Getting Ready for the Xbox Series X|S

Posted on October 17, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X with 36 Comments

For only the fourth time, Microsoft will unleash a new generation of Xbox consoles in the coming weeks. What a time to be alive.

And this time is special: For the first time ever, Microsoft is releasing two consoles together, the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S. And it’s doing so amidst the biggest-ever expansion of Xbox, a platform that now encompasses the Xbox Game Pass subscriptions, the Cloud Gaming streaming service on mobile, PC gaming, and the industry’s biggest family of in-house game studios. All those additions mean that Microsoft’s consoles no longer stand alone, and the combination of subscription and cloud services suggests a very different future for Xbox.

We’ll see. Today, Xbox Series X|S—the awkward way we must refer to this nameless console generation—are still very important. Are arguably the most important parts of Microsoft’s newly expansive videogame strategy. Certainly, they are for me.

I’ve been onboard for each Xbox generation, but it is a curious fact that the original Xbox console didn’t completely win me over at first because of my focus on first-person shooters; at the time, such games required a PC because of its precise mouse-and-keyboard controls. But games like Halo: Combat Evolved proved to me that shooters could work well on a console, and I made the switch with the release of the Xbox 360 and Call of Duty 2 and haven’t looked back since. I’ve owned each Xbox One console—the original, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X—and I’ll be reviewing both Xbox Series X|S consoles in the coming weeks.

Each of these console generations did and will bring change. As originally shipped, the Xbox 360 only supported 720p and 1080i resolutions, but Microsoft later added 1080p support via a software update. Xbox One progressed through 1080p, 1440p, 4K/UHD, and HDR gaming over time and new console releases. And with Xbox Series X|S, we’re getting more formal support for what I’ll call 4K/60fps (Series X) and 1440p/60fps (Series S) gaming, not to mention support for Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos, variable refresh rates, and more.

These changes may require some upgrades beyond just buying a new console.

In my case, those upgrades include a new display, which I’ve already purchased, and a new sound system, which I’m currently researching. The display I settled on—kind of a compromise of capabilities and cost—is the BenQ EL2870U 28-inch gaming display, which I purchased from Amazon for $300. It hits on most, but not all of the improvements coming in the Xbox Series X in particular, with support for 4K/UHD  (3840 x 2160 resolution), HDR10, and AMD FreeSync, with a 60 Hz refresh rate.

This purchase has been literally eye-opening. My previous display was an older 32-inch 1440p HP display, and the higher resolutions and HDR pop provided by the new display is like getting a pair of new eyes. It reminds me of the first time I saw HD content back in the day. Or, of course, 4K/UHD content more recently. But better. Much better. I’ve played Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, and both look decidedly better than they did on the older display, with more detail, contrast, and HDR pop. I’ve also tried the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War Open Beta and feel good about the coming several months. I can’t wait to compare the Xbox One X to the Xbox Series S and Series X, respectively.

The BenQ display has built-in speakers, but they’re terrible. I’m no fan of headphones, though I recognize the advantages for gaming. So I’m trying to figure out a speaker setup that makes sense. I may just repurpose the Edifier speakers I’m currently using with my PC. We’ll see.

I’m not sure when the review units will arrive, still, which is frustrating. But if I were going to buy a new Xbox, I’ve shifted my thinking thanks to the Xbox All Access program, which lets you pay for either console over two years, while getting an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription—with its Cloud Gaming capabilities—for the duration. An Xbox Series S costs $24.99 per month for two years via Xbox All Access, but an Xbox Series X is just $10 more, or $34.99 per month, making it somewhat of a no-brainer and a more future-proof purchase.

The problem for now, of course, is finding one. Microsoft really botched Xbox Series X|S preorders, leaving many fans—including me—out in the cold. The company says that it will have more consoles for sale by the time they launch on November 10, less than a month from now. But anyone hoping to put one of the new consoles under a Christmas tree this holiday season will be sweating over the possibility that it may not happen. Hopefully, it won’t be a total disaster.

Anyway, that’s where I’m at. If you’re interested in Xbox Series X|S, let me know what you expect from any coming reviews or other articles. I have ideas, of course, but this is a big product wave and I want to make sure I give it the attention it deserves. I can’t wait.

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