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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Comments (44)

44 responses to “Getting Ready for the Xbox Series X|S”

  1. madthinus

    For once it pays to be an South African. We are getting a second allotment of consoles and will be available to pre-order again on Monday afternoon.

    I sold my Xbox One X earlier in the week, in anticipation of the new Xbox arriving, already missing it. Nov 10, roll around please!

    But Paul has a good point, my tv is not 4K. It is still 1080p. But it is not just a new TV, I will also need a new AV receiver to process it all. This will happen over time. The console and extra controller is going to be the cheapest of it all.

  2. glenn8878

    Why is it considered “botched” the pre-orders when they would never have enough units to meet the immediate demands. Then Xbox is a failure next year when large inventory will not meet sales goals. Sony may or may not be in the lead.

    Most consumers are better off waiting when bundle packages and discounts are offered. The initial run could have quality issues. This won’t make people happy to know it’s not under your Christmas tree, but Easter is around the corner.

  3. dxhelios

    "what you expect from any coming reviews"

    1. would like to understand and see how Dynamic Latency Input is working? How to measure the difference? It is still a mystery.

    2. there were no info about DirectML and its usage in Xbox Series. It is still a mystery.

  4. solomonrex

    Clearly, Paul, the solution for you to obtain a new Xbox Series Something this holiday series is for you and your son to gain employment at the local Gamestop. Then you can also write undercover exposes of 'extra warranty' shenanigans and chicanery.

      • thretosix

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        I can't post a response in premium section about "How else would you get the game on the new console? :)" but you can transfer games over your home network. I found this on Xbox Support site. I tried contacting you directly and it keeps failing so I'm posting here hoping you see this.

        Enable network game transfer on Xbox One

        Network transfer lets one Xbox console copy games and apps from another console, so long as they’re on the same home network. Copying this way can be faster than downloading another copy of the same game or app. If you have a metered internet connection, this can also save you money.

        Any Xbox One (original Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Xbox One X) can be either the source or the destination console.

        1. On the Xbox you want to copy from, press the Xbox button  on the controller to open the guide.
        2. Go to Profile & system > Settings > System Backup & transfer Network transfer and check the Allow network transfer box. This makes that Xbox visible to other consoles on the same network.
        3. Once you’ve allowed transferring from the “host” Xbox, turn on the console onto which you’ll be copying games and apps, and go to the same settings page. Your host Xbox should be listed.
        4. Select the Xbox you want to copy from, choose the items to copy, then select Copy selected.

  5. ponsaelius

    I bought the Day One Xbox One back in 2013. I remember the Microsoft launch was that this was a TV companion device. Specifically designed for TV, movies, original content, sports (US only), music and you needed a Kinect to recognise you and log you in automatically. You had to be permanently connected to the internet too. Your TV, movies and music could be seen on your TV, via the Xbox One, your WIndowsPhone and your PC. The whole ecosystem of Microsoft devices.

    As an additional option, as an afterthought, you could play video games on it. If you really wanted to. It was also noted that you couldn't play any old games because there was no compatibility with previous devices. I gave away all my old games knowing that I would never be able to play them again.

    The next few years re-adjusted the vision.

    In 2020 the Xbox is about games, games, games, and games. I don't even know if they provide a TV and movies app. Music and sports have gone.

    Different kind of launch this generation.


    Nit-pick, but doesn't the One X already have "support for Dolby Vision HDR, Dolby Atmos, variable refresh rates, and more.". It's not a Series S/X exclusive feature.

    • thretosix

      In reply to

      Only for video content in apps. e.g. Disney+, Amazon Prime Video, etc. The One X doesn't have Dolby Vision support for Blu-rays or games. I have tested Disney+ and it works. I have also tested a Blu-ray with Dolby Vision and it didn't work. There are no games in existence at the moment on any platform that are developed with Dolby Vision.

    • Paul Thurrott

      Probably. But I wasn't taking advantage of any of that.
  7. sammyg

    My comment was deleted because I said Black Ops Beta was bad?? You have some thin skin or you have COD Fanboyism to the max!

    My greater point, I think 1440p 120hz is > than 4K 60hz when it comes to using a monitor for these consoles. 1440p supersampled looks almost as good as 4K and the 120hz makes the games, especially a FPS game, much more smoother and fluid. Until monitors can do 4K 120hz over HDMI 2.1 I will opt for 1440p/120hz over HDMI 2.0 for my X1X and XSX.

  8. DigitalAmoeba

    I'm very interested how you find the BenQ EL2870U Paul. As I bought that same model in Jan 2019 based on specs & price, but have been sadly disappointed about it's colour graduation & HDR performance.

    It does vary a bit depending on how good individual in game HDR config settings are. But Destiny 2 is unusable with HDR on, as soo much of the screen goes into murky blacks. And you can really see the lack of subtle graduation in Ori load screens where Ori is running in a supposed smooth glowing light on black screen.

    While the 4K & variable refresh rate are great, colour reproduction is not, unless I turn off HDR in Xbox system settings ?

