Xbox Series X: Tech specs, game compatibility, and everything else Microsoft confirmed in its March 16 open letter

Microsoft kicked off the week of March 16 by publishing a lengthy open letter which focuses on the company’s upcoming new console, the Xbox Series X. The letter, which you can read in full here, focuses specifically on the internal technology powering the new console and how that technology will ultimately benefit gamers by enhancing their favorite games.

Being such an in-depth tech-focused piece, the letter is also quite long and packed with so much technical terminology that Microsoft felt it prudent to publish an accompanying glossary just to ensure readers don’t feel overwhelmed. If you’d rather get a more concise summary of just what exactly Microsoft discussed in its March 16 letter, we’re here to help.

Xbox Series X Technical Specifications

The open letter’s main highlight was the unveiling of the Xbox Series X’s finalized technical specifications. In the letter, Microsoft talked about wanting to hit certain performance metrics such as ensuring the console “could run games in 4K at 60 fps with no compromises for developers,” and that it would include “support for up to 120 fps for the most demanding and competitive games.”

In order to attain such impressive metrics, Microsoft has equipped the Xbox Series X with some equally impressive hardware as you can see in the list below:

  • CPU: 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.66 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
  • GPU: 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU
  • Die Size: 360.45 mm2
  • Process: 7nm Enhanced
  • Memory: 16 GB GDDR6 w/ 320mb bus
  • Memory Bandwidth: 10GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s
  • Internal Storage: 1 TB Custom NVME SSD
  • I/O Throughput: 2.4 GB/s (Raw), 4.8 GB/s (Compressed, with custom hardware decompression block)
  • Expandable Storage: 1 TB Expansion Card (matches internal storage exactly)
  • External Storage: USB 3.2 External HDD Support
  • Optical Drive: 4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
  • Performance Target: 4K @ 60 FPS, Up to 120 FPS

Microsoft also confirmed in the open letter that the Xbox Series X’s powerful technical components will allow it to fully support real-time DirectX Raytracing, adding additional layers of light and shadow-based visual fidelity onto both new and existing games.

Xbox Velocity Architecture

Unsurprisingly, the Xbox Series X’s impressive technical resume also means it will be able to load game assets and resume suspended games at blazingly fast speeds. On the hardware side, new additions like the dedicated NVMe SSD (solid state drive) and the Zen 2 CPU and RDNA GPU provided by AMD will already bolster the Xbox Series X’s loading and rendering speeds to unprecedented levels, but the real kicker is the console’s wholly unique Xbox Velocity Architecture.

According to Microsoft, Xbox Velocity leverages four different hardware and software components (the console’s SSD, a dedicated decompression block, a DirectStorage API, and Sampler Feedback Streaming, also known as SFS) to drastically increase the amount of physical memory the console can access at any one time. This will benefit all games in the long run, but Microsoft says that large open-world games in the vein of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey or Red Dead Redemption 2 will benefit the most.

Game Compatibility

Game compatibility remains an important factor for Microsoft, especially after the overwhelmingly positive reception it got when it announced that many Xbox 360 games would be backwards compatible on the Xbox One. The Xbox Series X will be able to run backwards compatible games from all three previous Xbox generations (Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox), and more importantly it will run them better than their original platforms.

Microsoft’s letter discussed how, thanks to the Xbox Series X’s technical innovations, backwards compatible games will benefit from enhancements such as “improved boot and load times, more stable frame rates, higher resolutions and improved image quality.” The company was also careful to note that each player’s “entire gaming legacy” will move forward with them when they upgrade to the Xbox Series X, meaning they’ll be able to transfer over game saves and progression for their backwards compatible games and even play cross-generation multiplayer when applicable.

The letter also briefly touched on the Xbox Series X’s previously announced Smart Delivery system. With Smart Delivery, a player need only purchase a game once to play it on any compatible Xbox generation. This means that, for example, if a player purchases the upcoming Halo Infinite, which is coming to both Xbox One and Xbox Series X, they’ll be able to play it on both console generations regardless of which specific console they buy it for. This also means that players can keep playing existing games which are being ported over to Xbox Series X like Gears 5 without having to re-buy them for the newer console.

The Xbox Series X is currently scheduled for a holiday, 2020 release. Microsoft will be sharing even more details about the console during a two-day livestream event March 17 and 18.

For even a deeper dive into the Xbox Series X, check out the Digitial Foundry video below: