The Xbox Series X is almost here, and it's a bit of a monster. 12TF GPU joins a powerful CPU and incredibly fast SSD NVMe to herald next-gen, with the promise of blanket 4K60 gameplay, possibly reaching up to 120FPS in some games.
For all we're gaining with the Xbox Series X, and it's a lot of cool stuff, we're losing some staple features that were pioneered with the original Xbox One back in 2013. For the majority of Xbox One customers, they won't really notice the difference. Microsoft only omits features when they're hitting low usage, and they can tell via telemetry data which features are being used, and by how much. For those of us who do use them, though, it's annoying that you may have to change up your set-up to bring it in line with your current Xbox One experience.
Here are some of the major features from the Xbox One era we're losing with the Xbox Series X.
The Xbox One (2013, S, and X all come with an HDMI-in port, designed to integrate your TV. Back in 2013, this was a pioneering feature, but the general shift away from live television for gamers is undeniable. On-demand shows and subscription services are the future of televisual entertainment, with Netflix, Disney+, and Prime Video utterly dominating the space. They're all also available on Xbox One (and thus, Xbox Series X) as apps, defeating the need for an extra HDMI port.
When Microsoft removed snap mode along with other OS features to prioritize game performance, it effectively killed the primary use-case for the HDMI-in port. The ability to watch live sports events side-by-side while gaming was a cool feature, but it simply wasn't utilized enough to justify its continued existence.
At one point, Microsoft was even exploring bringing live TV recording to the Xbox One, but it was scrapped when licensing issues reared their ugly head.
Moving forward, you'll just have to use the HDMI port on your TV with your cable box for regular viewing.
Another TV-oriented feature is the loss of the IR Blaster, which puts the viability of some Xbox Media Remotes, like the excellent PDP Talon (opens in new tab), in doubt.
The IR Blaster is what the Xbox One S and X use to communicate with your television, allowing you to control power, volume, and change channels and so on. Coupled with the loss of the HDMI-in port, its continued existence doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Microsoft has been claiming that all Xbox One accessories will work with the Xbox Series X, but without the IR Blaster, it doesn't seem like that would be possible for media remotes. Microsoft says HDMI-CEC controls (which sends commands over HDMI, instead of IR) will replace the IR Blaster for some of this functionality, but it's unknown how reliable or viable that will be.
SPDIF optical audio
SPDIF (Sony/Philips Digital Interface) is an audio port designed to interface higher-end sound equipment. With Microsoft's emphasis on 3D audio with the likes of Windows Sonic and Dolby Atmos, many sound systems for higher-end surround gaming experiences interface directly with the SPDIF port on the Xbox One, Xbox One S and Xbox One X. Additionally, many of the more premium headsets and audio equipment like the Astro A50 headset and the Turtle Beach Tactical Audio Controller use SPDIF to interface with the console. Annoyingly, that port will be removed from the Xbox Series X, despite appearing on the prototypes.
Microsoft hasn't explained why they removed it, but like anything else, it's probably down to low usage and attempting to shave as much off the final price of the Xbox Series X as possible. Luckily, most modern TVs come with SPDIF, which could be an option for some more of the more simplistic setups.
Despite its removal, Astro offered a statement to say that the Astro A50 will remain compatible with the Xbox Series X, but didn't say how. It's possible that it might be updated to take advantage of its USB connection instead for game sound, or that Microsoft may offer some kind of USB or HDMI adapter to replace the loss of the native port. We'll just have to wait and see.
With the loss of HDMI-in, it stands to reason that the Xbox Series X won't support OneGuide, which was Microsoft's TV integration service. The app synchronized all of the data from TV boxes in support regions, giving you up to date programming information, with the ability to channel hop using the Xbox One / Kinect IR blaster.
With all of its supporting hardware and interfacing removed, it seems logical that OneGuide will go the way of the dodo. Speaking of dodos...
Sort of gone?
USB storage for future games
While you will be able to use USB storage devices for backward compatible Xbox One games, Xbox Series X-enhanced games require the use of the NVMe SSD drive, or the associated Seagate storage cards designed for the Xbox Series X.
