Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S – Which one should you buy?
Microsoft’s latest gaming consoles, the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S have finally hit the stores. While stocks have been very limited, the holiday season might be the perfect time to get your hands on either one of them. Speaking of which, Microsoft is offering two options for consumers. The fairly affordable Series S can deliver 1440p 120fps gaming along with HDR and Ray Tracing features while the Series X pushes the boundaries by offering 4K 120fps gaming that can even go up to 8K resolution. Now, this itself should give you a fair idea as to which is the right one for you. But let’s quickly first compare the new consoles with the previous-gen offerings, to get better clarity as to how big of an upgrade are we looking at.
Xbox Series X and Series S — The Big Upgrade
The Xbox Series X and Series S, both take a generational leap over the Xbox One X and One S. Let’s consider the four main aspects that you should be looking at. First of all, the new Series X takes a whole new direction when it comes to design. The Series X comes with a tall tower design, unlike the One X that would easily slide under your TV. Similarly, the Series S also gets a new design where Microsoft has managed to shrink it quite a bit, making it the smallest Xbox console ever. This one, however, can still make space under your TV as it can lay flat, unlike the Series X.
Performance is where the new consoles are obviously going to shine. The Xbox Series X comes with a custom made octa-core AMD processor based on the Zen 2 architecture clocked at 3.8GHz. The One X also came with a custom eight-core AMD processor, but that one runs at a maximum of 2.3GHz and was based on an older architecture. The Series X also gets 16GB of GDDR6 RAM that outperforms the 12GB of GDDR5 RAM on the One X and of course more powerful graphics hardware that can deliver 12 teraflops of power and 52 compute units running at 1.825GHz. The GPU on the One X on the other hand only comes with 6 teraflops of power, 40 compute units and runs at 1.172GHz.
This basically means that the Series X can run games at 4K 60fps easily whereas the One X has the ability to run only a handful of titles in full 4K natively. The Series X actually goes beyond that and can play certain titles at 4K 120fps and 8K 30fps. The Series S also makes use of the same custom octa-core CPU that is clocked at 3.6GHz as seen on the Series X which is a huge jump over the 1.75GHz octa-core processor on the One S. There is also an increase in terms of memory where the Series S makes use of 10GB GDDR6 compared to the 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 32MB of ESRAM on the One S.
The more powerful hardware then brings a significant difference in the graphical output between the Xbox Series S and the One S. The older console cannot output 4K while the new Series S aims at 1440p 120fps as well as 4K resolution upscaling features. Besides offering obvious graphics improvements, the two new consoles also bring ray tracing for improved lighting as well as auto HDR features that bring a huge change in the overall look of the games.
The new consoles also make use of a faster SSD instead of using hard drives that were seen on both the Xbox One X and One S. In doing so, Microsoft promises super-fast load times, as well as a new quick resume feature that lets you switch between games and resume where you left off, without having to load the game all over again. It is notable that the Series S only gets a 500GB SSD, which is less storage compared to the 1TB HDD on the One S, but that was probably done to keep the cost of the new console in check.
Another important aspect here is the optical drive. If that is an important feature for you, then you should know that while the Series X does come with one, the Series S does not. In comparison, the One S was offered with and without the optical drive, while the One X came with a built-in optical drive.
Lastly, the price. The Series X is priced at $499 which is similar to the launch price of the One X, making it a valuable upgrade. On the other hand, the Series S is priced at $299, which is again a great price but you do need to consider that unlike the One S, this one doesn’t come in an optical-drive version. The One S was priced at $299 and $249 for the digital-edition.
Now that we cleared that up, let’s have a look at how the two new consoles compete against each other.
The Series X comes with a tall ‘monolithic’ design, almost like a small form factor tower PC. It can be placed horizontally, however it is suggested otherwise since the cooling fan is going to blow hot air out from the vent on top. It only comes in a black color finish with green accents on the exhaust grill. The design approach for the Series X is debatable. While it makes a lot of sense for optimized thermal performance, it could be tricky to fit inside your existing TV cabinet.
