Xbox Series X: Full hands-on preview, games, UI and more

Impressions from our prototype console, initial gameplay and what it means for your holiday shopping plans.

Dan Ackerman Editorial Director / Computers and Gaming
Dan Ackerman leads CNET's coverage of computers and gaming hardware. A New York native and former radio DJ, he's also a regular TV talking head and the author of "The Tetris Effect" (Hachette/PublicAffairs), a non-fiction gaming and business history book that has earned rave reviews from the New York Times, Fortune, LA Review of Books, and many other publications. "Upends the standard Silicon Valley, Steve Jobs/Mark Zuckerberg technology-creation myth... the story shines." -- The New York Times
Expertise I've been testing and reviewing computer and gaming hardware for over 20 years, covering every console launch since the Dreamcast and every MacBook...ever. Credentials
  • Author of the award-winning, NY Times-reviewed nonfiction book The Tetris Effect; Longtime consumer technology expert for CBS Mornings
Dan Ackerman
3 min read

Update, Nov. 5: Read our reviews of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S.

The Xbox Series X is just about a month away from general release (as is the Series S and the PS5). We've been testing a prototype version of the Series X for a few weeks, first looking at backwards compatibility and load times, and now looking at general impressions of the first new-for-Series-X games and the actual new Xbox UI. 

CNET's Jeff Bakalar has dived into these new features, and describes them in the video here.

"While yes, this is technically a prototype system," Jeff says, "I do think I've got a really good idea of what it's like owning this next-generation console."

Read more: Hands-on with Xbox Series X: Quick resume, backwards compatibility and faster load times

Dan Ackerman/CNET

Pretty and quiet 

Jeff calls the overall design of the Series X "undeniably sleek," with an industrial edge. It's a foot tall, with a 6-inch by 6-inch footprint. "I ended up keeping mine standing up behind my TV," he says, "so I could keep the top heat exhaust fan as clear as possible." 

I had similar space and ventilation concerns when I took a couple of new Xbox non-functional mockups to Ikea to see how they'd fit into various living room media console furniture. Whether you position the main vent on the top or side, you'll need to leave plenty of room for airflow. 

Read more: How the Xbox Series X and Series S fit into the most popular Ikea furniture

What Jeff found impressive about the console right away was how quiet it actually runs. "I've never heard it rev up once my entire time with it, in stark comparison to something like a PS4 Pro." 


The user interface on the Series X is surprisingly similar to the current version on the Xbox One. Jeff points out that it's much faster, however, when it comes to navigation and transitions. "Zipping around through menus is a much better experience," he says. 

"That said, because it's not a departure from last-gen's UI, everything feels exactly the same." If you didn't love the Xbox One layout, you're not going to love this one.  


Plenty of room, for now

Expanding the storage is easy, if you use the official Seagate 1TB add-on drive ($220!), which plugs into a proprietary port on the back. Series X games will only run from the internal or proprietary drive, but legacy games can live on a standard USB 3.0 drive. 

Series X optimized games (like Halo 5) can run from 35GB to 99GB, so hard drive space may get eaten up quickly. 

Oh yeah, and games

"New Series X games have been scarce during this preview period," Jeff says. But, the last-minute addition of racing game Dirt 5 gave him a chance to see the full power of Xbox Series X kicking out a 120Hz signal. In an options menu, you can choose image quality, frame rate or 120Hz modes, much like you can on some Xbox One X and PS4 Pro games

"In framerate mode," he says, "there is a noticeable amount of screen tearing." Also worth noting, when you jump into 120Hz mode, at least in Dirt 5, the output resolution drops to 1440p from 4K. "For what it's worth, going back and forth between 4K and 1440p made it really tough to notice the compromises." Just remember, not a lot of current TVs support 120Hz signals anyway, so don't get too wrapped up in that. 

We'll bring you further hands-on experiences with the Xbox Series X in the coming weeks, including a full review of the retail version of the new console.