The Xbox Series X is set to be the world's most powerful console, launching on November 10. Microsoft is also set to launch an arguably even more exciting console on the same day, dubbed the Xbox Series S.
What makes the Xbox Series S exciting is its price, which comes in at $299, making it 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 many millions of people still haven't upgraded to a 4K TV.
We've been writing about the Xbox Series S, formerly known as Lockhart, for several months across tons of leaks and snippets of information. With the console finally outed as real, here's everything you need to know so far.
Xbox Series X
The full next-generation experience.
Xbox Series X is Microsoft's new flagship, as its most powerful console with over 12TF GPU performance and a custom SSD. It boasts up to 4K resolution and 120 FPS, full backward compatibility across four generations, and ray-tracing support.
How powerful is Xbox Series S Lockhart?
Last year we noted that Lockhart would be around 4TF, which sounds far smaller than the 12TF on the Xbox Series X or even the 6TF of the Xbox One X. However, Lockhart will boast a modern NVME SSD to match the Series X on load times 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 the current-gen consoles, letting you fast resume multiple games, reducing loading speeds down to mere seconds or less. It will also support ray tracing lighting and shadows, which is truly absurd given its $299 price point. This is the cheapest entry point to real next-gen gaming.
Marketing materials we saw last year positioned Lockhart 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. Indeed, Microsoft's current marketing suggests that Lockhart will primarily be a 1080p machine, up to 1440p, far more capable than the current-gen Xbox One S on QHDTVs and monitors, which are far more likely to be present among casual gamers, as well as students' or children's bedrooms.
The exact spec sheet isn't known at this time, but here's how the Xbox Series S vs. Xbox Series X stacks up based on our current information.
|Category||Xbox Series X||Xbox Series S|
|Processor||8x Cores @ 3.8 GHz (3.6 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU||8x Cores @ 3.6 GHz (3.4 GHz w/ SMT) Custom Zen 2 CPU|
|Graphics||12.15 TFLOPS, 52 CUs @ 1.825 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU||4 TFLOPS, 20 CUs @ 1.565 GHz Custom RDNA 2 GPU|
|Memory||16 GB GDDR6||10 GB GDDR6|
|Memory Bandwidth||10 GB @ 560 GB/s, 6GB @ 336 GB/s||8 GB @ 224 GB/s, 2GB @ 56 GB/s|
|Internal Storage||1 TB Custom NVME SSD||512 GB Custom NVME SSD|
|I/O Throughput||2.4 GB/s uncompressed, 4.8 GB/s compressed||2.4 GB/s uncompressed, 4.8 GB/s compressed|
|Expandable Storage||1 TB Expansion Card (matches internal storage exactly)||1 TB Expansion Card (matches internal storage exactly)|
|External Storage||USB 3.2 External HDD Support||USB 3.2 External HDD Support|
|Optical Drive||4K UHD Blu-Ray Drive||None, digital-only|
|Performance Target||4K @ 60 FPS, up to 120 FPS||1440p @ 60 FPS, up to 120 FPS|
|Color||Matte Black||Robot White, Black|
|Size||301mm x 151mm x 151mm||Unknown|
|Price||$499, £449, €499||$299, £249, €299|
|Release date||November 10, 2020||November 10, 2020|
Xbox Series S design, ports, and features
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.
We were also told by multiple sources that Lockhart looks similar to the Xbox One S, lacking a disc drive, similar to the "All-Digital" edition, which has now turned out to be accurate. It will also sport the same SSD expansion port we've seen on the Xbox Series X, used with a dedicated Seagate-branded memory card. It sports a similar "Robot White" coloration to the Xbox One S, perhaps to bring 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 will work with your best Xbox One headset, and all of your favorite current Xbox One accessories, including controllers. It will also run every single Xbox One game (except Kinect titles), giving it the largest generational launch lineup in console history.
Xbox Series S, Series X, and GameCore
Lots of armchair devs on internet forums claim to be "worried" that the Xbox Series S will "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 will it happen 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 will bring 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 Lockhart and Anaconda (Xbox Series X) profile modes.
GameCore will bring PC and Xbox development closer together than ever before, while also allowing developers to more easily target different Xbox hardware profiles with as minimal code changes as possible. Some upcoming Xbox Series X titles will be among the first to use GameCore in its early form, as Microsoft refines and improves the system for general availability.
GameCore will form a large part of how much more easily it will be 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 can 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 preorders
Microsoft has unveiled the Xbox Series S launch price to be $299, or at £249 in the UK, making it cheaper than the Nintendo Switch in some markets. It will launch on November 10, 2020, alongside the Xbox Series X. We've heard this will be a global simultaneous launch, moving far beyond the limited launch of the 2013 Xbox One. Every current supported Xbox market across the world should get the Xbox Series S and Series X day and date, on November 10.
Additionally, you'll be able to spread the cost of the Xbox Series S over 24-months using Xbox All Access, at $25 per month on a two-year contract, which also includes Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, giving you hundreds of games right out of the box.
As for Xbox Series X and Series S preorders, they'll open on September 22, 2020 for both consoles, ahead of the November 10, 2020 launch.
With the Xbox Series X and PlayStation 5 set to be on the higher-end in terms of price, the Xbox Series S could be a particularly compelling option for specific audiences who want to join in on the next-gen fun without breaking the bank. Especially given the state of the economy in 2020.
What do you think of the Xbox Series S? Let us know in the comments.
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