The Series S on the other hand comes in a white finish and has a more conventional design where you place it flat. Now it can stand tall just like the Series X, and being super compact one can easily slide around their TV, vertically or horizontally. Of course, you need to make sure that you don’t block the large round exhaust as it does get quite hot. I personally prefer the design of the Series S, even though I know it isn’t the more powerful one. It just looks really modern and minimalistic with perforations all around for improved airflow.
Both the consoles are powered by a custom made AMD eight-core processor based on the Zen 2 architecture. The Series X has the CPU clocked at 3.8GHz per core (3.6GHz with multi-threading) while the clock speeds on the CPU of the Series S are at 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with multi-threading). It is the graphics performance that really sets them apart as the Series X comes with AMD’s RDNA2 GPU capable of 12-teraflops performance using its 52 compute units clocked at 1.825GHz. The Series S offers just 4-teraflops performance making use of 20 compute units at 1.565GHz. The Series S gets 10GB of DDR6 memory which is again less than the Series X that comes with 16GB of DDR6.
The higher specced Series X promises 4K gaming and can push up to 8K resolutions at lower frame rates. At its native resolution, the console can go up to 120fps. The Series S on the other hand is optimized for 2K (1440p) gaming at up to 120fps but can offer dynamic resolution going up to 4K. There are certain common features including Ray Tracing, support for quick resume, HDR as well as variable refresh rates (VRR). Both the consoles also offer similar audio features including support for DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby TrueHD with Atmos, and Windows Sonic.
|Xbox Series X||Xbox Series S|
|CPU||Octa-core AMD Zen 2, 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with multi-threading)||Octa-core AMD Zen 2, 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with multi-threading)|
|GPU||1.825GHz clock speed, 12 TFLOPS, 52 compute units||1.565GHz clock speed, 20 compute units, 4 TFLOPs|
|Memory||16GB GDDR6||10GB GDDR6|
|Resolution support||2160p at 120Hz, up to 8K||1440p at 120Hz, up to 4K|
|Internal storage||1TB NVMe SSD||512GB SSD|
|Storage expansion||1TB expansion card||1TB expansion card|
|External storage||USB 3.1 external HDD support||USB 3.1 external HDD support|
|Optical disc||4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive||Not available|
|Dimensions||301mm x 151mm x 151mm||275mm x 151mm x 65mm|
Both Xbox Series X and Series S feature custom super-fast NVMe SSD storage. This helps the console to load games way faster than the previous generation consoles. While the Series X gets a larger 1TB drive, the Series S features a 512GB unit. Of course, you can further add a proprietary storage expansion card that would run exactly like the internal drive. Additionally, both the consoles come with three USB 3.1 ports to attach external drives. Thanks to the new SSD drives, these consoles offer a new quick resume feature. Users can pause a handful of games allowing them to quickly jump back in where they left off and even switch between them without reloading the game. Having more storage makes a lot of sense especially considering the fact that games are now tipping the 100GB mark. Also, since these consoles offer backward compatibility, one would definitely need a lot of space to maintain their library.
The consoles are priced at a substantial difference. The Series X is priced at $499 while the smaller Series S is priced at $299. When it comes to the pricing, it makes sense to go for the more powerful Series X. You not only get a more powerful console, but you are also getting double the storage which is going to be crucial if you want to have a solid library of games available at your disposal. While the Series S is indeed cheaper, it makes sense as a purchase only if you have a very strict budget and do not intend to get a 4K TV in the future.
Conclusion: The Xbox Series X should be your de-facto choice
Microsoft has taken the right path by launching two consoles at different price points, similar to how it did with the Xbox One lineup. The Series X is the obvious hero product and feels like a justified next-gen console upgrade. It should be your choice if you care about the best performance along with a high-resolution 4K gaming experience. Along with that, you get larger internal storage compared to the Series S which is important if you want to store more games from the go. The Series S is not as beefy as the Series X. It offers a more compact package and is only optimized for 1440p resolution. It does offer some of the benefits from Series X. But for an extra $200 for the Series X, you are getting a lot more, and honestly, it does make sense to buy the Series X.
Go for the Series S only if you are willing to compromise on the resolution and internal storage or just don’t want to spend extra for a 4K TV in the near future, or have a very strict budget. For all other cases, the Xbox Series X is the one you should be buying.