While Microsoft is still keeping some info under wraps, just ahead of its expected full reveal at E3 in June, Microsoft has released some more details about its upcoming flagship console: the Xbox Series X.
Sadly, there’s still no word on its price or release date, but based on what Microsoft did share, the Xbox Series X is shaping up to be a pretty powerful machine. Without naming a specific CPU or GPU, Microsoft says the Xbox Series X will be powered by AMD’s Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures. This means we’re most likely looking at chips based on a 7nm process and graphics performance that’s similar to or better than what you get from current first-gen RDNA graphics cards like the AMD 5700.
All told, Microsoft claims the Xbox Series X will offer four times the processing power you get from today’s Xbox One. However, what’s even more important than raw computing power are some of the fancy rendering techniques the Xbox Series X’s hardware can deliver.
Thanks to variable rate shading (VRS), the Series X’s GPU will be able to prioritise certain special effects rather than waste time refreshing every pixel on the screen, which should improve overall performance and help boost framerates. Microsoft also says that the Series X will support hardware-accelerated raytraced graphics in Direct X, which is something that’s currently only available on PCs.
Microsoft is also touting a “next-gen” SSD that will support larger, more dynamics worlds, though this is something we’ve heard about in previous teases back when the Xbox Series X was still known only as Project Scarlett. Microsoft also mentioned new features like dynamic latency input (DLI)—which is designed to reduce the input latency of the Xbox’s wireless controllers—and could help fast-paced titles like shooters and fighting games feel more responsive.
And as we’ve seen touted on a lot of new consoles, Microsoft is teasing an improved sleep feature called Quick Resume which allows you to launch multiple games “from a suspended state almost instantly.” This is something Sony made a big deal about with the PS4, and while Sony’s implementation has become pretty decent in recent years, it’s never quite lived up to the dream of truly instant wake times, so it’ll be interesting to see how Quick Resume pans out on the Series X.
But perhaps one of the most tantalising new features for the Series X is the inclusion of HDMI 2.1 and variable refresh rates that support framerates up to 120 fps. Now technically, the current Xbox One S and Xbox One X can pump out 120 fps depending on the game, but with much beefier graphics powering the Series X and a wider range of related features and advanced rendering methods, Microsoft seems poised to usher in a new era of high-refresh gaming on consoles.
And for anyone with an older Xbox console, it’s also nice to know that the Xbox Series X will be fully backward compatible with Xbox One games and controllers, along with Microsoft’s growing catalog of backward compatible games from the Xbox 360 and original Xbox.
Meanwhile, for anyone planning on keeping their old Xbox One around, Microsoft created a neat new feature called Smart Delivery that allows gamers to buy one copy of a game that will work across both the new Series X and older Xbox Ones, with graphics and settings optimized for whichever console you’re using at the time. Microsoft says Smart Delivery will be featured on all exclusive Xbox Game Studio games such as Halo Infinite, but it will also be an optional feature available to third-party developers if they want.
In the end, while much of the Series X’s success will depend on its price and launch titles, Microsoft’s next Xbox is looking like a pretty well-rounded console. But a lot can change between now and E3, and with recent reports claiming Sony is struggling to keep the cost of manufacturing the PS5 below $450, the battle for next-gen console supremacy is still very up for grabs.