TheThe next-generation of Xbox gaming is a little more complicated than what we’re used to. For starters, Microsoft has released not one but two new consoles this week: the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S. Many of the initial crop of first-party games is also designed to be playable on its last generation Xbox, the Xbox One, as well as Windows PCs. And that’s before we get into Microsoft’s game streaming service, xCloud, which could mean you won’t need any Xbox hardware at all to play many of the latest games.
Each new generation tends to deliver big changes for console gaming, and Microsoft’s successors to the Xbox One are no different. Games look better, thanks to more powerful graphics hardware and built-in support for more realistic lighting technology, and in some cases feel more responsive, thanks to support for frame rates of up to 120fps. They also load quicker because both consoles now include fast solid-state storage, a big improvement over the mechanical hard drive included in the Xbox One.
THE SERIES S AND SERIES X ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT CONSOLES
But Microsoft’s approach to this new generation is a big departure from how console launches have worked previously. Typically, we’ve seen Sony and Microsoft release just one new piece of hardware at launch, and each one tends to come with an exclusive library of games that you have to buy the new console in order to play. While Sony, too, has operated a game streaming service for years, it’s only typically used PlayStation Now to offer access to older titles, rather than brand-new releases like xCloud is promising.
Microsoft’s new consoles give you a lot more freedom with how you play its new games, but depending on where you choose to play them, you won’t get exactly the same experience. The Xbox Series X is a much more powerful machine than the Series S or the current Xbox One, for example, which has a big impact on performance.
MICROSOFT’S TWO NEW CONSOLES
ThisThis week, Microsoft released its two new Xbox consoles. There’s the $499 (£449, €499) Xbox Series X, and a cheaper $299 (£249, €299) Xbox Series S. You can read our reviews of both of them by following the links below.
It’s not unusual for console manufacturers to offer a couple of different hardware options at launch, but normally, the differences are minor. The PS3, for example, was initially available in two models. There was a version with a 60GB hard drive as well as a cheaper version with a smaller 20GB hard drive, no Wi-Fi support, and fewer ports. Meanwhile, Microsoft also originally sold a “Core” version of the Xbox 360 in 2005, which included compromises like including a wired rather than wireless controller and omitting a hard drive.
The differences between the Xbox Series S and Series X are more substantial and have a big impact on how games look. While Microsoft says the Series X is targeting running games at 60fps at a full 4K resolution, the Series S instead targets a lower 1440p resolution at 60fps. It’s a big power disparity, similar to what we saw between the Xbox One and the Xbox One X, but this time, the two consoles were available on day one, rather than releasing years apart.
Microsoft has a good rundown of the main differences between the Xbox Series X and the Series S on its website. Both have 8-core CPUs, although the X has a slightly higher maximum clock speed of 3.8GHz, rather than 3.6GHz on the Series S. Both support expandable storage of up to 1TB via an expansion card, both output over HDMI 2.1, and both are backwards compatible with “thousands” of Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games. Both support hardware-accelerated ray tracing for more realistic lighting in games, both support Dolby’s high-end Atmos audio technology, and both will support the Dolby Vision HDR standard. They’re also both backwards compatible with all officially licensed Xbox One accessories like controllers and headsets — although there are no plans to support the Kinect camera.
There are, however, big differences between the two. The Series X has a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, but the Series S is digital-only, so you’ll have to download your games rather than buy them on disc. And yet, the disc-based X also has double the amount of internal storage with 1TB as opposed to 512GB. We found the storage in the Series S filled up quickly as a result. The Series X also has more RAM at 16GB compared to 10GB in the Series S. Physically, the Series S is also a lot smaller than the Series X; Microsoft calls the console its “smallest Xbox ever.” Despite the size differences, we’ve found both consoles have good cooling systems and are run cool and quiet when in use, so long as you don’t try blowing vape smoke into them.
Although they have different amounts of storage, both consoles use fast solid-state drives. For starters, that means that games load very quickly. We’ve found that many games that took over a minute to load on the Xbox One X now boot up in seconds. Games like Destiny 2 and Sea of Thieves, for example, load in half the time on the Series X as they did on the One X, and we found The Outer Worlds loaded in just six seconds on the new console.
XBOX SERIES X LOAD TIMES
|Game||Xbox Series X||Xbox One X|
|CoD: Warzone||16 seconds||21 seconds|
|Red Dead Redemption 2||52 seconds||1 min, 35 seconds|
|The Outer Worlds||6 seconds||27 seconds|
|Evil Within 2||33 seconds||43 seconds|
|Sea of Thieves||20 seconds||1 min, 21 seconds|
|Warframe||25 seconds||1 min, 31 seconds|
|AC: Odyssey||30 seconds||1 min, 7 seconds|
|No Man’s Sky||1 min, 27 seconds||2 mins, 13 seconds|
|Destiny 2||43 seconds||1 min, 52 seconds|
This fast storage also helps enable a feature called Quick Resume on both consoles, which allows you to switch between games incredibly quickly in a lot of cases. The big problem right now is that it’s not supported by every game, although Microsoft is working to enable it across more titles. When it works, though, Quick Resume is one of the consoles’ best new additions, and Sony’s PS5 doesn’t have an equivalent feature.