Why is this? Well, the SSD moves beyond mere loading speeds. Microsoft has talked about how computing operations can be offloaded to the SSD for Xbox Series X games, due to its rapid speeds. For things like asset streaming and other types of tasks, Xbox Series X games will not be able to run adequately from the low-speed USB storage devices we use on Xbox One today.
You'll be able to use your USB storage devices for storing things and even running non-Xbox Series X games, but Xbox Series X-enhanced games will require one of the speedy SSD storage solutions instead.
Kinect is already effectively dead, limping on life support with from third-party USB adapters (opens in new tab). Microsoft may use the Xbox Series X as an opportunity to put the final nail in Kinect's gaming story, removing the necessary code for it to function from the OS entirely. We have no confirmation that this will happen, but something tells me it's certainly a possibility. We already lost Cortana for voice commands, in case you missed it, but you can use an Amazon Echo (opens in new tab) instead.
One step back, twelve steps forward
Despite losing a range of features that could be very adequately described as "niche," the Xbox Series X goes full-throttle on gaming, giving developers a huge catalog of tools for producing games that look and feel far beyond anything consoles have been capable of previously.
The Xbox Series X specs will give developers vastly more power to play with than before, with enough computing to leverage ray tracing dynamic lighting and reflections. The NVMe SSD will take loading speeds down from minutes to mere seconds, with options to offload compute operations to the SSD as well. More moving objects on-screen, more dynamism, more enemies, and more impressive, realistic worlds are all on the docket. The possibilities are exciting, and Microsoft will no doubt show off what games we can expect at its digital E3 events in June 2020.
Are there any features you're going to miss in particular? Let us know in the comments.
- Related: How to sanitize an Xbox One controller properly
- With the Xbox Series X specs out in the wild, the focus shifts to games
Xbox Series X/S
Jez Corden is a Senior 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!
To beat a dead horse, the S/PDIF is a big deal because it means I'll have to buy yet another adapter (that will likely cost way more than the damn port) to allow my wife's hearing device to work with the console. Huge blow to the deaf and hard of hearing community.
Regarding S/PDIF, long-term, that’s a disappearing interface. I know that doesn’t mean anything if you’re one of the people who needs it. Historically, it was big 10+ years ago before HDMI cables. I’ve used the S/PDIF port on my motheboards to connect my Windows PC to a surround sound receiver/amp for the past ~20 years, and always made sure to select motherboards that support S/PDIF-out, including my current motherboard. With one of the Windows 10 updates in the past couple of years, S/PDIF actually lost functionality – no longer supporting surround sound, dropping only to stereo. To maintain surround sound, I had to switch my audio from my PC to run over HDMI to the receiver/amp, even though I use DisplayPort for video.
There is pressure from movie studios to only provide UHD video and quality surround sound over connections that support HDCP, and S/PDIF does not. For this one, it may actually improve the Xbox’s ability to secure movie-watching capabilities by removing what content creators view as a security problem. To be fair: I don’t know that’s the motivation at all – it could be purely to eliminate the cost of the hardware, but by removing it, they do solve some other problems.
Every modern tv has s/pdif. Xbox should not process sound
be fair the standard has basically been dead for 15 years. They started deprecating it when HDMI came out and since TV's made since 2016 (maybe 2014) have the ability to do audio out via HDMI there are very few uses for an optical port. Optical also doesn't support any modern audio codec. The "newest" codec it supports is dolby 5.1 and that's 30 years old. It sucks for special cases like yours but... There are also better ways
Yeah, losing IR. But im lucky enough to have a Samsung Qled and the Tv remote is sooooo close to the xbox media remote. Every buttons are there just like the xbox media one except for one button, the "start/menu". Even the new "shortcut app" oneguide button is the, also Xbox button if you hold "back" 2seconds...it will open up Xbox menu. Pretty much the same controller and feels the same too. Go ahead and activate hdmi-cec using hdmi-arc or not and explore it. I'm using it for everything now so that loss of ir blaster for ppl with Samsung tv is not a big loss!
I have to try this, because I'm not going to turn my controller on to control YouTube TV.
