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Xbox Series X vs. Series S

Michael Archambault
·7 mins read

Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S represent Microsoft’s fourth-generation home video game consoles designed around AMD’s 8-Core Zen 2 CPU and Radeon RDNA 2 graphics architecture. The two consoles succeed the company’s third-generation home consoles, Xbox One X and Xbox One S. New features on board include displaying resolutions up to 8K, built-in solid-state drives for faster access times, and support for real-time ray tracing.

With two powerful consoles available, we take a close look at which reigns supreme in our Xbox Series X versus Series S battle. Otherwise, if you’re more interested in Sony’s PlayStation, check out everything we know about the PlayStation 5.

Specifications

Xbox Series X

Xbox Series S

CPU

8 core, AMD Custom Zen 2 CPU @ 3.8GHz

8 core, AMD Custom Zen 2 CPU @ 3.6GHz

GPU

AMD Custom RDNA 2 @ 1.825GHz w/52 compute units (12.15 TFLOPS)

AMD Custom RDNA 2 @ 1.565GHz w/20 compute units (4 TFLOPS)

Weight

9.8 lbs

TBA

Memory

12GB GDDR6

10GB GDDR6

Memory bus

320-bit

TBA

Memory bandwidth

560GB/s (10GB), (8GB) 336GB/s

224GB/s (8GB), 56GB/s (2GB)

Storage

1TB PCie Gen 4 NVME SSD

512GB PCie Gen 4 NVME SSD

AV Output

HDMI 2.1 in/out, 720p, 1080p, 1440p, 4K, 8K

HDMI 2.1 in/out, 720p, 1080p, 1440p, 4K

I/O Output

USB 3.2 X 3, Microsoft Storage Expansion Slot

USB 3.2 X 3, Microsoft Storage Expansion Slot

Communication

Ethernet, Wi-Fi (TBA)

Ethernet, Wi-Fi (TBA)

Controller

Updated Xbox 4th Generation Controller

Updated Xbox 4th Generation Controller

Optical drive

4K UHD Blu-ray

N/A

4K Support

Yes

Yes

8K Support

Yes

No

Price

$500

$300

Availability

November 10, 2020

November 10, 2020

DT Review

TBR

TBR

Hardware

When it comes to hardware, both home consoles are loaded with technology from AMD, including the company’s 8-Core Zen 2 CPU and custom Radeon RDNA 2 graphics architecture. Speeds differ between the Xbox Series X and Series S CPUs, with the consoles running at 3.8 GHz and 3.6 GHz, respectively.

The most significant difference comes when we take a closer look at the RDNA 2 graphics processors, with the Xbox Series X featuring 52 compute-units at 1.825 GHz and the Series S featuring 20 compute-units at 1.565 GHz. The result means that the Xbox Series X can process more data at a time than its Xbox Series S sibling, up to 12.15 TFLOPS versus 4 TFLOPS.

Xbox Series X receives 16GB of GDDR6 RAM on the memory front, while the Xbox Series S gets a slightly lower 10GB of GDDR6 RAM. Built-in storage with Xbox Series X is double that of the Series S out of the box, featuring a 1TB NVME SSD versus a 512GB VME SSD. Both units offer USB HDD support and compatibility with Microsoft’s storage expansion card.

For those who love physical media, Xbox Series X includes a 4K UHD Blu-ray player, while the Series S opts to go disc-less for this generation. Due to the Xbox Series X’s impressive internal specifications, the hardware race isn’t even close.

Winner: Xbox Series X

Design

Xbox Series S
Xbox Series S

Both Xbox Series X and Series S took a minimalist approach when it came to the design. Series X is akin to a tall, thin gaming PC tower. Designed to maximize cooling thanks to what Microsoft calls its “parallel cooling architecture,” the Series X comes in at 5.94 x 5.94 x 11.85 inches. The front of the console features a single white Xbox logo, a vertical Blu-ray drive, a small eject button, a small control pairing button, and a USB Type-A port.

On the back, one finds the standard ports for the Series X, including two USB Type-A ports, an ethernet jack, HDMI port, Microsoft’s storage expansion card slot, and a power jack.

