iPhone 13 Pro/iOS Impressions from a Pixel 3/Android User

Last week on Wednesday my new Apple iPhone 13 Pro finally came in. I was super excited to get it all unboxed, SIM card inserted (I put my case on and then realized I needed to put the SIM card in, then had to take the case off again :facepalm:) and then put the case back on, ready to use as my next phone for the future (or until Apple no longer supports the device). Below are some of my initial and first impressions from someone who has only used an Android phone consistently in the past and is using an iOS device for the very first time as their main mobile phone.

Look and Feel

The Apple iPhone 13 Pro is built like a tank when compared to my old Pixel 3 phone. It is very close in size, with the iPhone 13 Pro being only slightly taller, wider and thicker but it is significantly heavier. I think the combination of the battery, stainless steel frame, and front and back glass make up most of that weight. When I pick up my old Pixel 3 it is like picking up a feather compared to picking up my iPhone 13 Pro. It took me a little bit to get used to the new weight difference. I do like this weight change though as it does feel a little more premium.

I like the way the phone does feel in my hand too. It is not too large and manageablefor single hand use, which is one of the reasons why I moved from Android to iOS. I am sorry Google but the Pixel 6 Pro to me does not look good, I absolutely hate the curved display on the edges and being such a large size makes it a deal breaker for me. The case helps to ensure that the frame does not dig into my hand and slightly protect my back cameras as there is a little lip.

One thing that I do know about Apple products is that generally they make extremely well-built products, be it their laptops to their tablets. Sure, sometimes they make “foldable” devices but by and large Apple does not skimp on using quality materials for their products. Paying for more premium products to get a better finished product is a no brainer for me and is something I am willing to pony up for. This may not be possible for everyone, but I am in a fortunate position where I can do this, so I took advantage of it.

I am a little disappointed in that it has a lightning port to charge the iPhone 13 Pro and I cannot use my many USB-3 cables that I have laying around, but it is what it is. The silent switch on the left-hand side of the phone is superb and I wish more phones incorporated something like this as it is very useful. The massive camera bump is not an issue for me, and I am not too fussed about the notch compared to other people. A single hole punch camera hole is a little cleaner but you lose out on Face ID.

iOS 15

Moving from Android to iOS I knew was going to be a little difficult at the start but there are a number of frustations that I have with iOS when compared to Android.

Less customization is something I knew I was going to lose on iOS. I did generally keep my Pixel 3 stock with what came out of the box, but I did like the ability to change the icon shapes, folder shapes and the ability to keep the icons, folders and widgets at the bottom of my screen and not have them all go at the top. That is my first gripe with iOS. Why does Apple not allow me to have icons, folders and widgets placed anywhere on my screens? I would like to have even easier access to my apps and folders by only using my thumb.

Something I thought I would not get frustrated by was notifications. Now I have to perhaps make some more changes in the settings, but I find notifications are absolutely horrible on iOS compared to Android. I find I am missing more notifications on iOS compared to Android. The notification center is okay but not great. I would like to have a small notification indicator on the top bar to know that “hey you have a message, etc.” instead of looking at the notification center. I am not too sure if it is a bug but there are times when I would get a message and sometimes I would get a notification sound and other times I would not.

I do like the iOS settings, permissions and app management compared to Android. Everything is more clearly laid out and is much easier to manage. Pulling down the control center from the right-hand side is also nice to have, but I found the universal pull down anywhere at the top on Android (notification drawer) to get access to quick settings and notifications is a little easier and more user friendly than how iOS makes you swipe down elsewhere for the notification center. If iOS could adopt something like this then that would be great.

My biggest two gripes are to do with notification/media volume levels and universal back gesture behavior on iOS. On Android you have dedicated alarm, notification/caller/alert and media volume controls while on iOS I found that managing my audio levels a major pain. I have no idea how I can keep my notification/alert levels high while keeping my media volume levels low. If I use the buttons on the side and keep the volume low all my sound minus the caller audio is low, and if I raise it then when I watch YouTube or listen to music, I need to quickly lower the volume. Perhaps I am missing something or have not set something up correctly but why are those volume levels paired? I would like to have all my notifications and alerts at the same level as my caller volume levels but keep my media volume levels low.

