Xbox Series X vs. Series S comparison: Which should you buy?

Xbox Series X pre-orders

Microsoft just confirmed the pricing of both the Xbox Series S and Series X, but there’s quite a difference between the two. Considering the Series S comes in at $299 and the Series X will cost you $499, which should you buy? The answer might not be obvious, but we’ll do our best to break down the differences between the consoles below. We’ll be laying out the main feature sets of each and who should pick up the higher-end Xbox Series X vs. the more budget-focused Xbox Series S this time around.

Microsoft heads out of the gate with two consoles this time around

While the Xbox One X and One S have been around for some time, this is the first time that Microsoft is launching two new consoles on the same date. The Xbox One came out in 2013, while the One S launched in 2016 and the One X in 2017. This time, Microsoft decided to hit the market with two different price points right out of the gate. Honestly, this is a super smart move.

Xbox Series S handles up to 1440p120 gaming

Let’s start with the more budget-friendly of the two Xbox consoles coming out in November. The Xbox Series S is quite small. In fact, Microsoft says that it’s their smallest console yet. This compact game system is designed to play the latest titles at up to 1440p120 — something that no Xbox has achieved in the past.

While the Xbox Series X and Series S use the same processor (an 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU), the Series S comes with a slightly lower clock speed. This honestly doesn’t make a huge difference, but the lower 4TFLOP GPU and 10GB of RAM do mean that the Series S will take graphic settings down a notch compared to its bigger brother. However, when you pit the Series S up against the One S, this is an insane upgrade given that the previous-generation console only had a 1.5TFLOP GPU. Unlike Xbox consoles of yesteryear, the Xbox Series S packs the ability to game at 1440p60 easily, with some titles boosting up to 120FPS. This is a first for Microsoft and is something we’ll dive into a bit later.

Storage-wise is really where the Series S lacks compared to the larger Series X. You’ll get a 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD built into the Series S, with the ability to utilize the expansion slot and add an additional 1TB of storage, though current rumors suggest a $220 price on that add-on. The Series S also drops the 4K HDR Blu-ray drive in favor of a digital-only design, though I honestly don’t think that’ll matter to most people.

Upgrading to the Xbox Series X delivers 4K120 gaming in your living room

While the Xbox Series S has some killer specs, Microsoft really is going all-out on the Series X. Upgrading to an insane 12.15TFLOP graphics card, the custom AMD RDNA 2 graphics card blows away previous consoles. To put this into comparison, NVIDIA’s (now) previous-generation RTX 2080 Ti graphics card delivers 14.2TFLOP of graphics power, and the 2080 Super, the next step down, had the ability to drive 11.1TFLOP. This means that the Xbox Series X sits squarely between the 2080 Super and 2080 Ti in terms of graphics power, delivering a killer experience in a pint-sized package.

This upgrade in performance allows Microsoft to offer gaming experiences at 4K60, with some titles boosting up to 120FPS. This is unheard of for a console and is honestly pretty hard for most gaming desktops to achieve unless you’re rocking the all-new RTX 3080 or RTX 3090, both of which cost more than the Xbox Series X for the graphics card alone.

Microsoft’s upgraded console also delivers 1TB of internal storage, which is twice the capacity of the Series S, with the ability to be doubled through the addition of a 1TB expansion card.

Storage and gaming resolution are the two big differences here

The two main differences in Microsoft’s new console lineup come down to storage and gaming resolution. The Xbox Series S only gives 512GB of storage, with the ability to boost to 1.5TB should you add the expansion card, while the Series X comes with 1TB and can boost to 2TB, effectively doubling the base storage and giving you 1.5x the boosted capacity. This is a big deal, considering that the next-generation games will only play at full-resolution on the new NVMe-based storage devices, so you can’t just add a normal external hard drive to add extra storage here.

The other big difference is gaming resolution. The Series S plays at up to 1440p120 while the larger Series X can handle up to 4K120. Your setup will determine which you’ll be able to take advantage of more, so this is something you’ll have to decide.

$299 Series S vs $499 Series X, what does the extra $200 get you?

When it comes right down to it, which console is right for you? Let’s lay out the key differences below:

Xbox Series S specs:

  • 1440p60 gaming with boosts to 120FPS
  • 512GB storage
  • Expandable to 1.5TB
  • No optical drive

Xbox Series X Specs:

  • 4K60 gaming with boosts to 120FPS
  • 1TB storage
  • Expandable to 2TB
  • 4K HDR Blu-ray drive

Given those differences, you need to take a look at how you plant to utilize Microsoft’s next-generation console. If you have a TV capable of playing 4K120, like LG’s high-end OLED lineup, and you want the best gaming experience possible, the Xbox Series X is the right choice for you. The 1TB of storage delivers ample room to install plenty of games. Also, the 4K120 gaming capability will push your TV to its max capabilities. You’ll enjoy insane graphics and frame rates that only PC gamers could have dreamed of until now.

But, if you don’t have a 4K120 TV and really only plan to play a few games like Call of Duty, Fortnite, or Apex Legends, then the Xbox Series S should be what you consider the most. The 512GB of storage won’t be a huge deal for you, and 1440p120 means that your 1080p TV (or even 4K60 setup) will be able to easily handle what the Series S can throw at it. For those who just prefer to game casually and don’t need the best of the best, pick up the Xbox Series S and enjoy the extra $200 of savings in your pocket.

But, the one thing to consider is storage here. Even if you can’t take advantage of 4K120 gaming, the Series X is only $200 more than the Series S for double the space. Current rumors place the 1TB expansion card at $220, which would make your total investment $519 into the Series S if you picked up the lower-cost console and add-on storage. While you’d have 1.5TB of total space going this route, you’d also be losing out on having the ability to play 4K120 games in the future once you inevitably upgrade to a newer TV down the road.

Xbox Series X vs Series S: which should you buy?

In the end, most people should probably stick to the Xbox Series S. I know, I know — this entire article has talked about how great the Series X is, and trust me, it’ll be a great console. But, unless you really plan to take advantage of the 1TB of storage or 4K120 gaming, the Series S will be a killer buy at $299. It offers a lower cost of entry into Microsoft’s next-generation gaming and still has the ability to expand its storage.

However, if you want the best gaming experience right out of the box without having to do any upgrades, then the Xbox Series X is for you. The extra $200 will net you double the storage and double the performance at less than double the cost. Personally? I’ll be going Xbox Series X, just because I like to have the best console possible so it can last me the longest overall.

Which console will you be buying? Xbox Series X or Series S? Let us know in the comments below, or reach out on Twitter @9to5toys or @pcamp96.

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