Time flies when you’re having fun, which is why I’ve only just realized that I’ve had the Xbox Series X for over a month. What started out as “where the heck am I going to put this monster?” has turned into “oh, I quite like the console there.” The Xbox Series X has become a mainstay of my entertainment unit, now home to six generations of game consoles.
I’m lucky enough to have both the PS5 and Xbox Series X, and have spent the past six weeks bouncing between the two. If you want a hot take on which one is best, then you've come to the wrong place. But I can tell you what I’ve enjoyed about the Xbox Series X — and what’s irked me.
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- Plus: How I snagged an Xbox Series X at Walmart — and beat the bots
My goal: help you decide if you want to undergo the tricky task of finding where to buy an Xbox Series X or jump over to our where to buy PS5 page instead. If you’re lucky enough to have an Xbox Series X and want to compare notes on pros and cons, then read on, because I have some thoughts.
Xbox Series X: What I like
The design: The Xbox Series X isn’t going to win any big industrial design awards, but I’ve grown rather fond of its boxy monolithic aesthetic. Choosing function over form has made for a game console that fits off to the side and just behind my TV, in a fashion where it’s noticeable, but not obnoxiously so.
I also like the way the Xbox Series X is designed to vent heat out of the top of the console when it’s standing vertically. (I’ve convinced myself it’s heating my freezing-cold apartment.) Granted, it's not as compact and neat as my Xbox One X, but it’s less ostentatious than the PS5.
Fast loading times: While the PS5 might have the Xbox Series X beat on sheer SSD speed, the 1TB drive in Microsoft’s flagship console is still very fast. It loads up games faster than I can reach for my phone and start scrolling on Twitter. Not needing to wait full minutes for Red Dead Redemption 2 to load is a joy.
Then there’s Quick Resume. It lets me bounce around among five games at once, dropping in and out of gaming sessions without needing to reboot and load up a save. It really is an excellent feature that enables quick bursts of gaming.
Ultimate Xbox Game Pass machine: I’ve raved about Xbox Game Pass Ultimate before. It’s a frankly ridiculous bargain, offering a mass of very good games for around $10 per month, which are playable across the Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC and even on Android devices though game-streaming.
Combining fast loading times with 12 teraflops of graphics power, the Xbox Series X has everything from the latest first-party Microsoft releases, to venerable Xbox 360 games running smoothly, with a layer of auto HDR enhancement added for good measure. The console won’t boost the performance of every game, but titles that ran badly on older hardware will run decently on the Series X, making it the ultimate place to play Xbox games from any generation.
Familiar controller: Ever since Microsoft came up with the Xbox 360 controller, I’ve been a fan of the Xbox controllers, and the new Xbox Wireless Controller is a neat evolution of its predecessor. Glance at the peripheral, and you’d be hard pressed to spot any major differences from the Xbox One controller, other than the addition of a ‘share’ button.
But that’s not a bad thing, as it’s a fantastic controller. Small improvements like textured triggers and an improved D-pad take a familiar controller and simply make it better. It’s lacking in design imagination and still uses AA batteries rather than a rechargeable pack, which I hate. Yet, I can’t help but admit that evolution not revolution was the way to go with Xbox Series X’s controller.
Xbox Series X: What I hate
Poor launch library: The lack of new and compelling first-party games is the most obvious and widely publicized Xbox Series X shortcoming. We’d hoped for Halo Infinite, but that’s not coming for nearly another year. Neither is Fable 4. When it came to reviewing the Xbox Series X, I was basically limited to trying out optimized versions of Xbox One titles. These are good games, but I missed having a stellar launch title that would run only on the Xbox Series X.
Expensive storage: With games getting larger all the time, the 1TB SSD in the Xbox Series X can fill up very quickly. So when more games come out for the console, I’ll inevitably need to get the 1TB proprietary external SSD. That means parting with $219, making the acceptable $499 price of the Xbox Series X rise to more than $700.
Lack of connectivity: The Xbox One came with HDMI In and HDMI Out ports, and an optical audio output for connecting the console to a proper home cinema system. The Xbox Series X drops the HDMI In port — which isn’t a big deal, as that connection was a bit of an odd feature. But losing the optical audio output stings. The console doesn't even make use of USB-C connections, unlike the PS5.
Given the size of the Xbox Series X, dropping connectivity and using only older USB Type-A ports is a bit baffling. It also means that if you want to hook the Xbox Series X to an external amplifier, you’ll need to do some routing via HDMI, which can be a problem if your system doesn't support the latest standards.
Xbox Series X: What I'm still not sure about
The interface: Familiarity is good, but it can breed contempt. I couldn’t tell you what’s changed from the Xbox One’s interface to that of the Xbox Series X without digging through some notes, and I’m starting to grow tired of the current UI.
While it’s perfectly functional, there’s not a jot of evolution with the Xbox Series X’s interface. It also feels a bit cluttered and long in the tooth compared to the cleaner and neater PS5 interface. For example, when you want to shut down the PS5 you tap the PS button on the DualSense controller and a small popup menu leads you to the power off functions. Shutting down the Xbox Series X brings up a dull, kinda ugly grey-green window with a couple of functions; it works, but visually appealing, it ain’t.
Precious little change in the user interface exemplifies the biggest problems with the Xbox Series X: its lack of any exciting innovation. I’ve heard it explained many times before that the Series X is akin to a graphics card upgrade for the Xbox One, and I can't argue with that. I really like using the Xbox Series X, but I would have quite liked Microsoft to be a little bit more creative with what the console can do from the start.
Xbox Series X: My bottom line
With the clutch of developers Microsoft has added to Xbox Game Studios, and its recent purchase of Bethesda, the Xbox Series X is a machine with a bright future. It’s sitting ripe for proper next-generation games, which should start arriving next year. So while it’s lacking in immediate innovation, I'm quietly confident that the Xbox Series X will really show off true next-gen power in the next 12 or so months. That’s something to be excited about.