5 key ways Xbox Series X is better than Xbox One and PlayStation 4
The Xbox Series X is a beastly machine, and looks set to take the power crown next-gen. But what exactly does next-gen mean for these consoles?
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
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
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
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
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
- Xbox Series X: Everything we know
- Best games coming to Xbox Series X/S
- List of Xbox Series X specs
- What is the Xbox Series X release date?
- How much does Xbox Series X cost?
- Why you can't preorder Xbox Series X yet
- Best Xbox Series X Headsets
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at 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!