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Xbox Series X vs Series S: Which One Should You Buy?

Can you believe it’s already been almost seven years since the Xbox One was released? It feels like yesterday that we were gearing up for the newest Xbox to hit the market, and now almost to the day on November 10, 2020, we’ll be able to step into the world of Xbox Series X. Or Xbox Series S. Depending on which you buy, of course.

So to your answer your question: yes, there are in essence two “different but the same” Xbox consoles coming this November. One — the Xbox Series X — is effectively your iPhone Pro equivalent, whereas your Xbox Series S has the lower-quality camera (that’s an analogy: it doesn’t actually have a camera). What this means is that the former — the Series X — will be slightly more powerful in a number of key areas, whereas the Series S will have its own particular set of appealing elements, even if on paper it’s less powerful than its big brother. However, much like the iPhone range released each year, if you did opt for the Series S, it’s not like you’re opting for some random knock-off replica from a street market. You’re still getting a very powerful, valuable product, just at a lower price point, and thus, with a low range of high-tier technical features.

xbox series x vs series s

Are you still here? I hope I haven’t confused things further for you. If you’ve stuck around, you’re probably asking now: what are the main differences between the Xbox Series X and Series X, and which one is best for me? 

That second question is not an easy answer. Let’s go back to the iPhone analogy. You could opt for the more expensive, bigger option each year. Is the experience going to be much better over the smaller version? And if so, is it better enough to justify a higher entry price? That’s entirely subjective and up to the purchaser, but it’s easy to fall for the trap that it’s a face value purchase, and that it’s simply a case of buying a bigger phone with a better camera, when in reality it’s much, much more than that. There are subtle differences, refinements and advancements that the “pro” version has over its smaller sibling, and these elements may not be immediately visible or acknowledged to the casual user. The Series X and Series S are very similar in that regard.

Okay, no more iPhone analogies. Let’s do a deep dive into each console, and, hopefully, set the benchmark for you in deciding which console is right for you.

Xbox Series X vs Series S Price

I could jump straight into the hardware specs here but I’m going to start with pricing, because the reality is that for the vast majority of you, the price is going to be the first thing you look at when trying to decide which Xbox console is for you.

That’s not to say some of you won’t immediately look at the specs and features to make your decision, but cost tends to be the starting (but not necessarily driving) motivator when we’re looking to make a purchase. In this case I feel the price points will be starting you towards a decision, but the specs will ultimately be what drives you towards your final choice. Depending on your needs and wants, one will be weighted more than the other: for me personally, I see the Series X as being a great long-term investment, and thus more relative to my own needs, whereas the Series S at its price point would be a great option as a gift for a younger gamer. 

But I digress, I’m here to try and help you make a decision based on your own interests, and so that will ultimately be dictated by the facts: disregard why I prefer one over the other, because my needs don’t relate to your own.

Okay so let’s finally take a look at the price (sorry, I’m ranting now):

Xbox Series S Launch Price

  • USD – $299
  • GBP – £249
  • Euro – €299.99
  • AUD – $499

Xbox Series X Launch Price

  • USD – $499
  • GBP – £450
  • Euro – €499.99
  • AUD – $749

Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you: the Xbox Series X is a pricey little beast in Australia, but interestingly the variation in price between the Series S and Series X is the lowest for that region.

If you’re in the US, expect to pay +67% if you choose the Series X over the Series s (that’s the price different between the two consoles). For gamers in Europe, it’s a +67% difference, but in the UK it’s a staggering +81% difference. That means that the Xbox Series X is +81% in price vs the Series S in the UK.

The reason I talk to this is because the pricing in your region — which clearly varies depending on where you are in the world — is going to impact your decision. In Australia, you may be more inclined to choose the Xbox Series X, because the sheer value and improvement in technology over the Series S is worth the +50% price difference (again, though, you can make that decision yourself based on the information below).

If you’re in the UK, however, the question is: is the +81% price difference really worth it? It’s a huge difference, and something you definitely need to consider here.

Xbox Series X vs Series S Specs

Okay, so this is where things get interesting. If the pricing alone hasn’t allowed you to make a definitive decision, then the specifications of each console should most certainly do the job.

There’s a bit to take in here so I’ll do my best to break it down as best I can, minus any further iPhone analogies. 

First thing’s first: the Xbox Series X is technically the more powerful of the two, if you were to compare them side by side. This doesn’t mean there are going to be Series X exclusive games: it just means that some games are going to potentially perform and look better on that console (provided you have the right television setup aligned to the output mechanisms of the console).

halo infinite open world

Let’s touch on actual size first. The Xbox Series X is reportedly 60 percent larger that the Series S. Those dimensions come in at 151 x 151 x 301mm, or 5.94 x 5.94 x 11.85 inches

The Series S’ dimensions haven’t been revealed yet, but if the Series S is 60 percent larger, that should give you some sort of indication of size, especially right next to the console as outlined in multiple images releases yesterday.

Okay moving on from dimensions and size, let’s have glance at the console CPU power.

Series X CPU

  • Custom AMD Zen 2
  • 8-core 3.8 GHz (3.8 GHz with SMT)

Series S CPU

  • Customer AMD Zen 2
  • 8-core 3.6 GHz (3.4 GHz with SMT)

So the CPU is almost identical in the Series S compared to what’s in the Series X.

Let’s move onto graphics power now.

Series X GPU

  • 12 TFLOPS
  • 52 CUs
  • 1.82GHz clock speed

Series S GPU

  • 4 TFLOPS
  • 20 CUs
  • 1.55GHz clock speed

You don’t need to know what the hell any of the above means to realise that there’s a significant difference there between the two consoles. That alone demonstrates the sheer power of the Series X vs the Series S. 

