Microsoft Xbox Series X preview: Everything we know so far

UPDATED: "Thousands" of older games will add HDR and up to 120fps

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 may not be the only new Xbox on the horizon, as Microsoft's own words suggest.

Curious about what to expect from the new 2020 Xbox? Here's everything we've heard so far, both officially and through the rumour mill.

Additional reporting by Matt Tate

What will the Xbox Series X look like?

Here it is! Microsoft 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.

How much power will the Xbox Series X 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.

Which games will be on the Xbox Series X?

The biggest game announced for Xbox Series X so far is Halo Infinite, which is also launching in the same holiday 2020 window. It will almost certainly be a launch title, plus it's coming to Xbox One and PC too.

Beyond that, Microsoft unveiled Senua's Saga: Hellblade II at The Game Awards, and Ninja Theory's sequel looks super metal and intense, although we've only seen a cinematic so far. The original was a critical smash, and the Xbox Series X hardware should only amplify the tension and emotion.

Any big AAA multiplatform games coming out in 2020 are also likely to hit Xbox Series X, including Cyberpunk 2077 and Watch Dogs 3, but we don't have official announcements on those just yet.

And thankfully, Microsoft will continue its endearing legacy of supporting backwards compatibility, with "thousands of your favorite games across four generations of gaming" playable on the Xbox Series X. Basically, if it's playable on Xbox One right now, we expect that it will also be playable on Xbox Series X. Gears 5 will see an updated Xbox Series X edition, for sure, and Minecraft has been shown with major visual enhancements from ray-traced lighting.

Microsoft has since announced that older, compatible games will run natively on the Xbox Series X and can tap into the full power of the hardware, with much faster load times, added HDR capabilities due to a "reconstruction technique" that can add it to older games, and doubled frame rate for select titles up to 120fps.

And thanks to a feature called Smart Delivery, you'll always be able to access the best version of the game available on the Xbox you're playing on. No multiple purchases.