Microsoft unveiled the Xbox Series X (formerly codenamed Project Scarlett) with a trailer at 2019’s Game Awards, which Xbox head Phil Spencer followed up by saying it’ll be the company’s “fastest, most powerful Xbox” yet. During the awards show and the hours since, more details on the Series X have emerged, giving us a fuller picture of what’s inside the new, tall box and what Microsoft’s next-generation goals are.
Shortly after the console’s reveal, Microsoft dropped an article detailing the Xbox Series X’s design, hardware specs, and new controller. Gamespot also got to take an early look at the console and chat with Spencer about the design and naming philosophies behind the Xbox Series X.
That Tall Design, And What’s Inside It
The first thing anyone will notice looking at the Xbox Series X is that it’s abandoning the conventional short, wide console profile for a tall and skinny box shape reminiscent of a PC tower or a beefed-up smart speaker. As Gamespot notes in its coverage, the Xbox Series X’s footprint is about as wide as its controller, and is about three times as tall. At the top, there’s a single fan pushing out air. Microsoft says the design allows the Xbox Series X “to deliver four times the processing power of Xbox One X in the most quiet and efficient way” while noting that it can also be oriented horizontally. Either way, make sure that fan’s not pressed up against something.
Microsoft’s gone beyond broad performance claims and has announced some of the Xbox Series X’s performance targets and the internals it’ll use to get there. On top of 4K, 60 FPS capabilities, Microsoft is still saying the Series X will support 8K, 120 FPS and variable refresh rate. A custom-designed processor from AMD, utilizing Zen 2 and RDNA architecture will also enable hardware accelerated ray tracing on the console. The Series X will also employ variable rate shading technology, which allows the GPU to selectively dedicate rendering power to detailed parts of the screen that need it most.
On the memory front, Gamespot confirms that the Xbox Series X will include an NVMe SSD and use GDDR6 for RAM. Faster memory will not only cut down on load times but could also allow the Xbox Series X to suspend-then-resume more than one game at a time.
The New Xbox Wireless Controller
The Xbox Series X will ship with an updated controller, but the differences are pretty slight on the surface. The biggest things that set the Series X’s controller apart are the addition of a share button and a new “hybrid” d-pad inspired by Microsoft’s work on its Elite controllers. “We’re not the first ones to do a share button,” Spencer tells Gamespot, adding that Xbox has gathered enough feedback on the importance of easy sharing that he wanted there to be a dedicated button. The d-pad looks to be a blend between the Elite controller’s 8-way disc option with the regular 4-way shape raised more prominently. Spencer adds that the new controller is a tad smaller in some ways than that of the Xbox One in order to fit a wider array of hands shapes and sizes.
Some of the new tech being developed for the Xbox Series X will also impact how responsive controllers feel when used with the console. Jason Ronald, Xbox’s partner director of program management, says that a new feature called Dynamic Latency Input (DLI) will sync-up players’ inputs with the rendering path of a game.
Most importantly, Microsoft confirms that the new Xbox Wireless Controller will also be compatible with the Xbox One and PC, just as Xbox One controllers will be usable on the Xbox Series X.
Why Call It Xbox Series X?
While the internet’s already awash in complaints that the name is too close to that of the Xbox One X and swimming with jokes shortening it to “Xbox SeX,” Spencer’s explanation for why the new console’s called the Xbox Series X is pretty straightforward. Noting that “instead of trying to get descriptive” on top of Xbox’s recognizable brand, Spencer tells Gamespot that the console’s emphasis on backwards compatibility with past titles and accessories warrants a title recognizing the progression of Xbox hardware.
I’ve seen a lot of the speculation, whether it’s [going to be called] “Infinite” or “8K” …I just want the name to really follow what this is about. Thousands of Xbox games are going to play on this, your Xbox accessories are going to work on this console.
Spencer does add that the Xbox Series X name “gives [Microsoft] the freedom to do other things with that name”—it’s not out of the realm of possibility that other Xbox hardware variants (like the reported lower-spec Lockhart console) could also follow the Xbox Series naming convention.
To get a better idea of what the Xbox Series X will bring to gaming, check out the reveal trailer for Ninja Theory’s Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 and catch up on everything we’ve learned about Halo: Infinite—set to launch alongside the Xbox Series X in Holiday 2020—since its reveal.