Xbox Series X back-compat tested: up to double the performance in the most demanding games

Today, we can lift the lid on just how powerful Xbox Series X is when it comes to backwards compatibility – and to cut a long story short, it’s hugely impressive. As we write, Microsoft is still validating individual Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One titles for use on the system, but we’ve still got a vast range of games to get our teeth into: titles that gives us some idea of just how potent the new console’s back-compat capabilities are. However, it’s important to stress one thing: while Series X runs old games with full clocks, every compute unit and the full 12 teraflop of compute, it does so in compatibility mode – you aren’t getting the considerable architectural performance boosts offered by the RDNA 2 architecture.

Our test system arrived last week, and Microsoft describes it as being non-final hardware – indeed, it’s labelled as a prototype on the back. However, I suspect that this is as close to an actual retail product as we’re going to see pre-launch and before we talk about backwards compatibility, I feel it’s worth reminding everyone about the innovative design, the ultra-quiet performance and its remarkable construction. The engineering team really has done a tremendous job.

In terms of this initial focus on backwards compatibility, I’m sure someone will pop up suggesting that this doesn’t really matter for a new console. However, I genuinely believe that this is a poor argument. First of all, the idea of a library of games that stays with you across all the generations is obviously a good thing both for the user and for the idea of preservation in general. Secondly, Xbox Game Pass is so important now and the existing Xbox library plays a key part in that. Finally, while it may be somewhat off-brand to suggest so, I’m not 100 per cent convinced that this generation is anywhere near as tired and decrepit as Xbox 360 and PS3 were at the same point back in 2013 – the enhanced consoles have given a new lease of life to the generation and with titles like Doom Eternal and Modern Warfare 2019, games still look great. Xbox Series X then takes those stunning games and doubles the horsepower available to them, while comprehensively addressing the poor CPU performance of the current gen era. Put simply: Microsoft is right, your games can look better and run more smoothly – and that’s before we factor in the power of the SSD.

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