Now to the back gesture. This is something that I need to get used to as on Android I would swipe left from the right edge to go back to whatever screen I was on and even to previous apps sometimes. On iOS 15 there is no universal back gesture itself. You can go back to the main home screen by swiping up from the bottom or you need to press the dedicated back button located somewhere on the app which can be either on the top left or the bottom. It would be great to have a single and universal way to go back to the previous screen from any part of the right edge, but I guess that would fundamentally change the way iOS would work and would require apps to be re-worked to allow for the gesture.

All in all, I am not finding iOS very difficult to get used to. I am using many of the native Apple apps instead of my usual Gmail, Google calendar, Gboard apps, etc. But I do have installed Google Chrome and Google Maps as I have all my favourites, etc set up there and it would be a pain to migrate all of these to Safari or Apple Maps (as well as this being my only Apple device at the moment for personal use). All the other apps that I had used for travel, fitness, my smart home are all there so I have not lost anything but I did need to buy new licenses for the iOS app versions which is a little bit annoying but expected.

Final Thoughts

I knew there was going to be some initial teething issues with using iOS. I knew I had to adjust to the way iOS worked compared to Android. I knew that moving from a Pixel to an iPhone was going to require a little bit of mental and physical gymnastics. Overall though I did not find the initial migration and adoption of an iPhone or iOS that difficult. I do miss the ability to perform some customizations, the more accessible notifications and universal gestures. However I gain some of iOS’s handy streamlined, accessible and user friendly features while being housed in what I would again call a mobile tank.

Now I do have an iPad Mini 2021 version coming my way as well so that I can take more notes, read a little more and also watch videos and surf the web a little easier. Plus the new Apple Watch series 7 is also being delivered sometime next month. Did I jump completely in the Apple ecosystem? Yeah. For me to take advantage of everything that Apple offers I need to really start looking at investing in their ecosystem, even if it is for the next 5 years and has a very very steep entry cost. But I feel that in those 5 years (at least) it may be all worth it and I may be a permantely converted Apple user for mobile, tablet, watch (and perhaps laptop).

Bye bye Android and hello iOS

I wrote a blog post recently about potentially switching to the Apple ecosystem for my smartphone, smartwatch and tablet with the laptop also being an option. And I can officially say that I have bought an Apple iPhone 13 Pro, Apple iPad Mini 2021, and am waiting on the new Apple Watch 7.

If Apple do have an October 2021 event and showcase a new Apple Macbook Pro 14” with the M1X or M2 and it can support 32GB of RAM, 2 external monitors and have a good battery life then I may skip out on the Framework laptop and just go with the Macbook Pro. Even though I really like the repairability and upgradability of the Framework laptop there is no information about availability in Australia and my Surface Book 2 battery is not doing so great ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The more I see what the Pixel 6 Pro looks like the more I do not want it. The glossy back, the large size and the curved glass edges are all turn offs for me. I like to have a nice small smartphone that is powerful in the hands, and at 6.1” the iPhone 13 Pro is just that. Android 12 looks fantastic and what Google is doing with their software apps and assistant is going to be a major loss IMO by switching to iOS as that native support is gone. Most if not all the Google apps I use are on iOS so I am not missing too much there as Google seem to update their apps fairly frequently, sometimes even before they update their Android apps.

Currently I am still waiting for Apple to deliver my iPhone 13 Pro and Apple iPad Mini 2021, but I do have with me an Apple Pencil Gen 2 and leather case for my smartphone. The smart cover for the iPad Mini 2021 is still in transit the last I checked.

So by the end of October 2021, I will have my new smartphone and tablet, and am looking forward to using them. From the people that I have spoken to, getting used to iOS is not that hard and some of the workflow might make things a little easier. Overall I am looking forward to moving to a new mobile OS as I have been with Android for a very long time with a short stint using Microsoft’s mobile OS.

Will I go back to Android? Perhaps, but if I am happy using Apple’s products and they continue to support it for a long period of time (which from what I read and see, they like to continue to update their older devices) I may be in the Apple mobile ecosystem for a long time. My smart home/devices however will be still primarily Google/Nest and Philips Hue as I really like the Hubs and smart lights.

