more efficiently hold back graphics data until the exact moment when the game needs it, resulting in  “2.5x the effective I/O throughput and memory usage.”

However, the most impressive announced graphical feature is hardware accelerated ray tracing, a technique that allows for highly realistic lighting, shadows, and reflection. Traditionally, the rendering time for this technique has been too long for use in games, but both the Xbox Series X and PS5 are promising to bring it to real-time entertainment in the next console generation.

We saw a glimpse of what Xbox Series X ray tracing might look like when Minecraft with RTX launched for the PC earlier this April. In our testing, we found that playing Minecraft with ray tracing enabled at a reasonable 24 chunk render distance required at least an RTX 2070 Super to hit 1080p @ 60 fps gameplay. If the Xbox Series X ray-tracing promises can keep up with that kind of power, that’s a pretty good indicator of what it’ll be capable of.

Xbox Series X Storage Performance

Powering all of these features is a new 1TB SSD, which compensates for higher resolutions by allowing for faster load times. On the software side, Microsoft is also creating the “Xbox Velocity Architecture,” which will take advantage of the SSD to allow “100 GB of game assets to be instantly accessible by the developer.”

The goal here is to allow for larger worlds and fewer loading corridors (which is when a game hides load times by trapping the player in an elevator or a thin walkway while it loads the next area). 

On July 14th, Microsoft released a blog post detailing the Velocity Architecture’s details, where it explained that the Xbox Series X’s SSD will feature 2.4 GB/s of I/O throughput, which is “40x the throughput of the Xbox One.” The Xbox Series X will also use a custom texture data decompression algorithm named BCPack, which Microsoft will pair with the industry standard LZ decompressor to allow developers to reduce the size of their games.

To increase speed further, Microsoft is also advertising new tools for devs to control I/O operations and latency. For operations, devs will be able to create multiple queues for how the Xbox Series X I/O handles their games’ data, which will let them prioritize certain aspects of each game to their taste. For latency, they’ll be able to reduce screen tearing by decoupling frame buffering from latency, as well as reduce input lag by using “dynamic latency input” to capture “button presses as fast as 2 ms.” 

Xbox Series X External Storage

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The catch to all of these features is that the Xbox Series X will expect all new games to be running off an SSD, as well as any backwards compatible games looking to take advantage of the new technology. A traditional hard drive just won’t be able to keep up, especially when it comes to eliminating loading corridors.

Should your internal SSD fill up, then, users looking to play the most recent titles are expected to buy a $220 proprietary 1TB SSD card for the system. This will run identically to the internal SSD once plugged in, as it is structurally the same. Microsoft has confirmed that older Xbox games that don’t use the Series X’s new features can still be run off external hard drives, however. The console has no current plans to support third-party SSDs, whereas the PS5 has announced it will support some M.2 SSDs after launch.

Both the internal SSD and SSD card will also allow for multiple games to be suspended at once, using a new feature called “Quick Resume.” This will also apply to older games being played off HDDs.

VentureBeat also did a teardown on Seagate’s proprietary SSD card, which gives us some insights on its componentry and price. Inside, the publication found SK Hynix’s new 4D NAND memory, a Phison PCIe Gen 4 controller and a CFexpress (or at least CFexpress-like) circuit board. There’s also thermal paste on the controller and NAND, so expect the SSD to run hot. Which explains the metal case- it’s meant to contribute to cooling.

Microsoft’s custom architecture is also at play here, which is good, because these components aren’t necesarilly worth a $220 price tag on their own. 

Xbox Series S: 1440p @ 120 fps for $300

Microsoft officially revealed the Xbox Series S, its budget next-gen Xbox, on September 8th, 2020, finally confirming its existence after months of leaks.

The reveal came in the wake of a leaked (now officially released) trailer that confirmed speculation that the console would target 1440p @ 120 fps. While the trailer didn’t reveal specs, it did clue viewers into the Series S’ features. An all digital machine, it can natively run games at 1440p and “up to 120 fps” at the same time, supports DirextX raytracing, has a 512 GB NVMe SSD and can stream media at 4K with “4K upscaling for games.”  It’s also “nearly 60% smaller than Xbox Series X.”

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The leaked trailer also dropped probably the biggest news for a next gen console yet- the price. All of these leaks together seemed to force Microsoft’s hand, and the company officially confirmed the budget console in a 3:13 AM EST tweet.

Looking something like a large speaker, the Xbox Series S is $299. Even with 1440p @ 120 fps specs, that’s cheap, and given that the leaked trailer heavily pushes Game Pass, it’s probably being sold at a loss to encourage subscriptions. If $299 is still too much of an upfront cost, though, you can also finance the console starting at $24.99 for 24 months (which adds up to $599.76).

Microsoft has since posted the trailer in an official capacity, officially confirming its feature list.

CPU 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.6 GHz (3.4 GHz w/SMT)
GPU AMD RDNA 2 GPU 20 CUs @ 1.565 GHz
SoC Custom 7nm SoC
RAM bandwidth 8GB @ 224GB/s, 2GB @ 56GB/s
Storage Custom 512GB PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD
Expandable Storage 1 TB expansion card
Disc Drive Digital Only
Display Out HDMI 2.1

On September 9th, Microsoft followed up its Xbox Series S price and features reveals with a full list of specs. The biggest difference between the Series X and the Series S seems to be the GPU, with the Series S downgrading to a 20 CUs RDNA 2 GPU with about 4 teraflops of power. Aside from that, it uses the same CPU architecture as the Series X (though with slightly less power), and the same SSD architecture but with less capacity. It also has less memory and is digital only, but Microsoft still boasts that it “delivers 4x the processing power of an Xbox One console.”

The Xbox Series S will launch this November, alongside the Xbox Series X.

Xbox Series X Price and Payment Options

While Sony has yet to drop the price on the PS5, Microsoft announced on September 9th that the Xbox Series X would cost $499.99.

That’s the same as what the Xbox One cost at launch, and is only $100 more than the original Xbox 360’s launch price.

If $500 upfront is too steep, though, you’ll also be able to finance the Xbox Series X, starting at $34.99 a month for 24 months. Careful, though- you’ll eventually end up paying $839.76 for the console if you buy it completely through a payment plan.

Microsoft also announced last October that anyone currently financing an Xbox One who has already made at least 18 payments will be able to upgrade their plan to a Series X when it launches.

Xbox Series X Controller 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series X controller is set to be largely identical to the Xbox One controller, aside from a few quality of life upgrades. 

In a move that will come as a relief to those of us with tiny hands, the blog post announcing the controller says that its “size and shape have been refined to accommodate an even wider range of people.” The new controller also seems to be taking notes from the PS4 controller by including a dedicated share button. The triggers and bumpers feature a new matte finish, and the bumpers include new textured dots as well. The D-pad has been redesigned to better match the Xbox Elite Series 2 controller.

If you prefer your existing stuff, the Xbox Series X is also set to work with all existing Xbox One accessories, including controllers.

Xbox Series X Backwards Compatibility

The Xbox Series X is set to include full native backwards compatibility with all Xbox One games, as well as an unspecified but seemingly wide selection of original Xbox and Xbox 360 games. Because the games are running natively, they can all expect to see some improvement from the more advanced hardware.

Some Xbox One games running on the Xbox Series X/S via SSD are also set to be “Optimized for Xbox Series X,” meaning that they will feature dramatically higher frame rates and resolution than when playing on Xbox One. This means that, aside from base-level upgrades from simply playing on more advanced hardware, the developers have gone out of their way to patch in extra features that are only available on Xbox Series X/S. For instance, Gears of War 5 is currently being optimized for Xbox Series X, with the team already hitting 4K 60 fps resolution on equivalent settings to PCs running the game on “Ultra,” as well as 100 fps at lower resolutions. Other older games like Destiny 2 will also be optimized for Xbox Series X, though curiously, all new Xbox Series X games will also have branding to indicate their optimization for the system on the box. This is presumably because these newer games are also set to be playable on the Xbox One, at least for the first few years of the console’s lifespan (more below).

Microsoft is also planning a new “Smart Delivery” feature, which will allow gamers to only buy games once and then share them across multiple consoles. No more having to buy PS3 games remade for PS4 to use the new console’s higher specs. Just buy the base game once, and it will automatically use the highest specs available depending on the system it’s being played on. In other words, like a PC, your system determines your performance more than the game.

The move to native compatibility is also a step-up from the emulation-based compatibility that the Xbox team relied on for backwards compatibility on the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. A May 28th blog post claimed the Xbox Series X will have “thousands of games at launch,” and on October 15th, Xbox confirmed that the following games will be “optimized for Xbox Series X.”

Xbox Series X Games 

On July 23rd, Xbox held an event that outlined 27 games that are confirmed for Xbox Series X. These include exclusives like Halo Infinite and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, as well as a number of multi-platform releases like Watch Dogs Legion. Outside of the event, Xbox has also previously confirmed that games like Cyberpunk 2077,  Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla and Starfield will be coming the Xbox Series X as well. 

Most of these games have trailers that help give us an idea of what the console can do. This includes Hellblade II, which is confirmed to be the first Xbox Series X game to use Epic’s impressive new Unreal Engine 5Halo Infinite also premiered an extended gameplay demonstration during the July 23rd event.

To give you an idea of what Unreal Engine 5 on Xbox Series X means, a PS5 demo Epic released to show off UE5’s capabilities used an environment constructed from 8K cinematic assets, including a room with over 500 instances of full 33 million triangle direct ZBrush imports, with no frame drops. The Xbox Series X will no doubt target the same kind of power, so get ready for some big games.

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Microsoft has also confirmed that all exclusives for the Xbox Series X will also be playable on Xbox One and PC. This mirrors the company’s recent initiative to release all of its new Xbox One games on PC as well. However, this might change in the future, as Head of Xbox Game Studios Matt Booty only confirmed the promise for “the next year, two years,” according to MCV. That’s probably because Microsoft doesn’t want the Xbox One to hold it back as developers get more familiar with the Series X.

Xbox has promised that the Xbox Series X will have “over 100 titles” at launch, though an August 11th announcement stated that Halo Infinite will not be one of them. Here’s a full list of games confirmed for Xbox Series X:

Xbox Series X Pre-order 

On September 9th, Microsoft posted on its blog that pre-orders for the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S will both start on September 22nd. Xbox also told us over email that pre-orders will begin at 8:00 am PDT/11:00 am EDT, and that retailers taking pre-orders will include Amazon, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Costco, Sam’s Club, Gamestop, Newegg and the Army and Airforce Exchange Service.

Xbox Series X Design

Yes, it still looks like a fridge.

The Xbox Series X focuses on a vertical orientation and a featureless black exterior with big “monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey” vibes. While it can be placed horizontally, its rectangular design resembles a computer tower more than a game console, so it’s unlikely to be thin enough to fit under a monitor. On the top is an indented cooling vent with what looks to be a green light inside, with the back housing the I/O, including the proprietary SSD expansion slot.

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