The next generation Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are out in just a few days but what exactly are they and should you get one?
Xbox Series X is the next generation console from Microsoft. It’s the successor to the current generation Xbox One and in the usual manner of such things it’s more powerful, has better graphics, and a number of new tricks that are impossible on the current generation of hardware.
The slightly confusing name is because there’s actually two consoles being released this Christmas, with the Xbox Series S coming out at the same time. The Xbox Series S is significantly cheaper but also less powerful, although it will run games the same as Xbox Series X – it just won’t be able to display them at a native 4K resolution.
The main rival to the Xbox Series X will be the PlayStation 5, which is released a week later in the UK for the same price. Both are similar in abilities, although early testing, and Microsoft’s marketing, suggests the Xbox Series X is slightly more powerful.
What is the Xbox Series X release date and price in the UK?
The Xbox Series X will launch worldwide on Tuesday, November 10 and will cost £449.99 in the UK.
The Xbox Series S will launch worldwide on Tuesday, November 10 and will cost £249.99 in the UK.
Where can I pre-order an Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S in the UK?
The short answer to this is nowhere… probably. Both consoles sold out over a month ago, almost as soon as they were put up for pre-order. Some stores have had a very limited amount of stock since, but they’ve usually disappeared even more quickly.
Your best bet now is that more additional consoles will be made available to buy on launch day, although since England is in lockdown again that isn’t as helpful as it might have been. Depending on how strict they are about the rules supermarkets probably won’t sell them, until the lockdown is over, so your only real option is to keep checking major stores like Amazon, GAME, Argos, and Smyths – especially their Twitter accounts.
If you have pre-ordered though you will still be able to pick up your new console on Tuesday via the click and collect service most stores now operate, although some are also now offering to post out consoles instead.
There’s also the option to use Xbox All Access, via Game or Smyths, that allows you to buy either console in monthly instalments. It’s very welcome option but it doesn’t solve the problem of there being no consoles in stock, although you can try and start the process here.
What are the differences between the Xbox Series X and S?
The main difference is that the Xbox Series S can only output a maximum resolution of 1440p and not native 4K, although that will be irrelevant if you don’t own a 4K TV. The Xbox Series S also doesn’t have a disc drive, so you can’t use physical copies of games or play Blu-rays or DVDs. It also has a much smaller hard drive that is only 512GB, although early reports suggest it only has 364GB of useable space – barely enough for half a dozen big games.
We haven’t been sent an Xbox Series S, only the Xbox Series X, so we can’t judge how loud it is or anything like that, but given Microsoft’s excellent track record in that area (the Xbox Series X is quiet as a mouse) it should be fine. The important thing is it runs exactly the same games, with all the same backwards compatibility, so if you do ever upgrade to a Series X the move over should be seamless.
What can the Xbox Series X do that’s new?
The Xbox Series X is being marketed as the most powerful console ever made, which means not just better graphics in general but the ability to use advanced features usually only seen on high-end PCs.
Native 4K resolution is now relatively easy to achieve for all Xbox Series X games, as is a 60fps frame rate. That does push the console’s abilities though and in many games you have to make a choice between one or the other. That’s also true of ray-tracing, which is a more realistic way of replicating the way light behaves in the real world and means that reflections – in puddles, glass, and other shiny objects – is much more realistic than ever seen before.
These features are also available with the PlayStation 5, as is super-fast loading courtesy of a SSD. A solid-state drive is a much faster type of hard drive that means games load from scratch in around five to 10 seconds and restarting a game after dying typically takes only one to three seconds, although it does depend on the game.
Quick resume is another neat trick that means even if you turn off your console it’ll switch back on in exactly the spot in the game you left it, so there’s no longer any need to worry if you need to nip out for a minute (or hour).
What unique features does the Xbox Series X have?
Although all of the above are broadly similar across both new consoles (the PlayStation 5’s SSD is a little faster) the Xbox Series X and S also have a number of unique services provided by Microsoft, that don’t have a close equivalent on PlayStation 5.
