Xbox Series S Review — Compact and Cost-Effective
The Xbox Series S is an evolution of the Xbox One S and brings next-gen gaming at an attractive price despite some sacrifices.
With the arrival of the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, this is the official relaunch for the Xbox platform after taking most of the last generation to recover from the Xbox One. The Xbox Series X is a powerhouse when it comes to 4K graphics and teraflops, but the Xbox Series S, while running on similar hardware, is mostly the same experience in a much smaller box. Naturally, there are some cutbacks to make up for the low price tag, but at the end of the day, I believe the Xbox Series S will be a very attractive console going into next-gen.
The Xbox Series S is more or less an evolution of the Xbox One S. It’s a less powerful yet cost-effective option for those who aren’t looking into 4K gaming. Despite 4K being as relevant as ever, there are still a lot of people who just aren’t in the market for a 4K television or simply do not play games enough to justify the investment. That is what the Series S is for.
With the ability to hit a native 1440p, the Xbox Series S is also able to reach framerates of up to 120 frames per second. We already know that games like Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Gears 5 multiplayer are supporting this for those who have a TV or monitor that have the capabilities. For those that do have access to 4K, the Series S is able to upscale to that resolution in rare instances, but it will not be native like the Xbox Series X. Additionally, any backward compatible titles that have Xbox One X enhancements will not show those upgrades on the Series S.
Removing the disc drive is arguably the biggest sacrifice for those who decide to pick up the Series S over the much more expensive Series X. The Xbox One S released an all-digital edition last year, but there was still the regular Xbox One S with the disc drive included. This is no longer the case.
Not only is there no disc drive, but the Series S is only equipped with 512GB of memory in its SSD. That is, until you count the operating system. In reality, there is only 360GB of memory available to store games optimized for the Series S. With next-gen games likely to get bigger in size as the generation progresses, that storage will fill up quickly.
However, there are solutions to this. Xbox has teamed up with Seagate to create a one terabyte proprietary expansion card that takes advantage of the system’s solid-state drive, but it is costly. At the price of $219.99, it would probably be better to use that money to grab a Series X which comes with 1 TB of internal storage instead. At that point, you would not have to worry about moving to a Series X once you eventually have the possibility of 4K gaming. The storage upgrade wouldn’t be as significant, but it is definitely more bang for your buck. An external hard drive is also an option for your backward compatible games as well as a holding place for Series S titles, but they must be installed on the SSD to be played.
Quick Resume allows multiple games running to switch on the fly. The number of games that you can have running at once varies depending on how strenuous it is on the console. Through my experience, I have been able to have a handful of games running without one completely shutting down.
Alongside the new Xbox consoles is an updated controller. At first glance, it didn’t look much different from the Xbox One controller, but immediately after putting it into my hands I was shocked as to how much an improvement it ended up being. The controller has texturized grips on the back which feels like a lesser version of the Elite Series 2. It also boasts grips on the triggers and smoother bumpers. The triggers are also slightly smaller than they use to be, but it makes very little difference. The new controller also has a new share button making it easier to take immediate screenshots to share on either the platform or social media. With that in mind, it takes away the previous option to capture that was on the Xbox One. It might seem redundant, but I wish they would have both options available as I see no reason to take it away. Overall I think it is on a similar level of quality to the original Elite controller but falls short due to the lack of adaptive triggers.
The main question that I think most have about the Xbox Series S is, “Who is the target audience?” The answer is that it just depends. Outside of those who can only afford one console, the Xbox Series S is great for those looking for a secondary console. With Xbox Game Pass and the low price tag, the Xbox Series S is a great console for almost anyone to have. While still playing multiplatform titles on PlayStation 5, for example, you can still have access to a large library of games to try out on Xbox along with getting all exclusive first-party titles on day one. That said, the Xbox Series S is great even if it is your one and only console. Game Pass is the best deal in gaming right now and regardless of which Xbox system you have, not subscribing to Game Pass is like shooting yourself in the foot.
The Xbox Series S was made to make next-generation more affordable to those who can’t shell out $499 for the Xbox Series X or PlayStation 5. With the $299 price tag and an experience that is comparable to Series X outside of 4K graphics, the Series S has the potential to be the best-selling console this generation. The storage size does hurt it in the long run, but there are ways to get by it if you’re willing to be flexible. Despite that one major flaw, the Xbox Series S simply gives the best value in gaming and is a great option for those looking for the cheapest way to get into the next generation.