Microsoft’s Project Skarlett is now the Xbox Series X. Announced by Phil Spencer during tonight’s Game Awards, the console looks like a very svelte little computer tower, with minimalist branding, sharp edges, and what appears to be an entire side of the case devoted to ventilation. You can get a brief look at the Series X in the trailer below, along with its new controller — yes, that is a new controller. No word yet on whether it’ll still use AA batteries, like the wireless controllers used by the ancient Greeks.
Over on the device’s official website, Spencer reiterates much of what has already been announced about
Project Skarlett Series X, mainly that it’s got serious graphical muscle and is deeply backwards compatible. Spencer claims “four times the processing power of Xbox One X,” thanks to Series X’s custom AMD Zen 2 processor.
“From a technical standpoint, this will manifest as world-class visuals in 4K at 60FPS, with possibility of up to 120FPS, including support for Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), and 8K capability,” Spencer says. He doesn’t specify, but if I were to guess I’d say that “8K capability” is probably talking about video playback, rather than rendering games at that resolution. Likewise, I’ll be genuinely surprised if framerates clocking in at 120 are able to do so at an internal resolution for 4K. We still don’t know what Series X will cost though, so maybe I’ll eat crow on this one. (I like my crow locally sourced and rotisserie-style if possible, thanks in advance Microsoft.)
Variable Refresh Rate isn’t the only acronym that Spencer calls out in the post: Series X’s processor features “next generation RDNA architecture” and “Variable Rate Shading (VRS),” along with “Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM)” and “Dynamic Latency Input (DLI),” which are two different things apparently. Your guess as to what any of that means in practical terms is as good as mine, and I’m a professional video games journalism man, so feel good about yourself.
All those acronyms will partially go towards making the Series X extremely backwards compatible; Microsoft has said before that Xbox One, Xbox 360, and Original Xbox™ games will all work on Series X, but we still don’t know if that means select titles or all titles will be backwards compatible. Hopefully it’s the latter, I’ll buy this thing on day one if it lets me play Otogi: Myth of Demons on a modern TV.
As for that new controller, it’s just called the “Xbox Wireless Controller.” It’s backwards compatible with Xbox One and also works on Windows 10, and as that implies, it does everything that the current Xbox One controller does, right down to the rumble triggers. The new controller’s primary claim to fame is a new “Share” button, located in the middle of the controller, and a slightly smaller overall size, which Microsoft says should help make it more accessible to more people.
The new controller also has a d-pad “derived from the Xbox Elite Series 2 Wireless Controller,” but I wouldn’t take that to mean that it’s interchangeable — it looks like it’s just using the Elite 2’s “faceted” d-pad design. I’ve never used an Elite controller, but people sure seem to love ’em so those d-pads are probably pretty good? I guess? Bueller?
For now, Microsoft is sticking to its “Holiday 2020” launch window.