Eight things to know about the long-awaited Xbox Series X
Because you don’t need to know what a teraflop is to play video games.
Microsoft started dropping hints about the next generation Xbox last year. This week, however, the company has released some hard specs and more information about how the Xbox Series X will actually work when it arrives for holiday 2020. The coronavirus outbreak canceled the E3 video game trade show, but that hasn’t stopped the company from outlining its upcoming hardware.
The problem, though, is that console spec sheets can be difficult to navigate. Even if you own a PS4 or an Xbox One right now, you’d be totally justified not knowing what kind of processor it has inside, how much RAM its packing, or how many teraflops it promises (or even what a teraflop is). Here are the most important numbers you’ll need to understand regarding the upcoming Xbox Series X, and what to make of them
Inside the Xbox Series X, you’ll find an AMD Zen 2 eight-core CPU, each clocked at 3.8GHz. It’s a custom version of AMD’s processor, which already puts it ahead of many high-end gaming PCs when it comes to pure computing power. Bottom line: it’s fast enough that Microsoft believes it will endure for years. We’re expecting to hear from Sony about its new PS5 soon, and wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar under the hood there.
In the real world, measuring teraflops doesn’t accomplish much for end users since it doesn’t necessarily translate directly into better everyday performance. What it does give us, however, is a rough idea of how much raw computing power lives inside of a machine and 12 teraflops is double what you’ll get in Microsoft’s current flagship Xbox One X.
That performance comes from an AMD RDNA 2 GPU (that’s a graphics processing unit) with 52 compute units, which once again gives it more computing firepower than AMD’s consumer-grade PC graphics cards. With this much power, reports state that the Series X would be able to run four Xbox One S game environments simultaneously.
This is also what enables the console’s ray tracing mode. It’s a familiar technique for digital graphics in movies, but it has only come to gaming in recent years. Ray tracing will drastically affect the overall look of compatible games, especially in elements like reflections, smoke, and shadows. Support will be crucial, though—PC game support for ray tracing has been slow so far.
0 exclusive first-party launch games
At launch, Microsoft won’t release any of its own games that run exclusively on the new platform. So, if you’re still satisfied with the performance of your older Xbox model, a fancy new title won’t twist your arm into upgrading. That will change down the road, however, as developers concentrate on taking advantage of the Series X’s extra power.
1 TB SSD
Storage is likely the one specification number you actually know about your Xbox, especially if your storage is constantly filling up with hefty games and updates. The Series X, however, completely rethinks the way the console handles storage. The box itself will contain a 1 TB SSD drive to replace the spinning drive that’s likely occupying your current machine. If that’s enough space, you can add 1 TB expansion cards that Microsoft has teamed up with Seagate to produce. It will also have USB 3.2 compatibility if you want to attach external storage.
A whopping 100 GB of that built-in storage will be instantly available to the system at all times, allowing players to quickly jump between games without waiting for long load times. The demo shows players switching games and getting into the action In less than five seconds in many cases. Even if you’re using the powerful Xbox One X, that should feel very quick.
Switching between games isn’t the only area in which things have sped up. The demo video above focuses on load times. Microsoft says that its game State of Decay loads 40 seconds faster on the new machine than on the Xbox One X.
Backwards compatibility hasn’t always been a given with consoles, but Microsoft has announced its intentions to make older games work on the new Series X. With all of the computing power built-in, it will also have the ability to upscale some native 1080p games to 4K HDR to make them look better on modern TVs.
We started to see 8K TVs creeping into mainstream manufacturer lineups back at CES this year, even though there’s almost no native content to watch on them just yet. We’re not exactly sure what kind of performance to expect at 8K—you certainly won’t get those silky smooth 120 fps frame rates with that much resolution—but Microsoft claims it has been working with the TV manufacturers for years in order to make sure displays can handle the high-resolution, as well as the variable frame rate tech that will make games look their best.
We’re still expecting to hear more about the new Xbox Series X this coming June. That info should include some of the new games and features that will arrive at launch. We’ll also likely hear about Sony’s PS5 this week, at which point the spec sheet wars will once again go into full effect. Of course, you could always just avoid all of this and get yourself a Nintendo Switch—if you can find one in-stock.