With Microsoft unveiling its next-gen Xbox Series X console, and Sony readying its own rival in the shape of the PS5, 2020 is set to be the year of the 8K games console.
Microsoft teased its new console at the E3 games conference in June 2019 and it's set to go on sale 'Holiday 2020'. Originally codenamed ‘Project Scarlett’, it now goes by its official name: Xbox Series X, complete with a new Xbox Series X logo.
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.
If you're looking for the Xbox Series X specs, features and all the latest news on the console's launch date and pricing as and when it's announced, you've come to the right place.
You'll also find information on a second rumoured new Xbox console, code-named Xbox Flockhart. Allegedly, it will be a more affordable and less-powerful version of the Xbox Series X console.
Xbox Series X release date
Microsoft originally announced the Xbox Series X would launch 'Holiday 2020' before some Xbox product pages in a handful of regions suggested the official launch would be 'Thanksgiving 2020' (Thursday 26th November), just in time for Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season. Microsoft has since retracted this information and reverted back to its original stance of 'Holiday 2020'.
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.
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.
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.
Other important video features include the ability of the Xbox Series X to use machine-learning to add HDR to legacy titles that didn’t support it as standard at launch.
Xbox Series X build
Thanks to the 17th March announcements from Microsoft, we now know the Xbox Series X dimensions. The console will be 30.1 x 15.1 x 15.1cm (hwd) compared to the Xbox One X’s 6 x 30 x 24cm. Its weight is 4.45kg, vs the 3.69kg of the older machine.
According to Digital Foundry, the console pulls in air through its bottom surface, circulates it through the machine and then comes out of the top vents, using a 130mm fan.
Connectivity-wise, Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox Series X will not have an HDMI input nor an optical digital out - both of which can be found on the Xbox One X and Xbox One S. The HDMI input was introduced to Xbox consoles so you could plug in and control a set-top box, although many felt it was never really implemented properly.
The loss of the optical output could have a bigger impact on users, though. It means if you want to enjoy home cinema sound from your Xbox Series X, you’ll need an AV receiver or a soundbar with HDMI passthrough.
Of course, an HDMI output will be present and Microsoft has confirmed that an Ultra High-Speed HDMI cable will be included in the box, which is handy if your display of choice supports HDMI 2.1. Through that, gamers will be able to enjoy frame rates up to 120fps and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) technology too.
Xbox Series X specs
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.
In a February 2020 blog on Xbox Wire, Spencer added a bit more meat to console's bones, promising the new advancements in CPU, GPU and storage technology will "give you frictionless access to new stories and new creators constantly". He also confirmed developers would have 12 TFLOPS (Teraflops) of GPU performance at their disposal.
There's plenty more tech under the console's hood, including GDDR6 memory and the 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.
There's also rumoured to be a more affordable version of the Xbox Series X in the offing. Code-named Xbox Lockhart, the console is supposed to be a disc-less and less powerful version (4 teraflops of GPU vs 12TF) of its big brother. The second Xbox console could be revealed as early as May.
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, thanks to a proprietary wireless communication protocol.
According to Ryan Whitaker, Senior Designer at Xbox, the bumpers have been rounded and the triggers have been given better sculpted grips and rounded too. Both have a new dotted texture for better control. The idea is to create a controller that works better with different hand sizes.
Dynamic Latency Input (DLI) is a new feature which "synchronises input immediately with what is displayed." Hopefully, this results in a more responsive and precise gaming experience.
Following in the footsteps of competitors Sony and Nintendo, Microsoft has added a dedicated 'Share' button to make capturing screenshots and clips easier. There's also a USB-C charger, indicating the presence of a built-in rechargeable battery,
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 and remember multiple devices. (All of your current headsets and other Xbox One-compatible accessories will work on the Series X, too).
The D-pad's hybrid design involves a deeper “dish” for your thumb to rest in, and the angles are “finely tuned to give you a good amount of leverage with minimal movement”.
How much storage does Xbox Series X have?
Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox Series X will come with 1TB of internal storage which matches what's available on the current Xbox One X. It's a custom-built NVMe SSD which can be boosted through the use of 1TB expansion cards designed in conjunction with storage specialist Seagate. The cards are described as “very short, quite weighty… and rather like a memory card”.
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 or support HDR10 and Dolby Vision.
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 HDR 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 now know that Xbox Series X will feature an HDMI 2.1 socket, which means the console will support Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) when used with compatible displays and Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) for smoother graphics and gameplay.
One feature of the current Xbox consoles which will be allegedly dumped from the Xbox Series X is 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 a free Dolby app if they want to experience Atmos with their home cinema systems but they need to pay a fee if they want to listen to Atmos through headphones. Hopefully, such support will come as standard with Xbox Series X.
Xbox Series X games
Expect the Xbox Series X to be packed with technology to help give you the best gaming experience possible. To deliver more stable frame rates, the Xbox Series X will employ its own patented type of Variable Rate Shading (VRS), which will enable the GPU to, "prioritise individual effects on specific game characters or important environmental objects".
The Xbox Series X will also see the first use of DirectX Raytracing for console gaming, which should help deliver more dynamic effects such as lighting, reflections and produce more realistic real-time audio.
Xbox is also promising a Quick Resume feature, where you'll be able to pick up from where you left off in multiple games at the press of a button without having to wait ages for them to load.
And, as is the case 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 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.
Microsoft announced an official Xbox Series X gameplay live stream for Thursday, 7th May, where it showed 'gameplay' footage from a number of new third-party titles including Assassin's Creed: Valhalla. Viewers were told to expect a reveal of first-party titles from Xbox Game Studios (home of the Halo, Gears of War and Forza franchises) in July 2020.
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. Not only that, Xbox Series X can add HDR and high frame rates to old games too, using a special in-console HDR reconstruction process.
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.
The Xbox Series X will also employ a feature called Smart Delivery, which will allow you to buy a game once and be sure that it will be optimised for whatever Xbox you want to play it on. Microsoft has said that all Xbox Game Studio titles will offer Smart Delivery, but it will be up to other game developers to use it for titles that launch on Xbox One first and come to Xbox Series X at a later date.
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.
We'll be sure to update this article with more news, specs and information, as the anticipation ramps up.