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Product Review

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S: What’s the difference?

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Microsoft took the unusual route of releasing two different consoles for the start of this generation, and there are major differences between the two which are very important to consider.

While the two consoles look very different, they also differ in specs, features and price. As a result, each Xbox console has been designed for a very different audience. Purchase the wrong one, and you may end up regretting your decision.

And so in order to help out, we’ve created this guide which will explain the key differences between the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. So if you’re not sure which console is right for you, this article should answer all of your burning questions. Let’s dive right in.

Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S price – How much do they cost?

Xbox Series X currently retails for £449/$499. That’s a fairly high price, but you do get native 4K support in return to make it worthwhile.

The Xbox Series S costs a far more affordable £249/$299, but we’ve seen it drop down as low as £199.99 on Amazon UK, making it the far more affordable option. There are a number of compromises you’ll have to face when buying the cheaper Series S though, as you’ll miss out on a 4K performance and physical disk drive.

Specs and performance

We’ve compiled the full comparison of technical specifications for Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S below. You’ll notice that some features are rather uniform, with the biggest gulfs coming in the GPU performance and amount of memory available on the SSD. System memory also shares a rather big difference, although 10GB is nothing to be sniffed at.

Xbox Series S Xbox Series X
CPU 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.66 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU 8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.66 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
GPUs 4 TFLOPS, 20 CUs @ 1.55 GHz Custom RDNA 2 12 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2
Memory 10GB GDDR6 16GB GDDR6
Internal Storage 512GB Custom NVME SSD 1TB Custom NVME SSD
Optical Drive digital-only 4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive
Performance Target Up to 1440p @ 120 FPS Up to 4K @ 60 FPS (Up to 120 FPS at lower resolutions)

Our own testing shows that the Xbox Series S usually offers a 1440p performance, but has dropped down to Full HD for particularly demanding games. There’s no doubt that games on the Xbox Series X look substantially better, with more detail and a sharper image.

We’ve noticed that both consoles have struggled to run ray tracing in the vast majority of supported games, although you’ve got even less chance of it working with a smooth performance on the Series S console.

On the bright side, there doesn’t seem to be a major difference in SSD speed. Both consoles are extremely fast at loading up games, so you needn’t worry about the performance downgrade here when opting for the Xbox Series S.

Design

The Xbox Series X sports the most unconventional console design we’ve seen in decades, resembling a traditional PC far more than anything else on the market right now. To be honest, it’s a welcome change, even if some players might have trouble fitting it under their television. It’s almost tiny compared to the PS5, and its angular design means it’s rather easy to slot into an existing entertainment centre.

Given the size of this gaming monolith, the Xbox Series S is a much smaller affair considering its relative power in comparison. It is 60% smaller than the Xbox Series X, and it is roughly two and a half controllers tall in terms of height. It’s a small yet powerful little beast, and should be much easier for fitting under your television.

It has a single USB port on the front alongside a small button for syncing controllers and other peripherals. Perhaps the most striking part of the design is the large black vent on the chassis, which is unusual.

Microsoft is making an obvious effort to differentiate both consoles on the market, making it clear to casual consumers the difference between power, features and the general offering of both consoles. Otherwise, it stands to muddy waters which are otherwise very easy to navigate. Given its asking price, the Xbox Series S will be a very tempting proposition for those who don’t fancy breaking the bank.

Games

The Xbox Series X and Series S are able to play the exact same games. This means you won’t be prevented from playing any modern games this generation if you opt for the Series S console.

Backwards compatibility plays a huge role in the new generation of consoles, with Microsoft standing at the forefront thanks to its implementation of Xbox Game Pass and Xbox Play Anywhere. A number of Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles are already playable and enhanced on Xbox One, all of which will be playable on the new series of machines.

Halo Infinite

The “optimized enhancements” you receive for certain games will differ depending on the console you’re playing on, too. Games will still receive ample improvements, but they will always peak at 1440p and a certain level of performance, likely because the horsepower simply can’t compete with its older sibling.

You also need to remember Xbox Smart Delivery, which grants you the same game across all platforms regardless of where it’s purchased. This includes all of your saves, achievements and other important information that might be associated with online and serviced-based titles. Cyberpunk 2077, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Yakuza: Like a Dragon are just some of the games confirmed to support it.

Features

Aside from the difference in technical specs, the core experience across Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are almost identical with features like Quick Resume and fast loading times enabled by the SSD both being supported. The latter can fluctuate across both systems according to our testing, although the general consensus is that each console is incredibly fast regardless of the difference in power.

The SSD storage of both consoles can be upgraded by purchasing bespoke expansion cards from Seagate, although these are very expensive at the time of writing. If you’re picking up a Series S and plan to expand the storage, it might be worth just cutting your losses and picking up the Series X for all the added benefits that come with the more powerful console.

The biggest difference between the consoles is the disk drive, or rather the absence of one on the Xbox Series S. If you opt for the cheaper Xbox, you’ll have to be dependent on the digital store, and will be unable to use discount pre-owned games.

Xbox Series X

Verdict

This decision will depend on what you’re looking for in a new console. If you are satisfied with an experience that peaks at 1440p and don’t mind the lack of a physical disc drive, the Xbox Series S is the way to go.

It’s a brilliant machine, although the mediocre SSD size makes it a difficult pill to swallow without spending an extra chunk of cash to upgrade. If your eyes are set on the PS5, we can see the Series S being an ideal second machine for Microsoft exclusives, as owning both flagship consoles might be a tiny bit overkill.

The Xbox Series X is also an appealing option due to its high-end 4K performance. Games will look better on this console compared to the Series S, especially if you own a 4K TV to pair it with. If you want to play all of the upcoming Xbox console exclusives (such as Starfield, Redfall, Elder Scrolls 6 and more) with the best graphics quality possible, then we recommend the Series X.

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