Xbox Series S: Everything you need to know

Xbox Series S Vertical
Xbox Series S Vertical (Image credit: Microsoft)

The Xbox Series X is one of the most sought-after home consoles on the market with its sleek design and powerful hardware capabilities. Its younger sibling, Xbox Series S, boasts almost the same level of quality and power but at a cheaper price.

Sitting at a retail price of $299, the Xbox Series S is considered cheaper than a Nintendo Switch in some markets. At this price, you get next-gen features such as gaming up to 120 FPS, aiming at 1080p to 1440p resolution, taking advantage of the fact that there are still millions of people who haven't upgraded to a 4K TV.

But that's not all the Xbox Series S has to offer, there is a ton of features packed away in this console. Here is everything you need to know about the Xbox Series S so you can decide if this console is the right one for you. 

Xbox Series S: How powerful is Xbox Series S?

The Xbox Series S contains a 4TF GPU, a graphics processor which is far smaller than the 12TF GPU within the Xbox Series X or even the Xbox One X's 6TF GPU. However, the Xbox Series S is equipped with a modern NVME SSD to match the Xbox Series X load time speeds and leverage Xbox Velocity Architecture, while also boasting a far more powerful CPU than that of the Xbox One X. The switch to the new "RDNA" architecture also provides improved per-teraflop returns over the "GCN" architecture used by the Xbox One X GPU, making it far from a 1:1 comparison.

The SSD alone will make it a far more pleasant experience than last-gen consoles, letting you fast resume multiple games, reducing loading speeds down to mere seconds or less. Its hardware allows it to run a majority of Xbox games at 120 FPS, providing a smoother, responsive, immersive, and fun gameplay experience.

It also supports ray tracing lighting and shadows, which is truly absurd given its $299 price point. These features make the Xbox Series S the cheapest entry point to real next-gen gaming.

Marketing materials we saw in 2019 positioned the Xbox Series S as an entry-level next-gen console, designed for those on a tighter budget, or parents who want their kids to be able to experience the latest games, but not necessarily at 4K resolution. Its advertisement turned out to be accurate as most games played on Xbox Series S can only reach 1080p resolution.

While the resolutions aren't as high as the Xbox Series X's 1440p or 4K resolutions, the Xbox Series S's resolutions are a massive improvement over the Xbox One S's resolutions on QHDTVs and monitors. These devices are far more likely to be present for the Xbox Series S' target audience of casual gamers, as well as students' or children's bedrooms.

Here's a list comparing characteristics between the Xbox Series S vs. Xbox Series X.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
CategoryXbox Series XXbox Series S
Processor8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU8x Cores @ 3.6 GHz (3.4 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU
Graphics12.15 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU4 TFLOPS, 20 CUs @ 1.565 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU
Memory16 GB GDDR610 GB GDDR6
Memory Bandwidth10 GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s8 GB @ 224 GB/s, 2GB @ 56 GB/s
Internal Storage1 TB Custom NVME SSD512 GB Custom NVME SSD
I/O Throughput2.4 GB/s uncompressed, 4.8 GB/s compressed2.4 GB/s uncompressed, 4.8 GB/s compressed
Expandable Storage1 TB Expansion Card (matches internal storage exactly)1 TB Expansion Card (matches internal storage exactly)
External StorageUSB 3.2 External HDD SupportUSB 3.2 External HDD Support
Optical Drive4K UHD Blu-Ray DriveNone, digital-only
Performance Target4K @ 60 FPS, up to 120 FPS1440p @ 60 FPS, up to 120 FPS
ColorMatte BlackRobot White, Black
Size301mm x 151mm x 151mm279mm x 149mm x 66mm
Price$499, £449, €499$299, £249, €299
Release dateNovember 10, 2020November 10, 2020

Xbox Series S: design, ports, and features

Source: @_h0x0d_ (Image credit: Source: @_h0x0d_)

The Xbox Series S is actually the smallest Xbox console ever made, able to easily fit into a backpack, or squeeze inside its bigger Xbox Series X bigger brother. It's roughly 60 per cent smaller in volume, even smaller than Xbox One X.

The Xbox Series S lacks a disc drive, meaning if you wish to play games or movies on it, you will have to buy and download them online. It also sports the same SSD expansion port seen on the Xbox Series X, which is used to connect to a dedicated Seagate-branded memory card for extra storage space. It sports a similar "Robot White" coloration to the Xbox One S, bringing it in line with that family of devices. The key differentiator is the industrial-looking black fan grill, which gives it a very stark contrasting profile to previous-gen consoles.

Like the Xbox Series X, the Xbox Series S works with your best Xbox One headset, and all of your favorite current Xbox One accessories, including controllers. It also runs every single Xbox One game (except Kinect titles), giving it the largest generational launch lineup in console history.

Xbox Series S: Series S, Series X, and GameCore

Xbox Series S Internals

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

During the Xbox Series S' development, lots of armchair devs on internet forums claimed to be "worried" that the Xbox Series S would "hold back" game development on the Xbox Series X, as developers build games for the lowest common denominator. This doesn't happen on PC, and nor has it happened on Xbox Series consoles. Game developers have been targeting vastly different hardware profiles for literally decades, and the tools for porting games and optimizing games for separate hardware levels have only got better as time has passed.

GameCore has brought PC and Xbox development closer together than ever before.

Developers are able to target Xbox Series S through beta versions of GameCore, which is a new development environment set to replace Xbox One's ERA system in the coming years. Infosec engineer TitleOS previously revealed the June GDK documents recently, which mentioned both the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X profile modes.

GameCore has brought PC and Xbox development closer together than ever before, allowing developers to more easily target different Xbox hardware profiles with as minimal code changes as possible. Some Xbox Series X titles were among the first to use GameCore in its early form, allowing Microsoft to refine and improve the system for general availability.

GameCore has formed a large part of how much more easily it has been for developers to seamlessly strip out different features in order to meet the specific needs of both the Xbox Series X and Series S. A good example showing how easily developers tone down a game's visuals to match hardware levels can be found in Gears Tactics, whose graphics settings showcase in real-time how sliding different graphical features up and down can help or impede performance.

Xbox Series S: launch date, price, and Xbox All Access

Source: Microsoft (Image credit: Source: Microsoft)

Xbox Series S launched on Nov 10, 2023, priced at $299, or £249 in the UK in various online or retail stores. Additionally, you can spread the cost of the Xbox Series S over 24 months using Xbox All Access, at $25 per month on a two-year contract. This contract also includes Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, giving you access to hundreds of the best Xbox games right out of the gate.


Xbox Series S

Microsoft serves the next generation for less with its budget-friendly Xbox Series S. The console packs the same high-performance CPU and SSD technology as Xbox Series X, while scaling back the GPU and removing the disc drive.

Buy from: Amazon | Walmart | GameStop

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden is a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by tea. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his XB2 Podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

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