Thank you Android for all the fond memories starting with my HTC Desire HD all the way to my current Pixel 3. You have generally been very rock solid but the current hardware missteps, the lack of a proper first party smartwatch and tablet, and the poor security and update policy for the devices has made me decide to move on. I may see you again in the future :wave-bye:

Switching from Google to Apple?

I do not have any Apple products I personally own or bought for myself. I did buy my mum a iPad mini for her birthday. My work computer is an Apple Macbook Pro and is the only Apple product that I have actively used. On the other hand I own a Google Pixel 3, a Fossil Gen 5 smart watch, several Google Home Hubs, a Google Home Mini, a Google Chromecast Ultra, and several other Google branded smart home devices. I am entrenched in the Google ecosystem.

This week Apple showcased their next iPhone, smart watch and iPad refreshes. It was the first time I actually watched an Apple event. I always knew that Apple had the superior software and hardware harmony. Their entire ecosystem works nearly flawlessly together. This flawless cohesion is something I find sorely lacking from Google. The commitment to hardware from Google I do not find very authentic and could change at the drop of a hat. Their support for their products is also questionable unfortunately. The one thing that made me stay away from Apple and their products was their extremely high price. Apple is a luxury brand more than a technology brand IMO.

The more articles I read and videos I watch on Apples products the more I am inclined to make the switch over from Google to Apple. The way I look at it, there are several core products for me; the phone, the smart watch, the tablet and the computer.

The Phone

With Apple, you know exactly what you are going to get. You are going to get a generally well built device with a mature operating system that while lacking in customization options is simple, clean and easy to operate. There really is not much to write about here. Generally not much changes between revisions and from what I can see, the difference between the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 is very minimal. If I was to get an iPhone the iPhone 13 Pro is very tempting.

Google Pixel phones on the other hand is a little bit of mixed bag, like the box of variety chocolates. You know on the software side you will be getting the Android experience that far outshines the competition. You get a clean OS and something that I feel is what Google wants Android to be. The hardware is where Google stumbles hard. While the devices may generally be well built there are always short coming such as a bad battery life (Pixel 4) to mid-tier/average specifications (Pixel 5). The Pixel 6/6 Pro appears to be targeting once again the premium market so I’ll need to see more before I can decide if it is a worthwhile purchase.

Previously I have said that I will not be purchasing another Android device that is not a Pixel and I still stand by that statement. With Android updates both OS and security sorely lacking from the other brands, Google is really the only option.

The Smart Watch

Here again Apple does it near flawlessly. A perfect device that does what you would expect with the addition of all the health monitoring. I really like the Apple Watch and what Apple is trying to do in the health market is great. If I gave scores for devices the Apple Watch would get a near perfect 10/10.

There is no competition with the Apple Watch. Google and the entire Wear OS ecosystem is an absolute mess to put it kindly. I also do not think the new partnership between Samsung and Google will save it. What Google needs to do is release their own smart watch, a Pixel Watch. My Fossil smart watch is now no longer connected to my phone anymore as the bluetooth continued to lose pairing somehow. I gave up trying to keep it connected. It was not a good user experience.

If you are in the Android ecosystem then I suggest you just stay away from any Wear OS smart watch, even the Galaxy watches from Samsung (unless you have a Samsung phone). I do not regret getting my Fossil Gen 5, but I will never buy another Wear OS smart watch that is not Google branded.

The Tablet

This one is very much identical to the smart watch section.

Apple hits it out of the park with their iPad line. The Pro, Air, Mini and even the standard iPad are all brilliant.

I do not know what Google is doing with Android tablets. They have no first party Android tablets. The last Android tablet that Google produced was the Slate and that was a disaster. The other brands like Samsung and Lenovo continue to sell Android tablets but again, I do not want a skinned Android tablet. It is pure Android or nothing at all.

There are also the Microsoft Surface line of products. I have a Surface Pro 3 that I occasionally use as a tablet but it is far easier I would feel to use an iPad for entertainment and basic tasks. If I needed a device for productivity then my Surface Book 2 or gaming PC would be my go to. Sorry Microsoft.

