5 key ways Xbox Series X is better than Xbox One and PlayStation 4

Xbox Series X Teardown
Xbox Series X Teardown (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series X is Microsoft's beastly next-gen console, boasting 12TF of graphical computational power and a range of features designed to power the next generation of fidelity in games. The Xbox Series X looks like it'll snatch the power crown from all but the most powerful PCs when it comes to next-gen visuals, but pixel counts are only part of the story.

Here's every way the Xbox Series X will give you a leg up over the Xbox One consoles and PlayStation 4 if it hits its planned launch window later this year.

1. SSD tech

Among the biggest boons of the next-gen systems is the SSD tech being baked into the pipeline. The PlayStation 5's SSD is speedier, but the Xbox Series X's is no slouch either, boosting loading speeds across the board by a ridiculous amount. All of those moments in games where you have to wait for a loading screen, loading new areas or "fast traveling," or your character is arbitrarily slowed down by an in-game obstacle to allow assets to stream in — all of those things will be eliminated next-gen, or at least drastically reduced.

Another benefit of the SSD is that it will retain software states directly in storage, allowing you to fast resume multiple games without actually closing them, even if you turn off the console entirely.

Xbox Velocity Architecture and some other fancy APIs will also allow developers to decrease hardware workloads by offloading operations to the SSD, something that has been up until now impossible to do with slow mechanical HDDs. Expect more dynamic, more detailed worlds, complete with rapid loading times. It could be a while before we see this technology fully utilized outside of loading speeds, but once we get there, it will be glorious.

2. More powerful processing

Xbox Series X Board

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

One of the biggest things holding back current-gen consoles was the CPU limitations. The Xbox One, S, and X all used Jaguar architecture which created a fairly significant bottleneck for complexity. In simple terms the CPU is the console's "brain," and its speed determines how quickly, and how many calculations can occur at any given time.

In combination with the SSD, and more powerful GPU, the Zen2 CPU architecture will help create bigger, more dynamic worlds, with more complex A.I. operations, more A.I. combatants on-screen potentially, as well as a whole host of other improvements. The CPU also benefits physics handling, and in some cases visual effects depending on the engines and middleware used.

3. Latency-reduction for more responsive play

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Another boost to gaming on the Xbox Series X over past-gen consoles is an improved pipeline for inputs and visual responsiveness. Microsoft has retooled the way the Xbox controller interacts with the console, providing below 2ms of input latency between your controller inputs and the console as usual. However, thanks to improvements from HDMI 2.1 as a baseline, including automatic detection and optimization for how games output on your TV, console games should feel more responsive than ever before.

4. Ray-tracing focus

Minecraft Raytracing On (Image credit: Microsoft)

Minecraft Raytracing Off (Image credit: Microsoft)

The next-gen consoles will provide enough power to finally make ray-tracing a standard method of illumination and reflection across the gaming industry, currently restricted to all but the most powerful PCs. In simple terms, ray-tracing is a process that adds physics-based lighting, shadows, and reflective surfaces to scenes.

Right now, lighting, shadows, and reflections typically use all sorts of tricks to create the illusion of these things, with varying results. Ray-tracing, however, creates these visual effects more dynamically, which not only look more vivid, but they also look more immersive and dynamic, reacting to a scene more realistically. This is what will immediately make games look better on the Xbox Series X over the Xbox One or PS4 generation consoles.

5. 4K 60FPS baseline, up to 120FPS

Beyond ray-tracing, we also have the promise of 4K resolution and 60 FPS as the baseline standard for all games. Games rendered in 4K are sharper, with finer details more visible and clear, adding depth to any scene. From a gameplay perspective, higher resolutions make pesky snipers easier to spot in the distance, for example, with four times more pixels on-screen than comparable 1080p displays. Many games today on Xbox One X run at 4K, but there are compromises elsewhere to achieve this, perhaps in reduced effects or objects. Other games sacrifice some resolution instead, opting for a "dynamic" resolution scaling that can look blurry at times. Xbox Series X promises 4K as standard, without compromises.

