If Apple were to ever design a home console, its packaging probably wouldn't be too different from the Xbox Series X. "Dramatic" is the word that comes to mind when opening up the box for the first time, revealing Microsoft's newest console nestled beneath a cardboard slip promising that it will "power your dreams." A bit overwrought, perhaps, but Microsoft wants to make a statement.
Yes, the Xbox Series X is here at last. Where Microsoft previously sent out early units intended for preview purposes, this is the real deal-the console that will be arriving on doorsteps across the country on November 10. At $499, the Xbox Series X is the more powerful of the two systems being released, the other being the digital-only Xbox Series S, which will cost $299 (Microsoft only sent USgamer a Series X). Its benefits include full backward compatibility with the Xbox One, extremely fast load times, increased storage, and the ability to output 4K visuals at 120 FPS.
For Microsoft, this is an opportunity to hit the reset button on a miserable generation, and it clearly wants to make a strong first impression. The Xbox Series X is angular and dense, with a heft that belies its relatively small size. It's compact enough that I'm able to carry it in the crook of my arm, but at around 9 pounds, it's not that much lighter than the PlayStation 5, which Reviews Editor Mike Williams previously described as a "huge, weird art mural of a console."
But that's where the similarities end. Where the packaging is dramatic in its presentation, the console itself is clearly designed to fit in cleanly with the rest of your devices. The Xbox Series X has been compared to a mini-desktop tower-or a mini-fridge-and that indeed is pretty much what it is, though Microsoft can't resist adding a bit of a visual flair with the green plastic just inside the top vent, which makes it look as if it's glowing even when turned off.
I was pleased to find that it fits snugly within my entertainment setup. Sitting upright, I was able to squeeze it in next to my Xbox One X without any problem. It looks understated and unobtrusive next to my other consoles, but also powerful. Where the original Xbox One reminded me of a VCR, or maybe a briefcase, the Xbox Series X is like a mini-obelisk. It's very cool.
The back of the console features additional ventilation, two USB-A ports, an Ethernet port, and the usual HDMI output. Of particular note is the storage expansion, which is designed to accommodate expansion cards that are sold separately. Microsoft recommends Seagate's 1 TB SSD expansion, which currently retails for a cool $219.99 on Amazon. With luck, storage expansions will drop in price relatively quickly, because with game download sizes continuing to rise exponentially, the 1 TB the Xbox Series X offers out of the box won't last very long.
The Xbox Series X's controller, for its part, doesn't stray too far from Xbox's long-established conventions. Its main improvement is the blessed addition of a Share button, the lack of which was a consistent frustration on the Xbox One. Otherwise, the new controller mostly seems to implement the lessons learned from last generation's Elite controller, including "clickier" face buttons. It also swaps the USB-Micro port found in last generation's controller for the increasingly standard USB-C.
The form factor is similarly consistent with Microsoft's recent designs, featuring a matte finish with textured grips and triggers. At first glance, the d-pad is more of a rocker, but pushing it up, down, left, and right results in a satisfying click. Personally, I don't have any strong feelings about the design of the Xbox controller one way or the other, but it's been a good, functional input device for a few generations now, and the latest update looks to be more of the same.
Alas, I'm not allowed to talk about what it's like to turn the Xbox Series X on and set it up, so that will have to wait until the full review. In the meantime, here's what's included in the box:
- Xbox Series X console
- Power Cord
- High Speed HDMI Cable
- Xbox Series X Controller
- Two Double-A Batteries
All in all, it's pretty minimal. Microsoft doesn't even go as far as to include a USB-C cable or basic headset. Be prepared to drop extra money on the usual accessories: rechargeable batteries, storage expansion, an extra controller, and an Xbox Game Pass subscription (trust me, you'll want a Game Pass sub).
Regardless, it feels like an improvement over last generation if only because of what it doesn't include in the box: Kinect. As we discussed on Axe of the Blood God, one of the downfalls of the Xbox One was that it was so dependent on Kinect early on, which pushed its price well above the PlayStation 4. The Xbox Series X doesn't have that problem. Add in a much-improved design and the promise of a host of exclusives, and it seems like Microsoft is back on track.
I'll have more to share as I continue playing the Xbox Series X over the next several days, with the full review coming next week. In the meantime, you can find lots more Xbox Series X info right here.