  9. thretosix

    In reply to sammyg:

    Those guys know what they are talking about, if I remember right, I believe it is tied to the refresh rate. I think 150hz is where input latency has diminishing returns.

    • sammyg

      In reply to Thretosix:

      Yeah after watching one of their videos I moved my X1X from my 4K screen over to my PC gaming screen, 1440p 144hz. It does 144 over the display port and 120hz over the HDMI. It was nice to see the X1X give me the option of 120hz.

      I can't go back now. With the XSX at 1440p I bet we are going to see most games 60fps and some going higher and that is when Fresync and 120hz will really matter.

  10. webdev511

    Based on the fact that I couldn't get a pre-order and the massive backlog of 360/One/One X games I currently have, I'm actually okay with waiting until sometime next year to get a Series X.

  11. glenn8878

    In reply to sammyg:

    First, it's an assumption that bots got them all. Some people were able to get them. "Their websites" is all the known electronics retail sites like Best Buy, Amazon, and Walmart who should know how these things work. In the end, they chose to not pick favorites. Microsoft and Sony could easily allocate units to Paul and other well known people. That's a privilege they already get in reviewing electronics.

    Second, people will resell them regardless due to high demand. It happens all the time. People who complain are not doing the time. Best thing is don't buy them at a high resale price. The price will adjust.

    Third, demand will still exceed supply so it's ridiculous expectation that people will get them when everyone else wants them at the same time.

    "leaving many fans—including me—out in the cold"

    Even if there weren't bots, do you think you can still get them? Very funny.

    • sammyg

      In reply to glenn8878:

      No the bots did not get them all but I would bet the vast majority of them. They needs to adjust those websites so a bot simply can't order ever.

      "People who complain are not doing the time"

      Lol! Please name anyone ever that likes the tactics of a "Scalper"????? I hope those people end up sitting on a ton of inventory and having to take a loss. However I doubt that will happen.

      I will never buy one from a scalper. I will just wait as I have patience. My X1X plays my current games just fine. When I can easily order a XSX for pickup at my local Bestbuy I will do so. Until then there is plenty of things to fill my time. I will not be picking up any new games until I get a XSX as I want to play them on that system and all that it brings.

  12. rosyna

    In reply to sammyg:

    Sadly, no. When any service looks up your credit report, it’s considered a “hard” hit, which decreases your credit rating (because it indicates you’re looking for more credit lines) and remains for two years.

    If you get accepted, your score can go up slightly, depending on the value of the credit line Citizens One grants you (it’s not just the price of the console).

    But that “hard” query remains on your credit report, lowering it. A “soft” query doesn’t impact your credit score and it’s what those junk mailers use before they send you a stupid credit card offer via USPS.

  13. crunchyfrog

    I missed out on the Series X launch but in the long run it's no big deal. In all likelihood, the first batch may have hardware issues that later revisions fix. Such is the way of things these days.

  14. halap3n0

    The naming is ridiculous. We had Xbox One S/X, and now Xbox Series S/X, they couldn't have made it more confusing if they tried.

  15. proftheory

    When I bought a new TV a couple of years ago I did it not for 4K but rather HDR. For video most is still non HDR but the colors still look better. Whether at SD, FHD, or UHD.

  16. nedzadvegara

    The issue with HDMI on PC screens is that none have HDMI 2.1, which is the standard that gives you 4K 120Hz HDR gaming.

    All of them are still on HDMI 2.0 or lower. If you can manage without high refresh rate then there is no problem.

  17. cawoodstock

    Excited for the upcoming coverage! Thanks Paul. Perhaps I'm in the minority, but would love to hear how either console functions as a media driver. I've always used my xbox as the streaming box of choice (netflix, disney+, Prime etc).

  18. rosyna

    Reminder: getting approval for access to Xbox All Access requires a good credit rating (as it’s issued via a line of credit from Citizens One bank) and getting approved means your credit rating will take a hit (it’s a “hard” check). This lowered credit rating could result in the inability to find a new place to live if the pandemic forces you/let’s you move due to your now lowered creditworthiness.

    Isn’t the US grand?

  19. erichk

    Eagerly awaiting for my Series S pre-order to ship. What I'm anxious for is the comparison to the One X, and in what ways it's an upgrade and in other ways maybe just a sideways move, since after all the One X could do 4K, but the Series S is "only" going to do 1440p *upscaled* to 4K. I'm still predicting that it's going to be a much better overall package, more balanced, what with its massively better CPU and storage. And I also read that four teraflops of RDNA2 is better than six teraflops of GCN.

  20. rickyhansen

    Awaiting my preorder here in Denmark.

    It should arrive on time,

    Since it's my first switch to a new console (from original One to the Series X), I'm looking into making the transition as seamless as possible.

    External USB-storage with older games and all...?

    Looking forward to your reviews and followup articles.

  21. crunchyfrog

    I am hoping that MS will be able to produce enough Series X to meet the demand this year. I'd like to snatch one up when they launch in November.

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