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Review of the new Xbox Series S

Review Xbox Series S

Xbox Series S: is it worth your purchase?

Pros

  • Amazing and compact design
  • SSD drive
  • Fantastic value for money

Cons

  • No 4K support
  • No disk drive
  • Only 512GB of storage

Our verdict

For most users, the Xbox Series S is the console to buy right now. You get the next generation’s biggest breakthrough, the SSD, along with a steady increase in performance, a nice design for your living room, and that bright feeling of happiness when shopping for new consumer goods.

You probably don’t need it right now, as there are no exclusive games for it, but when you’re ready to jump into the next generation, the Xbox Series S is the Xbox to go for. 

Retail price (RRP)

$ 299.99

Review of the new Xbox Series S

The Xbox Series S is the little console that has conquered us. It is half the size of the X Series flagship (it also costs half). However, it promises compatibility for the same games, and almost always with the same performance. So why is there a “premium” model?

Although it sounds almost perfect, it has shortcomings in relation to the premium model. There is no disk drive and give up 4K. Also, the hard drive is smaller too. But, if none of this matters to you, the Xbox that we analyze in this article is yours.

Design and build quality

The Xbox S Series is the most beautiful console of the next generation, and one of the best ever.

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It measures exactly 6.5×15.1×27.5cm, which makes the S Series a small console by any standard, and positively tiny compared to the X Series and the PS5.

Unlike the X, it is also shaped like a traditional console, which means it will fit anywhere you have your favorite console, without the need to redecorate your living room.

 

Finished in white, with a prominent black dial for heat management, the S Series is also more eye-catching than its bigger sister. It’s a design that feels like a statement, but not an ugly one (* cough * PS5 * cough *).

Like the S Series, it is designed to stand vertically or lie on its side, so you have different options when it comes to positioning.

You’ll find a single USB 3.1 port on the front of the console, with another two on the rear, although there’s no USB-C. Joining them are HDMI 2.1, ethernet, the power outlet, and a new port for expandable storage – more on that later.

Of course, there is a big omission here: a disk drive. This is a big part of how Microsoft has kept the S Series cheap and compact, but there are obvious downsides. It means that you can’t use the S Series as a Blu-ray player, you lose compatibility with whatever old disc you have, and you are forced to pay the premium for digital games for the rest of the life of the console.

I think that for many people these inconveniences will be worth it, and don’t worry, although digital games usually cost a bit more, you will have to buy a lot of games to make up the difference in price between this and the X Series. Still, keep that in mind .

There isn’t much more to say about the S Series look, except that I’m a fan of it, and I think most people will be. Unlike the X Series, it is designed to fit into people’s living rooms and TV settings, able to seamlessly replace what you currently have with minimal fuss.

Controls

If the console is a perfect transition, its controls are even more so. Microsoft has decided not to reinvent the wheel with its gamepad, although there are subtle improvements in all aspects.

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The controller here, identical to the Series X except it’s white instead of black, is roughly the same size and shape as the well-known Xbox One pads, only with slightly curved grips, now enhanced with a dotted finish and textured for grip.

The new Share button offers a quick and easy way to take screenshots and videos while playing, and the D-pad has undergone a major remodel. It is now circular, optimal for rolling through in fighting games, really the only modern genre where D-pad performance is truly significant.

Microsoft also includes the ability to redo many of the buttons on the controller, a welcome touch for accessibility from the company that still leads the pack here by a comfortable margin. Also note that each port on the console is marked with a high dot for the visually impaired. 

There’s a fatal flaw in the controller, and it’s a familiar one: AA batteries. Although Microsoft has changed the controller port to USB-C, you still can’t use it for charging unless you want to spend more on a rechargeable battery pack. Otherwise, they are disposable AAs, which is frankly absurd in 2020.

Specifications and performance

So this is what really matters, what does the X Series have that the S Series doesn’t?

The bottom line, as I’ve already mentioned, is 4K support. With less RAM, a significantly slower CPU and GPU, the S Series is not designed for 4K gaming.