The Computer

For all my gaming needs then my custom built gaming PC is my go to plus it can handle any productivity task. However it would be nice to have something portable that I can also get work done on.

At the moment I am using my Surface Book 2 to get this post written up. A fine device but it is getting on in age and I can see that the battery is not where it used to be.

Originally I was looking at some Chromebooks. Again, it seems that Google does not want to support their official line of Chromebooks in Australia. There are only third party Chromebooks and based on the build quality of those devices I am not too happy with them. If Google did offer their latest Chromebook here in Australia then I would have purchased it especially with the new Linux support in Chrome OS.

If I did go all the way in the Apple ecosystem then purchasing a Macbook Pro would be a no brainer and then I could create some iOS apps too. I would not buy an M1 Macbook Pro but an M1X/M2 Macbook Pro when announced would be a worthwhile purchase. So right now on the laptop front it is a wait and see. If I do go with an iPhone and Apple Watch then a Macbook Pro may be a smart purchase.

The only spanner in the works is the new Framework laptop. The ultra repairable and upgradable device that from everything I have seen is really good. However that device too is not shipping any products to Australia at this time. I am monitoring this closely because running Linux on that device seems like a smart option for a portable, repairable, and upgradable productivity laptop.

Google Nest Hub Radio Alarm Issues

I have both Google Nest Hub generation 1 and generation 2 devices, which seem to have issues consistently in playing a radio alarms. Doing a quick Google search and it appears that I am not the only person having this problem. The dates from the results also suggest that it has been a persistent issue for a number of years unfortunately ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

I have factory reset the devices, tried a number of different radio stations, etc. and it seems that every other day the radio alarm will not play and a traditional alarm will played instead. I double checked to ensure that the devices only have a single alarm and it is a radio alarm.

Both devices do not have issues with network connectivity and the only thing that I can think of is that there is some software bug that is causing the radio alarm not to play. However the one problem with that is the radio alarm sometimes does play. Generally if it is a software issue then it would either work or it would not work, ie. 0 or 1.

I am a little confused about how to resolve this issue as it seems that Google support know of “an issue” with radio alarms but have given no other information. The troubleshooting steps I have already gone through from the support forums and have not helped. One solution I found was to have instead a routine that is triggered at a certain time and to play a radio station instead of having a radio alarm. But that sort of defeats the purpose of having a radio alarm.

If anyone out there has any solution or steps that I can try to resolve this issue then it would be greatly appreciated. I love both my Google Nest Hubs and with the second generation the new sleep sensing features are fantastic as I have difficulty wearing any watch or ring to monitor my sleeping pattern, etc. while I sleep.

Bluetooth Connectivity Issues with Wear OS

I have been meaning to write about this for at least a month or so, but I wanted to make sure that I had exhausted all avenues and that it was not an issue that happens once or twice. Since the last Wear OS update to my Fossil Gen 5 and the January Android security update for my Pixel 3 I have been having horrible Bluetooth connectivity issues. Looking at the Wear OS subreddit I appear to not be the only one too.

The situation is that every week or so at no particular time or particular day my Fossil Gen 5 appears to completely forget that it is paired to my Pixel 3. A notification will appear on my Pixel 3 to pair my smartwatch and I will need to confirm the pairing PIN on both my Pixel 3 and Fossil Gen 5. At first it was not a major issue but now it is starting to get a little annoying. Sometimes the pairing itself will completely fail and I will need to either turn off and turn back on the Bluetooth on my Fossil Gen 5 or restart the Fossil Gen 5.

The standard troubleshooting process that Google offers is to uninstall the Wear OS app on my Pixel 3 and factory reset my Fossil Gen 5. One major problem with this is the setup and update process of the Fossil Gen 5 and getting it configured again with Google Pay, uninstalling several unwanted apps, etc is not easily done and takes some time. It also appears that the only way to connect your Wear OS smartwatch to your smartphone is to use the Wear OS app too and it cannot just be paired like any other Bluetooth device.

I am not having Bluetooth issues with any other device connecting to my Pixel 3 like my Pixel Buds or my PXC 550 headphones. I believe this is not a hardware issue with my Pixel 3 and I am hoping that this is not a Bluetooth hardware issue with my Fossil Gen 5; if it were, I would imagine that it would fail to pair completely. Seeing as it only started to happen after I had some updates, I believe this is software related. Crossing my fingers that either Fossil or Google will fix this problem in the future, but I have little hope as Google appears to have all but abandoned the Wear OS platform or are keeping it on life support.

