Microsoft Xbox Series X review: You’re going to need a Game Pass subscription

Xbox Series X

MSRP $500.00

“The Xbox Series X is a particularly powerful console, nevertheless it still struggles to deliver console-selling exclusives.”


  • Gobs of potential
  • More storage than PS5
  • Accessible library through Game Pass
  • Good value


  • Lacking big exclusives
  • Difficult to slot in most A/V cabinets
  • Next-gen potential is untapped

Timing is all the things.

When a console launches, it’s critical. Every component of a recent system — from hardware to software — has to come back together to satisfy the expectations of an eager and sometimes hypercritical fan base. And when the Xbox Series X first launched in 2020, it didn’t have the art of timing on its side because of COVID-19 spoiling Microsoft’s big launch plans.

At first, the Xbox Series X felt like an athlete who spent the 12 months practicing for the massive game, only to seek out the remainder of the team didn’t show. It was a powerhouse that corrected lots of the wrongs from the early days of the Xbox One. The long run was undeniably shiny, but, resulting from key software delays, it just wasn’t a system that wasn’t price purchasing immediately – or any time in the following months.

That’s modified within the two years for the reason that console’s release … but not by much. Major releases like Halo infinite and Forza Horizon 5 have helped give Microsoft’s powerful sports automotive just a little more gas, however the Series X still struggles on the subject of delivering big exclusives that really put its power to the test. As an alternative, Microsoft has doubled down on Xbox Game Pass to fill the gaps. While you’re fully bought into the complete Microsoft ecosystem, the Xbox Series X seems like one of the best console available on the market today.

But that’s the catch — you’ll have to pay that monthly subscription fee to make the system feel worthwhile. Game Pass means there are many games to play on the system, because of backward compatibility and optimizations on some third-party titles, but is it price plopping down $500 on a recent console when the identical games already work on the old one or your PC?

Digital Trends originally reviewed the Xbox Series X over the course of every week, though we’ve since updated it to reflect the present state of the console (Note that this review focuses solely on the Series X, not the $300 Series S). After spending more time with it and watching its library expand, the Xbox Series X remains to be a tough machine to recommend. It’ll either be your most or least used console depending on whether or not you’re willing to purchase into the Game Pass ecosystem.

Setup: hurry up and download

Gamers know to expect a day one patch, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. The initial download was lower than 1GB, and that was separate from any required game updates. The controller also requires a patch.

The result’s a setup process that can likely take 10 minutes to an hour of your time, depending on the speed of your web connection. Actually, it’s higher to receive a patch than to not, however the conflict between major day one updates and the will to load up a game the quick you switch on the console is a problem the blazing recent solid-state hard disk can’t fix.

Otherwise, establishing the console is a breeze. Microsoft pushes using the Xbox app to achieve this. It truly is a timesaver, letting you copy your settings, GamerTag, Wi-Fi password (assuming you don’t have a hardline web connection on your console), and other information over quickly, drastically simplifying the setup.

Performance: loads of power, in an enormous box

Microsoft has shouted about its superior hardware at nearly deafening levels because it first teased the Series X (called Project Scarlett on the time). By now, you likely know the specs and buzzwords: 120 frames per second (fps), HDR, 12 teraflops of processing power, and so forth.

Despite its performance, the Series X is surprisingly quiet. The cooling structure of the system is so efficient that you just’ll sometimes wonder if the console is definitely turned on. The Xbox One, as compared, is sort of a jet engine.

The Series X is just not, nevertheless, a straightforward slot in most home entertainment centers. Microsoft (like Sony) built its next-generation system to be a showcase item. The Series X is smaller than the PlayStation 5, nevertheless it’s still not built to suit easily into the common front room A/V cabinet. That is resulting from its width, the consequence of a shape more just like a box than a slate. It may very well be an annoyance to some owners.

Once you’ve the chance to place the Series X to the test, you’ll find a particularly powerful machine that lives as much as Microsoft’s performance guarantees. Games like Forza Horizon 5 and Microsoft Flight Simulator look stunning on Series X and can likely play higher there than they are going to in your PC, unless you’re coping with a high-end rig. But those experiences are still few and much between, even two years later. I imagine we’ll see the console’s hardware pushed to its limits more consistently as Microsoft scoops up publishers like Activision Blizzard, but for now, the ability bump over the Xbox One hasn’t felt as impactful correctly.

Storage: 1TB isn’t what it was once

The Series X comes with acceptable, though not optimal, cupboard space. The 1TB hard disk (in comparison with the Series S’s 512GB) is on par with the Xbox One X. You’ll only have 802 GB available, though, after subtracting the quantity utilized by the system’s operating system. That ought to be high-quality initially, but as this generation progresses and games require extra space, it may very well be problematic.

Bumping system memory to 2 TB could have future-proofed the console, though it actually would have affected the Series X’s $500 price (a key selling point for Microsoft).

Still, Sony’s PlayStation 5 is at a drawback. It ships with 825GB of internal storage and, just like the Xbox Series X, not all of that can be available for installing games. In line with prelaunch reports, about 667GB is out there for games. Meaning the PlayStation 5 has 135GB less available storage than the Xbox Series X.


If 1TB isn’t enough, you may expand Series X’s storage. Players can hook an external hard disk to the system. Testing by Digital Foundry discovered that, no less than for backward-compatible titles, an external solid-state hard disk was almost as fast as on-device storage.

The console also has a Storage Expansion Card slot that may double memory size, but at $220, it isn’t inexpensive to achieve this. The PlayStation 5 could be upgraded with a greater diversity of third-party PCIe 4.0 SSDs, which could be purchased for as little as $200 (for 1TB of storage).

