Xbox Series X review: next generation games machine, continuity console – or both?

It’s a strange feeling to be reviewing Xbox Series X after a preview period which essentially blew the doors open on so much of the experience. We know that Series X offers a generational leap over Xbox One and One X in so many respects: the CPU upgrade is so pronounced we couldn’t measure it in backwards compatibility gaming tests, the graphics boost is a creditable 2x over One X (without even factoring in architectural advances) with more than an 8x multiplier over the One S. Combined with the fast SSD, Xbox Series X excels in delivering a lag-free console experience to the extent that returning to the current-gen machines feels undesirable, to say the least. We’re not quite back to the plug-and-play ethos that defined the early games consoles, but this is a healthy step in the right direction.

Desirability as a concept may be difficult to attach to the Series X itself though: it’s a black rectangular cuboid – a box with little in the way of X – with few distinguishing features bar the green-accented, perforated exhaust port at the top. The thing is, it works. Series X sits next to your TV discreetly, intentionally non-intrusive from its looks to it acoustics. Clearly designed to be stood vertically, the console may be somewhat wide, but its footprint remains manageable – if not exactly media-cabinet-friendly. Series X also works resting on its side, but oddly, it seems to lose much of its unassuming nature when horizontal. It just looks rather weird.

That said, Microsoft’s industrial design was excellent with Xbox One X, but it’s taken to the next level with the new machine, which is nigh-on silent even under the heaviest loads we could throw at it. The traditional concepts of airflow in a gaming device are thrown to the wind: typically we look to large heat sinks and fans, plenty of space within the chassis and exhausts in all directions. Series X is packed, the densest console we’ve seen. It’s based on the idea of drawing in heat from the bottom of the unit, propelling it through a sandwich-like design of two motherboards, then pushing it through the top, via a 130mm fan.

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