If Google was serious about wearables, then it should back the Wear OS platform by adding their own first party apps to the platform. Right now, you cannot even get the Google Authenticator on the platform anymore. This to me shows that Google is not serious about wearables even with the recent purchase of Fitbit recently and will always play second fiddle to Apple, watchOS and the Apple Watch. If Apple allowed the Apple Watch to be supported on other platforms like Wear OS smartwatches I would buy one in a heartbeat and not look back at another Wear OS device.

Four Years of Android OS and Security Updates as Standard, Finally

As someone who likes to keep their mobile phone for as long as possible when Samsung announced that they will be supporting their line-up of Galaxy products with updates for four years from initial release it was great news. I know that Samsung are one of the device makers that do update their phones (security and OS) even if it might take them longer or in longer intervals than Google or Nokia. Officially supporting your product for at least four years is a must if we are to start reducing the amount of e-waste we keep producing.

Google currently only supports their Pixel line-up officially for three years. I am using a Pixel 3 and by my calculations I will be on my last year of support and will most likely need to purchase a new mobile phone if I am to get any further new OS or security updates. This is a little disappointing because not only do I really like my Pixel 3 but there is absolutely nothing wrong with the device. Everything is working like it was since I purchased the device. Sure, the battery might not be as good as it was, but it still gets me through the entire day even with heavy use. I like to get new features and security updates to make sure my device is protected, but why should this be limited to only new products after three years even if the old product is still functioning, working as intended and can support these new features?

The question is will Google also be officially supporting at least four years of security updates (and fingers crossed OS updates)? Qualcomm and Google did announce in December 2020 a collaboration to extend Android OS and security update support for four years which is amazing. When I read the Qualcomm press release I saw that it will officially start with the new Snapdragon 888 Mobile Platform. What I was not sure of was will it only be supported on high end chips? This is critical as Google in their Pixel line currently is not using the flagship Snapdragon chips anymore. If only the flagship Snapdragon chips will support this new four year update support, then it is a little kick in stomach.

Thankfully reading the Android blog post about the same announcement, the chips that will be supporting this four-year support will be any SoC launching with Android 11 and later. So that will mean that any device launching in late 2021 that has Android 11 will support this new four-year cycle. That would mean that the Pixel 6 will fall into this category. I am going to try and hold onto my Pixel 3 for as long as I can and that it stops officially receiving security updates. Perhaps 2022 will be the year that I need to upgrade my mobile phone. What Samsung announced seems to indicate that will be support phones already released while Google/Qualcomm will be supporting future devices. If you are in the market for an Android device then it may be wise to wait for an Android 11 device to get the full four year of support.

Transferring digital content between storage devices

This morning I was trying to move some applications from my internal solid state drive to a USB thumb drive so that I can install the applications on my Surface Book 2. I found it a little odd that during the entire transfer process the progress stayed at 0%. A small Windows “error” message appeared but in my haste I did not read the message and selected “skip” for all the applications. This was my first mistake.

When inserting the USB thumb drive into my Surface Book 2 and copying the applications locally it went extremely fast. I was a little surprised by this and was even more shocked when I opened the folder on my Surface Book 2 that was supposed to have all the applications from the USB thumb drive be completely empty. Perplexed I went back to my desktop PC to see if the applications were still there and they were. I tried to move the applications to the USB thumb drive again. This time paying more close attention to any message that would appear.

When I started the move of the applications to the USB thumb drive again progress showed 0% for an extended period of time and a small Windows “error” message appeared again, most likely the same error message that I ignored the first time. But this time I read the message and the critical information from the message that I gathered was “has properties that can’t be copied“. Doing a very quick Google search for that specific phrase led me to double check the format of my storage devices that I was transferring the digital content between.

Low and behold when comparing my internal solid state drive of my desktop PC where the applications had originally been downloaded to and that of the USB thumb drive; the formats were different. The internal solid state drive was NTFS while the USB thumb drive was FAT32. I had originally used this USB thumb drive as a bootable Linux distribution but no longer needed it and must have reformatted it to FAT32 instead of NTFS.

