As for the Gears duo, Tactics makes a nice transition over from PC, looking and running well at 4K/60fps with speedy loading times into missions. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a new first-party exclusive at launch in Halo Infinite’s absence. Gears 5, on the other hand, has been continually updated since its release, and on Series X, it continues to shine. Versus multiplayer offers 120hz, and it feels more impactful here than in Dirt, presumably because you have more agency over the camera. To my eye, though, the difference between 60 and 120 isn’t as obvious as the difference between 30 and 60.Meanwhile, the Xbox Series X interface is nearly identical to what’s on Xbox One, albeit a bit quicker, snappier, and more animated. If you don’t like the Xbox One’s UI, this update is unlikely to win you over…until you try Quick Resume, which is literally a game-changer – a fast game-changer. Quickly hopping back and forth between several games, right where you left off, is absolutely fantastic, and a feature you’re never going to want to be without again.
The same can be said of the Series X’s NVME SSD drive. It’s the biggest quality-of-life upgrade the Series X offers. It made an immediate and delightful first impression in my original preview of the console, and with more time, the best thing I can say about it is that you quickly take it for granted because it’s baked into everything. Don’t get the wrong idea – it doesn’t completely eliminate loading times – but they now seem to never get long enough as to be annoying anymore. And if you need more than the 820gb of usable hard drive space that’s left after OS and system files, the $220 Seagate 1TB expansion card looks exactly like memory card used to, but doubles your storage capacity while also giving all of the speed and performance benefits of the Series X’s fantastic internal SSD. It’s pricey, and you do have other options – notably, using a USB 3.1 external drive as a pack mule for games you’re not actively playing. It’s a cost-vs.-convenience tradeoff.The new Xbox Series X controller is a bit of a catch-22: it’s not a big change over last generation, but that’s because Microsoft has more or less already perfected their gamepad. I honestly don’t notice the slight ergonomic changes the Xbox team made, while nearly everything else is identical to its Xbox One counterpart. They’re a generation late with a dedicated Share button, but it’s here now, and the D-pad – long the Achilles heel of Microsoft’s controllers – is a hybrid of the standard Xbox One gamepad’s D-pad and the premium disc found on the Elite controller. It will be a net gain for owners of the former, while a step down for those who use the latter. And build quality seems fine, though mine has a spot on the right handle where the plastic gives and squeaks a bit. Just a one-off, most likely, but I’ll mention it anyway. Battery life seems every bit as good – make that fantastic – as the Xbox One gamepad with a pair of AA batteries.
Finally, let’s talk about heat. I don’t have a laser thermometer to get actual numbers, but the Xbox Series X is definitely warmer than the Xbox One X under GPU load. I wouldn’t personally say it has a heat problem, though. To be fair, we won’t know for sure until these consoles start logging thousands of hours in thousands of real people’s homes, but so far I’m not worried. Does it exhaust warm air out of the top? Yes – it’s designed to. Cool air gets pulled in through the bottom, routed up through the chassis, and the warm air is released through the large vents on the top of the Series X. I pressed my hand into the top of the console and held it there after a long gaming session with Gears 5 and then Gears Tactics. It was warm, yes, and again, warmer than the Xbox One X, but it was hardly enough to make me want to pull my hand away out of discomfort. At idle, in fact, the air coming out of the Series X is barely lukewarm. It’s also whisper-quiet all the time.
Confirmed Xbox Series X Games
In my opinion, Microsoft’s hardware team has earned the benefit of the doubt here. Ever since the Xbox 360’s Red Ring of Death scandal, the company has substantially and continuously improved. The bulky Xbox One was arguably over-engineered by design, with its large top cooling fan making sure thermals wouldn’t be a problem. And since then, the Xbox One S and One X took those thermal lessons and applied them to much smaller form factors, with no overheating complaints to speak of.
In all, this console speaks to Microsoft’s focus on building a serious games machine. The Xbox One X also gave off the same vibe, but from a generational perspective, it’s a focus I haven’t seen from Microsoft since the Xbox 360. Now the focus must shift to getting back to something else Microsoft did well in the 360 days: building great exclusive games. The good news there, though, is that once the company does that, it’s got a great console to run them on.