Xbox Series X vs S – which is the best next-gen gaming console?

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Microsoft has hit the ground running with their two brand new games consoles, the Xbox Series X and Series S.

While both share some of the same features and cutting-edge technology, they are aimed at two quite different audiences – and many out there will be trying to figure out which console is the best fit for them.

While on paper the X has the edge, it isn’t necessarily the right choice for everyone as some people won’t see a huge benefit from the Series X.

So to make the decision easier, we've compared both models of the next-generation Xbox to help you find which is right for you.

Usually, with a new console, one version is released then, a year or two later, an updated slimmer version comes out as well as a more powerful version. This time around, Microsoft went the divide and conquer route with the Series X and S.

Price

Firstly, the most obvious difference between the two is the price, with the Series X costing £449.99, and the Series S coming in at £249.99.

The reason for this £200 difference is mostly power, the Series X coming with a more powerful graphics processor and more RAM.

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Power

The Series X can render graphics at a targeted resolution of 4k or 3840 x 2160, instead of the 1440p (or 2560 x 1440) resolution of the Series S; for comparison, both are higher than the 1920 x 1080 max output from the Nintendo Switch.

The higher resolution will mean that on TVs that support 4k your visuals will look better and sharper, although the Series S is still higher than HD resolution and looks pretty good.

Most of the time the graphical difference isn’t noticeable, only when compared side to side or in minor details like character's hair, shadows and a more consistent 60-120 frame rate – which doesn’t sound like much but these things do begin to add up.

Texture pop-in was a little more noticeable on the Series S, with some games taking a second or two to render details and having them pop in quickly.

Graphically both systems use AMD's Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architectures, but the series X is clocked at a whopping 12 teraflops compared to the S’s 4 teraflops.

The Series X also has 16Gb RAM instead of the 10Gb of the Series S.

This will also factor into your loading times, making some games load ever so slightly faster on the Series X – but when I say faster, I mean by a few seconds.

Due to the Series S loading lower resolution assets and textures, it doesn’t require the same amount of computational power or RAM that the Series X needs to push those lush 4k textures.

Looks

The design of the consoles themselves are quite different too; the all-black, rectangular Xbox Series X contrasts nicely with the mostly white, compact look of the Series S.

There is a dramatic size difference between the two consoles, which is important to bear in mind if you have limited space.

The Series X is 15.1cm wide, 15.1cm deep and 30.1cm tall, weighing a hefty 9.8 lbs.

The Series S, by comparison, measures 6.5cm wide, 15.1cm deep and 27.5cm tall and weighs only 4.25 lbs – not only does this make it 60% smaller than the Series X, but it also makes it the smaller than all previous Xbox systems.

(Image: Microsoft)

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Digital vs physical

Another big difference between the two consoles is the optical drive. The Series S is a digital-only system with no disc drive, so to buy games you must purchase them on the Microsoft store and download them to the internal memory.

If you want to play physical copies of new games, your previous Xbox physical library or Blu-Ray’s, you would need to get the Series X. This is also important if you buy second-hand games as you’ll need a disc drive to play those, too.

Also If you go for a diskless system like the S you’ll miss out on the sweet bargain bin finds in supermarkets and game stores – however, you’ll have a much less cluttered space and you won’t have to worry about discs becoming worn out or damaged.

Storage

Both machines use a custom NVMe solid-state drive, but the capacity of both drives differ. The Series X houses a 1 Tb but has a functional capacity of 802 Gb.

Packing smaller internal storage, the Series S has 512 Gb with a functional size of only 364 Gb, which could be a deal-breaker for some; games such as Call of Duty come in around 100 Gb – which would take up about 27% of the machine's space, and with updates, this file size is only likely to grow.

With the Series S I managed to install 13 games, taking me up to 95% full, so to get anything new on you'd then need to delete some of your current games.

Both systems do support Xbox compatible external hard drives, but these are too slow to run the games.

However, to continue using the benefits of fast loading times and quick resume you can always buy the Seagate expansion card. This retails for eye-watering £219 for an additional 1 Tb of storage.

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Verdict

Both machines offer a cutting edge next-gen experience and deciding which one to get really depends on what is most important to you.

Both incredible consoles feature Xbox velocity architecture, HDR visuals, DirectX Ray tracing, Quick Resume, Variable Refresh Rate and both systems have access to Game Pass, a monthly games subscription service offering over 100 titles to choose from.

There’s no doubt the Xbox Series X is the superior system offering sharper, more detailed graphics as well as a smoother experience as well as the larger storage.

Once we start seeing some more demanding next-gen games really push the hardware the X will be the more future-proof option.

However, the lack of 4k visuals won’t bother everyone, especially if your television doesn’t support these features or you just don’t care.

With 2020 undoubtedly being a difficult year for many financially, the Series S makes the more sensible option due to its more affordable price.

If you are a lapsed gamer and are thinking of dipping your toes back into this generation, then the Series S is a very enticing option.

However, if you already have last generation's Xbox One X then you won’t see as dramatic an upgrade with the new Series S.

If the Xbox is a second system and you already own a PS5, PC or Xbox One X and are not ready for an upgrade the Series S is also an exceptionally good choice.

However, if you own a library of physical games or you’ll notice the slightest frame rate drop or minor pop in and want the latest most powerful system, then the X gon' give it to ya.

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