Even though it’s still pretty tough to track down, the Xbox Series S is here! It’s one of two new game consoles that are now available to purchase from Microsoft, alongside its beefier brother the Xbox Series X.
Both of the next-gen consoles pack quite a punch and are competitive options for buyers contemplating Xbox vs Playstation. If you can’t decide between Series X and Series S, you can read our full comparison here. In this article, we’ll go over everything we know about the Xbox Series S.
At a glance: What is the Xbox Series S?
The Xbox Series S is one of two new next-gen gaming consoles from Microsoft. Compared to the Xbox Series X, the Series S is a smaller, less expensive console. It’s not quite as powerful, but it still packs enough of a punch to qualify as a bonafide next-gen gaming device.
Although it won’t deliver 4K resolution (unless you count upscaled 1440p), it still pumps out great-looking gameplay at 1080p and 1440p. Even better, it supports ray-tracing tech, which is one of the defining features of next-gen consoles.
We’ll get into more details below, but here’s the short version: if you’re in the market for a new console, but don’t want to spend $500 on the Series X, the Series S is a great option for you.
Is the Xbox Series S worth it?
Costing just over half of the Xbox Series X, the Series S seems like a bargain. Microsoft positioned this console as an affordable entry point for both upgrading and new Xbox owners, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right choice for everyone.
The company had to cut a few corners to get the price down, so that means not only no optical drive but also less raw power. The Series S targets HD gaming at 120fps, and doesn’t do native 4K output at all (it’s upscaled from 1440p). That means it isn’t technically much more powerful than the Xbox One X.
Even if you already have an Xbox One, the Series S looks much better. The all-digital approach might put off collectors, but when paired with an Xbox Game Pass subscription you’ll instantly unlock hundreds of the best games from previous generations. As time goes on, it will fill up with next-gen titles, too.
The combination of an Xbox Series S with Xbox Game Pass is the best value you can get in gaming right now. That said, if the price isn’t an issue the Xbox Series X (or PlayStation 5) will outmatch it across the board.
While the Series X is getting the lion’s share of coverage in the press, most publications have touched on the Series S, too. Android Authority‘s own Ryan-Thomas Shaw wrote an Xbox Series S review where he called it “an affordable entry point into next-gen gaming and Xbox Game Pass.”
He was critical of the lack of killer launch titles, but ultimately still recommended buying it. There’s no rush if you already have an Xbox One S or X, but the speedy load times from the switch to an SSD more than justify the cost. That alone is a game-changer, even if graphical performance isn’t much of an improvement.
Here’s what other reviews around the web are saying about the Xbox Series S:
- Tom Warren of The Verge was less positive, writing “The Xbox Series S is a small console with big potential and a whole lot of questions left unanswered for now.” He criticized the lack of storage and 1080p target resolution among other things. Although he saw it as a perfectly capable console, his ultimate takeaway was that it doesn’t yet live up to the promise of next-gen consoles.
- Eurogamer‘s Richard Leadbetter loved the design of the Series S, writing “The form factor is simply irresistible, the design is nigh-on perfect.” However, he wasn’t sure how useful it would be to core gamers. Although a capable “game pass machine,” it falls short of all other consoles. When taking storage into account, he thinks the PS5 Digital Edition could be a better deal — provided you can find one to buy.
- Nick Pino and Adam Vjestica of TechRadar gave the console just three and a half stars (out of five). They wrote that it’s a decent option for budget-conscious gamers who want to try next-gen, but stopped short of recommending the upgrade for core gamers. “If you’ve already got the Xbox One X and a 4K display at home, however, we suggest considering the Xbox Series X instead.”
- Ryan McCaffrey of IGN called the Xbox Series S the “Game Pass machine.” He wrote that it offers solid day-one value when paired with Game Pass, but may struggle in the long-term. Still, he thinks the console has a place for some, writing “The Series S is an excellent second console, like if you want something for a kid who plays on a smaller screen…”
Xbox Series S specs
Although the Series S may not exactly rival the specs of the Series X, it provides a cost-effective alternative for people who want to upgrade, but don’t want to break the bank.
The Xbox Series S is disc-less, so you are only able to play digital versions of Xbox games. It, therefore, might not be the best option for players who own physical copies of previous-generation Xbox games. If you’re new to Xbox consoles, however, the Series S is a great, compact option. You’ll save on space with the console itself and the lack of physical games crowding up your entertainment center.
