Microsoft offers a peek under the hood of the Xbox Series X
The new Xbox Series X is due out by the end of the year, but rather than giving us a big flashy press conference to run through the details, Microsoft seems satisfied just tossing little scraps to us every now and then. The latest of these include more info on the chips running the machine, the graphics capabilities and some other features.
The biggest new number Microsoft is throwing at us is the GPU’s power. Apparently it’s capable of 12 teraflops of graphical grunt, which is eight times more powerful than the Xbox One and twice an Xbox One X. That’ll be backed up by a custom-designed CPU, built using AMD’s most recent Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures.
As for what kind of visual improvements that will include, Microsoft has now outlined something called Variable Rate Shading (VRS). This technique allows game developers to prioritize the GPU power to focus on certain things, such as the main character or an important object, rather than the whole screen at once. That should keep frame rates stable at high resolution – since we already know it can get up to 120 fps at 8K.
Consoles have in the past gotten a bit bloaty with extra stuff that gets in the way of the games, but for the Xbox Series X, Microsoft looks like it’s trying to tackle that. Solid-state drive (SSD) storage should speed up load times, even with massive game worlds, and there’s a Quick Resume feature that lets players jump right back to where they left off last time. Sure, current gen consoles can already do this, but only with one game at a time – the Series X will apparently let players suspend states in multiple games at once.
Connections are being sped up, too. The controller can talk to the console faster through something Microsoft calls Dynamic Latency Input (DLI). The console-to-TV connection through HDMI is boosted through modes that automatically switch the display to its lowest latency, and sync the TV’s refresh rate to the game’s frame rate.
We already knew that the new console will be compatible with games from all previous Xbox generations, but there’s one nice new tidbit to note here. Microsoft says that (at least for some games) if you buy a game for Xbox One, you’ll automatically get the Xbox Series X version for free. That should take some of the sting out of upgrading down the track.
We still don’t know everything about the Xbox Series X, but it looks like more details will continue to be drip-fed to us until E3 in June, when we’ll probably get that big flashy presentation. After that, it’ll be an agonizing wait until the console launches by holiday 2020.