Microsoft has launched not one, but two new consoles in 2020. Alongside the souped up Xbox Series X, gamers on a budget might be more tempted by the compact and surprisingly affordable Xbox Series S.
It won’t play games in 4K – and has no disc drive, so it’s download-only – but in return you get a major price cut and a much smaller form factor, making it easier to fit into your living room.
Here’s what you need to know – and if you already know the tech specs and just want to know what we think of it, go ahead and read our
Xbox Series S review.
What is the Xbox Series S?
Put simply, this is a cheaper, smaller, less powerful version of the headline
Xbox Series X.
The easiest comparison is to the current Xbox lineup: the Series S replaces the
Xbox One S, while the Series X takes over from the
Xbox One X as the more powerful big daddy of the Xbox lineup.
all-digital edition of the Xbox One S and the Digital Edition of the PS5, the Series S omits a disc drive entirely, and sticks purely to streaming and downloading games. It also has reduced specs, which most importantly mean that it won’t be able to play games in true 4K.
The Xbox Series S is available in the UK, US, and other markets now, having launched on 10 November – the same day as its big brother Xbox Series X, with the
PS5 also out around the same time.
Stock is very limited, but we’re tracking which retailers still have the new Xbox in stock – read our full guide to
where to buy the Xbox Series S for more.
How much does the Series S cost?
Here’s the good news: the Xbox Series S costs just £249/$299.
That’s even cheaper than we’d predicted for the console, and only slightly more than the
All-Digital Xbox One S costs at £199/$249. It’s also far less than the £359/$399 PS5 Digital Edition, the closest next-gen rival.
It’s a big drop down from the £449/$499 main Xbox Series X, marking a significant saving for those willing to save money by skimping a little on specs.
There is one big downside: it only comes with 512GB storage, compared to the 1TB in the Series X. That may sound like a lot, but game sizes are always growing, so that 512GB could only end up letting you install a handful of games at once, especially since after the OS it’s only around 360GB of usable space.
Making matters worse, the new Xbox consoles use a proprietary expandable storage format, and the first card – a
1TB card from Seagate – costs £219/$219. That means expanding the console’s storage almost doubles its price, at least at launch. Bear in mind that you can still use a normal external drive over USB, but you can only play old games (Xbox One or earlier) from this drive because of the lower speeds – for new titles you’d need to swap games back and forth between the drives every time.
What does the Series S look like?
The Xbox Series S should look familiar to Xbox fans, sticking with the company’s current design language but bringing it to a slimmer, shorter form factor.
The new console is all in white, except for a large black disc across the top, which doubles as extra ventilation for the console.
The reveal trailer above claims that the console is about 60% smaller than the Xbox Series X, and that mostly comes from slimming it right down. Losing the disc drive presumably doesn’t hurt either.
What are the Series S specs?
Here are the headline specs for the Series S:
Similar 8-core 3.6/3.4GHz Zen 2 CPU to Series X
AMD RDNA 2 GPU
512GB NVME SSD with Xbox Velocity Architecture
1440p up to 120 FPS
Ray tracing support
4K media playback
4K game upscaling
The main thing to know is that this is running on a similar CPU and SSD to the main Series X (albeit with only half the storage capacity), and so will play all of the same games, and enjoy the same phenomenal load times and perks like Quick Resume.
The big difference is in the GPU, where Microsoft has decided to prioritise frame rate over resolution. That means that the Xbox Series S supports frame rates up to 120fps – just like its big brother – but caps out at a resolution of 1440p, rather than 4K. There is hardware-driven 4K upscaling though, so you’ll still get some benefit if you own a 4K TV, but it won’t be true 4K.
For more details, check out this official deep dive into the console’s specs and performance:
What games can I play on the Xbox Series S?
The Series S will play all the same games as the Series X, but will simply drop the resolution down to 1440p or 1080p in order to do so.
There is one minor oddity: while the Series S will have the same backwards compatibility as the Series X – namely playing almost every game from the previous Xbox generations – it won’t be capable of playing the graphically Xbox One X versions of Xbox One games. That’s because it has slightly less RAM than the Xbox One X – despite being a more modern console. It will still play all those games, but only the standard Xbox One version, without any graphical enhancements introduced for the One X.
Tech Advisor's Deputy Editor, Dom covers everything that runs on electricity, from phones and laptops to wearables, audio, gaming, smart home, and streaming - plus he's a regular fixture on the Tech Advisor YouTube channel.