Microsoft introduced two variations of its fourth-generation Xbox gaming console in November 2020. These are the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X. This is attuned to its previous product strategy that involved releasing two variants of the same-generation console. The first one has higher specifications and the second has dialed-down specifications with a more affordable price point. Hence, between the two fourth-generation gaming consoles, the Xbox Series S is the more affordable device but this advantage comes with some hardware compromises.
Pros of Xbox Series S: Notable Features and Reasons to Buy
1. Competitive Hardware Specifications
This console is powered by a custom 8-core AMD CPU based on the Zen 2 microarchitecture with a maximum clock speed of 3.6 GHz and a custom AMD Radeon discrete GPU based on the RDNA 2 microarchitecture with 20 compute units, a maximum clock speed of 1.565 GHz, and 4.01 trillion floating-point operations per second or TFLOPS.
It might not be as powerful as the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 but it is still worth noting that it has more processing power than the Nintendo Switch. It also has better system SDRAM at 10GB and internal storage at either 512GB or 1TB based on NVMe solid-state drive. The Switch only has 4GB of RAM and a 32GB or 64GB eMMC storage.
2. Other Notable Hardware Capabilities
The custom AMD Radeon GPU has native support for hardware-based ray tracing. This allows the device to render true-to-life lighting and shadows for more realistic graphics and an immersive gaming experience. It also supports Dolby Vision and the new features of the HDMI 2.1 standard which include variable refresh rate and Auto Low Latency Mode.
Another notable set of features of the Xbox Series S is its support for high-quality audio technologies. These include Custom Project Acoustics 3D Audio which uses the GPU for spatial audio, standard 7.1 surround sound, the Dolby Atmos surround sound technology, and the DTS:X object-based audio codec for producing multi-dimensional sound.
3. Above-Average Gaming Performance
An Xbox Series S review would not be complete without talking about its gaming performance and the overall gameplay experience. It is important to note that this gaming console is designed next-generation gaming console. It natively targets Full HD or 1080p resolution at up to 120 frames per second for high-definition and responsive gaming.
The console operates silently and it does not generate excessive heat unlike the Xbox Series X. This comes from its dialed-down CPU and GPU components. Nevertheless, despite this, games such as The Falconeer, Gears 5, and Halo run at Full HD resolution and at 60 frames per second without noticeable throttling and even minor framerate drops.
4. Expansive Selection of Video Games
The main difference between this console and the bigger and more powerful Xbox Series X is that it does not come with a disc drive. It is similar to the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition which only supports digital distribution or downloaded game titles. However, despite this, it is important to note that it has the same gaming library as the Xbox Series X.
Games can be purchased and downloaded via the official digital storefront of Microsoft. This is accessible on the console itself. Furthermore, aside from game titles for the fourth-generation Xbox, it also supports titles from the older Xbox One and Xbox 360 consoles. Subscribing to Xbox Game Pass provides access to a huge library of game titles.
5. Affordable 4th-Gen Xbox Console
Remember that this console is part of the fourth-generation Xbox console and it is also part of the ninth-generation gaming consoles alongside the Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5. It is also the most affordable console among these generations. It was introduced in 2020 with a retail price of USD 299.00. Take note that its bigger sibling retails for USD 499.00.
The original Nintendo Switch was also introduced with a retail price of USD 299.00. The Nintendo Switch Lite was introduced at USD 199.00. The Xbox Series S is still more affordable considering its better hardware specification and gaming performance. It is also more inexpensive than hybrid handheld gaming PCs such as the Lenovo Legion Go and Steam Deck.
6. Suitable For Cloud Gaming Services
Another reason to buy the Xbox Series S is its potential for cloud gaming. It has native support for Xbox Cloud Gaming. This cloud gaming service from Microsoft offers its subscribers access to hundreds of game titles developed for the Xbox platform. The service takes advantage of the Azure cloud computing infrastructure that is distributed across the world.