- Smart Delivery is a system that ensures that whatever version of a game you buy it automatically gets upgraded when you buy a new console. So if you buy an Xbox One game and it’s also released on Xbox Series X/S you get the next gen version for free when you get the new console. This is only guaranteed for first party Xbox games (i.e. those published by Microsoft themselves) but it follows for almost all third party games as well, with just a few big name exceptions such as Call Of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
- Backwards compatibility – the ability to play games from a previous generation on a next generation console – has traditionally been a low priority but Microsoft has turned it into a key selling point of the Xbox Series X/S, with almost every Xbox One game working and also a significant proportion of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games. Most are enhanced from their original form, often in terms of loading times, resolution, and frame rate. There’s even an auto-HDR feature being added to older games.
- Game Pass is a subscription service that’s often characterised as the Netflix of gaming. You download the games rather than stream them but otherwise it is similar in that it includes a mix of over 100 games, any of which you’re free to play as long as your subscription lasts.
What is Xbox Game Pass?
All first party games (which now includes Bethesda titles) are available from day one for free on Game Pass, as well as many indie titles and slightly older third party games – although apart from the first party titles the exact line-up does change over time, as games get added or removed.
The Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription option also includes PC games, if you also have a gaming PC, and access to EA Play for £10.99 a month. Alternatively, you can join for just consoles or PC for £7.99 a month. There’s a free £1 trial as well, which is obviously excellent value for money and just the thing for after you’ve spent all that cash on a new console.
Microsoft also offers a streaming service known as xCloud, but it currently only works on PCs and Android devices (Apple has blocked it and other video game streaming services from iOS, at least for the time being). Streaming is available free as part of the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, with xCloud likely to become an increasingly important part of the service as the generation goes on.
What is the controller like for the Xbox Series X?
The Xbox Series X/S controller has changed very little from the Xbox One design. It’s got a new share button and the D-pad is more like the Elite controller, but everything else is almost identical. There’s a new texture on the grips, and the shoulder buttons have been slightly redesigned, but other than that you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference.
Will my Xbox One accessories work on Xbox Series X?
The short answer is yes. Just as with the games, Microsoft is very keen on backwards compatibility with its own first party peripherals and most third party ones – although you’ll have to check that with the manufacturer.
This idea of ‘continuous compatibility’ means that Xbox One (but not Xbox 360) controllers work with the Xbox Series X/S, as does any other officially licensed Xbox One accessory, including headsets.
That should immediately save a bit of money, although there is one expensive peripheral that you’ll have to buy new and that’s the £220 Xbox Storage Expansion Card, which is the only way to increase the amount of storage space on either console (you can use an ordinary hard drive for Xbox One and older games but Xbox Series X title will need to run off either the internal storage or the storage expansion card).
What are the Xbox Series X launch games?
Usually the first things anyone asks about a new console is what games are being released for it, but with the Xbox Series X/S that’s a bit of vexed question. Microsoft has always made it clear that it does not intend to release any games that will run exclusively on Xbox Series X/S until a year or two after it first launches.
The reasoning behind this has always been vague, with Microsoft at one point claiming that it views console exclusives as anti-consumer, but the real problem with the Xbox Series X/S launch is that there are no first party games at all, after Halo Infinite was ridiculed for how it looked and delayed until at least next year.
There are a few minor third party exclusives, such as Bright Memory: Infinite and The Falconeer but all the biggest name games being released this month are multiformat, and so also available on the PlayStation 4 and/or 5.
Some of these, like Dirt 5 and Yakuza: Like A Dragon we’ve already reviewed, while others, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, will be coming in the next few days. All are fundamentally current generation games though, with the Xbox Series X/S versions being modest upgrades at best.
Other games are ‘optimized’ for Xbox Series X and S, which means they’re the same game as on Xbox One but enhanced in various ways – often by increasing the frame rate, resolution, and the quality of the textures. It varies for each game and many of the updates, including for games like Ori And The Will Of The Wisps, won’t be released until launch day or afterwards.
Games will benefit from being playing on Xbox Series X/S even without a dedicated update though, at least in terms of faster loading – which can make a major difference in some games.
Here’s a list of all the games that will be released on Tuesday, November 10 though, including optimised titles that already exist.
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