The Xbox Series X is an upcoming home video game console developed by Microsoft. It was announced during E3 2019 as "Project Scarlett" and scheduled for release in late 2020.
The console is one of the planned fourth-generation family of Xbox hardware, succeeding the current Xbox One line, and expected to have improved hardware for higher display resolutions and frame rate and reduced loading times. Microsoft plans to have this be a soft transition to its next generation of hardware; the Xbox Series X is expected to be fully compatible with all games, controllers, and accessories that are currently supported by Xbox One, including selected Xbox 360 and original Xbox games already backward compatible on the Xbox One. Further, Microsoft's internal Xbox Game Studios does not plan to immediately produce titles exclusive for the Xbox Series X, but instead will produce titles that are compatible on both the Xbox One and Xbox Series X, with certain titles having enhanced features on the new console.
History and development
When Microsoft's Xbox team started work on the successor to the Xbox One consoles, their primary targets were to at minimum double the graphic performance of the Xbox One X as measured by its floating point operations per second (FLOPS), and increasing CPU performance by a four-fold compared to Xbox One X while maintaining the same acoustic performance from the Xbox One consoles. As the engineers collected power requirements to meet these specifications, they saw these parts would draw a large amount of internal power (approximately 315 W) and would generate a good amount of heat. This lead to the decision to split the components onto two separate circuit boards; one housing the CPU/GPU, memory, and power regulators, and a second board to act as a Southbridge board for slower input/output (I/O) functions. The boards mounted on opposite sides of an aluminum chassis helped to create air channels for cooling. The remaining components - the heat sink, the electric shielding, the power supply, the optical drive, and the cooling fan were then arranged in a Tetris-like fashion, according to Microsoft designer Chris Kujawski, to achieve a compact form factor, resulting in the tower-like structure. To meet the acoustics factor, the system includes numerous sensors for controlling the speed of the fan, and the large open top was necessary to assure good air flow through the system. While certain elements like the optical drive, air flow requirements, and heat sink size fixed certain dimensions in the overall form factor, they were satisified they were able to end up with a square footprint for the unit.
Microsoft first teased new Xbox hardware under the codename "Project Scarlett" during its E3 2019 press conference, The company estimated that Scarlett would be four times as powerful as Xbox One X, with support for 8K resolution, real-time ray-tracing, and 120 frames-per-second rendering. Microsoft said they wanted a soft transition from Xbox One to Scarlett, with Scarlett supporting backward compatibility with all games and most hardware supported on the Xbox One. The console was formally unveiled as the Xbox Series X during The Game Awards 2019, as well as its final design and a late-2020 release date.
Following the unveiling, a Microsoft spokesperson stated that Xbox Series X constituted an entry in a fourth generation of Xbox hardware, which will be branded simply as "Xbox" with no subtitle. Prior to the E3 reveal, it had been speculated that Microsoft was also developing a second, lower-end console codenamed "Lockhart" to accompany what was unveiled as Scarlett.
Microsoft planned to go into detail into the hardware specifications and launch titles for the Series X at both the 2020 Game Developers Conference (GDC) and E3 2020, but both events were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Microsoft scheduled online presentations over the same planned days in March 2020, while the company will schedule its planned E3 presentation at a later time. Detailed specifications were presented by Microsoft, Digital Foundry and Austin Evans of Overclock Media on March 16, 2020.
Microsoft reported in March 2020 that despite the pandemic, they still expect the Xbox Series X to ship by the end of 2020, though they are monitoring supply chains and the safety of their workers. Spencer said that Microsoft intends to introduce a similar subscription-based pricing approach as they had done with the Xbox One via the Xbox All-Access program, where subscribers would pay a monthly fee for both the hardware and services like Xbox Live Gold.
The Xbox Series X is powered by a custom AMD Zen 2 CPU using a 360.45mm2 die size with eight cores running at a nominal 3.8GHz, or when simultaneous multithreading (SMT) is used, at 3.6GHz. One CPU core is dedicated to the underlying operating system. The graphics processing unit is also a custom unit based on AMD's RDNA 2 graphics architecture. It has a total of 56 compute units (CUs) with 3584 cores, with 52 CUs and 3328 cores enabled, and will be running at a fixed 1.825 GHz. This unit is capable of 12.147 teraflops of computational power. The unit ships with 16GB of GDDR6 SDRAM, with 10GB running at 560GB/s primarily to be used with the graphics system and the other 6GB at 336GB/s to be used for the other computing functions. After accounting for the system software, approximately 13.5GB of memory will be available for games and other applications, with the system software only drawing from the slower pool.
The internal storage of the Xbox Series X is a 1TB NVM Express (NVMe) SSD with a raw input/output throughput of 2.4GB/s. With an on-board compression/decompression block, the unit is capable of throughput as high as 4.8GB/s. A proprietary external 1TB SSD fast storage is available, functioning similar to memory cards on other devices. Additional HDD storage can be added through USB connections. A 4k UHD Blu-Ray optical drive is also included.
The Xbox Series X target performance is to render at 4k resolution at 60 frames per second. Microsoft stated that the console CPU will be four times as powerful as the Xbox One X including support for real-time ray-tracing, up to 120 frames per second rendering, and 8K resolution via the HDMI 2.1 standard. The console will also support new features of the HDMI 2.1 standard including variable refresh rate (VRR) and Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) that are currently being incorporated into newer televisions. The console will have dedicated audio hardware acceleration. A feature called "audio ray tracing" will use the graphics ray tracing processors to process spatial audio in the same manner to improve the audio immersion for the player.
