The Xbox Series S is, without a doubt, the sexiest next-generation console. It is also the weakest. There is no 4K support for the Series S, and it has significantly less storage than the Xbox X or PlayStation 5. It also lacks a disc drive, of course.
This console is an excellent next-generation console, but it’s packaged in a cute case.
The best place to begin is inside those adorable intestines. The Series S has a 4 teraflop GPU, 10 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of internal storage space. In reality, the console comes with 362GB of free space, with the rest taken up by pre-installed software and other background processes. Despite its 1440p resolution and support for variable refresh rates up to 120 frames per second, the Series S won’t be able to do both in most games at the same time. For the vast majority of titles, 1080p and 60 fps are the ideal settings.
10.8 inches long, 6.2 inches wide, and 2.5 inches deep, the console weighs approximately 4.25 pounds. With a large black circle covering the fan on top and two small side panels with vents, it is designed to be placed horizontally. The fan, on the other hand, is noticeably quieter than the one on the PlayStation 4, which is my primary console of this generation.
For vertical storage, the Series S has four small pads on one of its sides, but this arrangement just doesn’t feel right. It’s not only dangerous for the base, but it also places a vent at the bottom of the console, where it will generate more heat.
When it comes to the Series S, it’s no surprise that it shares some of the Xbox Adaptive Controller’s design DNA. Microsoft’s goal with the Adaptive Controller was to create a stylish, functional gamepad for people with disabilities that blends in seamlessly with traditional gaming hardware..” Because the Series S is essentially an Adaptive Controller that has been cut in half, it will fit seamlessly into anyone’s living room design.
The gamepad that comes with the Series S is a slightly modified version of the wireless Xbox controllers we’ve come to know and love. Two AA batteries are all that is needed to power the controller, which lasts about three days of regular use for me. Share buttons have been added to the center of the gamepad, and the D-pad is now a complete circle like the Elite. It’s all matte except for the grips and the base of the trigger and bumper bases, which have a light texture. Microsoft’s new Xbox controller is a sturdy, light, and if anything, slightly more powerful than current models.
The rear of the Series S has ports for ethernet, HDMI 2.1, a Seagate expansion card, the power cable, and two USB 3.1 ports. The console has an additional USB 3.1 port next to the Bluetooth pairing button on the front of the device. In order to distinguish between ports on the back of the console, each one is placed above a unique set of Braille-like bumps. It’s a huge time-saver.
Because of the console’s limited internal storage, the Series S requires storage expansion. Customized 1TB expansion cards based on Microsoft’s next-generation architecture have been released by Seagate to allow gamers to boot up games directly from the card and take advantage of its new features, such as Quick Resume and faster load times. The expansion card is also compatible with the Series X, which comes preloaded with 802GB of free space.
Only backward compatible titles can be played on the Series S’s external HDD storage via USB 3.1, which isn’t optimized for the new console. Xbox One games will appear to run on the Series S if they are stored on an external HDD, unless you move them to the internal SSD.
Compared to the Series S, the Seagate expansion card is only $80 less expensive. In any case, it does what it says it will. Playing a game from the Seagate expansion card or internal storage has no discernible difference.
13 games and 23 apps were downloaded before I had to resort to a Seagate external hard drive. However, it’s just a brief glimpse. From a dozen to 100 gigabytes, the Series S has 362GB of free space at launch. Over 100GB of storage is consumed by a game like Call of Duty: Warzone, for example, which consumes a third of the box’s capacity. Fortunately, streaming apps like Netflix and YouTube typically consume less than 100MB of storage space.
For those who don’t have the time or patience to download the Xbox app, the boot-up process encourages them to do so. Calibration prompts for HDR and 4K are included even though the console doesn’t support gaming in 4K.
My Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa screen didn’t show up when I tested out the Series X, but it did appear when I tested out the Series S. In any case, the first thing I did was connect the console to a voice assistant network via the Settings menu. Not enough can be said about how much enjoyment I get out of yelling at my appliances.
Some games look worse on Series S than they do on Series X or PlayStation 5, there is no getting around that. Yakuza: Like a Dragon, which runs at 1440p and 30 fps or 900p and 60 fps on the Series S, shows the difference. Even on the menu screen in Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the lighting effects appear less delicate on the Series S.
