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Xbox Series S review

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This Xbox Series S Review was published originally on November 5, 2020.

The Xbox Series S console is unique. This is a lower-powered, less expensive version of Microsoft’s flagship Xbox Series console. It’s the type of thing you would expect to see in a few years of a console’s life span, such as a Wii Mini, or a PS2 Slim. Yet, it’s here: A sleek, white box that launches on the same day as its larger, beefier counterpart.

The Xbox Series S costs $300 less than the $500 Xbox Series X. But price is not the same as value. The Xbox Series S is worth the money. And, even more important, will it be worth your investment for the whole life of the current console generation?

Although it is impossible to predict the future, the Series S has been a pleasure to use and I am cautiously optimistic about its potential. It’s not as powerful and versatile as the Xbox Series X. The hardware limitations of the console limit its capabilities in terms of performance, storage and media perspectives. It’s still powerful and has a huge selection of games.

The Xbox Series S is not the ultimate gaming machine. Instead, you can approach it as a companion or starter device. Although it will not be the best game machine on the market, you may want to consider one of the most powerful gaming PCs. However, this adorable little device has plenty to offer if you are aware of what to expect. For the complete story, read our Xbox Series S review.

Xbox Series S Review: Price and availability

The Xbox Series S, which costs $299 and is available in the U.K. for PS349, is the most affordable option to buy the latest generation of console gaming. It is also easier to find an Xbox Series X restock than it is to search for one.

The Xbox All Access program (opens in new window) allows you to get an Xbox Series S through a subscription. You can access the Xbox Series S for $25 per month over a 24-month period.

It is worth noting that Xbox is expected to launch new hardware in the coming year.

Xbox Series S Review: Design

The Xbox Series S was small when I opened it for the first time. It measures 10.8 x 5.9 x 2.6 inches, which makes it smaller than the PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X and Xbox One. It’s roughly the same size as a Wii U but can hold a lot of games.

The console is mostly white with the exception of a small black vent at the top. This contrasts nicely with the rest. There are rubber feet on both the horizontal and vertical surfaces. It also has plenty of ventilation.

Although “the console’s very small” might not be a major selling point, it was surprising to me how much the Series S’s size made a big difference in my life. Although my entertainment center is already cluttered with gadgetry, I was able to find a small spot for the Series S.

After testing was completed, I moved the device into my bedroom and placed it between a large TV stand and the edge a full-length dresser. Even my domestic partner, who is against consoles in her bedroom because of their size, reluctantly accepted the device.

Xbox Series S Review: Ports

The Xbox Series S, like the Xbox Series X keeps its ports simple. The front has a USB-A port, a power button, and a pairing button. The rest of the panel on the Series S’s front is empty because it doesn’t have a disc drive. There are three more USB-A ports on the back: an HDMI port, Ethernet port and a power socket. Half of me expected the Ethernet port to be gone, as it is usually the first to go in lower-end gadgets. But I am glad it is still there.

This is my same complaint as about the Xbox Series X: There are no USB-C ports. This seems like a huge oversight for consoles that are supposed to last between five and seven years. USB-C allows for faster data transfer and charging, as well as new accessories that use USB-C dongles. USB-C ports are a missed opportunity. USB-A is still perfectly fine.

Interface review of the Xbox Series S: Xbox Series S Review

You’ve already used the Xbox One interface. This is not a joke. It’s just an observation. Although Microsoft has updated the Xbox Storefront in the last few months, the actual interface has not changed much in many years.

You’ll still see the Home screen when you start up your console. This screen shows all of your recent games and activities. Scroll down to see the Store, Media, and Game Pass options. You can navigate to your apps and games, see your library, get system notifications, manage friends, view Achievements, and access settings.

It’s almost impossible to describe the Xbox Series S interface in detail. You’ve probably seen it (or something similar) before. Although it’s not a very attractive interface, it gets you to where you want to go quickly, especially once your navigation is mastered. You can jump right in if you have used the Xbox One in the last few years.

The best thing about the Series S interface, in fact, is its consistency. Microsoft has been updating its store and Android Xbox apps over the last few months. There is now a lot of consistency among the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S, Xbox One PC app, Xbox Android app, and Xbox PC app. It’s clear that Microsoft is creating an Xbox ecosystem and that you will be able access it from anywhere.

The Xbox Series S interface is lacking in aesthetics but it has a lot of utility, especially considering how many games are available via Xbox Game Pass on both different console generations and on mobile devices.

Review of Xbox Series S: Performance

The Xbox Series S is less powerful than the Xbox Series X . You’ll be able to tell the difference if you are familiar with their hardware specifications. The Series X has a GPU that can output up to 12 teraflops, 16 GB RAM and 1 TB SSD storage. However, the Series S boasts a GPU that can output up to 4 teraflops, 10 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD storage. There is no disc drive.

The majority of Xbox Series X games run at 4K resolution with 60 frames per second. However, some titles support resolutions as high as 8K and frames rates as high 120 frames per second. The Xbox Series S has a maximum resolution of 1440p, with a 60 frame per second frame rate. However, technically, it is possible to run games at 120 frames per second.

The bottom line is that the Xbox Series S has a lower power than the Series X. This is why it is so affordable. The Series S’s modest specs can, depending on how you use it and your setup, be a dealbreaker, annoyance, or non-issue.

To evaluate the Xbox Series S’s performance, I ran three tests. To begin, I selected four games from Microsoft’s optimized to Xbox Series X/S list: Gears 5, Maneater and Ori, and the Will of the Wisps, and Yakuza : Like a Dragon. These games work fine on Xbox One. However, Microsoft promises that the Series S will have better lighting and textures.

Next, I played segments of each game on an Xbox Series X with a 4K television, an Xbox Series S with a 4K television, and an Xbox Series S with a 1080pTV. By doing this, I was able to compare the Series S with the Series X and also determine if the Series S is a good option for older TVs.

Remember: Only half of American homes have 4K TVs. Although 1080p TVs aren’t the most advanced technology, they are more common than you might believe.

These qualitative tests were a pleasant surprise. You won’t be surprised to find that all four of the games I tested looked the best on the Xbox Series X. The Xbox Series S was not bad in comparison. In fact, the differences were subtle even on a 4K OLED television with HDR active.

The Xbox Series X had a richer palette of colors, better draw distances, and slightly more detailed textures. But those were the only differences I noticed. Gears 5 showed that the Series S couldn’t capture the details in a darkened room as well as the Series X. It still rendered objects, backgrounds, and characters beautifully out in open areas. Yakuza: Like a Dragon featured Xbox Series X’s sharper and more colorful advertisements. However, character models on the Series S were richer and more detailed than those on the Xbox Series X. And, most importantly, neither platform suffered from an appreciable slowdown in frame rates.

The biggest difference was in Maneater where the Series X used deeper and richer colors to create its underwater world. It’s a small thing, but it was noticeable because I played both games on different consoles simultaneously. The Series S scales content to 4K well. If you have a 1440p monitor, you won’t even need it.

Although the Xbox Series X loaded content a bit faster than I expected, it did not load nearly as fast as I had hoped. All four games that I tested loaded content in seconds, not minutes. I even went straight from the main screen to a save file. The load times between levels were so fast that I couldn’t even pull out my phone to watch them. It took me a while to get through the Gears 5 title screens on the Series S, but it wasn’t as long on the Series X.

The only problem with the Series S performance on 1080p TV is that it looks almost exactly like what you would find on an Xbox One. It loads content faster than the Xbox One, and the Series S costs $300 less. The Xbox One is still $300 more expensive, so the Series S is still a smarter purchase.

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