So if you get an error message when transferring any digital content from one storage device to another ensure that they are formatted the same otherwise your transfer may not occur successfully. And also ensure that you correctly read and comprehend any messages that appear during this process ๐Ÿ˜›

WiFi Smart Connect is not so smart

I use a Netgear WiFi router as an access point and there is one feature that I had enabled since the day I set the device up. Smart connect sounds like an extremely useful feature so you do not have to choose to connect to either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands specifically; the WiFi router will choose the best one for you.

The exact description of the feature from my device is:

Let the router intelligently select the best WiFi band 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz for your WiFi connections. Smart Connect requires the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz networks to use the same WiFi network name (SSID), security options and password.

I was like great, this is going to save me the hassle of configuring the 2.4GHz and 5GHz connections. Little did I know that the “smart” connect feature does not work as advertised in my opinion. It is down right broken causing a range of issues.

For starters nearly all of my devices would connect to the 2.4GHz band and not the 5GHz band when I examined how each of my devices were connected to the WiFi router. Not sure why this was the case, but even my laptops which were in the same room as the WiFi router would not connect to the 5GHz band.

Along with not choosing the 5GHz band for connections, I had experienced a crazy amount of disconnects to my Google Home devices (Home Hub and Home Mini) and Chromecast Ultra. About 2 to 3 times a week I would have my devices disconnect for a period of time from my network and then reconnect or disconnect and then completely fail to reconnect requiring me to hard restart the device. Recently as well my Traeger would refuse to reconnect to my WiFi until I turned off smart connect because “a valid IP address could not be obtained”.

With the smart connect feature now completely turned off and configuring each device individually to which band to connect I get the speed that I want through connecting to the 5GHz band, absolutely no disconnects to my Google Home devices including my Chromecast Ultra, and my Traeger has had no issues connecting to the wifi whenever I start it up. I would highly recommend you turn the “smart connect” feature off if you are experiencing not acceptable or desirable speeds and connectivity issues. If all else fails you can go ahead and buy a new wifi router ๐Ÿ™‚

Interested in a Pixelbook Go and Chrome OS

For the last month or so I have been watching a number of videos on Chrome OS laptops and what you can actually do with a Chrome OS laptop. The more I watched the more interested I was in actually picking one up. Do I really need a new laptop or even a tablet? No not really but I have some disposable cash and it will be used by not just me but my parents.

There are a number of different Chrome OS devices out there but the one that I am really interested in picking up is the Google Pixelbook Go. However as I am located in Australia the product is not available here. That is a real shame because I would have bought one right now – like right now. I contacted a Google support team member to just verify this information and yep, the Google Pixelbook Go is not available to purchase in Australia ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

What made me decide to start looking at Chrome OS? As much as I like my Surface Book 2 I would like to have a device that runs Android apps and just have a device that is more tied to my smart home ecosystem. You can also write code in Chrome OS so it scratches my developer itch as well. Plus I can also have it as a family laptop that my parents can use without the need to worry about security, viruses and malware like I have to do on a Windows laptop at the moment.

But you might be saying, “Chris, there are plenty of third party Chrome OS laptops from HP, Lenovo, Samsung, etc. Just buy one of them, they are just as good and offer Chrome OS too.”. Well as someone who used to buy laptops from those brands, you will not find the same build quality from those vendors as you would from Apple, Google and Microsoft; plus aesthetically they are not as pleasing. Apple’s Macbook line is known for the superb build quality (ignoring the butterfly keyboard fiasco), the Surface line from Microsoft is rated extremely high with regard to build quality (and I can confirm this as I have a Surface RT, Surface Pro 3 and a Surface Book 2), and well Google’s line of products are also generally very well received too (ignoring the mess that was the Google Pixel Slate). I want to make sure that I buy a Chrome OS laptop that lasts, has great support and just overall looks aesthetically pleasing. The Google Pixelbook Go ticks all those boxes.

