Xbox Series X: 13 things you need to know before it drops

All the vital info you need before the Xbox Series X lands on shelves this year

Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Microsoft)

 Microsoft’s Xbox Series X looks set to be an incredible console. Although the next-generation PS5 has been kept tightly under wraps, lots of exciting Series X details have been revealed. We know what the console is going to be capable of, what’s inside it and how much it’s likely to cost.  

Although Microsoft is still squirrelling stuff away for a big reveal later down the line, there’s plenty to dig into right now. From the console’s key features to the games it’s going to come with, here’s everything you need to know so far to get caught up on the Xbox Series X. 

PS5 PlayStation 5 Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft | ConceptCreator)

1.  It’s set to be released in November 

The current global health crisis is disrupting supply lines and pushing back releases on devices such as the iPhone 12 and Microsoft’s own Surface line of laptops. With Chinese factories under quarantine and other companies facing difficulties, both Sony and Microsoft are taking precautions. In spite of the odds, analysts predict both will hit their holiday 2020 target, even if they're a little short on stocks.

2. It'll cost around £500

With the PS5 snapping at its heels, Microsoft wants a console to strike a balance between affordable and premium. With too low a price tag it risks losing money, while too high and the PS5 will be able to undercut it. Based on this, most experts predict the console will cost around £450-£500, with games bundles pushing that price upwards to £550 or even £600 at launch. A premium or budget version of the console will likely be released later down the line, much like the One S and One X, to redress the price balance either way.

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

3. It's not going to have any Xbox Series X-exclusive games...

The PS5 is getting at least one platform exclusive, the high-fantasy looter-slasher Godfall. Another likely candidate is Gran Turismo 7, as it’s been too long since the last GT game came out and there’s been one for every iteration of PlayStation so far. However, although the Series X is getting a host of other cross-platform titles such as Ubisoft’s Gods and Monsters, the Xbox Series X will have no exclusives until 2022.  

4.  ...but it will have Xbox family-exclusive titles 

There’s a reason for the fact there will be no platform-exclusives. Microsoft is moving away from the idea of a console as a static machine with a seven-year lifespan, and towards the idea of console as a multi-generational platform. Every game released on Xbox Series X, such as Halo Infinite and Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, will be cross-platform. Even if the game is an Xbox exclusive (like Halo) it’ll arrive on both Xbox One and Xbox Series X.  

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Ninja Theory)

5.  You’ll be able to upgrade over a dozen Xbox One titles for free 

 In a move of sheer genius, Microsoft is offering “smart delivery” for many of its new games. If you buy an Xbox One game like Halo: Infinite, and you buy the Xbox Series X a year later, you’ll be able to access the next-generation version of Halo for absolutely free. In a statement, Microsoft said:

“Smart Delivery empowers you to buy a game once and know that — whether you are playing it on Xbox One or Xbox Series X — you are getting the right version of that game on whatever Xbox you’re playing on.” 

Now that’s the kind of customer service we can get on board with.

6.  It’ll have full backwards compatibility 

Whether you want to play old-school Xbox classics like the original Halo or Prince of Persia, or you just want to make sure your extensive Xbox One library doesn’t go to waste, the Xbox Series X will be able to cater to you. It’ll play all known Xbox One games, plus a library of hundreds of Xbox 360 and Xbox games from the Microsoft Store. 

Just like on the Xbox One, you’ll be able to use your original game disc to download all necessary content needed to play it. You can even use your old Xbox One controllers to play the Series X, ensuring a smooth transition.  

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

7. It’s going to play games in up to 8k… 

Enough about the old, let’s talk about the new. The Xbox Series X is going to be capable of playing games in stunning 8K resolution. You certainly don’t have to have an 8K capable TV in order to use the console (the likelihood of most of the people buying Series X’s also having 8K TVs are pretty low right now) but as the technology becomes more widespread, the Xbox Series X will be able to keep up with demand.  

8.  ...with next-generation 3D ray tracing...

 8K isn’t the only graphical trick the new Xbox will have up its sleeve. The Xbox Series X is capable of putting out a massive 12 Teraflops of graphical power. “But what the Hell is a Teraflop?” we hear you cry, in your best Marty McFly impression. Well, flops are “floating point operations”, a unit of measuring the power of graphics. Just like megabytes, gigabytes and terabytes of data, the more flops a graphics card is able to deal with, the more detailed and powerful the onscreen visuals become. 

All this graphical power has to go somewhere, and the Xbox Series X will use it to create next-generation ray tracing effects, which look at the way light hits objects and characters in-game and mimics how it’s perceived by the human eye. The end result is going to be something special. 

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

9.  ...combined with revolutionary spacial audio

If ray tracing looks at light and graphics, what’s “audio ray tracing”? Games developer Ninja Theory, which is working on Series X launch title Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, says the Xbox Series X will have a dedicated audio chip, just like a graphics card, to create “directional audio”. If an in-game phone is ringing in the left corner of your screen, when you move your avatar closer to the phone, the ringing will get louder, and sound as if it’s coming from the right place. Move it away, or move your avatar to the right, and the sound’s direction will change.  It's an audio advance that's never happened before in gaming.

10.  You can pause and resume multiple games simultaneously 

As well as Smart Delivery, the Series X will have a “Quick Resume” function. You can pause a game, go back into the Xbox Series X home hub, pick up another game and resume playing that. You can then pause it, exit the game and dive back into the first one, all without quitting the game or losing any progress. In a podcast, Larry Hryb, the head of Xbox Live, revealed this featur would work even after turning off the console entirely, allowing you to jump right back into the game without loading it all over again.  

Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft)

11.  We know what the console will look like 

A surprisingly big one that’s not been mentioned yet. As the Xbox family – PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X – moves to cement itself as multi-generational, the Xbox Series X has gone back to its roots and designed a console that looks like a PC tower. Estimated to be around 6” wide, 6” deep and 12” tall, the simple black obelisk is an unexpectedly boxy design. 

12.   It’s cooled by a single fan, but it’s still very quiet 

 There’s only one vent for the Series X, and it’s at the top of the console’s tower. It’s cooled by just one fan, in a similar fashion to the 2013’s Mac Pro. However, despite this, the fan is state-of-the-art, with a noise factor reportedly comparable with the current-gen Xbox One X despite being more than twice as powerful, so the whirring won’t distract you from your Halo: Infinite binge. 

13.  You can stand it up or lie it down 

 Although the boxy design isn’t the most elegant compared to the Xbox One’s sleek, flat design (it’s going to be deeper, for one thing), it’s more adaptable. It’s able to both be sat down and stood up, with the new fan not affecting the performance either way. Although it’s set to be deeper, it lacks the width of the flat console, so you’ll be able to find a spot for it either to the side or below your TV, depending on your setup. There’s an Xbox Series X for everybody. 

Matt Evans

Matt Evans now works for sister brand TechRadar, covering all things relating to fitness and wellness. He came to as staff writer before moving on, and was previously on Men's Health, and slightly counterintuitively, a website devoted to the consumption of Scotch whiskey. In his free time, he could often be found with his nose in a book until he discovered the Kindle.