One is a super powerful games machine, with PC-like specifications, the other a more affordable alternative. So which should you save up for?
We've put together a handy guide to help you decide which next-gen Xbox could suit you best.
- Xbox Series X: Black finish, black controller, 301 x 151 x 151mm, 4.5kgs
- Xbox Series S: White finish, white controller, 275 x 150 x 64mm, 1.9kgs
Perhaps surprisingly, the two next-gen consoles from Xbox look nothing alike.
The Xbox Series X is a monolithic beast of a machine, best designed to stand vertically - but it can lay horizontally - and available in black only with some green highlighted openings on a top grille.
The Series S, meanwhile, looks more like the earlier Xbox One S - it even has a similar grille on the top (when horizontal). Xbox has decided to make that grille black and the console white, however, which makes it look like a loudspeaker when it is stood on its end.
Processing and graphics
- Both consoles: Custom AMD Zen 2 eight-core processor
- Xbox Series X: 3.8GHz CPU, 16GB GDDR6 RAM, 12 TFLOPS GPU (52 CUs at 1.825GHz)
- Xbox Series S: 3.6GHz CPU, 10GB GDDR6 RAM, 4 TFLOPS GPU (20 CUs at 1.565GHz)
Both the Xbox Series X and Series S are powered by a custom AMD Zen 2 eight-core processor, but the Series X CPU runs at 3.8GHz per core (3.6GHz with multi-threading) and the Series S at 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with multi-threading).
They differ even more greatly in the graphics processing, with the Series X sporting 12 TFLOPS (52CUs at 1.825GHz) of RDNA 2 graphics power. The Series S will have 4 TFLOPS (20CUs at 1.565GHz) of RDNA 2 graphics.
The amount of RAM is also different across machines. The flagship console has 16GB of GDDR6 RAM, while its stablemate has 10GB.
Ray tracing is supported by both, but while the Series X is able to run games at a 4K resolution natively, the Series S is effectively locked at a maximum of 1440p for gaming. Both consoles will run games at 60fps natively, although are capable of up to 120fps, usually by dropping the resolution.
Even with its lower-spec though, the Series S supports variable refresh rates (VRR) and shading, just like its sibling.
- Xbox Series X: 1TB internal SSD, 3x USB 3.1 ports
- Xbox Series S: 512GB internal SSD, 3 x USB 3.1 ports
- Both consoles: Storage Expansion Card slot
In terms of storage, both have an SSD for faster load times and the rest of the abilities that solid-state drives (SSD) can offer. They also each support Xbox's quick resume feature, which can pause up to six games or so at a time, allowing users to instantly continue where they left off or switch between them.
The Series X comes with a 1TB internal SSD, plus USB 3.1 support.
In comparison, the Series S has a smaller 512GB SSD to keep costs down. That'll give it the same super-fast loading times and other features, but considering many games these days are between 80-100GB in size.
Both consoles have an expansion slot for an additional, proprietary 1TB drive - the Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X/S, as it's known - which functions like the internal SSD, supporting all those next-gen features and quick resume.
Both consoles support external USB 3.0 drives (and above) - although they won't work with the faster loading times of the internal/Storage Expansion Card nor enable any Xbox Series X/S optimisations on games. They are best used, therefore, to store Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox games.
You can have up to three external hard drives connected at once.
- Both consoles: 1x AA-battery powered controller included
- Both consoles: Also compatible with Xbox One controllers
A new Xbox Wireless Controller ships with the Xbox Series X and the one with the Series S is no different - just a different colour. You can find out more about the new gamepad here: Xbox Series X controller: All you need to know.
It is also available to buy separately and works with legacy Xbox One consoles too.
All Xbox One controllers work with both new consoles too.
Games and accessories
- Both consoles: Backwards compatible with Xbox One, Xbox 360 and original Xbox games
- Both consoles: Also compatible with all Xbox One accessories
Nigh-on all Xbox games - be they Xbox One, original Xbox or Xbox 360 - will work across the entire family of consoles. The only exceptions will be those that require Kinect.
That includes the Series X and Series S, with games featuring enhanced graphics and other platform talents coming under the banner of "Optimised for Xbox Series X/S".
Microsoft's games library subscription service, Xbox Game Pass, is available for both Series S and X, with EA Play now added to Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, making for a very compelling subscription service.
All Xbox One accessories and headsets will work on the new consoles.
- Both consoles: Variable Refresh Rate (VRR), Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), HDR (high dynamic range), Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos
- Xbox Series X: 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray drive
- Xbox Series S: No drive, digital only
There is no physical disc drive on the Series S. The Series X (like the existing One X and One S) sports a 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray drive for games and movie playback alike.
They both support HDR, Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, for video and games (the first consoles to have Dolby Vision gaming support). However, we will have to wait until 2021 for Dolby Vision games to start to appear. Around the same time, Dolby Vision is expected to be added to Xbox Series X 4K Blu-ray playback - it is not available at launch.
Price and availability
- Both consoles available now
- Xbox Series X: £449 / $499 / €499
- Xbox Series S: £249 / $299 / €299
This is the big one. The Xbox Series X costs £449 / $499 for that extra power and punch. The Xbox Series S is £249 / $299.
You can also purchase either console on the Xbox All Access monthly payment plan. It includes the console and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for a low monthly fee. Check out all the details here.
It makes complete sense for Microsoft to launch two consoles, at two price points, much like it has done in the past. However, having reviewed both - the Series X here, the Series S here - our feeling is the X is the real next-gen powerhouse, with the most storage, that will fire on all cylinders when it gets the chance. The Series S, meanwhile, has its place and is an excellent machine for the money, but its resolution drop and half the storage space could be a deal breaker.
It must also be said that, with two models of the PlayStation 5 also available, this generation is one of the most exciting we've had in decades.