With the winter holiday in sight here in England, a lot of parents are making their lists and checking them twice. Unsurprisingly, the new Xbox series X is a favourite. Having configured one recently, I decided to share what I have learned so far.
If you are giving the Xbox series X as a gift to one of your kids, you might want to carry some of these activities ahead of the time when the presents are opened. Why? Because the Internet connection might not be straight-forward and you might need to contact your provider. Additional connection cables might be needed. Downloads are large, and you might not want to spend Xmas day competing for bandwidth with another half a million people.
Please note that this article reflects my experience and knowledge with the Xbox Series X. Views are my own. Should you decide to apply in practice anything I wrote here, you do so at your own risk. I am not affiliated with Microsoft or Xbox.
Please like, share and comment on how your experience with setting up the Xbox series X has been.
Here is the outline: Get the Xbox series X set up in 12 steps
If you plan on giving the Xbox series X as a present – perhaps for Christmas, here are a few things that you might want to do:
- In the choice between Xbox Series X and PS5, if your child is in the 9-15 years old group, go for Xbox. The debate is really about games that are rated 16+ (and mostly 18+). Get the right console – avoid name confusion
- Consider buying the Xbox series X with a subscription to Game Pass Ultimate. Do your math but for me it is more cost effective.
- Set up the connection to TV and ensure you have the cables needed
- Set up the console for sound and check that it works with your equipment e.g. AV receiver and headphones.
- Create the Xbox family accounts online.
- Connect the console to the Internet and check that it works – you might need help from your provider
- Familiarise yourself with the controller
- Install Xbox updates – they can be quite time consuming
- How to activate the Game Pass subscription if you have it
- Set up Parental Control
- Download one or a few games and check that they work from the kid’s account
- Delete the game data under the kid’s account so that Santa existential questions are avoided
Here are the details:
1. Choose the right console – Xbox series X over PlayStation 5
There is a lot of discussion as to which is better/or which exclusive games are cooler. It is not the purpose of this article to address that (so please do not comment to this point). My interest was to find a high-performance console for a 9-15 years old. After comparing options, I have reached the conclusion that for this age group Xbox would give me the widest choice of games. I noticed that most of the online debates regarding the two platforms refer to games that are rated 18+, and hence outside my interest.
Make sure you buy the right one! The console I am talking about in this article, which is the top model as of Nov 2020, is the “Xbox Series X“. Do not confuse it with the previous model which is “Xbox One X”.
2. Consider buying the console with a Game Pass
At the same time, I have looked at the cost of individual games, which are in the region of £20-£60 for new titles. I reached the conclusion that the subscription model (offered only by Xbox as the Game Pass Ultimate) at £11 per month would be attractive, as one gets access to ~200 or more games including latest releases, and the list is refreshed regularly. See more details here: https://www.xbox.com/en-GB/xbox-game-pass
Furthermore, I found that I could opt to buy the console on a 0% interest instalment plan which includes the cost of the console together with the cost of the Game Pass subscription, over 2 years.
A note on Fortnite: While you can get this game the Store app on the Xbox (free), it is not included in the Game Pass subscription because it includes a lot of transactions within the game (i.e. requires/prompts players to buy additional options/credits etc)
3. Connect the Xbox series X to the TV:
Connect the Xbox to the TV using the HDMI 2.1 cable supplied with the console (which is 2 meters long). Should you need to use a different cable (e.g. for reasons to do with length or colour):
If your TV supports 4K resolution: To take advantage of the capabilities of the Xbox (e.g. 4K resolution and HDR image), you must use a cable that supports “HDMI 2.1” Should you want ultimate performance, you need to enable the console to 120Hz refresh rate – if your TV supports it. In this case the HDMI connection should be on the HDMI 2.1 port of the TV.
If your TV does not support 4K, you can use a regular HDMI cable.
4. Connect the Xbox to the headsets TV or AV receiver for sound
Be aware that the console does not support Bluetooth headsets. If you need a headset there are a few options:
- buy a headset that supports the Xbox series X (expect to pay over £100 for a decent one which supports the sound performance that the Xbox is capable of)
- Use a wired headset. The wire will plug in on the controller, not on the console itself.
- Consider having a headset with microphone as this will be used to chat within the games.
If you plan to connect the console to the TV through an AV Receiver, check that the receiver supports 4K and HDMI 2.1 in case you want the high performance graphics to reach your TV. The console has only one HDMI port (i.e. no separate audio output). If you have an AV receiver that does not support HDMI 2.1, an alternative would be to get an HDMI audio extractor. You connect the Xbox to the extractor, and the extractor to the TV. The extractor would allow the audio to be connected to the receiver separately. Both cables as well as the HDMI extractor should be HDMI 2.1 compatible.
5. Create the Xbox family accounts
To install games and to play on the console you need accounts to be created. From a logical point of view there are three types of accounts: adults (including parents), kids, and guests. If you don’t have them already, you will need to create a Microsoft account for an adult and also one for each child in the household that will be using the console. The child accounts will be restricted and have the parental control of the adult account. While you can create these accounts from the Xbox, you could prepare ahead of the time and create them online.