Perhaps in the future Google will release the next Chrome OS laptop in Australia made by them. I mean they release their Nest line of home products here (yes I know they do not ship all their Nest products like the thermostat and the doorbell but a good portion are released here), the Pixel line of phones, and even the Pixel Buds 2. I have a Google Pixel 3, the Google Pixel Buds 2, a Chromecast Ultra, several Google Home Hubs and a Google Home Mini. My fingers and toes are crossed, but I do not have my hopes up as Australia is such a small market and why would a global company like Google support such a small remote market? Google changed the theme of Android and appearance to be more inclusive but it seems not all departments are on the same page at Google as not releasing a product in certain countries is not very inclusive in my opinion. Google do the right thing ๐Ÿ˜‰

Xbox Series X Impressions

I was very fortunate to have been able to pre-order an Xbox Series X from the Microsoft Store in Australia and have it delivered; one day later than the release date but I was not too fussed about that (thanks DHL by the way). Now that I have spent some time with the Xbox Series X I have some impressions that I would like to share and maybe if you are considering in picking up a next-generation (or current generation now I guess) console I can help in some way.

Black, dense, matte and unassuming

If there are several adjectives that I would use to describe the Xbox Series X, I would say the console is matte, black, dense, and unassuming. Microsoft has basically created the most “boring” and unassuming console I can remember to date; and that is not a bad thing either. The Xbox Series X sits on the top right of my TV entertainment unit and really it is nothing too flashy or eye catching. There are no flashing lights or other effects – the only light you will see is the Xbox logo power button on the front of the console.

When you take the Xbox Series X out of the box you will notice one thing very quickly, it is a heavy console. Microsoft must have packed everything in there very neatly and in a way to save as much space as possible but also ensure that there is enough airflow so the console will not overheat. The console is just a solid rectangular prism. None of which is a bad thing. The console feels very premium and for the price the expectations are set and met.

Originally I had the console laying horizontally but the base does not come off and it looks a little weird in my opinion as the base is one large circular dish. I wish that Microsoft allowed the base to be removed if the console was laying down because it does look a little weird. So now I have the console sitting vertically like much of the marketing material showing the Xbox Series X. The entire top of the console is one massive vent with small circular holes too. If you look at the top of the console from different angles you will find a green color outlining the inner perimeter of the circular vent holes; nice touch.

The black color and matte finish is great if you do not mind having fingerprints on the console if you continually touch it; so I say set it and forget it. I am happy it is not any other flashy color or white as it would look a little odd next to all my other black electronic devices in my entertainment unit. Overall aesthetically I feel the console is perfect for me; it is not trying to do too much, it sits there doing what it is supposed to do and nothing more. Microsoft has done a great job in creating something that will just blend in the background.

Fantastic performance across the board for old and new

During the couple of weeks I have been playing games on the Xbox Series X I have noticed that all the games look amazing, load extremely fast and play very well. One of the first games that I did try was Gears Tactics which is optimized for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. With the game installed on the internal solid state drive it loads insanely quick and it looks amazing. I never noticed any graphical issues, pop in or other framerate issues when playing the game; the Xbox Series X handled that game really well. I did have the game crash on me once when I reloaded from a checkpoint but it never happened again so :shrug:

I have also been playing Apex Legends with my friends and that too loads and plays well with little to no issue. The game has not been “upgraded” for the new consoles as far as I know so that is saying something on the upscaling and performance bump the console provides naturally with its raw power. Two other games that were also not optimized that I played were Resident Evil 3 and Doom Eternal. Both of which I may add were installed on the external hard drive I have attached to my Xbox Series X. Again I found no framerate or graphical issues in either game, plus even loading from the external hard drive I felt was fairly quick. Doom Eternal I would like to point out in particular played buttery smooth and looked absolutely amazing; kudos to the developers.

Recently Vermintide 2 got an update to be optimized for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Previously the game took a very long time to load and played in what felt like 30 fps with some harsh dips in frames when there was a large number of enemies on the screen. With the update however the framerate looks to have been bumped up, the game loads insanely fast and there is no framerate dips when the action picks up. So older games when updated play significantly better and if they are not optimized still benefit from small boosts in performance from what I can tell. Again Microsoft has gone above and beyond in ensuring that old games play better and new games play great.

