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Xbox Series X Review: The Xbox Glory Days Are Back

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With the Xbox Series X, Microsoft is showing the world Xbox is still one of the best places to play games.

Xbox Series X
$499
Rating
star star star star star_empty
Pros
  • Simple, clean aesthetic
  • Quick resume feature for starting exactly where you left off
  • 120hz gameplay mode with compatible TV
  • Backwards compatibility for nearly all games from every Xbox generation
  • Fast load times
  • Expandable storage available at launch
Cons
  • No AAA launch games
  • Non-removable stand
  • Overcrowded home screen

The Xbox Series X is one of the two next-gen game consoles that were released at the tail end of 2020. Alongside the Sony PS5. While the two differ from each other in numerous ways, they’re both still game consoles. So you can expect what you would always expect from a new game console. Plenty of flashy features and new technology that makes your games look better for the rest of this console generation.

The Xbox Series X is, in many ways, Microsoft’s return to form. The Xbox glory days are back. No, Xbox never left. Not truly. But Xbox was at its height of power and popularity during the Xbox 360 era. While the Xbox One was a good console, it certainly didn’t live up to the Xbox 360 in many respects.

But Microsoft seems keen on changing that mentality with the Series X. And in all honesty I think the company has done a very good job at capturing some of the magic that has been missing this past generation. There’s a lot to love about this console. Even for someone who doesn’t mainly play on the Xbox platform. Now more than ever, though, it’s a good time to see what Xbox is all about.

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The Xbox Series X is 20 years of gaming rolled into a single black box

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One of the biggest strengths of the Xbox Series X is its backwards compatibility. In every way, shape, and form, it’s better than what Sony offers on the PS5.

That’s because not only does it work with all (or just about all) games from the Xbox One era, but from the Xbox 360 and Xbox eras as well. Now to be fair, there are a lot of older PlayStation games on the PlayStation Store for PS5 owners. Some of them are PS1 classics, some are from PS2 or PS3. But you have to buy them in a digital form as the discs you might own won’t work.

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Where the Xbox Series X wins out here, is that any older Xbox discs you own will work inside of the new console. They’ll play just like they would if you had slotted the disc into the console it was initially for.

This means you never have to rebuy any of your games. Ever. And while I won’t personally play most older games, which is why the backwards compatibility of the PS5 doesn’t bother me, a lot of people want that freedom. And the Xbox Series X offers it.

Essentially, this makes the Xbox Series X 20 years of Xbox games all rolled up into one neat and tidy package. Giving this console extreme value to the player. And rewarding long-time Xbox fans with a continued belief that you should be able to access and play any of the games you already own.

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You may or may not care to play your older Xbox games. But at least you’ll have the option to decide for yourself. Because who knows. Maybe some day down the line you’ll feel like inserting that Xbox 360 copy of a treasured favorite.

The back compat feels a little bit necessary

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Backwards compatibility is something that Sony needs to embrace more. So we definitely don’t feel that the amount offered by the Xbox Series X is something to overlook.

Failure to recognize how great it is would be folly. But the level of back compat that the console offers also feels a little bit necessary. One of the more notable downsides of the Xbox Series X is that it has absolutely no AAA game titles to speak of for its launch lineup.

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Now that we’re a few months into 2021 that’s less of a negative factor because those titles will be coming. But big AAA games certainly play a big role in selling consoles. Especially when they first launch.

Unfortunately for Microsoft and the Series X, this is a drawback that will potentially put people off from buying right away. Or even making the attempt. I know that for my own personal experience, I was less excited to open the Xbox Series X packaging and get it powered up than I was for the PS5.

And the reason for that is simple. Launch titles like Demon’s Souls and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales were more interesting than anything Xbox had to offer at the time. The Series X’ main draw would have been Halo Infinite. Which was supposed to be one of the launch titles, and a big one to boot.

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Microsoft had to push it back though because the game simply needs more time in development. Don’t get me wrong. There are still some great games to play on Xbox Series X. However, it does feel like it has more of a lackluster lineup from the start.

It is early in the console generation though. So this will eventually change and is something to consider when looking at buying the latest Xbox console.

Did we mention it has expandable storage?

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Large library owners need not shy away from the Xbox Series X just because it doesn’t have 2TB hard drive. That would be nice to have as an internal storage system, but that isn’t what we got so we have to make do.

Thankfully, this is not that difficult because the Xbox Series X supports expandable storage. And you can actually buy the accessory right now.

Consumers should be aware that the expandable storage accessory is pretty expensive. So your $500 console purchase ends up turning into a $719 console purchase. This isn’t ideal. So if you can hold off on more storage space for all of your games, do so until the prices come down on these expansion cards.

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Having said that, it’s a major bonus that you can buy them right now and that the Series X even supports it. PS5 owners are still waiting for expandable storage support. And even if it was introduced tomorrow, there’s no telling when the expansion drives would be available to buy.

Again, I definitely recommend waiting to get the expansion card once it’s less expensive. But if you have the means and would rather not wait, grab one and prevent yourself from worrying about game storage for a while.

Considering the size of some of this generation’s games, expansion is something most people are going to want. So hats off to Microsoft for making this available right away.

The home screen is way too busy

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There are lots of great things about the new UI on the Series X, but the home screen isn’t one of them. It feels way to busy and overcrowded.

So much so that it just feels like I’m staring at an oversized version of my Windows 1o start screen. Maybe it’s that I’ve spent so much time staring at the PS5 home screen which visually, looks a lot less cluttered. Still, as someone who hasn’t owned an Xbox since the Xbox 360, I was overwhelmed with how much was on the home screen when I powered the console on for the first time.

The good news is that you can to some degree, customize the home screen, including by removing certain stuff from it that you don’t want to see. The only issue with this is that it isn’t exactly obvious where to access this feature. Once you find it though, you can spend a little time getting things to look a little more the way you want them to.

One other really cool thing about the UI and in turn the home screen, is that Microsoft made it possible to filter your games list by console generation. For anyone that’s been on the Xbox platform since the beginning and has games from every generation installed, this is a wonderful feature.

Because it’ll make browsing your library of games way more organized and easy to find. You can filter the games by other criteria as well. So group them however you like. Filtering by console type is just one easy way to separate your games out.

The Xbox Series X gives you surprisingly deep customization options

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Lots of people like to customize their stuff. Whether it’s their tech or rooms around the house. And you can customize a surprising amount of stuff within the Xbox Series X UI. For example, you can set your own background for the home screen.

You have options to use game art, if you like, but you can also choose your own images or use screenshots that you saved from gameplay. You can also select from numerous profile themes, and choose between light and dark modes just like on the latest version of Windows 10.

Should I buy the Xbox Series X?

There are many reasons why you should and even a couple why you may want to hold off. The Xbox Series X is still hard to get a hold of and likely will be for another couple of months at the least.

But you should certainly consider buying one if you’re coming from the Xbox One and want to upgrade to the latest and greatest. You should hold off though if you simply prefer the ecosystems of Nintendo or PlayStation and only really want to buy one console.

You may also want to hold off if you want to wait for a larger library of proper Series X games to play. But aside from that, the Xbox Series X is definitely worth the purchase.

Especially if you have a TV that can support the 120Hz gameplay mode. In the end, this is a next-gen (or technically now current-gen) console with cool new features and more powerful hardware. If you like console gaming and you like Xbox, get it.

Buy Xbox Series X