Did Microsoft promise too much with the full-bodied announcement of the most powerful Xbox, or is the Series X really the beginning of a new era of gaming?
Anyone who was lucky enough to experience the 16-bit “next-gen” consoles from Sega and Nintendo in the 1990s will remember the smooth, lightning-fast graphics of a “Sonic The Hedgehog” or “F-Zero” to this day . Smooth graphics, fast loading times and, in combination with the right CRT display, negligible input delays characterized the gaming experience of that time. These virtues faded into the background with the change to the digital 3D era: Many 3D games, including many racing games, were usually only displayed in 30 FPS with consoles, and loading times and input delays deteriorated more and more. What many console owners and TV buyers underestimate: The total delay between key input, signal processing on the console and image output on the TV is significantly higher than a single input lag measurement of a display.
Even in the Xbox One and PS4 age, a total delay of 100 ms could occur in games, although modern televisions now hardly have any relevant input lag in game mode. So while the graphical representation improved steadily, the feel of the game deteriorated more and more. A prominent example is “Forza Horizon 3”, which can be admired with the Xbox One X and PC in 4K optics. The serious difference in quality: While the Xbox version in 30 FPS gives a sluggish feel and the impression of speed suffers, you can plow through virtual Australia with a high-performance PC in 60 or even 120 FPS. A quality difference like day and night, which, however, cannot be conveyed via a YouTube video, but only if you grab the controller yourself and play both variants.
Since Microsoft is increasingly linking the console and PC worlds, it is not surprising that Xbox boss Phil Spencer has taken the PC segment as a model in many areas, with the aim of creating a next-gen with the Xbox Series X. -Gaming feeling established in the mass market. More images per second, less input lag and faster loading times should make the Xbox Series X the flagship console in the living room.
Switching is child’s play
What does it take to switch from Xbox One to Xbox Series X? Not much! Simply copy all of the contents of the Xbox One onto USB hard drives, connect them to the Series X and log into your Xbox account – done!
The navigation within the Xbox interface worked much more smoothly during our test of the Series X than with older Xbox consoles, although the menu interfaces are currently only displayed in HD quality. At this point, a tip if you are looking for next-gen graphics updates: In the Microsoft store, next-gen-optimized games are indicated by small Series X / S icons and you can also search your game library by next-gen Sort updates.
The file information goes one step further: If you mark individual games in your collection and press the Option key, you can display cryptic file information for the respective game. The various Xbox One updates are listed using the code names of the consoles: “Durango” stands for the standard Xbox One from 2013, “Scorpio” for the more powerful Xbox One X from 2017 and “Scarlett” describes the two next-gen Variants “Anaconda” (Xbox Series X) and “Lockhart” (Xbox Series S). Using these code names, you can determine in detail whether subsequent game patches really maxed out the new consoles, or whether you are playing older Xbox software using the Series X compatibility mode.
The advantage of older Xbox software: you can also start these games from external USB hard drives, while optimized Xbox Series X games can only be started via the ultra-fast internal NVME SSD storage. Alternatively, you can purchase a 1000 GB NVME storage expansion from Seagate for just under 240 euros, which is plugged into the storage port on the back of the console. Since the price is very high, it is a cheaper alternative to move the required game data back and forth using external data storage media: If you move 100 GB to external standard SSD storage, you should plan around 10 minutes for this. The Xbox Series X provides almost 800 GB for free, which is not much if you install 100 GB chunks such as the “Halo Collection”, “Forza Horizon 4” or “Gears 5” and also the current “Dirt 5 “Showed in the course of our test an increasing memory requirement due to a large number of updates.
The new “Call of Duty” part, which occupies almost 140 GB on the Series X, should set a new record again. The gigantic updates are also an ever greater hurdle if your Internet connection can’t keep up: Even with a 50 Mbit Internet connection, you will be busy for a few days upgrading large Xbox One game collections with Series X improvements, from downloads Not to mention huge next-gen games.
