Microsoft Xbox Series X and Series S preview: Everything we know so far

UPDATED: The Xbox Series X and Series S will support Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos

What was once Project Scarlett is now officially the Xbox Series X, Microsoft's next-generation console.

It'll pack incredible power, enabling performance up to 8K resolution and 120 frames per second, with a new Halo game onboard and a minimal new tower-like design. And it's not alone.

The Xbox Series S is also coming on the same day, with both launching this November. We have just about all of the key official details now, so read on.

Additional reporting by Matt Tate

What will the Xbox Series X and Series S look like?

Here it is! Microsoft first unveiled the console design at The Game Awards in December 2019, showing a very different kind of silhouette for a game console.

The Xbox Series X looks more like a PC gaming desktop tower, albeit smaller and simpler. It's not overloaded with lights or details from the front: just an Xbox logo, a disc slot, and a tiny eject button. You can also lay it flat, if you prefer. It's about 18in tall and 6in wide and deep.

If you'll remember, the original Xbox One was absolutely massive, but the Xbox One S and Xbox One X revisions both significantly trimmed down and improved the design. This is a different kind of a shape, but it seems to follow the increasingly minimal ethos of those redesigned editions. We like what we're seeing so far.

What ports will it have?

The usual suspects are there: HDMI, two USB-A ports, an optical audio port, an Ethernet port, and a slot for the power cable.

What about that mysterious wide gap in the middle? It's essentially a memory card slot, believe it or not. The Xbox Series X ships with a 1TB SSD inside, and you can buy custom-designed 1TB Expansion Cards to slot in if needed. You can also opt for a USB 3.2 external HDD, but the Expansion Cards are a more straightforward, plug-and-play option for the average user. We'll just have to see how much Microsoft is asking for them.

How much power will the Xbox Series X and Series S pack?

How much power? Loads! It'll have a custom-designed AMD Zen 2 processor with Navi graphics and high-bandwidth GDDR6 memory.

Microsoft has now confirmed that its new console will pack a 12 teraflops GPU, which is twice that of the Xbox One X and more than eight times the original Xbox One

What… does all of that mean? Well, all sorts of enhancements: up to 8K resolution, frame rates up to 120fps, and real-time ray tracing. Variable rate shading (VRS) allows the GPU to prioritise individual effects on specific characters or environmental objectsm rather than refreshing each individual pixel. This helps with both framerate and resolution. 

And thanks to a next-generation 1TB solid state drive, loading times should also be a thing of the past (for the most part). All told, we can expect games to look amazing and run well – although we're curious to see just how big of an impact that actually has on the experience. Watch above for a very deep dive into the specs and capabilities from Digital Foundry, and look below for the full list of official specs as of March 2020.

Given the price difference, it's no surprise to hear that the Xbox Series S is also significantly less powerful than the Xbox Series X. While the CPU power isn't dramatically less, the GPU power is only about one-third of what the Xbox Series X offers, at 4 teraflops compared to 12+ teraflops. It also has half the onboard storage (512GB) and less RAM (10GB vs 16GB).

While the Xbox Series X aims for 4K gameplay at up to 120fps, the Xbox Series S aims for 2K resolution at 120fps instead. It's more akin to what the current Xbox One X offers.

Dolby has announced that both the Xbox Series X and Series S will enable gaming in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, with the latter lined up for launch and Dolby Vision support coming in 2021. What this should mean for your games is even better HDR performance, richer colours and, according to Dolby, 10x deeper blacks. Potentially quite the coup for Microsoft, as it looks likely that the PlayStation 5 will be limited to HDR10 support.