By now you’ve heard about Microsoft’s announcement of the newest generation Xbox, now called the Xbox Series X. The new console is set for release holiday 2020, and as always will be pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in gaming. Not to say PC master race, but we’ve heard that before.
Microsoft has promised a few things that will make the console much more accessible and useful for the long haul, something which the company has faltered within recent generations. The Series X will be fully backwards compatible with the Xbox One, both in consoles and hardware. So yes, you can keep your controllers this time. According to ExtremeTech, the goal with Series is that any new hardware or software as part of the brand will work together, regardless of generational changes. That’s a huge plus; I know I’ve got an enormous catalog of Xbox Live Arcade games that I haven’t played because they’re stuck on a hard disk in my very dusty Xbox 360.
What’s more interesting is the graphics processing on the Series X, produced by AMD. While there’s no word on how powerful the SoC will be (we won’t know that until release), historically console releases are 1-2 years behind current GPU tech, so it’s possible that we’re looking at something equivalent to the RX 5500 series. Not only will it be a decent card at launch, it’ll support RDNA2.
Officially, Microsoft has only mentioned “Next Generation RNDA”, but either way the architecture’s improvements focus on two major upgrades: Raytracing and Variable Rate Shading. The former’s been promised for years (decades, even), and we’ve only recently seen it incorporated in gaming on PCs in the past few years. Variable Rate Shading, on the other hand, is an intelligent processing technique to adjust shading anywhere on the display region. While at lower resolutions you’ll absolutely notice, at 4K, especially on a TV at some distance, VRS can provide a significant performance boost with only minor adjustments that may not be noticed.