The console's form is designed to be unobtrusive and minimalistic. It has a 15.1 cm × 15.1 cm (5.9 in × 5.9 in) footprint and is 30.1 cm (11.9 in) high and weighs 4.45 kg (9.8 lb); while configured in this vertical orientation, the unit can also be used on its side. Its forward-facing features present only the main power button and the optical media slot. The top of the unit is a single powerful fan. Xbox head Phil Spencer states that the Xbox Series X is as quiet as the Xbox One X. Rear ports include HDMI 2.1 output, 3 USB 3.2 ports, Ethernet connection, expanded storage slot, and power input; an earlier leak had suggested a TOSLINK port for digital audio but this was eliminated in the final design. Absent on the Xbox Series X include the HDMI passthrough port that had been on the Xbox One as well as the infrared blaster port for remote control. The Xbox Series X output conforms to the HDMI Consumer Electronics Control specification, allowing the console to control the connected television's functions as replacements for these absent ports.
System software and features
Spencer stated that the company was prioritizing high frame rates and faster load times as a priority over higher resolutions, which the Series X achieves via the better-matched capabilities of the CPU and GPU. Microsoft also focused on reducing the effects of input latency to improve responsiveness, adding support for HDMI 2.1 Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate features, and "dynamic latency input" technology—a new input pathway that allows developers to incorporate potential controller lag into their games. In addition, the console will allow users to suspend and resume more than one game at a time. This feature includes resuming a suspended game after a reboot of the console.
Controller and accessories
The console will ship with an updated version of the wireless Xbox One controller, which was aimed to be more ergonomic to fit a larger range of hand sizes. It will include all the same key buttons as the past controllers: two analog joysticks that can be depressed, a circle pad , four action buttons, two system buttons ("View" and "Menu"), the main Xbox face button, two grip triggers (left and right) and two shoulder triggers (left and right). The new controller adds a "Share" button alongside the "View" and "Menu", which is used to record and share video clips or screenshots from gameplay. Microsoft found that by aiming the size to fit an eight-year-old's hands, they were able to make the design fit a larger section of the population, and thus features more sculpted grips, and reducing and rounding the trigger buttons. The d-pad is a new concave design that Microsoft's Ryan Whitaker said was a means to merge the normal d-pad style on the standard Xbox One controller and the version on the Elite variant to accommodate a range of playstyles. Small tactile dot patterns have been added to the buttons to help players orient fingers on the controls. The controller will continue to use two AA batteries, though a rechargeable battery pack will be available as an accessory. Microsoft found from focus group studies that players were nearly split 50/50 on the use of batteries through recharging and thus gave the controller the flexibility for both sides.
The controller uses the same wireless protocol introduced by the Xbox One, and is backward compatible with existing Xbox One consoles. Existing Xbox One controllers will also be compatible with Xbox Series X . The new Xbox Series X controller also supports the Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) standard allowing it to pair with mobile devices and other hardware supporting that standard, and will have internal storage to remember those connections. The new controller uses a standard USB-C charging port for its battery.
Spencer said that the Xbox Series X will likely not have immediate virtual reality (VR) support at launch, and that they expect that any VR support will be based on the Windows Mixed Reality components contained within the console's Windows 10 components, but was otherwise not a focus of the console's development prior to release.
Main articles: List of Xbox One games, List of Xbox One X enhanced games, and List of backward compatible games for Xbox One
Microsoft has stated that the Xbox Series X will support all games playable on the Xbox One, including those Xbox 360 and original Xbox console titles currently supported through backward compatibility on the Xbox One, thus allowing the console to support four generations of games. To achieve this, Microsoft announced they would no longer be bringing any additional Xbox 360 or original Xbox games into the Xbox One backward compatibility program in June 2019. Backward compatibility is planned as a launch feature, and Spencer said in December 2019 that he himself had been helping to test such titles for this. Because of the processing features of the Xbox Series X, it is possible for advanced graphic processes options not originally programmed into these older games to be worked into the title when played on the console, such as High-dynamic-range rendering (HDR) support.
Microsoft also announced a system known as "Smart Delivery", effectively implementing cross-buys between Xbox One and Xbox Series X-specific versions of games released on both consoles. The "best available version" of the game for the hardware will be downloaded automatically. Microsoft has positioned this feature at publishers who plan to release Series X-specific versions of games after releasing on Xbox One, and to users migrating from an existing Xbox One to Series X. It is currently unknown if publishers will be able to opt out of this scheme to sell Xbox Series X-specific versions of games separately, or how this will apply to Xbox One games purchased at retail.
Xbox Game Studios and CD Projekt RED have committed to using Smart Delivery for their upcoming releases. In January 2020, XGS head Matt Booty stated that they had no immediate plans to make first-party games that are exclusive to Series X, stating that Microsoft wanted to ensure that those who buy Xbox One consoles prior to the Series X launch would still "feel that they made a good investment and that we're committed to them with content". Spencer explained that this approach was about putting the player at the center rather than the console, comparing it to the current ecosystem in PC games where developers can target optimal play on high-end hardware, but still allow them to be played with reduced fidelity on lower-end hardware. Microsoft is otherwise not preventing third-party developers from releasing games compatible exclusively with Xbox Series X.
Games that have been confirmed to be available for the Xbox Series X since its reveal include: