With Microsoft unveiling its next-gen Xbox Series X console, and Sony readying the PS5, 2020 is set to to be the year of the 8K games console.
Microsoft teased its new console at the E3 games conference in June 2019. Then codenamed ‘Project Scarlett’, it now goes by it's official name: Xbox Series X.
Xbox Series X promises four times the power of the Xbox One X and is being billed by Microsoft as the "fastest, most powerful games console ever." To match that dramatic leap in performance, the Series X gets a new 'tall tower' design and a new wireless controller.
So when does the Xbox Series X launch? How much does the Xbox Series X cost? And what can we expect from the Xbox Series X launch titles?
Stay tuned as we delve into the Xbox console’s specs, features and all the latest news on the launch date and pricing.
Xbox Series X release date
The Series X will launch Holiday 2020. Microsoft will undoubtedly want to get the console on everyone's shopping list well ahead of the Christmas period. Rumour has it the Sony PS5 (also capable of 8K gaming) will launch around the same time, so there's a good chance we could see both consoles battling it out for festive supremacy.
Will Xbox Series X support 8K video?
The Xbox Series X will support 8K gaming with frame rates of up to 120 fps, plus ray tracing for realistic lighting, reflections and shadows. We also know it will support variable refresh rates (VRR), which should help with smoothness and motion handling.
Of course, 8K TVs are way out of many people's budgets you can expect plenty of games tailored to 4K 60fps gameplay. Still, it's clear that Xbox has clearly set its sights on an 8K future.
Xbox Series X specs
The full specs are still under wraps, but Microsoft has offered up some interesting comparisons.
Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, says the Series X will be four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, delivering "more immersion, more exploration, and more detail", with a big emphasis on reduced load times.
Spencer told Gamespot, "We wanted to have a dramatic upgrade from the Xbox One base console. So when we do the math, we're over eight times the GPU [Graphics Processing Unit] power of the Xbox One, and two times what an Xbox One X is."
The CPU (Computer Processing Unit) boasts four times the power of the CPU in the 'Project Scarlett' prototype. Compared to the Xbox One's eight-core 1.75GHz CPU, or the One X's eight-core 2.3GHz CPU, the Series X's eight core 3.6GHz Custom AMD Zen 2 chip should improve every aspect of how games run.
Take loading times, for example. Spencer said it was something he hoped to "virtually eliminate" with the new Series X console.
There's plenty more tech under the hood, including GDDR6 memory and next-generation of SSDs (Solid State Drives) that are said to offer 40 times the performance of current SSDs.
The cutting-edge combo should ensure that the Series X can keep up with its blazingly-fast AMD chipset and deliver the promised 'next-gen visuals'.
Finally, with great power comes... a great amount of heat. To prevent it melting into a puddle of gooey plastic, Series X tall tower casing has a far larger volume to accommodate airflow via a single fan and extra heatsinks. Microsoft claims it will be as quiet as the Xbox One X.
Does the Xbox Series X have a new controller?
Yes, although, the Xbox Series X Wireless Controller appears to be a case of 'evolution' rather than 'revolution'. It boasts a slightly smaller form factor, a tactile new hybrid d-pad inspired by the Xbox Elite controller, and improved latency.
Following in the footsteps of competitors Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft has added a dedicated 'Share' button to make capturing screenshots and clips easier.
More importantly, Xbox has also confirmed that the Series X controller can be used with the Xbox One, and vice-versa. It'll even work on Windows PCs. (All of your current headsets and other Xbox One-compatible accessories will work on the Series X, too).
How much storage does Xbox Series X have?
There's no word on how much storage you'll get with a Series X, but expect the base model to come with at least 1TB , matching the current Xbox One X.
There's a rumour going around that we can expect to see not just one, but three Series X consoles, including a version without an optical drive that could mirror the Xbox One All-Digital Edition. It would make sense, given that Microsoft has teamed up with Sony to improve game streaming technologies, and is currently testing it's Project xCloud streaming platform.
Head of Xbox Phil Spencer has said he sees cloud gaming as complementary to traditional discs and downloads. It appears discs are here to stay – for now, at least.
Will Xbox Series X play 4K Blu-rays?
The Series X has an internal optical drive with a slot on the front for discs, but there's still no word on whether the console will play 4K Blu-rays.
Given the current Xbox One S and One X both came to market with it tow, you'd assume it would be a shoo-in for the new console. We think 4K streaming through the likes of Netflix and Amazon Prime Video would be a given, but does Microsoft think there's still life in the 4K disc format - we hope so.
One thing is certain: the Series X supports both horizontal and vertical orientations, meaning gamers will be able to stand it upright next to their TV or lay it down underneath, like a 4K Blu-ray player.
We also know that Series X will have an HDMI port, (presumably supporting the HDMI 2.1 standard). although Microsoft is said to be dropping the HDMI pass-through functionality.
Does Xbox Series X support Dolby Atmos?
Again, there's no news on whether the Series X will support audio formats such as Dolby Atmos.
We’d hope the next-gen Series X follows in the footsteps of the Xbox S and X and includes this support, preferably out of the box. Current Xbox console owners need to download and pay an additional fee for the Dolby app if they want to experience Atmos in their home cinema systems and with headphones. Hopefully, such support will come as standard with Xbox Series X.
Xbox Series X games
As with any major console launch, you can expect to see a number of blockbuster games launch along with the Xbox Series X. At the Series X reveal, Microsoft showed off an exclusive Series X game called Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, the sequel to Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
It'll be the first title from Ninja Theory since the studio was acquired by Xbox, and if the richly-detailed trailers are anything to go by, the Series X Hellblade 2 should be a feast for the eyes.
Microsoft has yet to show us its biggest launch title, Halo: Infinite, running on a Series X but you can expect it to showcase all of the new console’s abilities. More top tier titles, such as Forza and Minecraft, will no doubt be announced closer to the launch date.
And, fingers crossed we'll see the appearance of CD Projekt Red's Cyberpunk 2077. It appears to be a futuristic action-packed title, and it stars none other than Keanu 'John Wick' Reeves. There's plenty of speculation on other titles, but we expect a full list will be unveiled closer to launch.
Is Xbox Series X backwards compatible?
If you've invested a lot of time and money in the current Xbox One eco-system, you might not want to make a fresh start with the Series X. Thankfully, you won't have to pick sides.
We already know that you can use older controllers with the Series X, and during the E3 reveal of Project Scarlet, Xbox said the new console will deliver "four generations of content, better than you've ever seen them before".
In other words, Xbox Series X is backwards compatible and will accommodate older titles that launched for Xbox One, Xbox 360 and even the original Xbox.
Microsoft has already added backwards compatibility to over 600 Xbox and Xbox 360 games for its current consoles, which are expected to be available to Series X owners.
Microsoft also mentioned PC and mobile in the same breath as Series X, so this would point to cross-device support for a wide range of games, presumably with the help of Xbox's upcoming xCloud cloud gaming platform.
Xbox Series X price
That's the big question. So far, there's been no hint of Xbox Series X pricing. At present we can only speculate, letting the price of current consoles guide us.
Given the Xbox One X launched with a price tag of £450/$500 and currently costs around £350/$363, we wouldn't be surprised to see the new flagship creep over the £500/$550 price point. After all, it's promising to be the most powerful Xbox we've seen.
However, Microsoft will also have the new Sony PS5 in the back of its mind. It wouldn't want to launch Xbox Series X only to be undercut by its main rival.
We'll be sure to update this article with more news, specs and information, as the anticipation ramps up.