With the smaller next-gen Xbox console, you’ll still experience immersion enhancements like DirectX ray tracing, variable-rate shading, and variable refresh rate. Games will run at 1080p to 1440p natively in 60fps, with support for up to 120fps in some instances.
The Series S comes with an eight-core 3.6GHz custom AMD CPU and a GPU with 4 teraflops of processing power. One of the best things about this console is that it’s still getting an upgrade from an HDD to an SSD.
The Series S has a custom 512 GB SSD. However, early reviews of the console indicate that just 364 GB will be available for owners. The rest is used for the console’s operating system and other essential files. In an interview with Kotaku, Microsoft’s Xbox head Phil Spenser hinted that some Xbox Series S games might take less storage space compared to the same game on the Xbox Series X. Developers could choose to release the game with lower-res textures.
The SSD will allow your games to load and run faster, fast resume multiple games, and help support visual enhancements from the upgraded GPU, like ray tracing, lighting, and shadows.
But how do its specs compare to the larger and more expensive Series X? Let’s take a look.
Xbox Series S vs Xbox Series X
In terms of resolution, the Xbox Series X is better than the Series S. The Series X supports pretty much all games in 4K at 60fps, with support for up to 120fps. However, a lot of people don’t even have TVs that support 4K resolution. Even fewer have a 4K TV that runs at 120Hz.
If you have a 4K TV or you’re looking to upgrade soon, you’ll be able to get the most out of the Xbox Series X. If you have a 1080p TV and you’re not going to upgrade anytime soon, you can save $200 and get the Series S which will support that resolution to the fullest.
Though the Series S has a less powerful GPU and CPU, and a smaller SSD, the lower target resolution will demand less from games. As mentioned earlier, the GPU has 4 teraflops of processing power. While this may seem significantly less powerful than the Series X with its 12 teraflops of processing power, it’s not actually that drastic.
The PS4 Pro’s GPU has just over 4 teraflops of processing power, and the PS4 is a pretty powerful console. The biggest difference in performance between the old consoles and the new consoles is going to be the transition from HDD to SSD. And the Series S has that covered.
So, if you’re looking for the best of the best of next-gen Xbox consoles, the Series X is going to be what you want. Your games will look and feel the best on the Series X, especially if you have a 4K TV to play them on. But the Series S is still going to provide you with fast, crisp upgrades at a fraction of the price. Plus, it’s a cheap gateway to Xbox Game Pass, which is an incredible deal for just about anyone.
Xbox Series S design
The Xbox Series S is the smallest console Microsoft has ever made. It’s about 60% smaller than the Xbox Series X. It can easily fit into a backpack, so if you were so inclined, it would be easy to take it with you on road trips.
Because of its small size, it should require less power than the Series X and hopefully generate less heat. You’ll have the option to place the console vertically or horizontally. The Series X can be placed on its side, too, but it’s clearly designed to be vertical.
In terms of design, Microsoft went with a sleek white look, slightly similar to the PlayStation 5’s design. The console is primarily white except for a large black circle that is part of the console’s cooling system. It’s by far the least garish of any next-gen console and will fit inconspicuously into any home theater setup.
As for ports, it features a single USB-A port on the front. Most of the action is in the back, where you’ll find ports for power, HDMI 2.1, gigabit ethernet, two USB-A ports, and an expansion slot for more storage.
Xbox Series S games
The Xbox Series S has the same games at launch and after as the Xbox Series X. The titles that have been optimized, with improved graphics and performance, to run on the Xbox Series S include:
- Ark: Survival Evolved
- Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Smart Delivery)
- Borderlands 3 (Smart Delivery)
- Bright Memory 1.0
- Cuisine Royale (Smart Delivery)
- Dead by Daylight (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
- DIRT 5 (Smart Delivery)
- The Falconeer (Smart Delivery)
- Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Gears 5 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Gears Tactics (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Grounded (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- King Oddball (Smart Delivery)
- Maneater (Smart Delivery)
- Manifold Garden (Smart Delivery)
- NBA 2K21
- Observer: System Redux
- Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Planet Coaster (Smart Delivery)
- Sea of Thieves (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- Tetris Effect: Connected (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- The Touryst (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
- War Thunder (Smart Delivery)
- Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition
- Watch Dogs: Legion (Smart Delivery)
- WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship (Smart Delivery)
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Smart Delivery)
- Yes, Your Grace (Smart Delivery)
Note that many of these games have already, or will be, also be coming out for the Xbox One. Thanks to a new Smart Delivery program, they’ll get an instant upgrade whenever you get a new console. Without paying extra, your game will be upgraded to the best experience, so don’t worry about waiting if you can’t buy the console at launch. Just make sure you buy the digital version as the Xbox Series S doesn’t have a disc drive.
