There’s the flagship Xbox Series X and then there’s the all-digital Xbox Series S. Many outlets have reviewed the bigger, more expensive Series X, but the price point of the Series S (clocking in $200 cheaper than it’s big brother) means it’s sure to be popular.
So we took our Series S and gave it a spin. Maybe it’s the right console for you.
Both the Series X and the Series S play the same games and do a lot of the same things. But there are a few key differences. Here’s a big one: The Series X costs $499, which is $200 more than the Series S. The more expensive Series X can also display games at 4k, which the Series S cannot. The Series S also does not have a disc drive, so you can’t play games off a disc or watch Blu-ray movies.
Because it has fewer internal components, the Series S is also quite a bit smaller. (It’s way, way smaller than the original Xbox One, and it takes up very little real estate on my shelf.)
If you’re not concerned about 4k gaming or playing all your old disc-based games on the new console, the cheaper Series S might be right for you. A lot of gamers are just looking for a console and don’t need all that extra power.
You should also know: The Series X and S are compatible with Xbox One games and accessories. All games playable on the old Xbox One console (with the exception for a few Kinect games) will work on the new game, and all Xbox and Xbox 360 games that were backwards compatible with the Xbox One will also play on your X or S. And Xbox has also said that accessories such as controllers will work fine with the new consoles. No adapters or anything needed.
Though the Series S does not support 4k gaming, it does deliver a pretty high quality picture.
The console can present visuals at up to 120 fps and 1440p. It also supports ray-tracing and variable rate shading and variable refresh rates.
What does that mean? It means the box looks dang good even if it’s not running in 4k.
I’m running my Series S on my 4k TV, but it doesn’t look pixelated or choppy in any way. Games look great, especially those that are marked as “optimized” for Series X/S. And the same games that I played on my Xbox One look better on the Series S simply because it’s better hardware. Though I’m keeping my Xbox One (it’s going to the basement TV), I’m definitely finishing up some Xbox One games on my Series S. They look a whole lot better.
Speaking of better hardware, the Series S has the same processor and high-speed, solid-state storage as the Series X. Though its hardware is a bit scaled back from the X and doesn’t provide the same graphical capability, the S is still fast.
How fast? Games you played on the Xbox One that took a few minutes to load now take seconds. No joke.
One of my favorite recent games, Star Wars: Squadrons, used to take forever to load. Usually a few minutes just from startup to the main menu. (I guess all those ships and 3D space maps are complicated.) On my Series S, the same game takes less than 20 seconds to start up. Usually much, much less.
There’s also a feature called Quick Resume that I absolutely love. Switching between games and apps takes almost no time at all. We’ve all been in this situation: You’re playing a game and decide to switch to another game. So you load that one up. A little later, you want to switch back to the first game. With the new Xbox, it just, well, switches over. No reloading a game or app entirely from scratch. After a few second pause, you’ll pick right up where you left off. And it works just the same on the Series S as it does on the Series X. I love it.
A month or so ago, Xbox rolled out remote play, the ability to stream a game from your Xbox straight to your phone and other devices. I used it pretty often, steaming games to the Xbox app on my iPhone while my wife watched TV or my kids watched a movie.
It works great with the Series S. Even better than it did with the Xbox One, which occasionally dropped the connection.
It’s been smooth sailing so far, and I love using this feature. It’s one of my favorite things about my Series S.
The Series S has a solid-state hard drive, which means super-fast load times.
But, the drive is only 512 GB. And with the operating system, there’s only a total of 364GB left for your games and apps. That’s… not a ton especially considering the Series S is “all digital” and does not have a disc drive. And some games can take up a whole lot of space.
Of course, there’s plenty of room to load a lot of games. Just maybe not your entire library. I have quite a few games loaded on mine (four large games and several smaller games so far), and I still have plenty of space.
That said, the Series S does support using an external hard drive. There is a special 1 TB card that slides into a slot in the back of your console. But currently the only option is an officially licensed Xbox card made by Seagate that runs $219, about as much as the Series S itself. (Now, surely other companies will make their own cheaper drives at some point, but they’ll likely still be pretty pricey and who knows when we’ll see them.)
You can also use a regular external hard drive as long as it supports USB 3.1 (like this one). Those drives can store games but can only play Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Xbox games. A regular external drive can store Xbox Series S and X games but they’ll have to be transferred to your console’s drive to be played. (It might sound annoying, but that certainly would be faster than downloading them again.) Apparently an external drive isn’t fast enough to play X/S games.
Going back to where I started: The Xbox Series S can do almost everything that the bigger, fancier, more expensive Series X can do. (With a few exceptions, of course.)
And that’s the main takeaway for me: The Series S is a lot less expensive. Sure, it doesn’t have as much power or as much storage, but it plays the same games, those games look fantastic and the extra features like fast load times (which I love) and remote play (which I use a ton) are simply great.
If 4k gaming isn’t a requirement for your gaming experience and you don’t two dozen games loaded on your library at all times, the Series S just might be the right console for you.