Xbox Series X FAQ: Release Date, Technical Details and Everything Else We Know So Far

By Heidi Nicholas,
Xbox Series X

Previously operating under the code-name Project Scarlett, Xbox have officially revealed their next generation console during The Game Awards 2019. The Xbox Series X features a bold new design, a reworked controller and a lot of power under the hood. As the Xbox Series X news trickles in over the coming months, we'll keep this FAQ up to date with the latest information.

When is the Xbox Series X coming out?

The official Xbox Series X release date is Holiday 2020. – though we've personally picked up store scans that show the Xbox Series X release date is December 2020 – a slight clarification, but it would confirm that the Series X won't be with us until after the Black Friday rush. We dont' have a firmer idea of the exact release date as of yet and likely won't until pre-orders officially go up. Based on Xbox's history, we'd expect these to arrive in the summer, which would make the announcement of a release date a firm possibility for E3 2020.

What is the Xbox Series X?

The Xbox Series X is the first revealed console of the brand's next generation, supplanting the Xbox One. The name was revealed by Phil Spencer during The Game Awards 2019, along with the design. Prior to this, the console was known as Anaconda under the Project Scarlett pseudonym. At the time of writing, it is unclear whether there will be more than one console launched as part of this next generation. However given Xbox's recent history we expect that the "Series" part of the name is important, and that there will be several consoles released in the next generation catering to different needs in terms of cost and power.

How much will the Xbox Series X cost?

As of the end of 2019, we don't know the Xbox Series X price. We probably won't find out until the exact release date is confirmed, which we expect will be in the summer of 2020. However, we do know from a recent interview with The Verge that Phil Spencer recognises mistakes made with the Xbox One's launch – and that one of those mistakes was a high price.

Can I pre-order the Xbox Series X?

Pre-orders for the Xbox Series X are not live yet. There is only one way to stake some sort of claim on the Xbox Series X, though there are no guarantees – that's if you purchase an Xbox One console using Xbox All Access. As we reported earlier in the year, Xbox All Access lets you purchase an Xbox One console on a payment plan – you'll pay monthly instalments with interest towards full ownership of your console. The extra incentive with the launch of Xbox All Access was to offer all customers a chance to upgrade to the next-generation console, now known as the Xbox Series X. So, while no one can specifically pre-order the Series X at the time of writing, those making Xbox All Access payments should see some sort of opportunity to upgrade presented to them ahead of the Series X's release date.

Is Xbox Series X really the final name of the console?

Actually, that's up for debate. A recent interview with an Xbox executive revealed that, in terms of branding, the next generation console is simply called Xbox – a confusing turn of events for those who remember the original Xbox, also just called "Xbox". Analysts pointed to the prominent Xbox branding in the Series X reveal, with the "Series X" subheading appearing much smaller underneath. Before the name reveal, Spencer said that the name would reflect the purpose of the console. Now that the name has been revealed, we're a little non-plussed, but perhaps the universal-sounding "Xbox" branding refers to Microsoft's continuing plans to dissolve the idea of stark generational leaps in favour of universal accessibility to gaming for all players.

We don't know the exact answer here, but we think Microsoft are learning from competitors outside of the gaming space. PC, cell phone and car manufacturers all lean into the idea of a "series" of related products sharing a certain amount of essential DNA, but featuring different aspects that impact both the name and the price. While we hope that Microsoft will keep things simple for the 2020 launch of the new console, we wouldn't be surprised to see other Series X consoles in the future with some sort of numeric system to differentatite between the models.

What are the technical specifications for the Xbox Series X?

At the time of writing not many exact specifications are known, but the Xbox Series X is looking quite a lot like a PC at this point (quite literally, given the vertical tower design). The Xbox Series X will have a custom AMD processor. Xbox Series X is allegedly capable of running 8K resolution and 120 frames per second – almost certainly not at the same time, mind you. Microsoft are aiming for a minimum of 60 frames per second in 4K resolution for Xbox Series X games. The Xbox Series X supports ray tracing, the current holy grail of graphics processing – basically, it'll process light and shadows in a more lifelike way than ever. The Xbox Series X has in-built SSD storage, which alone could hike the price up a bit depending on the drive's size. Microsoft claim that they have created a new generation of SSD to be used as virtual RAM. A key aim of the Series X appears to be drastic reduction of loading times.

What ports does the Xbox Series X have?

