So, you’ve had a look at the 9th gen consoles releasing. You’ve had teraflops, FPS and SSD numbers beaten into you by advertising that you don’t know how you survived not knowing how fast Spiderman loaded on a PS4. There’s a lot to take in and a lot of hype that may (or may not) make getting these new consoles worth the money. And that’s where we come in.
This console review was evaluated on a purchased unit.
Xbox Series X arrives with a hefty price tag for £450/$499, and so both Sony and Microsoft have provided a cheaper digital edition this time around. Enter the Xbox Series S. Priced at a much more afordable £250/$299 it’s the baby brother of the Series X, but with quite a bit of punch still.
The main differences are:
No Optical Drive (Digital Only)
512Gb storage vs 1Tb
4 Teraflops vs 12 Teraflops
1440p vs 4K Resolution
Series X vs Series S
Now, If you are the sort of person who has bought a 4k gaming TV, you want to get the absolute most out of your console. In which case, the Xbox Series S is not your console. If this isn’t you, you want to get the most out of a console for an affordable price.
The storage difference between Series X and S is a bit painful. If you’re a Call of Duty fan with their game sizes you’re in for a bit of a rough ride. Unfortunately these shiny new SSDs don’t necessarily mean smaller file sizes either. With my install of Apex Legends being 27Gb larger on Series S compared to PS4 (54.6 vs 85.7). Doom Eternal was 9Gb larger on Series S (41.34 vs 54.5) with Rocket League and Rogue Company being about the same or a little smaller on Series S. This coupled with only being able to use the Xbox official external storage will cause a bottleneck in storage. That is, unless you want to fork out nearly as much as you paid for the console. However, PS4 and Xbox One didn’t support external hard drive at launch either, and so in a few years we may see Xbox’s position change on this.
For context on the storage. I currently have 5 large games installed (50-90Gb each), as well as 8 small/medium games (5-20Gb each). So the storage is still able to support a healthy number of games.
The lack of a disc-drive will limit your purchasing options. And so you’ll either have to stomach the prices, or wait for a sale. Or you could take out a subscription to the Xbox Game Pass.
For power, it is a less powerful console than the Series X and PS5 and there is no way to sugar-coat that. Meaning things will be slower. But it will still an improvement over most 8th gen consoles. The PS4 Pro and Xbox One X exceed the Series S here. However, that was the choice of the previous generation as well, do you go for the slower but cheaper console, or faster and more expensive? This will also not affect what games will be playable, and so will not limit your chances to play a Series game. You might just have to wait a little longer.
The only final thing to note in the specs are that both the Xbox Series S and X are allegedly able to get up to 120 FPS. The Series X has much more capability to do this, but it’s unlikely to happen with any regularity. It’s much more likely the Series S will be running at 60 FPS, the same as most modern TVs, so you’re unlikely to lose anything.
Aesthetics & Interaction
There’s been a lot of complaints about how consoles look in the 9th gen. And the Series S is no exception there. It looks like a Hi-Fi speaker. But, I care more about what it can do. So, not judging a book by its cover, lets proceed inside.
Where the Series S will look familiar when you turn it on. Because it’s the same OS that is on the Xbox One. You could pull out another adage of ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’. But then again, I was hoping for a little more sparkle to this new console. For those not familiar it is definitely more cluttered home screen compared to the PS4, but still easily navigable.
I found the load times to be much faster when compared to both an Xbox One and Ps4. When comparing changing destinations in Destiny 2 the load times were about half. So a welcome boost in power over standard 8th gen consoles.
Finally, the controller. A lot of people were happy with the Xbox One controller. And it remains largely the same with the Series consoles, but with added grip to the triggers and handholds. A welcome improvement. However, I was disapointed that the paddles present on the Elite Xbox One controllers weren’t encorporated considering how well received they have been. So don’t expect much change from the Xbox One controllers. I was also a bit disappointed that it still ran on batteries. I understand the advantages and disadvantages of having in-built rechargables. But with even Nintendo having rechargable controllers now I feel Xbox should have gone down this route.
Next Gen Gaming
So, you’ve got your fancy new console set up and ready to go, what game do you play first? Where are those juicy next gen games? Well, there’s actually nothing exclusive to the Series consoles. Although many games claim to be optimised for it, there is not a single game out that isn’t playable on a console you might already own. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a number of high profile games due to release over the next year that will be exclusive to the Series consoles. But that’s not now.
Xbox Series S provides next gen gaming on a budget. Or does it? As it currently stands, everything about the Series S is available on the Xbox One. And it doesn’t even boast a speed upgrade on some last gen consoles. The games it has are all playable on the previous generation. The controllers and OS are almost the same, and the one draw of Game Pass, you can already play on a Xbox if you have one.
Having said all that, I bought a Xbox Series S and I’m happy with the purchase, but why? Because I’m a PS4 gamer. It provides me with an afforable means of playing Xbox exclusive last gen games through Games Pass (and others i’ve missed). And when the next gen games do start coming out I can pick them up. My TV would never support 4k and there is a noticable increase in performance vs my PS4. So there are a lot of advantages for me, and probably for many others in a similar situation.
The Xbox Series S provides an affordable way to enter the Xbox ecosystem and provides a platform for future content. I would not recommend this to anyone currently with an Xbox One until some exclusive games come out. At that point it will again be an affordable entry point to the 9th generation and will probably become a valuable second console for many.