It feels better
It is no illusion that well-known games like “Ori and the Will of the Wisps”, “Gears 5”, “Sea of Thieves” and soon the “Halo” collection feel better with the Xbox Series X: In interaction with one HDMI 2.1 TV (e.g. CX-OLED from LG), a 4K 120 Hz HDR signal transmission and a variable frame rate adjustment according to the HDMI VRR standard, all controller inputs are implemented even faster. Expressed in numbers: Even with a responsive TV that generates a display lag between 6.5 ms (120 Hz signal) and 13 ms (60 Hz signal), the overall delay with the Xbox One X (key input, CPU calculation time, GPU rendering time, display output, lag of the TV) are on average just under 100 milliseconds in a game like “Gears 5”. With the Xbox Series X and an HDMI 2.1 TV, this value drops to less than 60 milliseconds, as the developers impressively demonstrated in a separate technical analysis. If you start a game with native 120 FPS playback, such as the multiplayer mode in “Gears 5”, the feel of the game is improved again (less than 35 ms total delay).
The Xbox Series X is the first console to reach a new playful dimension that was previously only covered by powerful PC hardware. Current games like “Dirt 5” continue this virtue by allowing you to choose a 120-FPS display in addition to a 60-FPS mode. The co-op experience with games for several players, such as the split-screen mode of the “Halo” collection, has also been extensively upgraded and instead of jerky 30 FPS playback (Xbox One X) you can expect a smooth 60 FPS two-player mode Xbox Series X. In addition, game developers use the additional resources for a better graphical representation: games such as “The Touryst” or “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” are internally rendered in 6K quality with the Series X and as an ultra-sharp 4K image output at 120 frames per second. Games like “Gears 5” show with Series X the detailed ultra-textures of the PC version and additional graphic effects. And while with the Xbox One X you had to choose between higher resolution and more fluid display for a game like “Forza Horizon 4”, the Series X now combines both. Even with a seat distance of almost 3 meters with a 65 inch television, the Series X did not show any graphic weakness in most games, although the most powerful PC hardware cannot be replaced equally with the latest next-gen console.
But that is not the primary goal with Xbox Series X either, because Microsoft combines performance with enormous efficiency: the Series X hardly consumes more than 65 watts on the home screen, and in most games the consumption hardly climbs above 160 watts. The Series X usually does not use more than an older One X, although a better resolution and more frames per second are calculated – the latest generation of processors from AMD pays off here. So far, only a few titles such as “Gears 5” indicate what will be possible in the future, because with maximum display quality the consumption climbs to almost 220 watts. It is quite possible that we will only see the maximum consumption of the Series X with future next-gen games.
It looks better
We looked forward to the new HDMI 2.1 connection of Xbox Series X and current LG OLED TVs with anticipation, but also concern. But it quickly became clear that our skepticism about the still young display technology was unfounded: The HDMI 2.1 cable included with the Xbox Series X worked just as smoothly as the display recognition. With a few settings in the Xbox system menu, we were able to activate the maximum image output in the format 4K, 120 Hz, HDR, 10 bit and VRR. Hardly any game uses this performance spectrum natively, but the HDMI 2.1 connection ensures that you always get the most out of a single setting and that the input lag is as low as possible.
If you do not have a display with HDMI 2.1, this is not a big deal: The 120 Hz image output is also supported in 1080p or 1440p resolution with the Series X, which can be implemented with many HDMI 2.0 devices. If you are faced with the choice of outputting a 4K signal in 60 Hz or a 1440p signal in 120 Hz via HDMI 2.0, we recommend the 120 Hz version with the Xbox Series X. Microsoft is planning Dolby Vision image output in games for 2021, and the LG-CX-OLED is also compatible with this standard in game mode. The only restriction: If you select AMD Freesync within the HDMI setting of the LG OLED TV, the Dolby Vision image output of the Series X can no longer be implemented – we therefore recommend HDMI VRR, which is activated automatically.
A topic that is currently hotly debated, especially on the Internet, is worth just a side note: If you switch to VRR mode, dark HDR image areas close to deep black appear slightly brighter on the OLED than without VRR, when the native display frame rate of 120 Hz is clear is fallen below. Since this minimal difference in the bright living room is by no means a disadvantage and you can carry out the HDR image comparison with the Series X either in the console’s system menu or in many games separately, this difference can usually be compensated for manually. We can take care of the fact that the Xbox Series X does not work optimally with current LG OLEDs: The playback quality is first class in practice, even with VRR signal playback.
In our second part of the test, you will learn more about the controller, loading times, image and sound output and the Xbox Series X drive tomorrow.
Optimized Xbox Series X games
Choice, advantages compared to Xbox One X.
Christian Trozinski, Editor-in-Chief HDTV
- IMG_4960: Richard W. Schaber
- IMG_4967: Richard W. Schaber
- IMG_4966: Richard W. Schaber
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- IMG_4968: Richard W. Schaber
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