If you want to gauge Microsoft’s confidence in its upcoming Xbox Series X console, start with the fact that the company gave us a console three weeks ago… and didn’t hang around to see what we’d do with it.
That’s not how advanced hardware samples work. There should be multi-day events! And business leaders! And finger sandwiches! But usually there has to be control on the part of the manufacturer, in terms of exchanging new hardware or fixing malfunctions the moment something goes wrong for a potential critic. At such events, staffers might as well wear shirts that read, “We’re still working on that.”
Obviously, the mass, personal events have not happened this year. So what do you do as the game console’s underdog to convince people that your $500 console is better than the other $500 console? One of Microsoft’s responses apparently was to drive a truckload of “PROTOTYPE”-labeled Xbox Series X consoles to the homes of critics. far earlier than we expected.
Today, after a few introductory articles, I finally got the green light to preview the console I want. (Not “review”, “preview.”)
From what I’ve tested so far, the company has good reason to be confident in this quiet, efficient hardware. Unless I’m missing something huge – even Red Rings took more than 22 days to manifest – my hardware experience has been pretty smooth so far. As a computing device, Xbox Series X could go down in history as one of the most remarkable machines ever made — compared to other products in its era, power, and price.
But a piece of hardware is only as good as the software that runs on it. While Microsoft has good reason to be confident in the Xbox Series X as a big, honkin’ box in your living room, the same can’t be said of the lineup of software we’ve seen so far. There’s a lot to talk about with this console, so buckle up as we jump from topic to topic and break down what a $499 game console has to offer in 2020.
Hardware and Orientation
Let’s start with the physical design of the system, which I’ve been living with for 22 days now – in both horizontal and vertical orientation. You’ll probably experiment with both when you unbox Series X, whose cubic structure (11.6 inches long, 6 inches long, 6 inches wide) is a rarity in consumer electronics. Think of the common phrase “place in your entertainment center,” and you can imagine receivers, DVD players, and other electronics that share a certain shape: not too tall, but plenty long and/or wide. You probably have shelves set up perfectly for these things to slide into.
The only “recent” exception I can think of isn’t a good one: the GameCube, one of Nintendo’s lowest-selling consoles.
In order for my favorite entertainment center to accept the Series X, I had to adjust the shelves so that the vertical orientation of the system, with a six-inch top, would have enough clearance. (The horizontal orientation of the giant PlayStation 5 is said to be a hair more than four inches, but its other dimensions, 15.4 x 10.2 inches, will still crowd out your other devices.) The Series X fits down there. It was fine. Then I looked at it and got a little sad.