Later this year, Microsoft will release its next-generation powerhouse of a games console – the Xbox Series X.
However, that won’t be the only machine available. The Xbox Series S is an all-digital next-gen console designed as a cheaper alternative, so we’ve put together a handy guide based on confirmed details and rumoured specifications to help you decide which machine could be best for you.
Perhaps surprisingly, the two next-gen consoles look nothing alike.
The Xbox Series X is a monolithic beast of a machine, best designed to stand vertically, while the Series S looks more like the Xbox One S – it even has a similar grille on the top (when horizontal).
Xbox has decided to make that grille black and the console white, however, which makes it look like a loudspeaker when it is stood on its end.
Processing and graphics
While we don’t yet have a full spec list for the Series S, Xbox has posted a trailer that details some key features. That and a few spec leaks mean we can compare them to the officially confirmed specs of the Series X.
The Xbox Series X will run on a custom Zen 2 eight-core processor running at 3.8GHz per core, with 12 teraflops (52CUs) of RDNA 2 graphics.
And while some of the spec will be around the same ballpark, the Series S is said to have just 4 teraflops of graphical power to play with. That’s quite a drop and could result in some games having fewer graphical features.
Ray tracing will be supported by both, but while the Series X will be able to run games in full 4K resolution at up to 120fps, the Series S will allegedly be locked at 1440p. It has been confirmed to be able to run at up to 120fps too, however.
Even with its lower spec though, the Series S will support variable refresh rates and other next-gen tech.
Memory and storage
There is no hint as yet how much RAM (or what type) the Xbox Series S might carry.
The Series X, however, will have 16GB of DDR6 RAM to play with.
In terms of storage, both will carry an SSD for faster load times and the rest of the abilities that solid-state drives can offer. The X will come with a 1TB internal SSD, with an expansion slot for an additional, proprietary 1TB drive. It will also support USB 3 and up external hard drives.
In comparison, the Series S will have a 512GB SSD to keep costs down. That’ll give it the same super fast loading times and other features, but we are seriously worried about the capacity considering most games these days are anywhere up to 100GB in size. Some are even larger, such as Call of Duty: Warzone.
A new Xbox Wireless Controller will ship with the Xbox Series X and the one with the Series S is no different – just a different colour.
You can find out more about the new gamepad here: Xbox Series X controller: All you need to know.
Games and accessories
All Xbox games – be they Xbox One, Xbox Series, or even original Xbox and Xbox 360 – are expected to work across the entire family of consoles. That includes the Series X and Series S, with games featuring enhanced graphics and other platform talents coming under the banner of “Optimised for Xbox Series X“.
As for accessories, Xbox has confirmed that all Xbox One controllers, headsets and other first and third-party accessories will work with both new consoles too.
Microsoft’s games library subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, is also said to include the next-gen consoles when they arrive.
From the official image of the Series S, it is clear it will lack a physical media drive.
The Series X (like the existing One X) will sport a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray drive for games and movie playback alike.
It’ll also undoubtedly support HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, for improved video and sound respectively.
While there is no drive on the S, we still expect it to support the same video and audio technologies, for playback through streaming services, such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video.
Price and availability
This is the big one. The Xbox Series X will cost £449 / $499 for that extra power and punch. While the Xbox Series S will be $299 / £249 at launch.
Both will be released on 10 November 2020, with pre-orders available from 22 September.
We will update this feature when full specs for the Xbox Series S have been released (shouldn’t be too long now).
What we can say is that it makes complete sense for Microsoft to launch two consoles, at two price points, much like it has done in the past. And, with two models of the PlayStation 5 heading to market around the same holiday 2020 period, it’s going to be an exciting, jam-packed end to the oddest year in recent history.