The controller: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it

Controllers are our connection to the games we play, and so they’ve turn into increasingly necessary over the past few generations. Microsoft has stuck near the identical design for the past two generations, and there aren’t any major changes this time around.

The Series X controller suits nicely in your hands and has been ergonomically tweaked to make it barely more comfortable. It’s a bit more social than previous Xbox controllers because of the addition of the capture and share button, which allows players to record screenshots and video clips and quickly post them online.

It continues to make use of AA batteries, moderately than internal rechargeable ones but is anything but an influence hog. Still, the usage of batteries feels just a little dated. The PlayStation 5 controller ships with an internal rechargeable battery. Xbox Series X owners may have to pay for that upgrade as an add-on.

Games and software: The shortage of exclusives stings

After we originally reviewed the Xbox Series X, the sport library was anemic. The console launched with no major exclusives, with its biggest day one title being a next-gen re-release of Gears Tactics. That slow launch would ultimately set the stage for the console’s entire lifespan to date. Even when the Xbox Series X has found its foothold with Game Pass within the years since launch, the dearth of true console-selling exclusives only gets more glaring as time goes on.

The launch lineup undoubtedly looked amazing on the time. Gears 5 ran incredibly smooth at 120 FPS, which raised hopes for titles still to come back. The problem is that we’re largely still waiting for Microsoft to capitalize. Outside of Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite, there’s virtually no single piece of software that’s as enticing because the PS5’s Horizon Forbidden West or Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart. That’s not going to vary until Starfield lands in 2023.

Gears 5 Perks

Microsoft’s long-term play is Xbox Game Pass and it’s working to an extent. The subscription service is an amazing deal, giving players access to a complete library of titles. For those who asked me what one of the best console currently available on the market is, I’d say Xbox Series X with a Game Pass subscription. Nonetheless, remove the service from the equation, and it’s much harder to justify the $500 price tag — especially when you may still get Game Pass via your PC. You’ll even give you the chance to play games like Halo Infinite through your Samsung TV and Microsoft could also be launching an Xbox streaming stick soon. All of those options make the Series X feel like a really expensive option to do what your other devices can do. Granted, the console provides you with way more power and stability over a cloud experience.

So how do games actually profit from the Series X hardware? Reduced load times are the massive draw, though I’ve found that the PS5 tends to feel faster on the entire. Loading from game launch to gameplay in Gears 5 (for a recent campaign) still takes well over a minute. Watch Dogs: Legion, while unoptimized, took a bit less time. These are higher results than an Xbox One X, but not the instant-play accessibility that was suggested. Forza Horizon 5 is way more impressive with hardly any loading in any respect in its massive open world, but there are noticeable stalls when firing up its photo mode. Still, load times are notably higher than old hardware, even in the event that they’re not the fastest within the west.

Quick Resume, the touted feature that suspends games very like you suspend an app in your smartphone, is a robust selling point. On several occasions, I’ve had multiple games open at the identical time and been in a position to seamlessly jump out and in of them. It seems like a magic trick and stays certainly one of the Series X’s most impressive tech features.

The Smart Delivery feature, which ensures players get one of the best version for his or her system, is a pleasant touch that can save frustration, however the indisputable fact that it’s not available for each game is annoying. It’s not even available for each Xbox Game Studios game, which is positively baffling.

The promise

The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s bet on the longer term. It’s an insanely powerful system that, once the corporate’s internal teams begin to showcase its power, could wow the gaming world.

Microsoft feels it has something to prove on this console generation. The Xbox One stumbled out of the gate and never fully recovered. That’s not the case this time. While the dearth of software is bothersome, it’s hard to fault the corporate entirely, because the pandemic continues to place long-term strains on everyone within the gaming world

It’s an insanely powerful system that, once the corporate’s internal teams begin to showcase its power, could wow the gaming world.

Microsoft is making a compelling case for the worth proposition of Series X with Game Pass. There’s a reason it’s touting the massive library of backward-compatible games and the Smart Delivery option. No, you won’t get a deep library of AAA exclusives that might keep you occupied for a 12 months. And chances are you’ll not for quite a while. But Microsoft argues that this can be a perfect opportunity to play games you never got around to or are currently having fun with (in addition to the slew of third-party games coming this holiday) in an enhanced environment.

It’s not a foul argument, by any means, nevertheless it’s more sensible and practical than emotional. Console launches were once a likelihood to point out off recent gaming experiences that simply weren’t possible before. The Xbox Series X fell short in that department in 2020 and it still struggles to catch as much as the hype two years later.

Our take

The Xbox Series X is a strong system that also lacks exciting exclusives that showcase its abilities. With sharp graphics, a well-known interface, and fast load times, it’s set as much as be a robust contender for this console generation. But you’ll actually need to grab a Game Pass subscription to get probably the most out of your time with it. Do this and you’ve one of the best console available on the market today. Don’t enroll and chances are you’ll find that you just barely boot it up.

Is there a greater alternative?

Yes. Sony’s PlayStation 5, unlike the Xbox Series X, has a deep library of games that more easily justify the pricey purchase. Demon’s Souls, Horizon Forbidden West, Returnal, and more proceed to make it a neater console to recommend.

How long will it last?

The Xbox Series X should prove a solid investment, discounting unexpected problems (which have impacted first-gen console models up to now). Despite its lack of massive titles, the Series X is a really powerful system that ought to remain relevant for no less than five years.

Do you have to buy one?

Yes. The Xbox Series X is a particularly capable console that’s price grabbing in the event you’re willing to purchase into the Game Pass ecosystem. But in the event you’re more concerned about tentpole exclusives, you may be higher off saving your money.

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