The Xbox Series S is a smaller unit with a design that is reminiscent of Microsoft’s Xbox One Series S design; it is white and flat and features a large, black circular cooling vent. The front of the Series S features the same white Xbox logo as its bigger brother, as well as a USB Type-A port and a control pairing button — notably missing is a disc drive. Altogether, the Xbox Series S is 60% smaller than the Series X.

It isn’t easy to make a call between the Xbox Series X and Series S; while the Series S features a much more compact design, Series X includes a disc-drive — a feature that many buyers will consider essential.

Winner: Tie

Resolution and frame rate

Both Xbox consoles can output impressive resolutions, offering up 720p, 1080p, 1440p, and 4K support; however, the Xbox Series X’s impressive internals begin to shine as the console allows for up to 8K gaming. Microsoft also notes that the Series X has been designed to deliver 4K resolutions at 60 FPS up to 120 FPS.

In comparison, Series S has been designed to offer 1440p resolutions at 60 FPS up to 120 FPS. Thus, even though Xbox Series S supports 4K gaming, you might want to opt for the Xbox Series X if you desire high frame rates consistently.

Winner: Xbox Series X

Home theater features

Xbox Series X
Xbox Series X

When it comes to relaxing in your home theater or den, Xbox Series X nudges ahead thanks to its inclusion of a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray drive that supports standard Blu-ray discs, DVDs, and CDs. Series S, on the other hand, offers no physical disc slot. Additionally, while Xbox Series X can output resolutions of up to 8K, Xbox Series S is limited to a maximum of 4K.

When it comes to audio output, neither console features a digital optical out port, so you are limited to the single HDMI 2.1 port. On a positive note, HDMI 2.1 offers support for both audio low-latency mode and variable refresh rate features. Both Xbox Series X and Series S use a custom Project Acoustics 3D audio engine to handle sound processing.

While Xbox Series S offers a near-perfect solution for those with a digital library, Xbox Series X includes greater media compatibility thanks to its internal Ultra HD Blu-ray drive. Additionally, the ability to support media up to 8K makes Series X feel more future-proof.

Winner: Xbox Series X

Games and backward compatibility

E3 2019 Xbox exclusives 14 phil spencer game studios
E3 2019 Xbox exclusives 14 phil spencer game studios

No matter whether you select the Xbox Series X or Series S, you’ll be able to play the same great games released for Microsoft’s fourth generation of consoles. However, games can be optimized for Xbox Series X, offering higher frame rates and increased fidelity for a more immersive experience. When purchasing a game from the digital Xbox Store, Xbox Series X will automatically download the game’s optimized version without users needing to make a distinction. Games optimized for Xbox Series X will bear an easily recognizable green “Optimized for Series X” badge.

Moving to the latest generation of Xbox consoles won’t mean leaving your favorite behind as both Series X and Series S offer complete backward compatibility for Xbox One titles, excluding those that require the use of the now-defunct Kinect sensor. Additionally, the fourth generation of Xbox consoles will also support Xbox 360 and original Xbox games that are currently supported on Xbox One.

Both Xbox Series X and Series S can play the same games and access the same libraries of backward-compatible games; however, Xbox Series X’s ability to run games with higher fidelity put it a step ahead.

Winner: Xbox Series X

Price and availability

Xbox Series X will debut for $500, while the smaller Xbox Series S will be available for $300. Pre-orders for both Xbox consoles will begin on September 22, 2020, with a release date set for November 10, 2020.

For initial availability, the fourth generation of Xbox consoles will be launched in 12 countries, including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, the UK, and the USA, with more markets to follow in 2021.

Winner: Xbox Series S

Overall winner — Xbox Series X

Xbox Series X Stylized Graphic
Hanif Jackson/Digital Trends, Getty Images

Gamers have a reason to be excited for the Xbox Series X; it offers a cutting-edge gaming experience from Microsoft, delivering games in resolutions up to 8K in a compact, minimal form factor. Don’t let the Xbox Series S slide out of sight, however; its launch price point will allow individuals to gain access to the world of Xbox without having to break the bank.

Best of all, no matter which system you select, you’ll enjoy the same games in the end.