Xbox Series X

New console, same games.

Somehow, against all odds, I managed to buy an Xbox Series X last week. If you haven’t been following video game news, then know that due to huge demand, short supply, and some annoying scalpers, getting any new hardware right now is quite difficult. For both the Xbox Series and PS5 consoles, as well as new PC graphics cards, only minutes after a new batch is in stock, they are gone. Everyone has some stock alert app and is waiting patiently for a drop. Me included.

And last week I finally got an alert (when I was actually at my computer) and got through Best Buy’s checkout with a console. Success! I picked it up last week and have been playing it in the evenings. I don’t really feel it deserves the full review treatment, so here are some thoughts and observations in no particular order:

  • It’s basically an Xbox One on speed. That’s a good thing because it means all of my games work. Microsoft has been absolutely killing it when it comes to backwards compatibility, going so far as to make little features like System Link work over four generations of consoles.
  • Even better than games “just working”, they actually run better. Load times are faster and frame rates are higher (and more consistent). L.A. Noire looks amazing in 4K and HDR, as does Forza 7. GTA IV runs at 60fps (which my PC struggles to keep up).
  • Speaking of load times, they are life-changing. Forza 7 used to take minutes to load a race, now it takes seconds. A cold start on Red Dead Redemption II takes under a minute. SSDs are amazing and I’m kind of surprised to took until 2020 for the major game consoles to catch on.
    • The Switch uses eMMC storage, which is also flash-based storage, but cheap and not nearly as fast as the NVMe drives used in the other consoles.
  • The Series X has really highlighted the deficiencies of my TV. I have a 55-inch TCL 6-Series (55R615) that I bought in 2019. It’s a nice TV, but it’s not actually very good at displaying HDR. It can, sure, but HDR content doesn’t look that much different than normal content. Which of course means that I now have to restrain myself from buying a new TV I’ve only had this one for two years…
  • The controller is a small but nice upgrade. The texture on the grip and triggers is nicer and the D-pad is a significant improvement. I think that’s now the third or fourth time Microsoft has really improved on the D-pad, which really shows how bad it was back on the original Xbox.
  • Whoever is in charge of naming these things at Microsoft should be fired. I had enough trouble having an Original Xbox and an Xbox One hooked up to my TV. Now the One (not the original) has been replaced with the Series X (not a One X), and the original is still around. It’s a mess. Next one should be Xbox 5 (or 6, depending on how you count the One X/S) so we can move on from this nonsense.