Those who had been following the news regarding the upcoming new generation of consoles in the weeks before their release received a pleasant surprise when Microsoft finally confirmed that the Xbox Series S will indeed be released as a budget-friendly variant of the Series X.
Released on November 10th, the Xbox Series X and Series S consoles cost $500 and $300, respectively.
And in this article, we’ll see what the respective strengths and weaknesses of these consoles are, as well as how they compare to one another and to their main competitor – the PlayStation 5.
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Xbox Series S – What Is It?
Design-wise, the Series S console is very compact, relative both to the Series X and the older Xbox consoles. As a matter of fact, it is the smallest Xbox to date. While it is only slightly shorter than the Xbox Series X, it is also much slimmer, making its appearance more reminiscent of the previous-generation Xbox One consoles than the Series X’s monolithic design.
The two-tone black-and-white design is a bit of an unusual choice, but the console is fairly inconspicuous and has largely been positively received. And, like its more expensive counterpart, it can be set up both horizontally and vertically.
But enough about the design – how will it fare in action?
Xbox Series S vs Xbox Series X – The Hardware
Now, on the hardware front, the Series S, understandably, lags behind the Series X. While it uses the same 8-core Zen 2-based CPU (albeit it has a slightly lower clock speed), the GPU has been scaled down considerably – not only does it have almost three times fewer CUs (20 compared to the Series X’s 52), it, too, comes with a lower clock speed.
As a result, the Series S will offer roughly a third of the Series X’s graphics processing power – 4 TFLOPS compared to the pricier console’s 12.15. Because of this, the Xbox Series S will render games in 1440p rather than native 4K.
Of course, the graphics aren’t the only area where Microsoft had to downscale the Series S, as the cheaper console will offer less memory as well – 10 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD, down from the Series X’s 16 GB of RAM and 1 TB SSD.
Moreover, the Xbox Series S will also be a digital-only console, meaning that it will come without a Blu-ray drive. This is an understandable decision, as it was Microsoft’s intention to offer the cheapest console possible that would still be able to run the upcoming next-gen games, and a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive is by no means a cheap component.
Xbox Series S vs Xbox Series X – Value and Pricing
So, obviously, the Xbox Series S will be a weaker and cheaper alternative to the Xbox Series X, but the real question is: does the price gap make up for the performance gap?
Well, there is a significant gap between the prices of these two consoles. As mentioned in the introduction, the Xbox Series X will be priced at $500 while the Xbox Series S will cost only $300, which is $200 less than the “standard” console. So, what do you get with each one?
First of all, there’s the question of performance, which is where the biggest difference between the two consoles lies, apart from the design, of course.
In terms of in-game performance, both consoles are aiming to, ideally, deliver 60 FPS and both will be capable of going up to 120 FPS when it comes to some less demanding titles. However, they will do so at different resolutions – 4K for the Series X and 1440p for the Series S. On top of that, both will support ray tracing, despite the GPU power gap.
The Series S will also be capable of upscaling to 4K when hooked up to a 4K display. Granted, it won’t look as good as native 4K, but it’s still good news if you have a 4K display and can’t afford the more expensive console.
Ultimately, though, it’s important to keep in mind that the exact performance will vary from game to game based on how demanding and optimized it is. We’ll just have to wait and see how different games perform on both consoles.
Furthermore, there’s also the question of memory. While it remains to be seen how the lower RAM capacity will reflect on the performance of different games, the storage space is a simpler matter.
Namely, with games taking up more and more space, some feel that a 512 GB SSD simply won’t be enough to store more than a few AAA games at a time. And though this won’t be a problem for everyone, it’s worth keeping in mind if you like to have a number of games downloaded and ready to go.
Of course, both consoles will feature expandable storage, but that would constitute an extra cost on top of the price of the console itself.
So, while the Xbox Series S will be significantly weaker, is it still worth it, considering the price gap?
As usual, this is a largely subjective matter. If you don’t have a 4K TV and don’t plan on upgrading, then the Series S is obviously the superior product, as far as value is concerned. Moreover, if you care more about saving $200 than about getting the best performance and graphics possible, then it’s still the clear winner.
On the other hand, the Xbox Series X isn’t all about better visuals and better performance in 4K. Namely, it also comes with a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, which is very important for those who prefer owning physical copies of their games and/or those who intend on using the console as a Blu-ray player.
Since 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray players are quite expensive and the prices easily go beyond the $200 that you’d save by going with the Xbox Series S instead of the Series X, the inclusion of a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive is a big plus for the Series X, if you intend on using it.
With all that in mind, it should be easy to decide which of the two consoles would be a better fit for your needs and your budget. To summarize, the key differences are:
- The Xbox Series X runs games in native 4K while the Xbox Series S runs them in 1440p and upscales them to 4K if necessary.
- The Xbox Series X has twice as much storage and more RAM.
- The Xbox Series X has a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive, whereas the Xbox Series S does not.
|Xbox Series S||Xbox Series X|
|CPU||8-core Custom Zen 2 3.6 GHz||8-core Custom Zen 2 3.8 GHz|
|GPU||Custom RDNA2 1.565 GHz, 20 CUs, 4 TFLOPS||Custom RDNA2 1.825 GHz, 52 CUs, 12.15 TFLOPS|
|RAM||10 GB GDDR6||16 GB GDDR6|
|Storage||Custom NVMe SSD, 512 GB||Custom NVMe SSD, 1 TB|
|Optical Drive||N/A||4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive|
Xbox Series S vs PlayStation 5 Digital Edition
We can’t wrap up this article without touching upon the question of which of the two upcoming consoles will win on the budget front of the upcoming “console war”, as both Microsoft and Sony will be offering more budget-friendly alternatives to their new consoles.
And while the Xbox Series S is a weaker console all-around compared to the Series X, the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition will be just as powerful as the standard PlayStation 5, and the only feature that it lacks is the 4K UHD Blu-ray drive.
Naturally, this reflects on the price. At $300, the Xbox Series S is remarkably cheap but it comes with a notable performance downgrade. On the other hand, at $400, the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition offers the same kind of 4K performance that its $500 competitor does. So, which of the two offers better value?
Well, a lot of what we said when comparing the Series S and the Series X still applies here, only the price gap is smaller. The PlayStation 5 DE offers 60% more RAM and 60% more storage than the Xbox Series S, and almost twice as much graphics processing power at a $100 price increase.
So, as before, value ultimately ends up being a subjective matter here, though in this case, you wouldn’t just be choosing between two different consoles but also two different platforms. As such, we also suggest checking out our main PlayStation 5 vs Xbox article, and if it hasn’t been updated with the latest info yet, it will be soon!
And so, that would be it for our comparison of the Xbox Series S and Series X consoles. Both of them certainly have their merits, though as mentioned in the article, we’ll have to wait and see how they compare in practice before passing final judgment.
If you intend on getting any of the new consoles, let us know in the comments which one you’re getting and why!