Xbox Series X hands-on review roundup: What the critics are saying

Xbox Series X
(Image credit: Microsoft)

We finally have an idea of how the Xbox Series X performs and plays in the real world, thanks to a handful of games critics that have gotten their hands on Microsoft's next generation console. And while this first wave of Xbox Series X previews doesn't spill any details about upcoming games, it already appears like new features such as fast SSD loading and Quick Resume are literal game changers.

Those who tested the Xbox Series X early did so with a range of backwards compatible Xbox One games, while also delivering impressions on the overall Xbox Series X hardware and controller. Here are the big takeaways from the critics so far.

Crazy fast load times

(Image credit: 505 Games)

There was one consistent takeaway with nearly every Xbox Series X preview — this thing loads games extremely fast. Michael Higham at GameSpot noted some dramatic improvements to load times, with Red Dead Redemption going from 2 minutes and 8 seconds to load on Xbox One X to just 38 seconds on Xbox Series X. Similarly, Control went from taking about a minute to boot up on the older Xbox to just 10 seconds on Xbox Series X.

Tom Warren at The Verge recorded similar improvements, with Sea of Thieves going from 1:21 on Xbox One X to 20 seconds on Xbox Series X, and Warframe improving from 1:31 to 25 seconds. The bottom line: it looks like your Xbox One games will load up dramatically faster on the Xbox Series X.

Quick Resume is a real game-changer

Speaking of fast load times, critics were quick to gush about Quick Resume, which lets you open and suspend multiple games and hop between them within seconds. Higham was able to suspend up to six games at once using the featured, and noted that switching between them took five to eight seconds. You'll even see a small "Quick Resume" icon on a game's boot screen to let you know you won't be starting it up from scratch.

"In conjunction with Game Pass, where I'm often jumping between multiple games I have downloaded anyway, Quick Resume truly shines," said Higham.

"Having played a bunch of games with Quick Resume, right now, for me, this is the sort of game-changing feature of Series X," added Jeff Bakalar from Cnet.  

Xbox Series X performance

(Image credit: Activision)

Many outlets also highlighted the overall performance boosts of playing Xbox One games on Xbox Series X. Jeff Grubb at VentureBeat measured the framerates of running certain games on both Xbox One X and Xbox Series X, and discovered some notable improvements.

For example, Final Fantasy XV went from 42 frames per second on Xbox One X to 59 frames per second on Xbox Series X in the game's Lite mode, which prioritizes framerate over fidelity. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice saw an even more dramatic jump from 37 frames per second on Xbox One X to a solid 60 on Xbox Series X. For a brutal, timing-based action game like Sekiro, that can be a literal game changer.

Xbox Series X hardware impressions

(Image credit: Unbox Therapy)

Previews seem pretty positive so far on the actual Xbox Series X hardware, which is a large and fairly subdued black brick that will sit beside your TV or desk.

"It is hefty, but in a good way. When you hold it, it feels like a premium, $500 thing, for whatever that’s worth," wrote Ryan McCaffrey at IGN. "When you turn it on, the box makes the same startup chime the Xbox One family of consoles do, and I’m a bit disappointed in that, honestly."

McCaffrey also noted that the console stays quiet, even when playing a relatively demanding game like Red Dead Redemption 2. 

Grubb calls the new Xbox Wireless Controller "Microsoft's best-feeling gamepad ever, outside the Elite controllers," thanks to its improved grips, refined materials and a slightly heftier feel. 

Xbox Series X outlook

There's still much of the Xbox Series X that needs to be tested, especially when it comes to how the console handles true next-gen games at 4K. We also recommend keeping an eye on Digital Foundry for a more nitty gritty breakdown of Microsoft's new console.

But based on these early impressions, it seems like Microsoft has delivered a powerful machine that dramatically cuts down load times and makes it easier than ever to jump between your favorite games. Grubb even went as far as to say that "I don't want to go back to Xbox One or PlayStation 4."

We're eager to see if the PS5 can deliver a similarly seamless experience, and to discover how both consoles handle proper next-gen games at launch. Stay tuned for more. 

Michael Andronico

Mike Andronico is Senior Writer at CNNUnderscored. He was formerly Managing Editor at Tom's Guide, where he wrote extensively on gaming, as well as running the show on the news front. When not at work, you can usually catch him playing Street Fighter, devouring Twitch streams and trying to convince people that Hawkeye is the best Avenger.