Don't be fooled by recent images of the Xbox Series X's ports – although they were shown off by tech giant AMD at CES 2020, it turns out the company sourced them from a third-party 3D rendering company and it is apparently in no way representational of the final product. Still, the suggested configuration from the image makes quite a bit of sense. In order for the Series X to remain compatible with current generation accessories, there will likely have to be a standard USB slot somewhere, though we anticipate that the new Wireless Controller will work with USB-C – so we'd be surprised if Microsoft stuck the old fashioned port on the front of their next-gen device, as the render suggested. Things like Ethernet ports and HDMI in and out aren't likely to go anywhere. The real sticking point is whether the Series X will internalise its power or need to revert back to the old-fashioned power brick – the fake render suggested that the Series X would only have a basic 2-pin port, which would poitn to no brick at all.

Does the Xbox Series X have a physical disc drive?

Yes, the Xbox Series X has a physical disc drive. Microsoft don't seem to be interested in forcing players into a disc-free future any more than they are aiming at a streaming-only future; instead they are trying to give players as many ways to play as possible. However don't be surprised if digital-only variants of the Series X generation turn up in the future, or even small stream-cast boxes for those who only want to stream games from the cloud.

How is the Xbox Series X better than the Xbox One X?

When it comes to Xbox Series X vs Xbox One X, obviously the proof will be in the final product. It could be an odd generational shift with some components of the Series X not appearing to overly outshine the One X, though it'll be the combination of new technologies that will ultimately make the Series X perform better. For example, the rumoured CPU for the Series X, spotted in a user benchmark test that was later removed, has eight cores and a base clock speed of 1.6GHz with a maximum boost of 3.2GHz. The Xbox One X's custom CPU also had eight cores and clocked at 2.3GHz. However, the advent of using a custom SSD as virtual RAM, as well as the other features of the Series X, will allegedly make the Series X four times faster than the Xbox One X. The SSD alone will reportedly make loading speeds 40 times faster than current generation consoles. Plenty of the other confirmed features of the Series X – 8K potential, ray-tracing, 120fps capability – are simply not possible on the Xbox One X.

How does the Xbox Series X compare to PlayStation 5?

There doesn't seem to be a huge disparity between the capability of each console at the moment, although we've had few details about either yet. Both have the same timeframe for release; Holiday 2020. The PS5 is also rumoured to be using Zen 2 and Navi technology from AMD, the same as Project Scarlett. The PS5, too, is rumoured to be aiming to run content at 8K resolution, like Project Scarlett, and it's likely that the PS5 will also be aiming to support ray tracing capabilities, as Microsoft have said Project Scarlett will do. From a purely cosmetic point of view, we don't know what the PS5 will look like – the Xbox Series X is a bold departure from the traditional laid-flat oblong, but as the market leader PlayStation doesn't need to be bold. We suspect they will aim to please the mass market, with something inconspicuous that will easily slot into the TV unit where the PS4 used to be. Thanks to the Senua's Saga: Hellblade II trailer below, we've seen the impressive graphical capabilities of the Xbox Series X in action. PlayStation haven't yet shown off the graphical capabilities of their next console.

Spencer has acknowedlged the fact that Xbox One was $100 more expensive than the PS4 at launch, and also less powerful. He's claimed that the leadership team handling the Xbox Series X will not be making similar decisions. This may mean that we can expect to see the Xbox Series X going for a similar price range as the PS5 – assuming that the capabilities remain similar.

Both PlayStation and Xbox are being pretty cagey this time around with the reveal of their new consoles, with neither company committing to a full reveal of the specs and pricing in one big event; instead teasing various aspects over time. This is likely due to how staggering a difference it made for Xbox to reveal so much of the Xbox One at one big event, confusing and angering their own community, before PlayStation had made a peep about the PlayStation 4. PlayStation were able to easily swoop in and undercut both the message and the cost of the Xbox One to the delight of console enthusiasts. Now, both companies seem to be waiting for the other to make the first move – especially on that price point.

What games are available on Xbox Series X?

We are starting to get an idea of the Xbox Series X games that will arrive with or soon after the console's launch in Holiday 2020. Halo Infinite and Senua's Saga: Hellblade II are confirmed for the console, with Infinite arriving at launch. Ubisoft have also confirmed that delayed games Watch Dogs Legion, Rainbow Six Quarantine and Gods & Monsters will all be launched as next-generation titles. We know that EA are holding back their next Battlefield so that it can take full advantage of the next generation's power and player base. We suspect that Bethesda's Starfield and Elder Scrolls VI won't be ready until the next generation is well under way, so expect those to take advantage of the new hardware. The same can be said for future Xbox Game Studios projects, such as Rare's next game Everwild, teased at X019.

However, it's important to note that Microsoft are aiming at accessibility and cross-compatibility, so these definitely won't be the only Xbox games available at launch...

Can I play my Xbox One games on Xbox Series X?