Beyond resolution, we also have the promise of 60 frames per second as standard as well. Many games, particularly single-player titles, opt for 30 frames per second with detailed environments, sacrificing smoothness for cinematic quality. That won't be necessary next-gen. Microsoft has also said some games could reach as high as 120 frames per second, with Gears 5's multiplayer tweaked up to 100 frames per second in quick testing, with the goal of hitting 120 frames per second with more optimization. Of course, you'll need a 120Hz display panel to match the output, but the potential for multiplayer competitive gaming is compelling.

A range of other small improvements

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series X also makes up with a range of other small improvements. The console promises to run very quietly, designed for streaming, so that you can stream your games to a remote device without turning the console on or creating a disturbance back at home. The controllers have been refined and tweaked, with a slightly different shape and textured triggers for a more tactile experience. There's also the promise of getting the hundreds of games on day one thanks to backward compatibility and Xbox Game Pass, bringing the best of the Xbox One's library (and the Xbox 360 and original Xbox) along for the ride.

Microsoft is gunning for a holiday 2020 launch for the Xbox Series X, and we can't wait.

Related: Features the Xbox Series X is losing

Xbox Series X/S

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Jez Corden
Managing Editor

Jez Corden is the Managing Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

5 Comments
  • In terms of loading speed, there will be a difference in how the Xbox and PS5 perform, but the difference between those two, in my opinion, is small. Even if Xbox takes 6 seconds, and the PS5 takes 2, that's not an issue. The difference between current gen, ie 1 minute, and 6 seconds is way more noticeable. Sony may also have the edge with being able to use the SSD more in games, but my only concern there would be drive longevity. Perhaps MVME drives are not as prone, but from my understanding, SSDs used to have read/write cycle issues. Graphically, I think both devices will be epic. I'm still on the launch Xbox One, as I held off getting the One X as my TV was 1080p. Now got a very good 4k TV, so I am sure I'll notice a fantastic difference. Roll on November.
  • Neither machine SSD is anywhere near the speeds of Ram. 4.8 and 8-9 respectively is nowhere near the 560 and 460 of bandwidth in the consoles. So using as real virtual Ram on either machine is not happening. What the SSD will be used for is streaming Assests and NPC data. 4K textures are roughly 8mb in size on average. And 4.8GB/s throughput of Series X is more than enough for this. Sony went a bit overboard in this aspect. Nowhere near enough for use as extended ram in reality. But to fast for just assets streaming and NPC data. But it will load fatser initially.
  • Love the response! Yeah difference in speed of loading, whilst Sony fanboys will love it, it simply isn't an issue for me. From a minute or more, down to less than 10 seconds is epic. Can't wait. I do get the impression that Sony have a lot more up their sleeve, not with raw specs, but I know they're deliberately holding back. Gonna be a long 5 months whilst I wait to play.
  • Yeah load times will be miniscule between the two upcoming system, like a second or two. They've done tests on PC comparing a standard SSD (so approximately 500-600MB speeds) to m.2 drives at 2-3GB and even then there is minimal difference. The huge speeds are really only making a big difference in transferring and dealing with incredibly large file sizes, which games don't really have.
  • Looking forward to next Gen. With the Ray tracing AMD RDNA 2 GPUs work like this. Each CU has 4 TMUs. The TMUs handle the Ray tracing. Thr CUs themselves (normal shaders) are not ever affected by Ray Tracing. That's why MS confirm 13 tflops of Ray tracing performance whilst not affecting the normal shaders 12.155 tflops for graphics. So 52CUs X 4 TMUs = 208 TMUs in Xbox Series X that do nothing but handle Ray Tracing. As a comparison PS5 is 36CUs X 4 = 144 TMUs. Expect Series X to have around 40-50% advantage in Ray Tracing capabilites. And a more efficient version than RTX 2080TI in the process. Turning on or off won't effect performance like it does on PC. RDNA 2 is designed differently. Theoretically it shouldn't matter what game is designed, we should see similar Ray Tracing on the Minecraft demo in all games. Unless the TMUs can work on other things. Which there is no evidence or information ever been said about developers using the dedicated Ray traced hardware to boost the normal shaders. As it stands every Series X game will have 13 tflops of Ray traced ability regardless of whether it's Gears 6, Minecraft or Hellblade 2.