Here is the link where you can sign in to your Microsoft account (adults), or you can create one it if you don’t have it already. You will need an email address (a private one recommended) and should you not have one already, it will give you the option to create one with Outlook.com.
Once you have created and are signed in with your account, look for the the family options which will allow you to create the accounts for kids here: https://family.microsoft.com/
If you have guests that might want to use the Xbox, you can create a guest account so that they don’t use yours or the kids. See the Settings/System/Signed-Out Content Restrictions. The guest will be able to play the games installed on the console, with the restrictions set by you re age etc. I believe that their data is not saved.
Things to know re user accounts: each account has a gamer nickname called gamertag. When you first create your account, one is created automatically. You can change it once for free (it is likely that the system will automatically append some random numbers at the end of what you have chosen, to make it unique). After that first change you will have to pay to change it again.
6. Connect the Xbox series X to the Internet and troubleshoot issues
The console requires a good connectivity to download games (which are in the region of 40-70GB each) and to play online games (when responses are needed). Assuming a regular home Internet connection:
Ideally, connect the Xbox directly to your internet router with a network cable. This way you avoid issues caused by a weak Wi-Fi. Obviously, if you cannot connect the Xbox with a network cable, or if you are confident that your Wi-Fi is strong, then use Wi-Fi.
This is just a quick guide, so I am not going into details about the networking terms used.
Once the console set up, you have the option to see the network status and test the network speed. Go to Settings/General/Network Settings. While you are there take note of any warnings in the status area to the right of the screen. Some of the useful tests that you can do here are:
- Test network connection – just a quick one that tells you if you have Internet access
- Test network and statistics – this has useful details such as the exact download and upload speed (as seen at the console), and the strength of WiFi signal.
- Test NAT type – The NAT can be Open, Moderate or Strict.
If you see any messages that mention things like the ones below, you it will likely not be able to run the Store app to install games, or it will impact playing online games:
- NAT being Moderate or Strict
- Double NAT detected
- UPnP not successful
In such cases, you will likely need to change settings on your Internet router or talk to your Internet provider to do so.
7. Install updates
Once connected to the Internet, let the console update itself. The updates can be large and might take 15-30 minutes to download and install them. The process is largely automatic and the console will restart. After the restart the console will update the firmware on the controller as well.
8. Familiarise yourself with the Controllers
The Xbox series X comes with one controller. You can buy additional ones, and as far as I know the previous controllers are compatible with the Xbox too. It might be handy to have an extra one for games that allow 2 players side by side. The Xbox can be configured to associate one controller with a specific account (see below), so that if you power up the Xbox with that controller it automatically logs in the respective user.
For a guide to the buttons on the controller see the link below. Note that the page refers to the previous controllers, not the Xbox series X one. The only difference is that the series X has one additional button RIGHT UNDER THE “Xbox” button, and that is used for taking snapshots of the screen:
9. Setting up the Game Pass
Before you activate the Game Pass, you need to make sure you are logged in with the adult account on the Xbox. The current user is displayed at the top left on the home screen. This way, you will get more flexibility as you’ll be able to download & install whichever games you want, inc. rated 18. The kids will only be able to play the ones that have been downloaded up to the age rating you have set for them. If you don’t do this, and you activate the Game Pass under a kid’s account, you will only be able to download and install games that are within that kid’s parental control age rating.
- If you have bought the Xbox together with the Game Pass here is how to find your Games Pass. The pass is already associated with the console. You will find it by going to “My Games and apps” on the console, then “Full library”. Here you will see “Available offers” and under it “Included with this Xbox”. Here you will see the Game Pass Ultimate and you can choose to activate it.
- If you want to buy the game pass on the console, you have this option from the main screen. I do not know how it will be activated in that case but I guess it will be straight forward.
10. Parental control
The parental control options include features such as screen time and age rating. They can be accessed online (from the family account management see link above) or on the console under Settings/Account/Family settings. Note: the screen time starts counting from when the kid has logged on the console, so they need to log out for the timer to stop.
11. Download a few games and check that they work
The games are big – 20-80GB and downloading them will take time, depending on your connection. Doing so ahead of the time for a few preferred games will ensure you are not going to spend your Xmas checking download progress with a few desperate kids around you.
Download the games under the adult account, then use the kids accounts to test they work. Don’t forget the next step if you want to erase your traces.
12. Deleting game data/history
The console will remember the point in the game where you have left, and it will start from there next time. This data covers all that user’s history for the respective game (the level reached, accomplishments etc). This is on a per account basis, so that different users can play independently. A copy of that data is uploaded to the Xbox Live cloud, so that the user will be able to continue playing on another console. Sometimes you may need to delete this data and here is how to do it: under that user’s account go to the game icon and while it is selected click the menu button. Choose “Manage game and add-ons”. On the next screen, check if there is a button named “Saved data”. If there is, go there and you will have the option to delete it. You can choose to delete it from the console, or from both the console and the Xbox Live cloud. If deleted only from the console it will be downloaded again from the Xbox Live next time the game is played – or on a different console. If you delete it from both places you cannot recover it and all that user’s progress in the game will be lost, so do this wisely.