Yes, you can play your Xbox One games on Xbox Series X. Spencer's stated aimed throughout Project Scarlett have been to make the next console backward compatible with every Xbox One game. Obviously these games won't be able to take full advantage of the new hardware, though who knows – in the current half-step generation, we've seen plenty of developers work on Xbox One X Enhanced games, even if they were released for the base Xbox One model.

Can I play my Xbox 360 games on Xbox Series X?

You will be able to play some Xbox 360 games on Xbox Series X. Part of that stated aim of Spencer's is to make every game currently playable on the Xbox One available to play on the Xbox Series X. That means that the list of Xbox 360 games available on Xbox One should be available on the Xbox Series X. Xbox were continually adding to the list of 360 games that could play on the Xbox One until earlier this year, when they stopped the program. This was apparently so that the teams working on bringing Xbox 360 games to the One could instead focus on bring the current Xbox One catalogue over to the Series X. It may be that Xbox decide to start up the process of converting 360 games again once this big backward compatibility project for the Series X is complete, however with many of the biggest 360 titles already available on the Xbox One, we wonder if the consumer appetite will be big enough to bring more 360 games to the Series X.

Can I play my original Xbox games on Xbox Series X?

Again, you will be able to play a small handful of original Xbox games on the Xbox Series X – only those that were successfully ported to the Xbox One. The appetite to play games from three generations ago is arguably even smaller than the one to bring more 360 games to the Series X, so we will have to wait and see whether Xbox decide to start up the conversion project once again.

Can I use my current Xbox controller on the Xbox Series X?

Yes, you will be able to use current-generation Xbox One controllers on the Xbox Series X. Spencer's vision of universal access extends to Xbox Series X controller compatibility. In fact, all current Xbox One gaming accessories are apparently going to work on the Xbox Series X, according to Phil Spencer's own Xbox Wire post. However, the Xbox Series X is going to launch with its own updated controller – though that will be cross-compatible with the Xbox One as well. Check out our Xbox Wireless Controller FAQ for more details.

Project Scarlett

What is Project Scarlett? Is it the Xbox Series X?

Project Scarlett has long been Xbox's code name for the upcoming generation of consoles. The Xbox Series X is the next generation console that Xbox have announced, so it was certainly a major component of Project Scarlett. However, Project Scarlett started life as at least two consoles, according to reports – so we're not clear whether Project Scarlett is finished with the reveal of Xbox Series X, or if there's more to come.

Is Project Scarlett one console, or two?

When attention first turned to next-gen consoles, there were rumours that Scarlett would be a two-tier project, made up of an entry-level console called Lockhart, and the more expensive, high-end Anaconda – now revealed as the Xbox Series X. The idea was that the entry level console would have no disc tray, in order to lower costs, while the Series X features a disc tray along with other high-spec components.

Phil Spencer had been noted as talking about "consoles", plural. Spencer attempted to clarify the confusion in an interview with Business Insider, by saying that they'd shipped a console (at the time, referring to the Xbox One S All Digital) and revealed another, and that that constituted a plural. His comments didn't much help to clear things up, but it seemed that the rumours had been proved false, and Microsoft appeared to be focused on one console only.

Yet once again rumours are circulating about a second console. Kotaku say they have sources who confirmed that Microsoft were still working on Lockhart, the lower-priced and disc-less version of the Xbox Series X. Their sources compared Lockhart to the PS4 Pro in terms of graphics, and said that it had a faster CPU than any other current video game console. While the Xbox Series is apparently aiming for 4K resolution at a locked 60 FPS, Lockhart is said to be targeting 1440p resolution and 60FPS. A disc-less console would make sense for Microsoft. We recently spoke about how Microsoft's hiring indicated a big push towards high-profile marketing strategies and an overall aim of pushing attention towards Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Studios; and Xbox Game Pass in particular would be ideal to promote alongside a higher-spec all-digital console. However, Microsoft have yet to confirm or deny these latest rumours about Lockhart. Officially, then, it would look as though Project Scarlett is just the Xbox Series X.

That's everything we know so far about the Xbox Series X and the mysterious Project Scarlett. We'll keep this guide updated with everything we know as the news hits. You can keep up with us on our Xbox Series X news page, or find out about Microsoft's other big gaming project for 2020 – Project xCloud.
Heidi Nicholas
Written by Heidi Nicholas
Hey, I'm Heidi! I've just finished studying a Masters in English Literature, but I've been obsessed with gaming since long before then. I began on the PS2 with Spyro, before graduating to the Xbox 360 and disappearing into Skyrim. I'm now a loyal RPG fan, but I still like to explore other genres — when I'm not playing Assassin's Creed Odyssey, or being lured back into Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Witcher 3!