Microsoft really changed the game in 2020 by introducing two new next-gen consoles at the same time. The Xbox Series X is the flagship; the powerhouse that costs more, and is built for those who want a top-notch console gaming experience. The Xbox Series S, meanwhile, is the more affordable option that makes some sacrifices, but still promises to do a lot of the same things. Today we’re answering the question: Is Xbox Series S worth it? Can you get by spending $299 versus $499?
Let’s dive in.
The Series S has a lot in common with the Series X
The Series S contains a lot of the same internals as its older brother, the Series X. The architecture, of course, is the same. The CPU is largely the same (though slightly clocked down on the Series S). The smaller machine uses the same type of SSD storage (at a smaller capacity out of the box).
The big difference comes on the GPU side. The GPU on the Series S is a significant downgrade from the Series X, because the smaller console targets a max resolution of 1440p, while the Series X goes for full 4K (2160p).
Let’s say you’re someone who owns a 1080p TV. You’re more of a casual gamer, or you’re someone who isn’t all that concerned with getting the highest resolution from your games. If that sounds like you, you really won’t be losing a lot by choosing an Xbox Series S.
In fact, with some games, you won’t be missing much at all. Despite Microsoft aiming the Series S at 1440p, it’s still very much capable of doing 4K in some titles. FIFA 21, for instance, does it without breaking a sweat.
So is the Xbox Series S worth it as a discount console that can play next-gen games? Absolutely.
You may be more disappointed on the backward compatibility side, though
Is the Xbox Series S worth it for back compat? I’ve used both the Xbox Series X and the Series S, and I can say that — as far as playing next-gen optimized games is concerned — I didn’t really feel like the Series S was a huge step down. It just felt like I took the resolution slider and knocked it down from 4K to either 1440p or 1080p.
Where I was really hurting while using the Series S, however, was with backward compatibility; specifically with Xbox One X games that have high framerate modes.
The Xbox One X has a few titles that offer high framerate “performance” options, such as Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy 15. The Xbox Series X is capable of running the One X versions of games, and when you flip those high framerate modes on, the Series X’s much better CPU helps them hit 60 FPS a lot more consistently.
The Xbox Series S, however, doesn’t even get a crack at running One X games. Instead, its backward compatibility forces the One S/One version of a game to run, which means a lot of times, you won’t even get to see those high framerate modes in the menu. As far as the game is concerned, you’re on an Xbox One from 2013. Your machine can’t handle it.
Fortunately, backward compatibility isn’t a total bust on Series S. Xbox 360 and O.G. Xbox games that got One X enhancements do still get upgraded, but will max out at 1440p instead of 4K.
So is the Xbox Series S worth it?
For gamers who don’t give as big a hoot about graphics — yes, probably! The Series S is a steal at $299, where it serves as a cheap entry into the world of Xbox Game Pass. If you will mostly play whatever is in that catalog, you probably won’t miss all the power on the Series X.
If you’re someone who cares a great deal about resolution, and you want your games running at peak performance, you may want to spend the extra $200 and add an Xbox Series X to your life.