I did test out Destiny 2 because that game on my Xbox One X took forever to load and would only play at 30 fps. When installed on the external hard drive the loading time is faster on the Xbox Series X than on the Xbox One X but there is no framerate improvement unfortunately. If you do move the game to the internal solid state drive then you get an even greater crazy increase in loading performance but again no framerate improvement, so I’ll need to wait for Bungie to optimize the game for the Xbox Series X. I look forward to that.

Overall, no matter if the game is old or new, Microsoft has found a way to squeeze some form of performance improvement being either faster loading or better framerate. With no true Xbox Series X exclusives out that I am interested in playing at the moment (or am aware of) and allowing older games to just perform better on the new console is a massive bonus. If you want to play the best Xbox versions of current games released then you should consider picking up the Xbox Series X; however if you are waiting for a killer game like Halo Infinite then wait for a bundle as I feel like the Xbox One X is more than capable of playing anything out now just not as good as the Xbox Series X.

Along with playing games very well it does so super quietly too. I can barely even hear the Xbox Series X when I am playing games. Sometimes I have even gone up to the console just to see if I can hear the fan spinning. There was no game that I played that caused me to actually hear the fan or console making any noticeable sound. Along with it being whisper quiet the console does gives off a good amount of heat from the top vent. This is to be expected as the top vent acts much like an exhaust. Is it very hot? No not really, but there is a good increase in ambient temperature increase around the top vent. Would it cause the room to get very hot like some “journalists” have noted – no and it also will not cause any discomfort to your hand if you leave it on the vent for a period of time. I am not too concerned about the amount of heat the console emits as it looks to be putting out the heat instead of keeping it inside the console. Only time will tell if there will be another red ring of death scenario and fingers crossed there will not be.

Quick resume and Xbox Game Pass

If you are like me and play two or three games at a time then hopping between games can be a pain. I could be playing Control and then be invited to an Apex Legends or Gears 5 online match. Saving one game and then loading the new game on the Xbox One X could take a long time depending on where I am in the first game as saving or finding a checkpoint is not always possible so quickly. But with quick resume I do not need to worry about that anymore. I have not experienced any game that I have played at the moment that has had issues in loading quickly with quick resume or failing to load with quick resume. I can turn the console off and then the next night I can boot it back up and pick up the game right where I left off; no menu loading or game save loading. I can jump between games and it takes at most 10 seconds compared to the several minutes it would take previously. I do not know how Microsoft has done this but it is fantastic.

Microsoft has bet big on Xbox Game Pass and I love it. From Doom Eternal to Control; paying full price for games is now a distant memory. If you are in the Xbox and Windows ecosystem then it makes the most sense to pick up Xbox Game Pass and if you have a PC then having Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is the best option out there. I would never have picked up Crusader Kings 3 but with it being on Xbox Game Pass on PC I gave it a whirl. So while there is no killer exclusive you benefit so much from trying the buffet that is the games on offer with Xbox Game Pass. There really is something for everyone. This is one offering that is available for both previous generation and current generation of Xbox consoles though but I am mentioning it here as there are a good number of optimized games on Xbox Game Pass for the Xbox Series X.

Overall it has been very pleasant

I tip my hat off to Microsoft. From a pleasant aesthetic that does nothing special but does everything right to the great performance in loading and framerate, I am super happy with my day one purchase. I have friends who are still waiting to receive theirs and when I tell them how great the console is performing they are getting more eager and excited to get their own console. I hope you console comes in soon Logan.

Would I recommend the console? Yes with some catches. If you absolutely must have the latest and greatest Xbox console then you would have pre-ordered or have already considered picking the console up when it is available to be purchased again or there is new stock. The Xbox Series X does everything the Xbox One X does but better and with some nice tricks up its sleeve like quick resume. You can wait for a killer game to come out before you pick up the Xbox Series X and you will not really be missing out on anything.

Again if you are in no rush then wait for a small price drop or bundle with a game that you are truly waiting on. Microsoft has done an amazing job in crafting a console that does everything great but in 2020 there is nothing forcing you or screaming out that says you must pick up the new Xbox Series X. If you are on the fence I say wait and save your money but if you want to play the games out now in the best way then what are you waiting for pick up the console.