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You can, and developers have the option to enable 4K, but in practice this will only happen with games that are not otherwise graphically demanding.

The rest of the time, Microsoft claims the performance target is 1440p, although there is scalar rendering technology to “fake” 4K by upscaling when the console is connected to a 4K TV.

What does that mean in practice? Most games will be at 1440p or even 1080p – even at launch Sea of ​​Thieves, which has been optimized for new hardware, is only delivering 1080p on the S Series.

If your TV is HD then this doesn’t give a hoot. If your TV is 4K, then most games will be upscaled to 4K anyway, and unless you have a keen eye you probably won’t be able to tell the difference.

Interestingly, the S Series is actually less powerful than the current Xbox One X in certain respects, which means it won’t play the upgraded versions of games for that console. It means that X owners have very little reason to jump from that console to this one, although anyone on an Xbox One or One S will still see a performance jump.

This is mainly because, instead of promising 4K, Microsoft has emphasized that the S Series should deliver a solid 60 frames per second, with the ability to go up to 120fps – although very few TVs support 120Hz yet, so it is unlikely. you see this specific benefit.

Remember I said that Sea of ​​Thiefs runs at 1080p? That’s because it’s 1080p but 60fps, whereas the last generation was 30fps. It’s a similar story to many S Series games, while Gears 5 goes further and can hit 120fps in its multiplayer mode.

The balance between resolution and frame rate is tricky. Microsoft has decided that the second is more important, as it emphasizes the fluidity of the game over the number of pixels.

When diving between the S series and the X series in Forza Horizon 4 I was able to see the difference in detail, but not by much. Both versions felt equally smooth and fluid, and after my eyes adjusted to not getting “true” 4K, it didn’t really matter. It felt great to play, and that’s really what Microsoft is pushing here.

That’s also why the S Series shares what is possibly the biggest technological leap of this generation: a solid-state drive. This allows for significantly faster loading – seconds in most games – as well as the option to switch between supported games and start right where you left off, also in seconds.

In the future, games will be designed with SSDs in mind, creating more dynamic and open worlds, in theory, but for now the benefits are simply for quality of life. You’ll spend less time loading screens or pressing “A” to go through the home menus, and a lot more time actually playing games.

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This is also the third and final limitation of the S Series: storage. It only has a 512GB drive, compared to 1TB on the X Series. Considering the operating system, you get a little over 350GB of usable storage space, which equates to between five and ten modern games. AAA, and only two or three if it is Call of Duties.

If you’re considering plugging in an external hard drive to get a little extra space, think again. It’s a bit more complicated than that. Microsoft’s sleek new SSD is faster than USB, which means any external drive will be too slow, causing problems when gaming has been optimized for those SSD speeds.

You can fill any external USB 3.0 or faster drive with old games, anything from the Xbox One or earlier, and play from it without problems. But anything that has been optimized for the S & X Series must be installed on the internal drive.

Your other option is to store some games externally and move them back and forth – it only takes about five minutes or so to transfer even an 80GB game like Forza, so if you don’t mind the inconvenience this is the most efficient approach. .

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The alternative is to buy one of Microsoft’s official expandable storage cards – remember that custom slot? The catch is that there is only one at launch, from Seagate, and it costs 220 for 1TB.

I haven’t tested it, but in theory it should allow you to play any game directly from the card, without compromising its effectiveness. It also costs the same as a new S Series, so until the prices drop I’ll have a hard time recommending it to anyone.

Storage capacity aside, the SSD is still the best option for the new Xbox. It’s the main reason to upgrade right now, and with the S Series getting exactly the same performance as its big brother, it’s a massive point in favor of the cheaper console.

Games and software

Microsoft has given both Xboxes a visual overhaul and a new user interface. It’s an improvement, but at the end of the day it’s still a bit clunky. As with most consoles, it takes too many buttons to get where you want to go, and too many screens are still dedicated to advertisements trying to lure you into the game store. Plus it’s Microsoft, so you have Skype and Edge whether you like it or not.

