What you need to know about the XBox Series X – and how it’s more than twice as powerful

What you need to know about the XBox Series X – and how it’s more than twice as powerful

Details about the new XBox are coming out, and it’s a lot to take in. Here’s the basics about Microsoft’s new, high performance games machine.

  • There are no exclusive games at launch. This is a break with Microsoft tradition.
  • The system will be backwards compatible. Microsoft is pushing their XBox Play Anywhere strategy.
  • There may come a point where XBox Series X games won’t run on XBox One X, but that isn’t happening right away. Right now, games that are meant for the new Series X are going to be compatible with the current XBox One X.

Traditionally, the XBox looks like a piece of home entertainment equipment. Like every console before it with the exception of Game Cube and Dreamcast, a console is a wide, flat, rectangle.

XBox Series X is a tower of a thing. It’s got a new, smaller 7nm process for the system on chip, essentially a custom version of AMD’s Zen 2 3.8 GHz CPU with a 12.155 teraflop GPU. I could regurgitate numbers at you, but basically, it’s about a 4x increase over XBox One X for both single and multi-core performance.

That 3.8GHz number adjusts dynamically based on demand and whether a task is single threaded or multicore threaded. It’s entirely possible that developers may use the single threaded approach for that faster 3.8GHz number.

The Series X processor can run four Xbox One S game sessions simultaneously on the same chip. That’s how much of a difference this thing makes.

But in practice, you’re going to start by seeing faster load times. There’s 76MB of SRAM on the system on chip, and 16GB of GDDR6 RAM. The internal storage is 1TB of NVMe SSD. I said I wasn’t going to throw specs at you. All this is to say, faster and more of it than the XBox One X. Seriously, the old system could do 120MB/s for IO throughput. Now we’re talking 2.4GB/s to 4.8GB/s. And, you can add another 1TB internally, or use USB 3.2 drives externally.

Besides faster load times, there’s also ray tracing. Ray tracing is a way of rendering that gives realistic lighting effects. The new Series X has hardware acceleration, which would otherwise require an additional 13 teraflops to accomplish the same result. What you should expect is more realistic lighting than the previous system.

That’s the theme here: faster computing, more of it. Faster raytracing, and more of it. Faster input throughput. And on top of it all, old games play better on it too, taking advantage of upscaling to bring 1080p games up to 4K, and HDR… even if a game never shipped with HDR support.

And maybe not having launch games is a tough sell for people who have an XBOne or XBOne X. What’s clear is that this is hardware for the future, with a lot on tap for developers. Let’s hope they take advantage of it.

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