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Xbox Series X vs Series S - which to pick?

The Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S are two fine consoles, but it can be hard to know the differences between the two of them - that's where we come in.

Xbox Series X vs Series S in a boxing ring.

Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S – who wins? Well, the answer to that question depends entirely upon how they’re competing against one another. Is it a cheapest console competition, or a most powerful console competition? Even Goliath lost against David, but we all know who was the most powerful of the two.

We count both of these in our list of the best gaming consoles because there’s much to be admired about one of them. We’re comparing them here to help you to decide which is the best option for you, not because we want to tear either of them down. We also recommend reading out Xbox Series X review and our Xbox Series S review for a more detailed look at both of these consoles.

Xbox Series X vs Series S pricing

One of the biggest differences between these two sibling consoles is the amount that each of them costs. Because it lacks a few of the features found in the Series X, the Series S is notably cheaper. Here are the prices side by side:

  • Xbox Series X costs around $499 (£574)
  • Xbox Series S costs around $299.99 (£249.99)

If you need a cheaper option and don’t mind missing a few snazzy extras, then Xbox ‘Champion of the Working Class’ Series S will be your go-to, if you’ve got a bigger budget and want something really fancy, then Xbox ‘Decadence of the Bourgeoisie’ Series X is the one to buy.

But what use is a console without the games?

Xbox Series X vs S games selection - image shows a selection of games on the console, including Sea of Thieves, Halo Infinite, Minecraft Legends, Demon Turf, and many others.

Xbox Series X vs Series S games

If you’re somebody who already owns an Xbox One, a part of you may wonder whether or not making an upgrade is really worth it. Well, one of the biggest reasons to choose to buy an Xbox Series X or an Xbox Series S is to gain access to the increasingly large selection of games that will only work on those consoles.

In terms of the actual selection of games that the Series X and S can play, there’s no difference. Although the Series X is more powerful and capable of providing you with a smoother gameplay experience and faster loading times, you’ll never find one that the Series S physically cannot play (unlike the Xbox One).

Having said that, as the Xbox Series S lacks a disc drive, it cannot play any games physically. If you have an Xbox One and a library of already-purchased physical copies of games, then upgrading to the Series S might be a bad idea, because you won’t be able to play them anymore – although, any digital games will carry over.

This goes for backwards compatibility too. In this field, the Xbox Series X is a champion. You’ve still got your original copies of Grabbed by the Ghoulies and Halo: Combat Evolved? Well, good news, because you can pop them in your Series X and play them in a way that makes them look better than ever… if you’ve got a Series S, your only option would be to re-purchase these games from the Microsoft Store. If you don’t have any old games already though, this isn’t going to be a problem at all.

Read our list of the best Xbox Series X games for an idea of the games you’ll be able to play on either console.

Xbox Series X vs Series S design

As the old saying goes “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” so get off our website, ugly people (disclaimer: only joking – everyone is beautiful) – but, seriously, does the Xbox Series X look better than the Xbox Series S, or vice versa? You want to be sure you’re getting something that will look good in the sanctuary that is your gaming space.

It’s become a little bit of a joke that the Xbox Series X looks like a fridge. It’s basically just a big black box. It’s not exactly unpleasant to look at, but also not a thing of majestic beauty either. It’s quite large as well (6 inches by 6 inches, and 12 inches tall), so you may need to double-check that you’ve got room for it in your space too.

The Xbox Series S, meanwhile, looks quite a bit nicer (at least for our money). It’s white and it’s slender, with a dark circular grating on it. It definitely stands out as looking more like a games console “should” look when compared to its bulkier sibling. You’re much less likely to have trouble fitting this one into your space too.

We doubt that the looks alone are going to be what many readers will make their decision, but if you’re weighing up the pros and cons, it’s important to give a thought to the aesthetics.

Xbox Series X vs Series S: image shows the two consoles beside one another, next to the text "Power up your dreams, Xbox Series X|S"

Xbox Series X vs Series S specs

So, under the hood, what’s the difference between these two consoles? Well, you can compare them at a glance with the table below.

Xbox Series X vs Series S Specs:

Feature Xbox Series X Xbox Series S
CPU/GPU Custom 7 nm AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores (3.8GHz), Custom RDNA 2 (52 CU) Custom 7 nm AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores(3.6GHz), Custom RDNA 2 (20 CU)
Resolution 4k 1440p
Internal Storage 1TB 512GB
FPS up to 120 up 120
Disc drive Ultra HD Blu-ray None

Aside from the previously mentioned disk drive, both consoles have a custom 7 AMD Zen 2 CPU with eight cores, and operate using a custom RDNA 2 GPU. This might lead you to believe that the two are exactly the same, but the CPU’s cores operate on 3.6 GHz on Series S, and 3.8 GHz on Series X. Meanwhile, in the custom GPU, Series X has 52 control units, while the Series S has only 20.

What does all of the above mean? Well, to put it as simply as possible, the Series X has more processing power than the Series S. Things might load a little more quickly on it, it’ll hit 120fps a little more consistently, and you’ll just have an overall smoother gaming experience with it. Series X can also give you 4K resolution (if you have a good enough TV), which is just out of reach for the Series S, so everything will definitely run and play better on it (although you can get the same resolution on a Series S if you buy an ultra high-speed HDMI cable separately).

At 1TB, the Series X also has a greater internal storage capacity (when compared to the Xbox Series S’s 512GB). Once again, this will be handy for anybody who already has a large library of Xbox games that they’ll want to get installed on their new console, while the smaller capacity of the Series S might be more appropriate for somebody who wants to start fresh with it. It might be worth double-checking the sizes of the games you want to see what you could fit inside a Series S.

You may think that the lack of internal storage space in the Series S seems a little strange when you have to download games on it, while the Series X lets you use discs, but actually, they’re pretty much the same these days. Game discs are largely just used as keys, and you need to be connected to the internet to download the game anyway (most of the time). Some may even argue that the disc drive is becoming obsolete, but it’s still very useful when it comes to watching DVDs.

Xbox Series X vs Series S Verdict

So who wins? Well, let us put it like this. You should buy an Xbox Series X if:

  • You have room in your budget for a larger purchase
  • You want the most powerful gaming console you can get
  • You have a selection of old games on disc you want to be able to play on it
  • You like to use your console to watch Blu-rays and DVDs
  • You play big triple-A games and you need storage space for them

But you should buy an Xbox Series S if:

  • You want a more affordable gaming console
  • You’ve never owned an Xbox before
  • You prefer not having to switch discs over
  • You don’t plan on watching DVDs or Blu-rays on the console
  • You play a lot of smaller indie games that don’t take up a lot of space

Which one of those two descriptions sounds most like you? We hope that that helps you to decide which of these two consoles is your best choice.

Want to know more about what the Xbox has to offer? Have a look at our list of all Game Pass games, which will offer some insight into Microsoft’s fantastic subscription service. Also, read our list of upcoming Xbox games, so you know what you have to look forward to once you’ve chosen your console.