Luckily, Microsoft has improved integration with the updated Xbox smartphone app. Now you can use it not only for initial console setup, but also to manage storage space and install games, share screenshots and videos, chat with friends, and even stream games from the console to your phone.

Phones are simply better than game controllers for a host of tasks, so this is a welcome move, and it takes some of the emphasis off major operating system glitches. After all, if it bothers you so much, just switch to your smartphone.

What about games? The S Series plays absolutely everything that the X Series does, so you shouldn’t miss a thing. This means all titles optimized for the new consoles, but also almost all previous Xbox games since the first console, with the notable exception of everything that relies on the ill-fated Kinect peripheral, which is not supported here.

It’s good that that gigantic back catalog is there, because the Xbox S and X series don’t have any exclusives at launch. Anything you can play here you can also play on PS5, or an existing Xbox One. This is likely to hold true for a while too, with Microsoft promising to offer support for all genres for at least a year or two.

It means that there is no urgency to skip generations, there is no rush for new hardware. The S Series doesn’t play any games that your current console can’t – it will just load those games a little (much) faster, and will probably play them at higher frame rates.

Eventually there will, of course, be exclusives. Although Halo Infinite is expected to remain cross-gen, at some point we’ll see Gears 6 or Forza 8, maybe even a new Bethesda game that’s exclusive to Series X and S. But that’s a bit far off, and in the short term Sony. has exclusives for PS5 right now and in 2021, from Demon’s Souls and Ratchet & Clank to God of War 2.

To combat that, Microsoft has a game pass. It is already a revolutionary application, but it is even more so in the S Series, of great value. Pay 299 for a console, and then 9.99 a month with Game Pass and never buy a game again, with access from day one to Microsoft’s most important titles and a colossal library of old games, both premium and premium. third parties.

Price and availability

Price is really the key.  At € 299 the Xbox Series S is comfortably the cheapest device of the new generation of consoles – the PS5 Digital Edition can’t match it for value at 399, while the Xbox Series X is almost double at 499. Take a look at our full comparison of the Xbox X series vs. the S series for more details on how they stack up.

If you prefer, you can also buy the S Series in a subscription model through Xbox All Access for 24.99 a month for two years, which includes Game Pass Ultimate.

Assuming you want a Game Pass, this works out a bit cheaper in the long run, but of course keep in mind that you are risking your credit score if you can’t make payments in the future.

It hasn’t come out yet, but it launches globally on November 10, so don’t wait long. 

Verdict

If you have a giant disk-based catalog, you’re sure you can spot the difference between true 4K and its upscale equivalent, or you’re already having heart palpitations thinking of only 512GB of storage space, then the X Series it may be worth the extra expense.

But for most people, the Xbox S Series is the console to buy right now. You get the next generation’s biggest breakthrough, the SSD, along with a steady increase in performance, a nice living room design, and that bright feeling of happiness when shopping for new consumer goods.

It also feels perfectly designed to serve as a second console, like the Xbox for people who also have a PS5, and know that they can get Sony exclusives and cross-platform games there, while paying pennies for the S Series Game Pass. .

You probably don’t need it at the moment – there are no exclusive games for it anyway – but when you’re ready to jump into the next generation, the Xbox S Series is the Xbox that surely interests you. 

specs

  • CPU: 8-Cores, 3.6GHz, Custom Zen 2
  • GPU: 4 Teraflops, 20 CUs, 1.56GHz, custom AMD RDNA 2
  • Memory: 10GB GDDR6
  • Storage: 512GB NVMe SSD
  • Expandable: Seagate Expansion Card (1TB) or USB 3.1 External Hard Drive
  • Video output: Up to 1440p at 120fps
  • Ports: HDMI 2.1, 3x USB 3.1 gen 1, Ethernet
  • Wireless: 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi 5
  • HDMI Features: Auto Low Latency, Variable Refresh Rate, AMD
  • FreeSync
  • Sound: L-PCM, up to 7.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby TrueHD with Atmos
  • Dimensions: 151x275x65mm
  • Weight 1.9 kg.

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