One of the most significant differences between the Series S and Series X is found in the graphics department. Although both consoles use AMD’s RDNA 2 graphics architecture, the Series X has 52 compute units. That’s not only more than double the 20 compute units you’ll find in the Series S, but they’re also clocked faster at 1.825GHz compared to 1.565GHz. In total, that means the Series X has 12.15 teraflops of graphical horsepower according to Microsoft, compared to 4 teraflops for the Series S.
The Xbox Series X is technically a shade more powerful than the PS5 in the graphics department. While Sony’s consoles are also based on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture, both models of the PS5 clock in with 10.28 teraflops of GPU power. They’ve got a smaller number of compute units (36), but their maximum cap is higher at 2.23GHz. They’ve also got 8-core CPUs, but they’re clocked at 3.5GHz. However, it’s important to note that the PS5’s CPU and GPU clock speeds are variable based on the total workload, so it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison with the new Xbox consoles. This approach could benefit the PS5 in certain scenarios but limit it in others. Otherwise, the PS5’s specs on paper are similar to the Series X. It has 16GB of RAM, 825GB of storage, and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive.
There aren’t many cross-platform titles that allow us to see how the performance of the PS5 and Series X compare in practice, but an analysis of Devil May Cry 5 by Digital Foundrysees Sony and Microsoft’s consoles performing very similarly. In some modes, the Series X offers slightly faster performance, while the PS5 is ahead in others.
Like Microsoft, Sony also has a step-down digital-only version of its next console, but here, the differences are a lot more basic. The lack of a disc drive means that the digital console is a little slimmer, but otherwise, PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan tells CNET that its two consoles are “identical products.” That means we shouldn’t see the same power disparity as Microsoft has.
XBOX SERIES X VS SERIES S VS PS5
|Categories||Xbox Series X||Xbox Series S||PS5||PS5 (digital-only)|
|CPU||8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT Enabled)||8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with SMT Enabled)||8x Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency)||8x Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency)|
|GPU||AMD RDNA 2 GPU 52 CUs @ 1.825GHz||AMD RDNA 2 GPU 20 CUs @ 1.565GHz||AMD RDNA 2 GPU 36 CUs @ 2.23GHz (variable frequency)||AMD RDNA 2 GPU 36 CUs @ 2.23GHz (variable frequency)|
|GPU Power||12.15 TFLOPS||4 TFLOPS||10.28 TFLOPs||10.28 TFLOPs|
|RAM||16GB GDDR6 RAM||10GB GDDR6 RAM||16GB GDDR6 RAM||16GB GDDR6 RAM|
|Performance Target||Target 4K @ 60 FPS. Up to 8K. Up to 120 FPS||Target 1440p @ 60 FPS. Up to 120 FPS||Target TBD. Up to 8K. Up to 120 FPS||Target TBD. Up to 8K. Up to 120 FPS|
|Storage||1TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4GB/sec uncompressed, 4.8GB/sec compressed)||512GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4GB/sec uncompressed, 4.8GB/sec compressed)||825GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5GB/sec uncompressed, typical 8-9GB/sec compressed)||825GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5GB/sec uncompressed, typical 8-9GB/sec compressed)|
|Free space for games||802GB||364GB||667GB||667GB|
|Expandable Storage||1TB Expansion Card||1TB Expansion Card||NVMe SSD Slot||NVMe SSD Slot|
|Backward Compatibility||“Thousands” of Xbox One, Xbox 360, original Xbox games. Xbox One accessories.||“Thousands” of Xbox One, Xbox 360, original Xbox games. Xbox One accessories.||“Overwhelming majority” of PS4 games||“Overwhelming majority” of PS4 games|
|Disc Drive||4K UHD Blu-ray||None||4K UHD Blu-ray||None|
|Display Out||HDMI 2.1||HDMI 2.1||HDMI 2.1||HDMI 2.1|
The difference in power generally means early Series S and Series X games run at different resolutions but often perform similarly. For example, Watch Dogs: Legion targets 4K at 30fps on the Series X and 1080p 30fps on the Series S, and both support ray-tracing for better-looking reflections. (Check out both in action here.)https://www.youtube.com/embed/hKtasiOx9a8?rel=0