(Pocket-lint) - The next generation of Xbox is here - or, rather, the next generation of Xboxes, as it turns out. Microsoft is embracing the multi-tiered model it started with the Xbox One X.
You now have a choice between the Xbox Series X and slimmer Series S. It's a choice that mirrors the outgoing models, the Xbox One X and One S, which have stopped being manufactured but are still widely on sale. If you've got an Xbox One S, whether with a disc drive or the digital-only version, you might be wondering how the new slim Series S console stacks up.
As you can see, there are some somewhat obvious differences in the look of the Xbox Series S and Xbox One S, but the closer you get the more you realise they come from a very similar design background.
The Series S might have a big black grille for ventilation, but that same grille was very much present on the One S, just covered in white to make it stand out less. In fact, the Series S is in many ways a One S that's managed to shrink down even further in a few dimensions, letting Microsoft call it the smallest Xbox ever.
That said, though, the One S is hardly massive itself in either version, so the reality is that this is about as small as home consoles get for now (ignoring the many variations on the Nintendo Switch, which has a minute footprint). Both the One S and Series S are impressive on the design front, then, provided you can get over that black circle on the newer model.
The difference in graphical output between the Xbox One S and Xbox Series S will be pretty significant, even if they look like similar bits of hardware. The older console can't output in 4K other than on menus, instead of using 1080p, and while it runs most games whisper-quiet, is coming to the end of its lifetime in development terms.
The Xbox Series S, by contrast, will be able to support 4K output using upscaling, and apparently targets 120fps performance at 1440p, which is a big step up. You'll get ray tracing support, too, reportedly, and much faster performance - in the video above a developer from The Coalition says the Series S is more than four times as powerful as the One S.
That's a big step up, although the Series S still won't be able to match the power of the Xbox Series X, which will have native 4K support and more power to call on.
CPU and memory
The Xbox Series S has the same CPU as the Series X, an eight-core chip that runs at 3.6GHz, or 3.4GHz with multithreading. That's a big bump over the One S, which has a custom eight-core processor running at 1.75GHz.
On the RAM side of things, the Xbox One S and All-Digital Edition each have 8GB of DDR3 RAM and 32MB of ESRAM, with bandwidth of 68GB/s and 219GB/s respectively.
By contrast, the Series S has 10GB of GDDR6 memory running at 224GB/s, scaling according to the resolution being targeted, which is a little boost on paper.
We have a little more to go on when it comes to storage space, though. The Xbox One S in both versions came with a 1TB hard drive, which was really handy for being able to download plenty of games without needing to delete things.
Things are quite different for the new Xbox Series S, which upgrades the hard drive to a solid-state drive for way faster-loading speeds and transfers, whether on older games or new ones.
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However, to keep costs down, Microsoft has had to slash the drive down to 512GB, halving the amount of space you get. That's not ideal, but understandable given the price, as we'll cover later. However, it does mean that you might have to resort to external storage earlier than you'd like.
The Xbox Series will come with the newest version of Microsoft's Xbox controller, with some subtle improvements covering better grip, tweaked analog sticks and a new finish for the buttons to make them easier to press.
However, all controllers from the Xbox One era onward will work with all Xbox consoles going forward, meaning that your existing Xbox One S controllers will work on the new console and that the new controller would also work on the older tech. That means picking up extra controllers for split-screen action isn't something to worry about yet.
Games and accessories
Microsoft is making a really interesting play with the launch of the Xbox Series X and Series S, and it's all centred around the idea that all of its new games will work across the whole range of recent Xbox consoles.
It's adamant that people shouldn't feel they have to upgrade to a new console to play the latest games, at least for a few years. That's why games like the recently-delayed Halo Infinite will be releasing on both the new Xbox Series X and S, but also for the One S and One X.
The crown jewel of this system is Game Pass, which will ensure that you have a big library of games that will work on whatever hardware you have access to, including through streaming, so you shouldn't need to worry about new exclusives on the Xbox Series S and X for a little while yet.
As we said up top, the Xbox One S has ceased production on Microsoft's end, so new models aren't being made, but it's still widely available. You can pick it up for around £250 or $250, although deals frequently lower this price.
The One S All-Digital Edition, meanwhile, can be found even more cheaply at times, but starting from £200 or $200.
For a good while these have looked like solid prices to get you into console gaming, but the newly-confirmed launch price for the Xbox Series S makes them look like bad investments now. It'll launch for £250 or $299, immediately blowing the One S out of the water.
Xbox Series S vs Xbox One S: Conclusion
Even if the Xbox One S is tempting you, we'd recommend you try and stretch to the Series S. You'll get a much more powerful console for almost the same price - it's that simple.