Keep in mind that the console also supports playing nearly all Xbox One games via backward compatibility, but without graphical improvements. It also supports a selected number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games.
If you purchase a subscription to Xbox Game Pass, you’ll be able to access a lot of Xbox games digitally whenever you want to. Think of it as Netflix but for Xbox games. You gain instant access to well over 100 digital titles, including all first-party games new and old. That means you can play Halo: Infinite on release day with just an Xbox Game Pass subscription!
The Xbox Series S also takes advantage of the cloud gaming features offered in Project xCloud. Project xCloud launched September 15th, 2020 as part of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Rebranded as Xbox cloud gaming, it allows you to play certain Game Pass games on your phone or tablet in addition to your console.
Where to buy the Xbox Series S
The Xbox Series S costs $299.99, a whopping $200 less than the Xbox Series X, which is priced at $499.99. This low price is welcome news, especially during this pandemic craziness.
If you don’t want to spend that large sum of money all at once, you also have the option to subscribe to Xbox All Access. With Xbox All Access, you can get an Xbox Series X or Series S console and 24 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. Plans start at $24.99/month for 24 months. That’s a great deal if you were already planning to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which costs $14.99 on its own.
Availability has been somewhat limited at launch, so you may need to wait until more stock comes in. Check both retailers below often and before you know it you’ll be next-gen gaming!
Xbox Series S accessories
You will definitely want to get some extra hardware for your new Xbox Series S console. Perhaps the most important ones are new controllers and more storage.
Xbox Core Controller
Microsoft has released a new controller for the Xbox Series S and X consoles. While the new Xbox Core Controller looks very similar to the older gamepad made for the Xbox One consoles, it does have a few new features. The biggest is the new share button that’s right in the middle of the gamepad. Pressing it will allow gamers to save screenshots and game clips while playing, and then share them with family and friends.
The new controller has a USB-C port, which is used to charge up a rechargeable battery (sold separately) if you don’t want to use its two AA batteries. The controller’s D-pad has been altered in both design and in use. It now makes a louder noise when registering inputs. There are also textured surfaces on the controller’s triggers and side handles. Finally, the controller supports the Xbox’s own wireless technology as well as Bluetooth. You can buy extra Xbox Core Controllers now for $59.99.
Xbox Play and Charge Kit
Buying new batteries is a drag, and this simple kit will allow you to do away with AA batteries for good. Much like its predecessors on older Xbox consoles, this pack plugs into the back of your controller to provide power and recharges when plugged in via USB-C.
A single kit will cost $24,99. This sounds expensive, but if you think about how many batteries you’d have to buy over the years, it’s worth it.
SSD extra storage
As we mentioned, the storage space on the Xbox Series S will be somewhat limited. The good news is that Microsoft has designed the console so you can actually expand the amount of SSD storage. Seagate is selling a 1 TB SSD designed specifically for both the Xbox Series S and X consoles. All you have to do is connect it to the back of the console. Seagate claims that its expansion SSD will be just as fast as Microsoft’s internal SSD. The bad news? It’s very pricy. Seagate is selling it for $220.
Q: When is the Xbox Series S release date?
A: The Xbox Series S is on sale now. It went on sale on the same date as the Xbox Series X.
Q: What can I play on the Xbox Series S?
A: You can play all of the same games at and after launch as you can on the Xbox Series X. Plus, if you have a subscription to Xbox Game Pass, you can play all the games available in that library.
Q: How much does the Xbox Series S cost?
A: The Xbox Series X will cost $299.99. However, you can avoid the large upfront fee by subscribing to an Xbox All Access plan, starting at $24.99/month for 24 months.
Q: Which is better – the Xbox Series S or the Xbox Series X?
A: This really depends on your own personal preferences. The Xbox Series S is cheaper and more compact, but it’s digital-only and not as powerful. The Xbox Series X, on the other hand, is the beefiest console Microsoft has ever created. You can play both physical and digital games, but you’ll need a 4K TV to get the most out of it. It’ll set you back $499.99.
Learn more about next-gen consoles: