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Review: The Xbox Series X—Function Over Form

The Xbox Series X is undoubtedly fast, but is it a true generational leap? 

Not all gamers like to champion the blinding RGB gamer aesthetic that we’ve come to know (and love?). Some prefer somber tones, minimalistic lightings, and clean designs, while they let the performance of their machine do the talking. Even to this specific set of enthusiasts, the design of the Xbox Series X might come across as rather dull. There really isn’t much to talk about, from a design point of view, other than calling it a black monolith,—similar to the one from 2001: A Space Odyssey—which was at least a thrill to the man-apes. 

Industrial and understated, this black slab is 30.1cm (11.8in) tall, 15.1cm (5.9in) deep, and 15.1cm (5.9in) wide, and once it finds a space within your home entertainment setup, it could easily be mistaken for a subwoofer. Next to the flamboyant PS5, the Series X certainly lacks panache. But that’s okay because once you turn on the system, it delivers quite the punch, living up to the “next-gen” hype. 

The Series X is built like a compact PC with immensely powerful hardware packed in a constricted space. Usually, this is a recipe for thermal disaster. Microsoft went to great lengths to keep the internals of the box as cool as possible with a huge fan at the top. It draws cool air through the ventilation strips at the bottom of the console, cooling the components on the way up and expelling hot air through 144 holes in the top panel. Contrary to common belief, the large fan operates much quieter than a smaller one would have as it’s able to shift more air without having to spin fast. Plus, I’m happy to report that during months of intense gaming, I never once heard the fan amidst the ambient noise in my room. 

Further, since I am used to the speedy load times of my PC, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly games would load on the Series X. For both situations, we have SSDs to thank, along with the incredibly optimized CPU on the Xbox. The Series X comes equipped with 1TB storage out of which 802GB is usable, providing enough space for at least eight AAA titles. Moreover, with the new Quick Resume feature, which takes around 10 seconds or less, you can bounce from game to game without having to go through the entire game loading process. 

Talking about the showrunner, a custom AMD Zen 2 CPU clocked at 3.4GHz sits alongside an AMD RDNA 2 GPU with a power of 12 Teraflops and a 16GB RAM. A PC build of a similar stature would easily set you back by about a thousand dollars. And the Series X? Half of that. 

The Series X seems to have focused on higher frame rates, bridging the console-PC gap. In three months of messing around with the Series X, I’ve had a butter-smooth experience playing competitive shooters such as Call of Duty: Warzone at 120fps (1440p) and even hitting 60fps at 4K in the visually stunning world of Forza Horizon 4. 

While the exterior of this “next-gen” console might lack the expected visual drama, it all boils down to the core gaming experience, which the Series X nails on all fronts. In my opinion, the function over form factor relays a message of longevity, assuring that it’ll run generations of Xbox games and run them well. So now, we wait for Microsoft’s 23 first-party game studios to deliver the next-gen games that will truly show what this console is capable of.

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