I've been using Microsoft's new Xbox Series X for a month. These are my 11 biggest takeaways
- Xbox's two new consoles just launched: the R6,999 Xbox Series S and the R11,999 Xbox Series X.
- Though both consoles are capable of powering so-called next-gen games, the latter is more powerful and capable of higher-resolution graphics.
- I've spent the past month using the more powerful of the two next-gen Xbox consoles, and I'm happy to report that it's a sleek, modern-feeling console.
- These are my 11 biggest takeaways from my time with the next-gen Xbox Series X.
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Seven years after the ill-fated launch of the Xbox One, Microsoft just launched a new video-game console that far better represents the vision of the Xbox.
I've spent the past month using the R11,999 next-gen Xbox Series X, the more powerful of two Xbox consoles that launched this month.
Here are my 11 biggest takeaways, good and bad, from life with the new Xbox thus far.
First, the good stuff: 1. The console itself is subtle and attractive.
Though I wish I had a bit more space for heat to escape from the console's vent at the top, the Xbox Series X console easily fits into the extremely common Ikea bookshelf I use as a TV stand/media center. It looks like a piece of modern electronics, and stands out far less than the Nintendo Switch sitting nearby.
2. It's also very, very fast.
Menus are snappy, and jumping from game to streaming app to game is a breeze. When you need to load a game or an app, it tends to load very fast.
If you're at all familiar with the operating system on the Xbox One, you'll immediately be familiar with the next-gen Xbox OS — it's more or less identical, but significantly faster. Jumping from the home screen to the Xbox Store to a game is nearly instant process. It feels more like switching between apps on a smartphone than switching between software on a game console.
3. Game load times are reduced dramatically.
Game loads on the Series X are very fast. And load times within games — say, if you're killed by demons in "Doom Eternal" or get beat up by some jerk in "Yakuza: Like a Dragon" — are even faster.
Not since game consoles switched to wireless controllers have I felt such a major change. Load times still exist, but they're minimized to such a point as to render loading screens comical.
4. A new feature, Quick Resume, is a game changer.
Think of Quick Resume kind of like a game-save that doesn't need to be loaded: You turn on the console, select the game you want to play, and jump in right where you last were.
This works for several games at once and includes games from previous generations as well as new games made for next-gen consoles.
5. Taking screenshots and video is blessedly simple with the capture button on the new Xbox controller.
The PlayStation 4's controller set a precedent with its share button, an input dedicated to capturing screenshots and video of gameplay.
Nintendo added the functionality to its Switch console when it launched in March 2017, and now Microsoft has copied it with the next-gen Xbox gamepad. And it's a good thing for users, as there's finally an easy way to snag a screenshot or save a few minutes of video.
6. The new gamepad is the best Xbox gamepad yet.
It looks almost exactly like the Xbox One controller — so much so that it can be easy to get them confused. The controllers feel very similar as well, at least initially. All the buttons are in the same places, and the only visual difference is the D-pad.
But actually using the gamepad is where the differences become apparent. A subtly textured grip has been added around the back and to each trigger. The triggers land to a satisfying (and, thankfully, quiet) rubber thud. The menu buttons in the center are clickier than ever, and a new, dedicated screenshot button has been added.
It's a lot of little details that add up to an evolutionary step forward for the Xbox gamepad. It feels familiar and comfortable and surprisingly new.
7. Being able to play generations of Xbox games on one console is excellent.
Do I need access to games I bought all the way back on the Xbox 360? Maybe not, but it sure is nice seeing those games in my digital library nearly 10 years later.
This isn't Series X-specific, as Microsoft has been pushing this vision across Xbox for years, but it continues to be a smart precedent. Having access to an ongoing game library, regardless of platform, is an enticing vision of the future of gaming.
The Series X (and Series S) also automatically upgrade the visuals and performance of most games. As a result, games I'm playing from years ago look better than ever.
8. Now for the not-so-good stuff: Navigating the operating system is still cumbersome.
One of the best aspects of using the Xbox Series X is how fast it is. It's easy to jump through menus, jump into games, or quickly load a streaming app.
The speed helps to reduce the frustration of the confusing operating-system layout, but it doesn't fix the inherent problem: It's confusing!
If you want to access the console's settings, for instance, you have to know to dig through several sub-menus to find them.
If you've never used an Xbox One, you'll likely find the next-gen Xbox user interface very confusing. If you do have an Xbox One, you'll find some of the same frustrations you've run into there.
9. Though screenshots are much faster and easier to capture, they're just as difficult to access.
With the addition of a dedicated screenshot button on the Xbox gamepad and the seismic increase in overall speed, taking screenshots and recording gameplay footage has never been faster or easier.
It's night and day from even the most powerful current-generation console, the Xbox One X, which is great.
Unfortunately, moving those screenshots from the console to the web through any means other than directly posting on social media is as difficult as ever. You could send them to your Microsoft OneDrive account, where they show up in an obscure, unusable file format — who wants to do that?
10. The Xbox Series X is genuinely large and requires considerations.
I said it before, but it bears repeating: I like the look of the Xbox Series X. It's a sleek device that easily fits in with my other electronics, despite towering over even my largest speakers.
But even in my relatively large Ikea bookshelf, which houses several other game consoles, the Series X doesn't really have enough space. Frankly, I don't feel comfortable leaving its top fan so close to a wall, and I wouldn't suggest you do as much either. My plan is to buy a new TV stand, primarily because the next-gen consoles are so large, so I can provide adequate ventilation for these game systems.
This isn't a major issue by any means, but it's something to consider before bringing home your console.
11. Quick Resume is very helpful, but it's not always clear in how it operates.
Quick Resume keeps several games and apps running, accessible from wherever you left off. It's an evolution of a function that worked for only one game at a time on the Xbox One. And it can be amazing!
Quick Resume works for several games at once, covering games from previous generations and new games made for next-gen consoles. The rules of how this functionality works, however, can be mysterious. There's no "Available for Quick Resume" menu to show you the games running, but there's no warning if you're about to close a game that's suspended to load a new one. It's the kind of stuff that Microsoft figured out ages ago on Windows but still seemingly can't get right on a game console.
These issues are outliers, no doubt, but they are issues nonetheless. Thankfully, every one of them — save for the size of the console, of course — could be addressed in software updates to the console in the years to come.
Of note: The Xbox Series X console I've been using was provided by Microsoft, and it was running nonfinal software. It has received several software updates across a month of use, and is likely to receive more updates following the November 10 launch.
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