My following musings are going to make me sound like an anti-digital dinosaur, so apologies in advance. With that out of the way, I think the rumored new Xbox Series X model (currently codenamed ‘Brooklin’) that’s reportedly set to launch in October 2024, is not only a misstep, but an actual downgrade on the current version of Microsoft’s premium console.
To be clear, I’m not against mid-generation system refreshes. I owned and adored both the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. In fact, the latter is my favorite Xbox of all time. With display, GPU and CPU technology constantly evolving at such a blistering rate, I think the old school concept of waiting seven or so years between console gens is downright draconian. Imagine if the gap between the launch of the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro was the best part of a decade?!
Both the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are due for hardware refreshes after leaked Microsoft documents spilled out onto the interwebs. The latter console has always been discless, so the fact it utilizes new Wi-FI 6E tech and operates with 20% less power in standby mode are benefits gamers everywhere can appreciate in an age of skyrocketing electricity bills without any drawbacks.
The leaked Xbox Series X refresh also receives similar benefits, but the main downside — at least from my perspective — is that it’s set to lose the current model’s disc drive. Personally, that’s a huge issue for this Xbox fan.
I’ll fully admit I’ve not played my Series X as much as I should over the last couple of years. I enjoyed both Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5 thoroughly, but with such a dearth of first-party exclusives, my go-to console has been the PS5 since both systems launched in late 2020.
I’m not the biggest Starfield fan, but I’m at least thankful the Xbox ecosystem finally has a huge triple-A exclusive you can play across either of Microsoft’s current consoles or PC through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.
Yet for this Master Chief lover, and I realize this is a pretty niche take, the leaked Series X / Project Brooklin is going to deprive me of the main function I’ve used my high-end Xbox for over the last three years: the fact it’s an awesome 4K Blu-ray player.
Though it doesn’t get all that much praise in this regard, the Xbox Series X is a quietly excellent 4K Blu-ray player.
The upgraded 2TB SSD and an updated controller are welcome additions, no doubt. Yet when it comes to a boost in storage or losing the ability to watch some of my favorite Blu-ray movies, I’d sacrifice the SSD upgrade all day long.
Though it doesn’t get all that much praise in this regard, the Xbox Series X (like the Xbox One X before it), is a quietly excellent 4K Blu-ray player. I’m all in on watching the best Netflix shows in Ultra HD or the best Disney+ movies through either my LG G3 OLED TV streaming apps or my Apple TV 4K (2022), but when it comes to revisiting my all-time favorite flicks, my Xbox Series X is where it’s at.
My take is that Microsoft’s top-end console is a better Blu-ray player than the PS5. Yes, it has slight Dolby Atmos issues where you may experience a second or so audio delay when pausing and resuming a movie, but the machine’s support for Atmos, Dolby Digital and DTS:X — alongside comprehensive audio demos of how each format will differ on your sound system — makes it a great way to watch 4K movies.
For me, there’s no A/V experience quite like watching The Matrix in 4K disc form. It’s my fourth favorite movie of all time — yes, rather embarrassingly, I have a definitive top ten jotted down in my head that Jurassic Park tops — and I’d far rather watch the pioneering sci-fi classic in pristine disc transfer than view it over one of the best streaming services.
Let’s be clear, there’s also nothing “adorably all digital” about the Future of Xbox, as described in Microsoft’s leaked screens. There are still significant portions of the world where broadband speeds are absolutely not up to snuff, so this discless path forward feels like a middle finger to those who still rely on owning physical game copies.
This subject also circles back to Microsoft’s previously excellent backwards-compatible support, which allowed you to play the likes of Mirror’s Edge and Red Dead Redemption on Xbox One X or Xbox Series X in 4K as long as you owned the original Xbox 360 discs at no extra cost thanks to 2018-ish era patches.
From both a gaming and movie standpoint, a discless Xbox Series X is not something I can get behind. My broadband might be stellar, but when it comes to watching my favorite flicks, I’m always going to favor the Blu-ray route.