Xbox Series X unleashed: Our unrestricted preview

From what I’ve tested so far, the company has good reason to be confident about this quiet, efficient hardware. Unless I’m missing something huge—even Red Rings needed longer than 22 days to manifest—my hardware experience has so far been quite smooth. As a computing device, Xbox Series X may go down in history as one of the most remarkable machines ever made—as compared to other products in its era, power level, and price.

But a piece of hardware is only as good as the software that it runs. While Microsoft has good reason to be confident about Xbox Series X as a big, honkin’ box in your living room, the same can’t be said for the range of software we’ve seen thus far. There’s a lot to talk about with this console, so strap in as we jump from topic to topic and break down what a $499 gaming console can offer in 2020.

Hardware and orientation

Let’s start with the system’s physical design, which I’ve now lived with for 22 days—in both horizontal and vertical orientations. You’ll likely experiment with both when you unbox Series X, whose cuboid structure (11.6 inches tall, 6 inches long, 6 inches wide) is a rarity in consumer electronics. Think of the common phrase “slot into 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 perfectly set up 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.

To get my preferred entertainment center to accept the Series X, I had to adjust its shelves so that the system’s vertical orientation, topping out at six inches, would have enough clearance room. (The gargantuan PlayStation 5’s horizontal orientation reportedly tops out a hair above four inches, but its other dimensions, 15.4 x 10.2 inches, will still crowd out your other devices.) The Series X fit down there. It was fine. Then I looked at it and got a bit sad.

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