The Xbox Series X wasn’t an essential purchase at launch, but it’s clear to see the console is now coming into its own after more than a year on sale. It’s always been a fantastic piece of hardware, mind you, with the potential to solidify itself as an incredible next-gen console in the future.
But until now, the new Xbox has been missing the sort of wow factor we’ve come to expect at the start of each new console generation. There’s been a distinct lack of games that truly make the most out of Microsoft’s new system, and the feeling that things are more of a continuation of what we’ve had before isn’t helped by the same UI we’ve been used to seeing on Xbox One. It’s easy, then, to feel slightly underwhelmed at first when you boot up the flagship Xbox, but soon the improvements begin to make themselves known.
Thankfully, the Xbox Series X now has a library of games that showcase what Microsoft’s new hardware can do. Halo Infinite, Forza Horizon 5, Psychonauts 2, and Microsoft Flight Simulator are now all available, and Microsoft has upgraded numerous older Xbox One games to take advantage of the new console’s impressive technical specifications.
And that’s good news because we’ve always been impressed with the Xbox Series X from a hardware perspective. It’s super-fast, practically silent, and delivers the kind of exceptional performance that we’ve previously only seen from high-end gaming PCs. This ensures that games – both old and new – look and perform better than they ever have before, and provides a solid foundation for Microsoft to build upon in the years to come.
Quiet as a whisper – but pretty toasty
A major upside of the Xbox Series X is how unexpectedly quiet it is. We’ve almost become accustomed to consoles revving up like they’re about to take off when running games that really put them through their paces; but the Xbox Series X is the quietest Xbox we’ve had the pleasure of playing on, even if we need more next-gen-specific games to truly make a call on this.
When you’re on the home screen, the console puts out around 30dB of sound – that’s about the audio level of a whisper – and this changes very little when you actually load up and play games. When playing Sea of Thieves, No Man’s Sky, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, we found the decibels never exceeded 33dB.
That said, when installing a larger update we recorded levels up to 45dB, which is roughly as noisy as a printer in action. Even then, that’s not too loud, and it barely registers over the sound of actually playing a game. This was also the case when playing the next-gen titles we’ve sampled so far.
It’s welcome news for those who don’t want their gameplay interrupted by the whirring of a struggling machine – but with this quietness still comes a fair bit of heat. The Xbox Series X is on a par with the Xbox One X when it comes to heat emission, with heat dispersed through the cooling vents at the top, which we advise leaving ample space for. The console itself does get toasty, too, but we didn’t find that this impacted performance when running more intensive next-gen titles.
Xbox Series X UI and dashboard
While the external design of the Xbox Series X is a considerable departure from its predecessors, the console’s UI and dashboard have undergone more subtle changes.
The Xbox Series X dashboard is pretty much the same as the Xbox Ones. The main reason for this is because Microsoft rolled out a meaty update to the Xbox One back in August 2020 to make its UI more streamlined, and to converge it with that of the Xbox Series X.
That means the Xbox Series X UI still has a tiled layout, with customizable pins, so you can choose which games and apps you want to see first on your home screen, and offers easy access to games, apps, party chat, and other features via the Xbox button on your controller. It’s a pretty streamlined interface and allows for plenty of customization options and easy navigation.
Customization seems to be at the heart of the Xbox Series X UI. In addition to being able to move around your pinned games and apps, Microsoft is also letting players express themselves a bit more with the inclusion of new profile themes that act as a background for your profile page. Players can also now finally use dynamic backgrounds, which offers a more personalized home screen option for those who are bored of the Xbox One’s static offering.
Shorter loading times
Well, for a start, the Xbox Series X is super-fast thanks to its NVMe SSD. We’ve seen the Xbox Series X shave tens of seconds off the load times in games, compared with how they run on the Xbox One S. The Xbox Series X always loaded quicker – in some cases by a few seconds, and in others almost halving the load time.
To give you an idea of how much faster these load times are, we timed how long it took to load into a game by clicking the ‘Continue’ button on the menu screen, for the same games on the Xbox One S and Xbox Series X.
While some titles benefit more than others from faster load speeds, a saving of even a few seconds is welcome. While games such as Ori and the Blind Forest load fairly quickly anyway, so the difference is less noticeable, it’s with titles like Sea of Thieves where the power of the SSD really shines – we saw the loading time for Sea of Thieves cut down from 100 seconds to just 35.
When it comes to next-gen titles, we found the few loading screens we were presented with lasted mere seconds. The speed advantage was really shown off by Yakuza: Like a Dragon’s fast travel, which comes in the form of a taxi ride. It took around 4.7 seconds to fast-travel to a different district from the moment we accepted the ride, a big improvement over our experience on Xbox One.
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