But let’s put all of these numbers into context. The Series X, with a 12 teraflop CPU that’s capable of up to 120 frames per second, is twice as powerful as the Xbox One X, which is as of writing the most powerful home video game console on the market. The Series X will also support ray tracing, and, eventually, 8K resolution (I say eventually because who even has an 8K TV these days? And yes I know this comment will age terribly…). 

From the perspective of the Series S, the GPU is rather significantly less powerful than what’s in the Series X, with a compromise as well on the face of 10GB of GDDR6 RAM as opposed to the Series X’s 16GB. 

halo infinite gameplay reveal

Nonetheless, the Series S is still a mighty powerful console. It’s small, and packs a mighty punch, and is still more powerful than the Xbox One X. 

A key element of the console’s design, however — and this may be a breaking point for some people — is that it targets 1440p resolution, rather than 4K native. That’s a downside for me as I look to invest into true 4K gaming for the first time ever. It’s capable of 120 fps gaming, but whether it achieves that consistently without compromising other areas of performance still remains to be seen. 

The Storage on the Series X comes in with a 1TB customer NVMe SSD, whereas the Series S comes with 512GB Customer NVMe SSD. The goal here for the Series X was to make a console that is fast, responsive and seamless, with it’s quick SSD sure to speed things up on the loading side of things. Fingers crossed for the end of game loading screens completely. 

The concern for the Series S is that it doesn’t have a disc drive, which alone isn’t cause for concern but given it’s a digital-only console, only 512GB of storage seems a little low, especially given the size of some games and updates these days. Modern Warfare alone would take up around a third of the console’s total internal storage. You can expand the console’s storage — thankfully — with a 1TB proprietary expansion card coming directly from Microsoft, which will plug directly into the console, Sega CD style. But that’s only been confirmed for the Series X so far, but one has to assume that surely — surely — it also comes along for the Series S.

xbox series x vs series s

The Series X’s Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM) looks to improve a host of different elements of the Xbox experience, including communication between the console and controller. The SSD also incorporates the console’s Velocity Architecture, which in layman’s terms means you can do more on your console without direct impact to performance, such as play one game while having another game open in the background. For someone like me, I can put my city in Cities Skylines on a slow grind simulation whilst I play Overwatch for example, without having to close one or the other to boot up the other game.

Does all of that make sense for you? No? Okay, here’s a tl;dr for you:

  • The Xbox Series X is considerably more powerful on the GPU front vs the Series S
  • The Series X targets native 4K resolution, and can achieve 8K, whereas the Series S targets 1440p
  • Both consoles target 120 frames per second
  • The Xbox Series X is 60 percent larger than the Series S
  • The Series X internal drives is 1TB; The Series S’ is 512GB
  • The Series S is digital only; no discs

On the face of it, the Series X, at least in Australia certainly seems like the more valuable purchase given there’s only a +50% price difference. I’m not sure however this early in a console generation if UK gamers can justify paying 81% more for the Series X over the Series S. Is it that the Series S price for them is really cheap, whereas in Australia it’s overpriced, thus making the Series X seem more appealing? Perhaps. But that’s beside the point, because for the price downunder you’re better off spending that extra few hundred dollars for a console that’s definitely worth that extra quid. In the UK, I’m not sure that worth is justified in the price, so you may need to lean on things resolution output, overall console performance, and storage. Considering that you’ll likely need to upgrade the Series S storage at some point, unless all you’re playing is Minecraft.

Xbox Series X vs Series S games

There’s no competition here: all of the games across both console work on the other console. They are in essence the same console: just one boost performance to a higher degree. Think about how apps on the App Store work across all iPhone models within the same generation … okay that was the last iPhone analogy, I promise!

Here are the confirmed launch games for the Series X and Series S.

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
  • Destiny 2: Beyond Light
  • Dirt 5
  • Gears Tactics
  • Tetris Effect: Connected
  • Watch Dogs: Legion
  • Yakuza: Like A Dragon
  • The Ascent
  • Scorn
  • Rainbow Six: Siege
  • Tell Me Why

Here are the games set to be released shortly after launch:

  • NBA 2K21
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War
  • WRC 9
  • Werewolf: The Apocalypse – Earthblood
  • Warhammer 40,000: Darktide
  • Vampire the Masquerade – Swansong
  • Vampire the Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
  • The Witcher 3
  • The Outer Worlds
  • The Medium
  • Ori and the Will Of The Wisps
  • Madden NFL 21
  • Immortals: Fenyx Rising
  • Haven
  • Halo Infinite
  • Gears 5
  • Forza Horizon 4
  • Far Cry 6
  • FIFA 21
  • Cyberpunk 2077

Xbox Series X vs Series S: Which one should you buy?

And so this is where we’ve received. Have you made a decision yet? As it stands, I feel you need to ask yourself two questions:

  1. Do you value the technical differences between the two consoles, and;
  2. Are those differences worth the difference in price?

From a software perspective, the outcome is the same. The Series S is still a fantastic entry point to the next generation, and you don’t need to dig too deep into your savings. The Series X really doesn’t seem like the “Pro” version, bringing with it enhanced output that, in my opinion, justifies the difference in price (UK excluded).

With all that in mind, my decision is the Series X. That said, I have the TV to get the most out of it, and I don’t see any reason not to invest more, this early. However, it may be the first time in history for a gaming console where the lesser-powerful version is still seen as a similarly “next gen” equivalent. Both make the leap into the next generation, it’s just that one seems to do it more than the other.

Which one will you be buying? Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S? Sound off in the comments below!

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