Hype for Microsoft’s latest console has been building for months, but the company has finally dropped full tech specs for the Xbox Series X, giving us something to drool over during our COVID quarantine. This machine is surprisingly powerful, which points to a rather expensive console, as we originally predicted earlier this year. Let’s build an imaginary gaming PC with the components Microsoft has announced and break down the cost.
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Processor and Graphics
The Xbox Series X, like other consoles, is using a CPU with an onboard graphics chip. But as of right now, there is no processor in the desktop market that even comes close to what Microsoft is promising for the Series X — AMD’s most powerful APU is the Ryzen 5 3400G, which is only four cores with 1400 MHz of graphics horsepower. So we need to split this up.
The Series X will use an 8-core, 3.8 GHz CPU based on AMD’s latest Zen 2 architecture. Technically, it runs at 3.6 GHz when simultaneous multi-threading (SMT) is turned on for a total of 16 threads, and 3.8 GHz when limited to eight threads. The $289 Ryzen 7 3700X is the closest equivalent to this, though it’s likely a bit more powerful than what the Series X will have, thanks to its boost clock of 4.4 GHz. But it’s not too far off in terms of core count, clock speed, and architecture.The GPU is slightly tougher to nail down — we don’t have an equivalent yet, since currently-available cards are still using AMD’s RDNA architecture as opposed to the upcoming RDNA 2. The closest thing AMD currently sells is the Radeon RX 5700 XT for around $400, and that doesn’t support hardware-accelerated ray tracing like the Series X will do. NVIDIA’s comparable ray tracing-capable cards, like the RTX 2080 Super, cost $700 and up. That makes for a pretty pricey PC right out of the gate.
Memory, Storage, and Optical Drive
Here’s where things get a little cheaper. While Microsoft is definitely using custom components that you can’t just buy off-the-shelf, it’s still easier to make direct comparisons with existing PCs when it comes to storage. Looking at memory, the Series X is using 16GB of DDR6 RAM, some of which is allocated to the GPU and some of which is allocated to the operating system and other components. Since the graphics cards we discussed above contain 8GB of DDR6 RAM, let’s split the difference and put an 8GB stick in our imaginary machine for just over $35. Plop in a 1TB nVME SSD for $165 and a UHD-friendly Blu-ray drive for $100, and you’ve got a decent approximation of the parts you’d put in a comparable off-the-shelf PC — albeit without a lot of the fascinating custom work Microsoft has done.
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Putting a Bow On It
None of this includes the cost of the motherboard, power supply, and chassis designed to hold everything together, but our fantasy PC is already over $1000. Microsoft is obviously getting bulk pricing on these parts, not to mention custom components that can cut the cruft they don’t need. Plus, prices on these parts could all drop by the holidays (though Coronavirus supply chain issues could throw a wrench into the mix). That makes it hard to put an estimated price on the Series X — kind of like throwing darts at the wall with your eyes closed — but I wouldn’t be surprised to see something more expensive than what we’re used to for a console at launch. A $600+ price tag is definitely not out of the question with these specs (though I’d be very pleasantly surprised to see it in a more traditional price bracket). Hopefully, the rumored lower-tier variant provides a more affordable option for those that don’t want to drop a full month’s rent on their next Halo machine.