Backwards compatible games like Control make the disparity even more apparent. If you have an Xbox One S, you’ll only be able to play games that were originally released for that console. If you’re playing Control (the backward compatible version, not the optimized Ultimate Edition) on the One S, you won’t be able to play it on the Series S because the resolution is lower than 1080p.
Though not a game-changing or console ruining observation, 4K gaming is quickly becoming the norm, and one of Microsoft’s next-generation devices simply cannot keep up.
The Series S can theoretically run games at 120 fps, which is more important than resolution in competitive gaming. There are a few exceptions, of course. As a case study, consider Fortnite and Destiny 2, two of today’s most popular games. For the Series S, they are both aiming for 1080p and 60 fps at 60 Hz. Unlike the standard Xbox One, the Series S version of Forza Horizon 4 can run at 60 fps. Gears 5 is one of the few games to offer multiplayer at 120 frames per second.
Even if you don’t have a 4K TV, you can still enjoy smooth gameplay on the Series S. One of the clearest demonstrations of the console’s power is the ability to increase the framerates of current and previous generation games, making them look and play like butter.
HDR, variable refresh rate, and game mode settings are automatically sent to compatible televisions when the Series S is connected via HDMI 2.1. Two features that make the new Xboxes sing are Quick Resume and faster loading times for backward compatible games.
Using Quick Resume, players can cycle through a few games without having to shut them down, effectively putting them on hold in the background of their console. You can even shut down the Series S and go to sleep, then wake up and turn the console on and pick up your games from where you left them, without having to wait for loading screens to finish. Although the Series S lacks 4K resolution and a sizable storage capacity, it still feels like a next-generation console thanks to its quick resume and faster loading time features.
In my experience, most backward compatible games load in less than 10 seconds between levels and fast-travel points, but conventional wisdom holds true: the larger the world, the longer the load time. New areas can take nearly a minute to load in titles like No Man’s Sky and Destiny 2. Gears 5’s initial loading screen is also quite long, clocking in at around 35 seconds.
In the early stages of the Gears 5 campaign, even on Intermediate difficulty, it is extremely difficult to die. Running into danger without fighting back, I attempted to kill DJ through three waves of enemies in order to further test the game’s load times. No matter how far ahead of the squad I placed him, he fell to the ground at least a dozen times, each time with screen blood. After the third wave, I found a place where DJ could rest comfortably. After that, the loading screen appeared for a split second, and I was back in the game. That was impressive, at least.
I’ve encountered one problem that required a hard reboot in the first week of using the Series S. During the course of preparing dinner, while using the HBO Max app on my console — which, by the way, is a piece of garbage — the scene suddenly froze and my sound bar began to drone, repeating only a single syllable from the audio. So I held the Xbox button on the console’s front for a few seconds, and it shut down. I haven’t had any more problems since the last time I restarted my computer. The HBO Max app, on the other hand, is still a travesty.
I’m not sure what happened here; the Series S was connected to my network via a wire, and I wasn’t doing any background downloads. It’s worth noting that my internal SSD was more than 96% full.
The Series S is Microsoft’s answer to the Game Pass Ultimate crowd, and it’s designed to generate subscriptions in this digital ecosystem. Virtual libraries of more than 150 games, Xbox Live and access to Microsoft’s xCloud game-streaming technology (powered by Azure, Microsoft’s incredibly profitable cloud network) are all included in Game Pass Ultimate. All of this is available for the same monthly fee as Netflix: $15. Over 15 million people currently use the Game Pass subscription service, which has helped Microsoft’s bottom line for the past few quarters. The new generation presents an opportunity to expand Xbox’s Game Pass subscription service, and both the Series S and the Xbox app provide plenty of ways for gamers to sign up for the service.
The Series S is a great opportunity to sell the $220 expansion card, bringing the console’s true price to $520. That’s an additional $20 on top of the Series X’s price, and it excludes 4K gaming.
Buying an all-digital version and saving money up front or spending a few hundred more on a full-fat console with more storage space and power is at the heart of the new console generation. A console with smoother framerates, faster loading screens and Quick Resume is what you’ll find in the Series S. There are many consoles out there, but for those who want something that will last for many years, you should consider the Series X.
All Series S owners will have to deal with storage issues at some point, and the next generation of games will demand more power, not less. To avoid having to buy a Seagate expansion card for the Series S, it makes more sense to buy the big boy with all the storage built in.
You have to go with Series S, if you’re really concerned about cuteness.