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Microsoft Releases 'Mind Blowing' Xbox Specs

By John P. Mello Jr.
Feb 25, 2020 4:00 AM PT
latest xbox series x specs impressed video game industry insiders

Microsoft whetted demand for its Xbox Series X product line on Monday with the revelation of some impressive specs for its next-generation gaming console.

Xbox Head Phil Spencer spilled the following details:

  • A custom processor based on AMD's Zen 2 RDNA architecture, which delivers four times the processing power of the Xbox One and offers developers 12 teraflops of GPU performance -- twice the performance of an Xbox One X;
  • Optimized Variable Rate Shading, which allows developers to use the full power of the Series X more efficiently by allowing them to prioritize individual effects on specific game characters or environmental objects without a loss of image quality; and
  • Hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing, which Microsoft says is a first for console gaming, to create true-to-life lighting, accurate reflections, and realistic acoustics in real time.

"It's really going to be a kick in the pants for the industry," said Mark N. Vena, senior analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy, a technology analyst and advisory firm in Austin, Texas.

"It should provide quite a bit of adrenalin because the specs are really mind blowing," he told TechNewsWorld.

Wringing Out Latency

Microsoft has tried to wring every bit of latency out its next-generation Xbox through the following additions:

  • Next-generation SSD storage for game worlds that are larger, more dynamic and fast loading;
  • A Quick Resume feature that allows you to continue multiple games from a suspended state almost instantly;
  • Dynamic Latency Input, which squeezes latency from communications between the Xbox Wireless Controller and console;
  • Support of HDMI 2.1 innovations like Auto Low Latency Mode and Variable Refresh Rate, which automatically sets a connected display to its lowest latency mode and synchronizes a display's refresh rate to a game's refresh rate, allowing it to maintain smooth visuals without "tearing;" and
  • Support of 120 frames per second output, allowing developers to heighten the realism of their games and take their action up a notch.

Spencer also reiterated Microsoft's commitment to backward compatibility.

"Our commitment to compatibility means existing Xbox One games, including backward-compatible Xbox 360 and original Xbox games, look and play better than ever before," he promised.

"Your favorite games, including titles in Xbox Game Pass, benefit from steadier framerates, faster load times and improved resolution and visual fidelity -- all with no developer work required," noted Spencer.

"The one thing Microsoft has done better than Sony is backward compatibility with titles," Moor's Vena said. "Sony has been less successful in doing that. When you buy a PS4, there are old titles that won't work on it."

Microsoft Has You Covered

Backward compatibility and smart delivery are two key features for Microsoft, maintained David Cole, CEO of DFC Intelligence, a market research firm in San Diego, California.

Smart Delivery will be used with all Xbox Game Studios titles. It allows you to buy a game once and be guaranteed that you will have the right version of the game regardless of which Xbox you're playing it on.

"The idea is that when you buy an Xbox, Microsoft has you covered," Cole told TechNewsWorld. "So if you buy the new Halo Infinite for Xbox One it will auto upgrade when you buy a Series X."

The Xbox Series X also will support 8K video.

"The 8K capability is interesting," said Rob Sanfilippo, analyst at Directions On Microsoft, a Kirkland, Washington-based IT advisory service focused exclusively on Microsoft enterprise products.

However, "it will probably not be utilized in the short term while title developers ramp up to take advantage of it and 8K TVs become more widely available at lower cost points," he told TechNewsWorld.

Consolidating PC and Console Gaming

Raising GPU performance to 12 teraflops means 4K HDR games running at 60 to 90 frames per second will be table stakes for the console business, noted Lewis Ward, research director for gaming at IDC, a market research company in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Xbox's Spencer didn't mention Windows 10 and PC gaming in his announcement, "which was probably intentional," according to Ward.

However, "subsequent announcements at GDC and E3 and other events will make clear that part of Microsoft's direction with gaming is about fusing and uniting its console assets and Windows 10-based gaming to the greatest extent possible," he told TechNewsWorld.

"Microsoft is very strongly positioned at that intersection, and all of this squares nicely with its growing Azure business, which is where XBL resides," Ward continued.

"This also wasn't mentioned, but Microsoft wants to get more into the cloud-based side of gaming's future," he said, "and I also think we'll see more news on this front before Xbox Series X is launched this holiday season."

Microsoft's strategy is to be across all platforms from PC to cloud to mobile, Cole added. "However, the key is having consumers always upgrading to Microsoft's new high end hardware."

Console Gaming Remains Strong

Sony has been tight-lipped about its next-generation console, the PlayStation 5, "but Microsoft's announcement definitely puts the ball in their court and puts pressure on Sony to release their comparable specs in a timely manner," Ward said. "PS5 will very likely be in a similar spec range, since it's based on similar tech from AMD," he predicted.

"I'm sure there will be some twists along the way, but Sony has been very quiet from my perspective over the past several months, and so I think that means they're gearing up for some big news about their exclusive PS5 games lineup for the fourth quarter of this year," Ward continued.

"I think they'll want to come out swinging and cede as little ground to Microsoft as possible over the next 18 months, and focusing on giant exclusive games will be one of the main ways Sony can do that," he added.

While the next Xbox looks strong, Sony and Nintendo also look strong, Cole maintained.

"Overall, console gaming is stronger than ever," he said.

"Console gaming appeared to be waning a few years ago, but it now appears strong for another generation, which will likely not be the last," said Directions On Microsoft's Sanfilippo.

"Xbox cloud-based gaming also appears promising," he said. "It will provide new experiences for Xbox users, but should not detract substantially from the value of dedicated local consoles."


John P. Mello Jr. has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2003. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, IT issues, privacy, e-commerce, social media, artificial intelligence, big data and consumer electronics. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including the Boston Business Journal, the Boston Phoenix, Megapixel.Net and Government Security News. Email John.


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