Some enthusiasts have also noted that this device can be used for Nvidia GeForce Now cloud gaming service via the built-in Microsoft Edge browser. The same is true for Amazon Luna and other browser-based cloud gaming services. Nevertheless, because of this potential for cloud gaming, the selection of games for this console is expanded further.
Cons of Xbox Series S: Limitations and Reasons Not to Buy
1. Limitations in Gaming Performance
This device has more capable CPU and GPU compared to the previous generations of Xbox and other consoles such as the Nintendo Switch and most handheld gaming PC devices. However, when compared to its bigger sibling, the PlayStation 5, and a gaming desktop or laptop PC, it has noticeable shortcomings in terms of gaming performance.
A notable disadvantage of the Xbox Series S is that it does not support 4K and 8K resolution. It can run games at 120 frames per second but it would struggle when running more demanding titles such as Triple-A games, open-world multiplayer games, and next-generation titles. This device remains an above-average console for above-average gaming.
2. Inadequate Internal Storage Space
The 512GB variant of this console will not be enough for certain games because this storage configuration only has 364GB of actual usable storage space. A small-sized game title takes up around 5GB to 15GB while a medium-sized game is between 15GB to 50GB. Popular graphic-intensive games can have a file size ranging from 50GB to over 100GB.
Nevertheless, based on the aforementioned, the best option is to opt for the 1TB variant. However, even with this storage, it is not enough for those who want to keep digital copies of their games. Another option is to purchase external storage for USD 219.00 for a 1TB storage. The Xbox Series X is the best option considering the accumulated costs.
3. No Disc Drive For Physical Copies
One of the common pain points in Xbox Series S review discussions is the absence of a disc drive. Remember that this product is a digital-only gaming console. There is also no option to purchase an external and attachable disk drive, unlike the PlayStation 5 Slim. The absence of a disc drive is one of the reasons Microsoft is able to trim down the cost of this console.
Nevertheless, based on the aforementioned drawback, the absence of a disc drive can be a deal breaker for most serious gamers who want to collect and keep physical copies of games they have purchased. This drawback also heightens the disadvantage of having a limited internal storage space and forces him or her to delete game titles from the console.
4. Concerns Over Long-Term Relevance
Another issue with this gaming console centers on concerns over its longevity or long-term relevance. It remains a capable device for its generation. However, considering the capabilities of the Series X, the dominance of the PlayStation 5, and the unrivaled power of PC gaming, remember that it is not as powerful nor as appealing for high-performance gaming.
This console struggles to handle demanding game titles at maximum settings. It is possible that it might become obsolete sooner than its bigger and more powerful sibling. Some critics have also argued that the presence of this console in the selection might be holding back the developments for the Xbox platform because of its limited hardware capabilities.
5. High Cost of Several Game Titles
The price of game titles for the Xbox Series S varies depending on the publisher and the type of the game. There is a decent selection of free games. Most small-sized games are also more affordable than the larger-sized ones. Older ones are also cheaper. However, when it comes to more popular and newer titles, the price ranges between USD 60 to USD 80.
Nevertheless, for more serious gamers, this console might be unsuitable. There is no good reason to purchase expensive and resource-demanding games and run them on an above-average gaming console. These serious gamers are better off purchasing either an Xbox Series X or a PlayStation 5. This also means that this console still remains ideal for casual gamers.
Xbox Series S Review: Evaluating the Reasons To Buy or Not to Buy
This entire Xbox Series S review boils down to the fact that this gaming console is an entry point to the fourth-generation Xbox gaming. The more affordable price point and the decent hardware specifications make it suitable for above-average gaming. Remember that it is more powerful than both the original Nintendo Switch and the Switch OLED model. However, despite these advantages, it is still important to note that a true entry point to Xbox gaming is the Xbox Cloud Gaming service that can run on almost all mainstream platforms and devices. It is still true that the Xbox Series S is a capable gaming console but it is more suited for casual gamers and those who want to take try and experience cloud gaming services.