Microsoft has confidence in its Xbox Series X video game console. Rarely, the company has enabled media and streamers from around the world to try out a prototype of the next-generation device several weeks before launch. Here are 10 observations after this sneak preview.
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Our favorite is the shortened loading times
Arguably the biggest improvement to the Xbox Series X, due in Canada on November 10 for $ 599, is the shorter load times. Thanks to its better processor and fast SSD, the time to wait to start playing has literally melted away since the last generation.
Part of the galactic exploration game No Man’s Sky which took 1.5 minutes to launch on the Xbox One X only takes 20 seconds on the Series X. With Doom Eternal, we go from 20 to about 4 seconds. This improvement allows you to play big games solo for a session of only a few minutes, and it makes some titles more enjoyable, since it is no longer necessary to go for a coffee while moving in a game. open, for example.
The improved cooling is felt often (but not always)
With its increased power, the Xbox Series X can display games with a refresh rate of up to 120 frames per second. It’s five times faster than cinema, projected at 24 frames per second. The games are therefore fluid, and the images appear clearer when moving. Just go forward in Gears 5 and look at the sharpness of the foliage around us to see it instantly.
However, the effect varies from one title to another. With Doom Eternal, which was already optimized for a quick refresh on previous consoles, the game does not seem particularly smoother. In some cases, the main advantage of this increased power is also to limit the times when the display slows down. Here too, the example of No Man’s Sky is convincing: with the Xbox One X, it is common for the game to become unplayable for a second or two when the console cannot process the necessary information quickly enough. With the Series X, those moments are a thing of the past.
Visual improvements vary so far from game to game
The Xbox Series X promises several visual improvements, including 4K resolution for most games and better light management (ray tracing, for regulars).
The improvement here is major compared to the Xbox One S and the original Xbox One, but more limited compared to the Xbox One X. It also varies a lot from game to game. Among other things, we note a certain improvement in the image in Gears 5, but we’re not thrown to the ground either. Doom Eternal on the contrary, seems to have made a technological leap of 20 years when comparing the Xbox One S and Xbox Series X versions.
We will obviously have to wait to see the games designed especially for the Xbox Series X to be able to take advantage of its full potential.
Xbox Series X runs in total silence
My Xbox One X has the annoying tendency to bury games when complex scenes appear on the screen. After 3 weeks of testing and dozens of games played, however, I have yet to hear the Xbox Series X go full blast.
Maybe some games in the future will force its fan to spin faster, but right now you have to stick your ear to the console to hear anything.
The controller is rather noisy
Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the controller. While we like its new button for easy screenshots, the click of the directional pad is ridiculously loud. Enough to drive those around us crazy if we play with headphones.
Game Resume: practical when it works
Microsoft is very fond of Game Resume, a feature of the Xbox Series X that allows you to pause your session and resume it at another time, even if you’ve played other games in the meantime. For this to work, you don’t have to do anything: everything is automatically memorized when you press the Xbox button to return to the Home screen.
In theory, at least. Because in practice, it does not always work. And unfortunately, we don’t know if our game was really memorized before relaunching the game. So we can’t trust it too much to quit a game without saving. Microsoft has tried to make Game Resume as simple as possible by automating everything, but it probably would have been more efficient to make it a manual feature that you activate when needed.
Of course, Microsoft could tweak the feature as well by its launch next month. This will be confirmed in the proper test of the final version of the console.
The large format of the X Series takes up space
Design wise, the Xbox Series X isn’t the size of the PS5, but the device is big nonetheless. If you want to leave a few inches of space to avoid overheating the console, a rearrangement of your TV stand may be necessary. Note that it can be placed both horizontally and vertically (a position that seems much prettier to me, if you have the necessary space).
You will need a new TV to fully enjoy it
Unless you’ve recently changed models, your TV may not be able to take full advantage of the Xbox Series X features. You will need a device that can display 120 frames per second in 4K. To do this, you need a compatible display, but also an HDMI 2.1 port, a technology that first appeared on TVs last year, and which is still reserved for higher-end models.
My 2018 TV didn’t offer HDMI 2.1, so I got my hands on a Samsung The Frame 2020 TV to try out the Xbox Series X. Samsung TV is best known for its design that looks like a frame when hung on the wall, but it’s also a proper QLED TV, capable of displaying variable refresh and 120 frames per second.
Is it necessary to change your TV to have a new console? No. You will still benefit from several improvements with an older model. If you were planning on changing it anyway, watch for an HDMI 2.1 port.
The mobile application is more convenient than before
Microsoft is taking advantage of the launch of the Xbox Series X to update its Xbox mobile application (iOS and Android). While I never used the latter until recently, I now open it almost every day.
Its value is obvious during installation, since it can be used to perform the initial setup of Xbox with your phone (which is much easier than typing on the onscreen keyboard). Other good moves include making it easy to get, download, and share screenshots. The app also lets you play your Xbox games remotely on your mobile device, which may prove to be interesting when containment is behind us.
One month before launch, many games are still missing
According to Microsoft, thousands of Xbox games are expected to be compatible with the Series X and Series S (a less powerful model, at $ 379) when they launch. All Xbox and Xbox 360 titles that were backward compatible with the Xbox One will be backward compatible, and almost all Xbox One titles will be playable with next-gen consoles (except those that required a Kinect sensor). Microsoft employees have even performed 500,000 hours of testing in the past year to make sure all games are running smoothly.
Yet, with less than a month of launch, many titles still cannot launch on the prototype tested here. Popular franchises like Overwatch, and even Microsoft brands, like Forza Horizon 4 are still missing. It remains to be seen whether all the games can be tested in time for the launch of the consoles, scheduled for November 10.
PLEASE NOTE: This preview of the Xbox Series X was produced on a near final version of the console and its software. A real test will be carried out at launch.