Xbox Series X: 10 things we learned from the reveal post

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Cyberpunk 2077 Xbox Series X version free to Xbox One owners of the game “when available” (opens in new tab)

We just got a much clearer idea of how powerful the Xbox Series X (opens in new tab)will be, as head honcho Phil Spencer has confirmed (opens in new tab) several of the console’s key specs and features. Taking to Xbox Wire (opens in new tab), Spencer said, “At Xbox we value being open and transparent with you, and I’m proud to be able to share details about some of the technologies we are enabling for the next generation, and look forward to boldly sharing more as we head towards E3.”  

After we all stopped waving our hands next to our heads like in that Jonah Hill gif (opens in new tab), we scoured it for all the key info you need to know, as well as explaining why it’s so dang impressive. Below, you’ll find 10 things we learned about the Xbox Series X from the latest info drop, as well as a little insight into why this will be important as we head towards the console’s Holiday 2020 release window. Let’s dive into it. 

Four generations of backwards compatibility 

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In another hard confirmation of something we already suspected, Microsoft has clarified its stance on Xbox Series X backwards compatibility (opens in new tab) – explaining that games originally released for Xbox, Xbox 360, and Xbox One will work on the next-gen system. Better still, these games will come complete with “steadier framerates, faster load times, and improved resolution and visual fidelity.” 

Of course, not every single title released across the Xbox family of consoles will be playable, but only those carefully selected as part of Microsoft’s already impressive backwards compatibility program, which expands with new additions to the library frequently. Oh, and all your old Xbox accessories are forwards compatible too, meaning you can use your officially licensed controllers, racing wheels, and hard drives with your Xbox Series X at no extra cost. 

Smart delivery will clear up confusion

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

With Microsoft tearing down the barriers between traditional console generations, the company clearly understands the need to make things as clear for players as physically possible. That’s why it is introducing Smart Delivery; this technology will ensure that you are getting the right version of platform exclusives, regardless of whether you are planning to play them on Xbox One or Xbox Series X. 

Smart Delivery will be available for all games out of the Xbox Game Studios family – including Halo Infinite, which is still scheduled to launch alongside the console Holiday 2020. Phil Spencer has also said that this technology is “available for all developers and publishers, and they can choose to use it for titles that will be release on Xbox One first and come to the Xbox Series X later”. 

Xbox Game Pass comes to Xbox Series X

(Image credit: Microsoft Xbox)

It should come as no real surprise that Xbox Game Pass (opens in new tab) is coming to Xbox Series X, but it’s great to see Microsoft commit to bringing its game subscription service into the next generation. Not only will Game Pass on Xbox Series X include titles from across four generations of consoles, but it will continue to include first-party games day-and-date too. Yes, that means that means that the likes of Halo Infinite (opens in new tab), Bleeding Edge, Grounded, Wasteland 3, Tell Me Why, and whatever else Microsoft may have in the works for 2020 will be available through Xbox Game Pass at no additional cost. 

A GPU more than 8x faster than Xbox One

(Image credit: Microsoft)

The original Xbox One tried to do it all and suffered for it, now Xbox Series X is back to focusing on gaming and doing it well. How well? The latest Xbox Series X specs (opens in new tab) reveal that the console’s GPU will push out 12 teraflops of graphical processing power, more than eight times as much as the original Xbox One, and four times as much as the graphically impressive Xbox One X. While that raw power doesn’t mean much on its own, but it does set up game developers to do amazing things with fewer limitations than ever before. Expect higher, more stable frame rates as you explore larger and more intricate worlds than ever before. Still no word on how all of this power will affect the Xbox Series X price (opens in new tab) though. 

Xbox Series X will support 120fps 

(Image credit: Microsoft)

While it’s unlikely that we will see developers take full advantage of this feature at launch, Microsoft has confirmed that games built for Xbox Series X can support 120 frames-per second. This is a huge step-up over what we have received on console games to date, with most titles locked to either 30 or 60fps as developers strive for balance between stability, smoothness, and graphical fidelity. While it’s difficult to imagine just how developers will balance an output of 120fps against either 1080p or 4K resolutions, Phil Spencer is promising that exceeding 60fps will allow developers to introduce “heightened realism or fast-paced action” in next-generation Xbox Series X titles. 

VRS will drastically change game performance

(Image credit: 343 Industries)

While we are yet to see any Xbox Series X games in action, Microsoft is already making some big promises when it comes to upgraded visual fidelity. Phil Spencer revealed a patented form of Variable Rate Shading will be coming to Xbox Series X and, yes, that is a fancy way of saying that it will make games look and run better than ever before. Time for some tech talk: VRS will help developers achieve higher resolutions and more stable frame-rates without impacting final image quality, and it does this by prioritising “individual effects on specific game characters or important environmental objects” rather than “spending GPU cycles uniformly to every single pixel on the screen.” It’s difficult to wrap your head around without seeing it in action, but it effectively means that detail will be crisp and consistent where and when it needs to be. 

Dynamic Latency Input

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Competitive players, take note. The Xbox Series X is putting latency to bed with its custom-built DLI tech. Leveraging the power of its next-gen Wireless Xbox Controller, the console’s dynamic latency input feature reduces the time between a button press and its on-screen action to a matter of milliseconds. In other words, that means laser precise controls that keeps your gameplay perfectly in synch with your hand-eye coordination no matter how busy the screen gets; ideal for staying abreast of the action during even the most nail biting moments.

Quick Resume keeps multiple play sessions on track

(Image credit: Obsidian/Xbox Game Studios)

Quick Resume will let the console save your place in multiple games at once with no need for title screens and loading saves. Though Phil Spencer had previously confirmed that the console would support this kind of feature, this is the first time we’ve gotten an official name. It might sound silly to say right now, but it could easily turn out to be one of Xbox Series X’s most impactful new features, entirely because it is so simple. We’ve all had those moments where we groaned at the prospect of starting a game up fresh – both because it will take longer, and we’ll have to do the same thing once we go back to the other game(s) we’re currently playing. For folks who can’t ever just play one game at a time, Quick Resume will be a saviour.

DirectX raytracing 

(Image credit: Microsoft Studios)

One of next-gen’s major buzzwords, raytracing (opens in new tab) – in (p)layman’s terms – can be best understood as prettier, more authentic in-game lighting. What that means for you is realistic reflections, refractions, god Rays, and acoustics, all powered by Microsoft’s own DirectX tech. It’ll bring console graphics and performance even closer to that of gaming PC standards, and will no doubt make bouncing between your Xbox Series X and PC versions of Play Anywhere titles more seamless than ever. 

HDMI 2.1 support makes friends with your new TV

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Shiny new consoles are great, but they’re only ever going to look as good as your TV can display them. With that in mind, Microsoft says it’s partnered with TV manufacturers and the HDMI forum to make sure Xbox Series X supports as many of the features in HDMI 2.1 as possible. If your TV has the right connections, that means your Xbox Series X will be able to tell it to automatically select the lowest latency mode for the most responsive possible gaming (no need to poke around in menus for game mode). It can even use Variable Refresh Rate to sync up your monitor’s refresh rate with the game’s framerate to stamp out screen tearing at the source.

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