Get a harmony remote with ir blaster, it's a much better option
I wont really miss any of them to be honest but I do understand some people used them and will miss them. Clear MS have a price point to hit and certain things had to go to maintain a price point that is still pro consumer. I can live with that, give me the raw power Series X has instead of those features rather than a watered down version including them or a price prohibitive model
The HDMI-in is the most painful for me. I run my 4k/UHD Dish output through my Xbox. Then my Xbox connects to a receiver/amp (for audio playback and video passthrough), and from there to the TV. Without HDMI-in, I’ll have to change the input on my Tuner every time I want to switch back and forth between TV and games, or TV and Disney+, etc. It’s not that it’s hard to do that, it’s that it will take a few seconds and an extra remote to do something I currently do several times a day. I don't even know where that remote is, because I never need it. the Xbox has always handled this for me. Is that a huge deal? Maybe not, but it’s a hassle I’d gladly pay to avoid. I can see and respect MS wanting to cut costs from little used features, but I really wish they would have offered some or all of these as add-on options. This is especially true for the features that they heavily promoted as benefits of the Xbox One – one media system to rule them all. We went all in on that.
Buy a new receiver, problem solved. It's probably time anyways
Keep the Xbox One and plug an auto-switching HDMI hub into the HDMI-in port perhaps? For me, there is no way in hell any Series X will be replacing my One X without that port while I still use it. My "smart" Sony display has the absolutely atrocious Android TV on board, a slow, buggy hot mess that I loathe using and avoid if at all possible. Input switching on the TV is therefore not an option, as there is no way I'm giving up the convenience of using my Xbox media remote to control most functions. Great move Microsoft; I'm not sure when, or even if, I'll bother to get a Series X now.
I still miss Snap Mode. I really wanted MS to give us that picture in picture mode they were working on in Windows 10. Using the TrueAchievements app with the solution for the achievement you were working on snapped to the side was a great experience!
IR blaster will be missed. Maybe it will be on the rumored cheaper console.
I cannot stress how much I hate the fact XSX games will require SSD... I understand why, but only with a 1TB drive internal and 1TB expansions (likely expensive) there is no high SSD solution to have all your games in one place. 1TB will not last long once the AAA games start dropping. Or XSX Gamepass games start releasing. Right now I have a 8TB 7200RPM external HDD solution at least I can still utilize that for X1 games to play on the XSX.
1TB is a pity, I'm hoping they offer a 2TB version, but can't see it at launch. It's about initial costs. Not seen anywhere that 1TB is the max, indeed, I'm sure DF mentioned higher sizes. I hope MS looks at what Sony have done, and leverage the clear advantage they have, having only a single supplier. They could offer them at a decent price, as the more they have out there, the more games they are likely to buy. Sony people love the fact that they can buy off the shelf, but the requirements nare high, and those costs, initially, will be steep. Specwise, it's difficult to say which system will be the best, Sony went narrow and fast, MS went wide and slow, in terms of their specs. Heard arguments from many sources, some think Sony will be the top performer, others think Xbox. I still think they both have more to show, but I think Sony will win in the short term, until MS stop supporting the older consoles.
A Seagate Barracuda Fast SSD 1TB External on Amazon runs $169, so you can expect the NVMe SSD drive, or the associated Seagate storage cards designed for the Xbox Series X to be in excess of $250+. Also, from what I read that port is capped at 1TB so you even be more limited. I also think that port should have been on the front and not on the back to. This is quite disappointing especially for those gamers who may have 100's of games, and not to mention that some articles are saying the new games will be 100GB+. We are already there with Gears, Halo, and Forza now.
I've not heard it is capped, that'd be bizarre. That said, you never know. What will ruin it is the price. MS has form for charging at a similar way to what Apple would, if they were into gaming.
Removing ports makes you spend more money elsewhere. Microsoft can't be telling the truth about telemetry, I'd love to see those numbers. Everyone I know uses the HDMI in for something. Perhaps you don't have another HDMI port on your TV for cable, you have to buy a new TV. Want your headphones back, buy new headphones or an adapter. Snap was awesome, until they hid it. It really looks like they are still just following the routine of listening to Sony about what Microsoft should do. Where did that get you last generation? Microsoft needs to learn how to lead, not follow. I'll likely be passing on this generation and upgrade my PC.
