Xbox Series X specs and news: how Microsoft's new beast stacks up

Amelia Heathman
The new Xbox Series X in all its block-shaped glory: Microsoft

The curtain has been pulled off Project Scarlett as Microsoft finally announced its next-generation console: the Xbox Series X.

Announced at The Game Awards last night in the US, the new console promises to have four times the processing power of the Xbox One X, released back in 2017, as well as being quieter and more efficient than previous Xbox consoles.

Games can be played in 4K at 60 FPS (frames per second – the number of times the screen refreshes), with the possibility of up to 120 FPS and 8K capability. As well, the new SSD (the next-gen storage in the console) means load times should be “virtually eliminated” so people can start playing faster than before.

In a blog post explaining the new console, Xbox head Phil Spencer said: “As we enter a new generation of gaming, we see a future where you’re instantly absorbed in your games – where worlds are even more lifelike, immersive, responsive and surprising – and where you are at the centre of your gaming experience. With the new Xbox Series X, we will realise that vision.”

Gone is the cuboid-type design that gamers have been used to over the past 18 years of Xbox in favour of a block-esque tower that can be positioned vertically or horizontally. The square footprint is around the same width as an Xbox controller and about three times as tall. Gamers will be happy to know the Series X does feature a disc drive, unlike the Xbox One S All Digital released this year, so you will be able play old games.

The new Series X controller has also been redesigned with its size and shape refined, according to Spencer. A new Share button has been added so gamers can capture screenshots and game clips easily – Google incorporated a similar button on its Stadia controller to facilitate live-streaming, as a nod to how social media dominates so much of the gaming world now. This new controller will be compatible with Xbox One.

Xbox head Phil Spencer announced the new Xbox Series X on stage at The Game Awards in Los Angeles (JC Olivera/Getty Images)

But what about the cloud? One of the major benefits that has been touted about Project Scarlett is how Xbox’s new cloud streaming platform, Project xCloud, which will allow players to stream games from one of Microsoft’s consoles to a mobile device so gamers can play on the move

According to Spencer, Xbox has been working to minimise latency so the Series X is the most responsive console ever – particularly important for things like cloud gaming. “Xbox Series X is also designed for a future in the cloud with unique capabilities built into the hardware and the software to make it as easy as possible to bring great games to both console and elsewhere.”

There are a few crucial things we don't know. We don't have a confirmed release date yet, only that it will be out in time for Christmas 2020, and Microsoft has kept quiet on pricing too.

Microsoft didn’t just use its conference to broadcast the new console but also the games its studios have been working on. Ninja Theory, the Cambridge-based development studio which was acquired by the tech giant in 2018, announced the follow up to the award-winning Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice with the trailer for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. The first game in the instalment won five awards at the BAFTA Game Awards last year, including one for a new category that year named Game Beyond Entertainment, for its exploration of mental health issues and psychosis in a fantasy setting.

Spencer said Hellblade II has been built to “leverage the full power of Xbox Series X.”

2020 is certainly looking to be an interesting year for the gaming community. Nintendo is working on its next console, thought to be the Switch 2 or the Switch Pro, whilst Sony’s PlayStation 5 is also set to be released towards the end of the year, which will support 8K gaming and offer faster loading times.

Start prepping your 2020 Christmas wish list now.

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