Microsoft has come up with its latest Xbox Series S console with a tempting price tag and we take a deep look at its performance, load times. storage and much more.
We waited. We waited for a long time. And the new generation of game consoles is finally here, along with the most lively month of this year and above all, with a great promise for the future. So forget for a moment about the epidemic, being isolated at home and other ailments that have affected us this year. 2020 is the year of the gamers and we will now look at the first pair of consoles that came to hand.
We’ve decided to review the two new Xboxes side by side so even you can feel the difference, compare everything you need, and decide which Xbox is right for you. We are also preparing a review of the competitive Playstation 5 at the moment, but let’s talk about the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. And let’s start with the smaller, more accessible and cheaper one.
Let’s start lightly. Microsoft has decided to enter the new generation with two models of its Xbox console, where each one is aimed at a completely different group of customers, which is definitely a smart move. Until now, many have taken the Series S simply as “the weaker Xbox”, but it hides much more interesting features and especially the combination of low price and similar next-gen architecture can be really tempting for many players. So how does the S-series stands out?
At the very beginning, this is the smallest Xbox that Microsoft has ever created. Its design and style are inspired by the previous generation One X. It is an even box with a matte finish, plenty of ventilation grilles on the sides and a minimalist look.
The Xbox Series S is fitted with rubber feet on two sides, so the console can stand or lie without any problems.
From the front, the only things you can find there are a power button, USB port and a button to pair the device with your controller. Everything essential such as network port, HDMI 2.1, two USB 3.2 ports, an Ethernet port and a slot for storage expansion are hidden at the back.
The console weighs about 2 kg, so you can imagine how really small and light the Xbox Series S is. Next to the Series X or the new Playstation 5, it looks really tiny. Apart from the size itself, the first visible difference compared to the Xbox X is, of course, the absence of a Blu-ray drive. All the Xbox Series S games are possible to download only via the digital store, which is the first thing you need to think about when making a decision on which of those two consoles to choose. Do you like physical copies and gift boxes? S series won’t probably be for you.
Xbox Series S: Hardware
Quite understandably, another important difference between the two consoles is their performance. The Series S has a slightly weaker CPU, GPU and smaller RAM, but can still erode the next-gen world and offer games in 1440p resolution (with the possibility of upscaling to 4K) and up to 120FPS.
As you probably understand, the Series S is not for gamers who demand maximum performance and the best that can currently be bought from Microsoft. There’s a bigger bro Series X for that.
This console is absolutely ideal for casual gamers and beginners who still wish to experience what it’s like to play on the new generation console.
But let’s talk about the hardware for a while. The right combination of this console with your TV will be absolutely crucial, as there are some differences that may interest you.
Make sure you have the right TV
If you own or are about to buy a classic 1080p TV and the console will use supersampling technology to artificially enhance the picture quality. This means that the game is rendered at a higher resolution, and then “reduced” to the television resolution. The result is a very sharp and detailed image.
But if you currently own or are about to buy a 4K TV with a frequency of 120Hz (or at least 60Hz), the console will gradually handle much more and you will usually get to a resolution of 1440p with upscaling to 4K.
Here we must point out that the console can easily handle native 4K resolution, but here it depends to a large extent on the game developers themselves. Most games will stick to 1440p, and that’s quite far off the 4K resolution, which is another minor step back of the Series S. Fortunately, at least you’ll get an improved frame rate and better overall image agility.
At the same time, it should be noted that not all games at this moment can reach 4K resolution anyway, and it purely depends on the developers. Of course, Microsoft studios have priority.
I tested the console’s skills, for example, on Gears 5, Forza Horizon 4, Sea of Thieves and several other indie issues. While Gears 5 looks incredibly good and manages to reach 120 FPS in multiplayer, most other games stick to 1440p resolution and 60 FPS.
Of course, the games have been improved significantly with higher resolution, better frame rate, and other little things, such as ray tracing (realistic lighting effects) or instant loading thanks to the SSD. You will undoubtedly recognize the difference compared to the previous generation, even though the jump may not seem so striking.
Xbox Series S: Extensive backward compatibility is a win
The Xbox Series S has excellent Game Pass service and backward compatibility, a pair that makes the console an extremely powerful weapon. Despite the absence of really high-quality launch titles, which are about to come later, you have literally hundreds of titles of all generation platforms under your thumb for a few bucks, with many of them graphically improved for the new console generation.
For someone who wants to play only casually, this is an absolutely ideal combination, thanks to which the player does not spend a lot of money and has constant access to a large list of great games, which are also regularly updated.
Xbox Series S: You may run out of space soon
A much bigger problem is the lack of large storage, as one of the main differences compared to Series X. The Xbox Series S offers only a 512 GB storage disk, of which you have only 364 GB available. That’s really, really low these days, and with an average game size of around 60 GB, it fills up very quickly.
The Xbox Series S also supports an expandable memory so if you find yourself in a tight spot, there is a way out, exchanged for money, of course, as 1TB Seagate Expansion Card costs £219.99 (Microsoft UK)/ $219.99 (Microsoft US).
As I wrote earlier on, the console is simply focused on casual gamers, who are playing only a few games at the time. If you tend to have 20+ gaming titles installed, switching between them on a daily basis, you might want to get the Xbox X.
A good alternative might also be to connect more or less any other external storage via USB and store all your games on it, always copying the ones you are actively playing to the internal SSD. A bit bumpy road, but it usually shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to copy them over.
Xbox Series S: Controller – No evolution this time
The console’s controller hardly changed its approach and design over the years, and for a reason. The Xbox360 generation controller is described by many gamers as almost iconic, and Microsoft knows so well that it’s not worth changing something that works.
The overall ergonomics have been slightly modified with the controller being covered with a delightful texture that does not slip in the hand and is nice to the touch. Vibrating motors and haptic response in triggers have also been slightly modified to make the controls a little more accurate and sensitive.
The biggest change is the left side control cross, which is now much more durable, easier to use and has a vigorous press.
The Xbox Series S controller still, unfortunately, makes us use standard AA batteries as the power source, which is quite an affliction, given its year 2020. There seems to be only one reason behind this decision, which might be the option of paying extra for the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller Series 2 with some advanced options such as improved performance, Interchangeable paddles, Hair trigger locks, customization app and charging dock for £159.99 / $179.99.
Xbox Series S: Quick Resume – Play now, wait no more
In addition to swift loading thanks to the SSD, the real new generation jump is the associated Quick Resume feature, ie. quick recovery. In practice it allows you to jump from one game into the next within seconds. The game load and progress is then stored in memory and you can then jump between games at lightning speed.
It is one of the nicest features of this generation, even though not all games might support it just yet. The console can store multiple games in its memory at the same time (user reviews say the console manages to hold around 6 games in its quick resume memory)
Xbox Series S: Price
If you like to play only from time to time and you don’t mind the absence of the Blue-Ray drive, little disk space or a bit of a half-next-gen experience, you’re looking at a very promising household companion for a very nice price of £249.99 in the UK or $299.99 in the US.
There is also an option to pay for the console monthly. The subscription costs £20.99/mo. for 24 months and includes the Xbox Series S console and 24 months of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate out of the box.
Xbox Series S: The final verdict
As you can see, Microsoft knew exactly which group of customers to target with this console.
The Xbox Series S is not a “worse” console. It is simply different and after the initial fears, it actually pleasantly surprised me. It is small, light, quiet, costs significantly less than the more powerful colleague, supports next-gen games and has access to a giant library of games across all generations of the platform.