The Xbox One Series X: bad name, good design

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Microsoft dropped a surprise last night — we got our first look at the upcoming Xbox and learned its name: Microsoft’s next Xbox is Xbox Series X, coming holiday 2020. I’m not sold on the name, but I think I am sold on the shape: instead of a VCR-like traditional console, it’s a square tower. You can use the new Xbox Series X horizontally, thankfully, so there is a better chance you’ll be able to fit it inside whatever home entertainment console you have.

I like this shape because it has more class than the last few Xboxes. The original Xbox One was a design disaster, and the subsequent iterations got better but still felt off. This design feels more honest to what it really is. It looks like a PC, basically.

I hate the name. “Series X” is meant to denote that there will be more than one (Microsoft isn’t saying so, but my colleague Tom Warren knows another is coming). Just, I dunno, when Microsoft made the call not to go with a simple numbering scheme with the Xbox 360, it put itself into this weird place of having to come up with new weird names.

What is the relation of the Xbox Series X to the Xbox One X? What about to the ARM-powered Surface Pro X tablet? Or Windows 10X? There are just too many Xes in Microsoft’s product lineup.

Name aside, Microsoft is already calling this console the “fastest” and “most powerful,” a shot across the bow at Sony’s upcoming PS5. No idea if it’ll shake out that way, but I will say that I like where Microsoft’s priorities are at. A slimmer, smaller console wouldn’t be able to handle the things Microsoft is promising in terms of performance.

For a little more on what to expect from this console’s performance — and why it is more like a PC than even I am giving it credit for — read my colleague Sam Byford’s story. I’m talking about the looks, but he’s got detail on what it will do.

Microsoft knows what it wants to make: a super powerful gaming console. It needs to legitimately take on Sony’s console and even Google — though Stadia stumbled out of the gate, it may yet recover and make the case that the best console is the one sitting in a server farm.

With this design, Microsoft is willing to sacrifice size in the name of power. It’s unapologetic, not trying to hide its size. I think it’s elegant in its simplicity, too. No weird glossy panels or plasticky, extraneous grills.

There’s no getting around how big it is. It very well might have to sit out in the open next to your TV, so it damn well better look good.

Plus, because it has this big, squarish shape, Microsoft may not have to worry quite so much about making sure you don’t muck up the thermals by setting something on top of the vent.

I’m going to go out on a limb here: the Xbox Series X design is good for some of the same reasons the Tesla Cybertruck design is good. It upends preconceived notions of what it’s supposed to look like, but does so for specific, functional reasons. Also: it’s super not sorry about being huge.

As for specs, we still have pretty vague numbers to work with. Microsoft’s Phil Spencer says it has twice the GPU power of an Xbox One X, which may or may not translate to 12 teraflops. The SSD may matter more to me, as it will speed up load times dramatically.


Alongside the console reveal, we got a look at the new Xbox Series X controller, which has a tweaked design and a Share button:

Microsoft says the controller’s “size and shape have been refined to accommodate an even wider range of people;” it’s slightly smaller than before. The biggest new feature is a PS4-style dedicated Share button, which should simplify the experience when uploading screenshots and video clips. The D-pad has also been redesigned, moving from a cross shape to a circle style reminiscent of the Elite controller’s.

I understand this is not a popular opinion, but I think that Microsoft has been making the best console controllers for years now. I have a ton of faith that this is going to be another great one.

Of course, it will come down to the games (and the price). It always does! If the Series X hardware is anything to go by, Microsoft is serious about providing enough power for them.

What’s most exciting about the Xbox Series X is that Microsoft clearly feels like the underdog right now and wants to mount a serious comeback. Sony’s going to do its best to keep that from happening and try to put the Xbox away for good.

The console wars are back, and I think they’re going to be a blast.


News from The Verge

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Musk seems unlikely to stop Elonning anytime soon. We do not yet have the technology to predict cyles of Elon activity, thus allowing us to forecast heavy Elon seasons. I sincerely hope someone is working on this, but, until then, I suppose we’d all better keep an eye on his Twitter account: he appears more often there than anywhere else.

+ Apple’s latest startup purchase hints at the next big leap in iPhone photography

Spectral Edge was spun out from research done the University of East Anglia, and it has developed computational photography tech that could blend data from a standard lens and an infrared lens to enhance photo quality.

+ Twitter wants to decentralize, but decentralized social network creators don’t trust it

Good story getting input from all the right people from Adi Robertson. This captures my feelings exactly:

If Twitter wants to create their own protocol instead of using what’s already out there, then it’s a naked power move to get control over an area that they’ve traditionally ignored,” he says. “The other way is to not take this seriously at all, which is what I’m inclined to do.”

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+ This is great, honestly might consider switching: Vudu now lets you undo a movie rental within the first 30 minutes

+ The real problem with robocalls

Remember how lack of real broadband competition has limited the spread of real fiber-based broadband as local monopolies squeeze more money out of existing wire because there’s no pressure to invest in new infrastructure?

Yeah, on top of it making your home internet slow and/or capped, it’s also one of the reasons you get spam calls. Cool cool cool.


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