Xbox Series X, and its little brother the Series S, have the privilege of launching a new, very different, generation of consoles this week. The verdict is in, and Xbox Series X is a strong return to form for Microsoft, with key improvements across the board.
While the big innovations get the accolades, it’s the little things that you will notice after a few days with the next-gen machine. Here are just a few of the little things, often a side effect of the bigger things, that make Xbox Series X a great console.
Speed of screenshots
Screenshots and capturing videos really sucked on Xbox One. Microsoft has rectified that on Xbox Series X/S with a dedicated share button on the controller — and that’s a great addition. But the little improvement that stands out more is how quickly the console responds to capturing a screen.
It’s now lightning fast, similar to the PS4 and Switch, in stark comparison to the lethargic response on Xbox One. After fumbling around with double tap home + Y, the delayed notification often left me wondering what, if anything, I had captured.
There is only one thing left to do: let us use the profile switch button on the Elite Controller Series 2 as a share button. Come on, Microsoft, it’s right there!
Smart Delivery: Seamless play across generations
Smart Delivery keeps making headlines because of its simplicity. Microsoft, and third party publishers, want you to know how easy it is to buy a game right now on Xbox One, and upgrade to the next-gen version on Series X/S. It’s effortless.
That’s great, but an overlooked aspect is how it allows the same game to be played back and forth across Xbox One and Series X/S; yes, you can go back as well. As I said in my review, it’s hard to go back to the slower hardware after adapting to the speed of Series X/S. However, game saves are multi-generational on Xbox. It’s not a case of transferring to Series X and never going back.
You can start playing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla on Xbox One, move over and continue on Xbox Series X, and then pick up where you left off on Xbox One. This is a pretty handy feature if you’re keeping your old console. Living room TV, home of the Series X, occupied? Continue playing on the relegated Xbox One.
Quick resume encourages variety
Quick Resume has actually changed how I play games.
Last generation, I often stuck with what I was currently playing out of laziness. It was a serious commitment to close that game, launch another one, and later re-open that closed app — it’s arduous just thinking about it. On Series X, I’ve dabbled with games like The Touryst for a few minutes after a mission in Gears 5, and gone to Forza Horizon 4 for a single race.
When it was announced, I didn’t think much of Quick Resume, but it’s encouraging me to rotate through games more often — and try more games on Game Pass, because it don’t disrupt my current gaming session.
The UI is much more responsive
The Xbox Series X/S is taking a risk by launching with the same dashboard recently rolled out on Xbox One, but don’t be fooled; this is a next-gen experience and was clearly designed for Xbox Series X/S.
It’s quite sluggish and unresponsive on Xbox One X, but it’s super quick and clearly optimised for Xbox Series X. Like everything on Series X, the dash might not be new, but its performance is considerably better.
Fully customisable Xbox Guide tabs
This feature was introduced a few months ago, but it’s easy to overlook, and makes the pop-up guide more user friendly. Xbox cops some heat for moving things around just when you’ve learnt the current layout, and fair enough.
The rearranged Guide really annoyed me, as I was so used to hitting left bumper to access Achievements, until I discovered you can reposition the tabs in any order you like. I’ve got my Achievements tab back where I like it, and Xbox can continue to shuffle them into the wrong spots without bothering me, it’s win-win.
Custom groups make everything easy to navigate
Another oldie, but now they’re fair more responsive on Xbox Series X, I implore you to setup custom groups and pin them to the home screen (or at least via the Games & Apps section) if you haven’t already.
While Xbox, PlayStation and Switch do a similar job of keeping your recently played apps easily accessible, Xbox by far has the best option to let you keep whatever you want beyond that within easy reach.
I recommend a “currently playing” group pinned to the top of your home screen — keep everything you want in here, and enjoy the satisfaction of removing a game once completed.
From there it’s really up to you, whether you want media apps grouped together, a backlog of games that haven’t graduated to current status yet, or a list of Game Pass games you actually have installed. It works really well, if you take them time to set it up in a manner that suits you. Plus, with a much more responsive UI on Xbox Series X/S, it’s even quicker to access whatever you want.
Xbox Series S & X arrive on 10 November 2020.