Among the many canceled events due to the COVID-19 pandemic was the annual Game Developers Conference where many companies in the industry were set to unveil new gaming products. Microsoft, being one of them, had planned a live stream in lieu of the conference to present the planned keynotes, one of which focused on the Xbox Series X.
Surprisingly, the company released the full spec sheet of its upcoming console ahead of the planned live stream. Microsoft published the details of the Xbox Series X, including specific hardware upgrades, in a blog post on March 16th.
Dubbed as “the most powerful Xbox ever”, the new console will use a custom AMD Zen 2 CPU with 8 cores individually clocked at 3.8 GHz, a custom AMD RDNA 2 GPU with 12 teraflops, and 52 compute units at 1.825 GHz each. It’s based on an enhanced 7nm process and comes equipped with 16GB GDDR6 RAM and a 1TB custom NVME SSD. The unit cools itself by taking in air from the bottom and pushing in through the top via a 130mm fan.
The allotted 16GB of memory will be split among 3 functions. 10GB will be reserved for fast GPU optimal memory, 3.5GB for standard memory and the remaining 2.5GB will be reserved for the OS. The console will have enough power support 1TB expansion cards which can be inserted at the rear and also supports USB 3.2 external HDDs and houses a 4K Blu-ray drive. The spec sheet details the target performance of the console to churn out 60 – 120 FPS at 4K.
Delving further into performance upgrades, one of the most noticeable features to included in the Xbox Series X is its support for hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing. With such a feature, graphics will become more realistic with enhanced shadows, textures, and other effects. Water, for example, will be fully transparent and allow for realistic interaction with light.
A technical demo of Gears 5 using the full PC Ultra Spec setting shows visibly higher resolution textures and fog. The opening cutscene also now runs at 60FPS at 4K compared to the previous Xbox which only ran at 30FPS. The Xbox Series X will also support 8K gaming up to 120FPS.
In terms of speed, the new Xbox has significantly faster loading times. A tech demo of State of Decay 2 showed that the game loads a whole 40 seconds faster than the previous model. This can be attributed to its use of solid-state drives.
A new architecture called Xbox Velocity Architecture was developed specifically for the new console. It combines custom hardware and deep software integration to create detailed environments, speed up loading times, and improve different game aspects such as fast travel. Overall latency is also reduced so that communication between the controller and the console will be much faster.
With the Xbox Series X, Microsoft is introducing Quick Resume technology. This allows players to easily resume playing not just one but multiple games with the press of a button. It’s also possible to switch between games without having to close the current one you’re playing. This is done by saving directly into the console’s SSD which means you can pick up where you left off even if you turn off, unplug, or update your console.
Microsoft recently announced the new console will be backwards compatible and the hardware upgrade will have an effect on these games. Compatible titles will see an improvement in boot and load times, frame rates, resolution, and overall image quality. With the new Smart Delivery feature, users are ensured that game titles only needed to be bought once and will still be playable on different versions of the Xbox.
The Xbox Series X’s physical dimensions have also been confirmed. They will be standing 301mm tall and 151mm wide. Microsoft also announced an Xbox Series X optimized version of Gears 5 will be available at launch and will be free for users who already own the title on Xbox One via the Smart Delivery feature.