I'd er on the side of telemetry being spot on. If 99% of people used it, it'd still be in. I won't miss many of the features listed, as I don't use them now. Kinect is the one thing I'd like to keep though, as it has Skype potential. It really was decent for that. The snapping stuff, always thought it was awful, as it took real estate from the game. Cannot imaging playing a game with a video playing next to me, seems odd. HDMI in is something I've never wanted to use, as I don't see the point of having two devices on, when one would do, and I suspect that most of those using it, also have, or will have when they get a 4k TV, the HDMI and optical sound areas covered. Gutted for those that like these features, and particularly for those that actually need them, but I get why they're going. He'll, I'd have happily lost all the features listed, if it meant that the SSD was 1.5TB.
I'll definitely miss the Kinect support and IR Blaster. We use the Kinect regularly for Skype video as well as some Kinect enabled games like Kinect Sports. I also still talk to my XBOX to turn everything on and control stereo volume. That brings us to the IR blaster - I still turn the whole entertainment system on through the XBOX, and my receiver is too old to control anything through HDMI. Also, since we're a streaming service only household, the only remote that we use is the XBOX remote (for volume, navigation, on/off, etc.)
I also use my Kinect for voice control, though lately it feels crippled without Cortana (the standard Xbox commands are more limited, seem to misfire more often, and lack critical features like a confirmation for things like "Xbox Turn Off" before it shuts the system down). The Kinect is also my "webcam" when I'm doing streaming. (Though they've nerfed that, too, in recent years; it no longer auto-zooms on me, instead just giving me a static wide-angle shot of my whole living room.) It also works in a pinch for party and voice chat when I don't or can't grab a headset. It would be highly annoying if they didn't continue to support the Kinect for its camera/mic, if nothing else. I'm a little more fortunate in that my components do support HDMI-CEC (at the moment, the Xbox is the only thing that *doesn't*), so the IR blaster is a little less of a loss for me. But I can see that being a pain if your entertainment center doesn't support it.
This article isn't entirely accurate as far as "lost" features. Couple examples.. we could in theory still use Kinect, we could also in theory still use external USB storage as long as it's an SSD, USB 3.1 (USB C) has enough bandwidth. I will admit i greatly miss snapping but I think it was removed because even when not in use they had to keep resources available for it and by removing it those resources went to games. So hopefully snap can come back but who knows. Losing the optical port is a non issue since you can do audio out from tv to receiver or if you have an HDMI 2.1 receiver it won't matter. Almost nobody used the HDMI in and ir blaster. I actually saw the statistics for it and less than 0.1% of Xbox one owners used it... Ever. They will actually save money removing the HDMI in port not only because of the extra hardware but because they have to pay licensing fee's to re-secure and re-encode the video feed. It also cost them money to have the digital TV guide. That's a service provided by another company that every Xbox owner paid for despite nobody really using it If you want or need an ir blaster then you should buy a Logitech harmony remote and ir blaster. I've been using Harmony remotes for years and I couldn't love live without it. Not only does it control everything in my entertainment center... Except my PS4 which has no IR port (wtf why sony?) but it can control anything and I mean anything. I set it up to control my air conditioner, my fan and other stuff lol. It has a learn mode so if a device isn't in their database you can use the devices remote to teach the harmony. It's fantastic. They also last forever. I had the same harmony remote for like 8 years and it saw tons of use and abuse. I just recently upgraded to a new one and that's only because I couldn't find a battery. They had replacements on Amazon but they were garbage and only lasted like an hour. Logitech also has an amazing warranty that's basically no questions asked and they send you a brand new remote and you just toss the broken one
I wrote "maybe" gone for Kinect. Microsoft may opt to strip the code out of the OS entirely, and I've heard some vague rumors that might be on the chopping block. Also I addressed a lot of the things you wrote in your comment making me think you only skimmed over the headers lol
Don't care about any of those "losses". Still buying it day one.
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