When it comes to Xbox, I have been writing obsessively about the Scarlett family of devices that we now call the Xbox Series X and S. It started with Phil Spencer confirming the Scarlett name back in June of 2018 but as of today, the pre-release coverage has officially come to an end.
I have been using the Series X for 24 hrs and wanted to put a few thoughts to paper as I won’t be doing a comprehensive review, you should go read what Paul has written, but we both approach things slightly differently and cataloging changes over the lifecycle of a console is important.
Microsoft approached this console differently than it had done in the past but that is thanks to improvements in technology, connectivity, and an evolving business model. Rather than having a completely unique experience with the release of the Series X/S, while the physical console appearance is different, the UI, controller, and gaming experience is nearly identical to the last generation.
That’s a big risk as many seasoned gamers are accustomed to new ‘magical’ experiences (Kinect, Wii, etc) when they buy a new console but that’s not the situation here. Candidly, it’s a little bit boring as you plug in the console, turn it on, experience the new boot animation, and then it’s the same dashboard that you either love or despise.
Sure, the new dynamic background is a good update but it’s a bit undersold at the moment and we need a much larger gallery to chose from. And the fact that the dashboard is 1080P upscaled and not using HDR, is a bit annoying.
Why? The LG C9 that I bought specifically for this console can support all the features the Series X offers but when you go from the dashboard to a game, my TV pops the “instant game response” “HDR-enabled” and other notifications that trip when the game/device supports a specific feature.
Yes this is a minor complaint and I need to see if I can turn those notifications off but for now, when you jump from games back to the dashboard to back into a game, the notifications show up far too often – make the dashboard native 4k and HDR, please!
Launch content is anemic – no other way to describe it; I joked that I didn’t buy a new iPhone (I have a 10S) because I would spend $1000 to open the same three apps. Well, I just bought a $500 console to play the same games – granted, I will be buying Black Ops Cold War tomorrow that should give me one game to play but I could also play that one on the One X but at a lower framerate and resolution.
The other aspects that have been hammered home are the speed and performance being fantastic – everything boots quickly, launches fastly, and is a lovely experience – yes I know fastly isn’t a word but it makes the sentence better.
What is left off the discussion is that games don’t make the best use of this right now. What do I mean? Launching games still makes you observe the dumb publisher, developer, producer, audio company, food trucks parked outside on the third Tuesday of each month’s, logo – you get the idea, those forced splash screens are still there and a faster console does not remove this annoyance. But with quick resume, for games that will support it, this should make the process much better when those titles arrive.
There is one odd hiccup in performance so far is that if you change your recording functionality to capture 4k HDR clips when hitting the share button, on my device, the audio cuts out on my headset while it’s trying to process the clip. This only lasts for about 15 seconds or so, but it is a scratchy audio experience that is a bit annoying for ‘the most powerful console’ of this generation. I do suspect that this will be resolved via software updates but for now, it’s a minor gripe.
While my device is not impacted, there are others who are having issues with the disc drive making a clicking noise when being used. I believe the Xbox One had a similar issue at launch and if yours is making this noise, you should contact support for a replacement – also, don’t blow vape smoke into your console.
It’s still far too early to truly judge the box but it is a significant jump forward when compared to the Xbox One that launched in 2013 when it comes to performance. And that’s the minimum benchmark, this console needs to last around 7 years and anything less than ‘really dang fast’ would be unacceptable. But early indications that this console should stand the test of time from a performance perspective but now we need the software and games to catch up to the hardware’s capabilities – it feels like a Ferrari with snow tires on it.