Media Playback

Although Microsoft has dropped the HDMI input, the Xbox Series X is still a potent media device. Whether it is overkill or not is likely unique to your situation, but, as with previous Xbox devices, it is not a perfect media machine.

For those that are curious, even though Microsoft no longer sells the Xbox One media remote, the Xbox Series X still has full IR remote capabilities, and swapping it in where the Xbox One X used to live required absolutely no changes to the Logitech Harmony Elite to control it.

On the positive side, the Xbox has full support for 4K and upcoming 8K via the HDMI 2.1 connection. This also provides both HDR10 and Dolby Vision support for streaming media, although Dolby Vision support will be coming for games in 2021. If you choose the Series X over the Series S, you also get a UHD Blu-Ray player, including lossless audio bitstreamed to your receiver, or decoded and sent as 7.1 LPCM uncompressed audio. Microsoft's statement on Dolby Vision support clearly states that it is for streaming media only, so, at least for the moment, UHD Blu-Ray would be "limited" to HDR10. That may change when the Dolby Vision update is added for gaming, but we have no confirmation on this.

As an app platform, the Xbox supports all the major streaming services, including the just-announced-for-Xbox Apple TV app.

Although the Xbox has lost its TV integration for controlling a cable box and the associated TV guide info required for that setup with this generation, you can of course roll your own solution with Plex and other products if you are into that.

Does this make it the perfect media streaming device? Sadly, the answer is no. When the Xbox One launched back in 2013, a powerful platform helped with app responsiveness and features, but in 2020, a Roku, or even the integrated Smart TV offerings can offer the same or better support. Plus, the very high idle power draw of the Xbox Series X of around 50 Watts is a lot of power just to be streaming video. A Roku or integrated Smart TV application is going to use far less power for the same task. Keeping 16 GB of GDDR6 running so you can stream an episode of Sherlock, as good a show as it is, might be overkill.

When we reviewed the Xbox One X back in 2017, we also criticized the Netflix application on Xbox because the developers have hard-locked the app to forcing HDR, or in the case of the setup for the review unit, Dolby Vision. Almost none of the content on Netflix, nor the menus, are HDR content, so this completely breaks the colors for almost every show you watch. The only solution is to disable HDR on the Xbox and re-launch the app, which is not a very convenient way to utilize the most popular streaming service. It is amazing this bug still exists when it is so detrimental to the experience.

Amazon Prime, as an example, handles the scenario correctly, where only content that is capable of HDR is switched to using HDR, so it is not an Xbox issue, but a Netflix issue, which sadly, means the most popular streaming service is a very sub-par experience on the Xbox platform when connected to a HDR display.

But maybe you do not have a smart TV, or maybe your streaming service is not available on the platform you use. The Xbox can certainly stand in. In most cases, it is an excellent media device, and if it saves buying another device like a Roku, then it may as well get used, even if the power draw is an order of magnitude higher than some of the other streaming devices.

Power and Thermals Backwards Compatibility and Xbox Game Pass


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  • edzieba - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    I think the weirdest thing about this console generation is the near total lack of enthusiasm, either organic or marketed.
    I haven't seen a single advert for either console, this is the first I've heard that one of them is available, and couldn't tell you when the PS5 will be launching either. Nobody I know is in the "yeah, new <Console>! I'm gonna get it so I can play <Game>!", and can't think off he top of my head of any of the launch titles for either (again, no adverts).
  • Stuka87 - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    I have seen tons of buzz online. But you are right that I have not seen a single commercial for them. And the video commercials I have seen, all mention the XBox One. Definitely very different than the last time new consoles launched. Reply
  • nitram_tpr - Thursday, November 5, 2020 - link

    I saw my first ad for the XBox Series X yesterday on UK TV, it looked impressive but it wasn't a really hyped up advert. Not like the ads for the new iphone (the most powerful iphone ever, well duh, it's new!) Reply
  • dmoros78v| - Monday, November 9, 2020 - link

    phones have gotten ridiculous as of late, and we are guilty... we cry foul when a new console costs more than 500 bucks, but are happy to pay 1000 for a phone? iphone prices have become really distorted, the hardware on an iphone cant be twice as expensive a the hardware in a fully fledged gaming console for 4K HDR ray tracing etc Reply
  • star-affinity - Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - link

    I think you are comparing apples to oranges here. Saying that a phone is expensive compared to a gaming console isn't fair since there are quite a lot of more complex technology in a (modern) phone which can do *a lot* more than play/stream games and play/stream media.

    A (flagship) phone has

    -Camera (multiple) built-in.
    -Face recognition.
    -Multi-touch display built-in.
    -Speakers built-in.
    -GPS built-in.
    -Gyro built-in.
    -NFC built-in.
    -Battery built-in.

    Plus many more things in a tiny packages which requires a lot of R&D.

    By your reasoning, how do you motivate a graphics card for $2700?
  • d0x360 - Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - link

    The bill of materials on a phone is 1/4 their price. What you're paying for is the short sales shelf life and r&d. My note 10+ was NOT worth $1200+. I liked my note 9 much better and it was $600 cheaper.

    How do you justify a $2700 gpu? You don't because the most expensive one is only $1500. If you're paying ebay prices for one then you're a fool. Wait until after December and save yourself money.
  • dotjaz - Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - link

    Mobility carries a premium, that's the name of the game. Plus phone companies can't profit after they sold you the phone while consoles can be sold at a loss and still viable.

    How dumb are you to compare those? A fair comparison is a ohone on contract! And they are still cheap.
  • dotjaz - Tuesday, November 10, 2020 - link

    *phone Reply
  • d0x360 - Wednesday, November 18, 2020 - link

    Yea they can profit, who are you kidding. They have apps and services that they use to sell information. They make way more than the cost of the phone back off ever owner..unless they use adguard. version, not the fake one in the play store or ios store. Reply
  • wrongfuljesus - Wednesday, February 10, 2021 - link

    Well buckaroo, tell me, is your battery life dying? Is your phone on it's last legs in 6 months of usage? Well, the phone company is here tell *YOU* that you can come to their repair shop for a good and "safe" repair! For the low price of your self dignity and your yearly salary, you can pay to get your battery replaced. Boom, company profit buddy. Serializing parts, can't repair on your own. Tell me now, tell me, how is the phone company NOT profiting after they sold you this device? Reply

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