So you are considering buying an Xbox. Do you want an X or S series? Is your current TV good enough or do you need to upgrade it? And will you have to lift the console like some kind of monolith? Let’s answer the most pressing questions about the Xbox Series X and S.
What is the difference between the X and S series?
The Xbox Series X costs $ 499, while the S Series sells for $ 299. Beyond the price, the main difference between the two consoles is the graphics power. They have similar processors, but the S-series GPU has about a third of the raw power of the X-series.
The X series sets a 4K resolution lens at 60 frames per second (fps), while the S series settles for a more modest 1440p, also at 60 fps. On paper, that should be the only difference. However, in practice we have seen games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also shrink features such as ray tracing in the S Series version.
The X series has a 1TB SSD, while the S series only ships with 512GB. The S series is a fully digital console, which means it does not have a disk drive. for used or older games, or Blu-rays.
What about backward compatibility?
Both consoles appreciate the same excellent backward compatibility. Almost all Xbox One games work on both the X and S series. The only exceptions are games that require Kinect, which is not supported on newer consoles.
Over 500 Xbox 360 games are also supported, many of which have received latest-gen fixes to improve things like resolution and frame rate. Microsoft even decided to support a handful of original Xbox games, like Fuzion Frenzy and BLACK.
Are older games better or better?
Since the Xbox Series X and S are more powerful than the legacy hardware, games should generally perform better on them. Games that have experienced performance issues in the past, like Just Cause 3 (which barely handled 20 fps when things got choppy), now run at 30 fps locked on the X Series.
Some games are updated to take advantage of the new hardware. This is indicated by an “Optimized for X / S Series” label on the Microsoft Store. This includes titles like Forza Horizon 4, which runs at 60 fps in native 4K, and Gears 5, which supports up to 120 fps in multiplayer.
A the feature called “Auto-HDR” is enabled by default on almost all older titles that don’t explicitly support HDR. Microsoft has used machine learning to automatically apply a new coat of HDR paint to almost all compatible games, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles.
What resolutions and frame rates are supported?
The Xbox Series X supports 4K (2160p), 1440p, 1080p, and 720p at 60 or 120 Hz output. The Xbox Series S supports 1440p, 1080p, and 720p at 60 or 120 Hz. However, you can run the table S-series dashboard at 4K if connected to a compatible display.
AT activate 120Hz on your X or S series, you will need a TV with a panel that updates to 120 Hz. To get the Xbox Series X 120 Hz in 4K resolution, you will also need a TV with at least one HDMI 2.1 port.
It remains to be seen how many games will actually benefit from 4K / 120 fps.
What about FreeSync and variable refresh rates?
Some TVs and monitors have “variable” refresh rates, which in the case of the X and S series means they lower their refresh rate to match the frame rate of the console. This prevents unsightly tearing of the screen and ensures smooth gameplay even when the frame rate drops.
Both Xbox series consoles support HDMI VRR and AMD FreeSync, so you have a choice of which variable refresh rate technology you want to use. HDMI VRR will work over HDMI 2.0 up to a maximum of 60Hz, provided your TV supports it.
FreeSync is largely redundant on TVs that already support HDMI VRR, but it’s a good alternative if you’re using a monitor.
What is the Quick CV?
Quick Resume is a feature on both consoles that allows you to resume a game exactly where you left off, even after you quit it. It does this by creating a backup state by flushing everything in RAM to the SSD.
This means you can pause a game at any time and return later to exactly where you left off, even if you were halfway through a level.
The number of games Quick Resume can save at a time depends on the titles you are playing. Five or six seems to be the limit when you include a few older titles from the Xbox 360 and the original Xbox.
Microsoft also has a habit of disabling this feature on certain games whenever compatibility issues arise, which can be a bit inconsistent. Hopefully, Quick Resume will become more stable as the X and S series mature.
Can you buy more storage?
After setting up your Xbox Series X, you will have approximately 800 GB of usable space, as some of it is used by the system for features like Quick Resume. On an Xbox Series X, your usable space after initial setup is approximately 360 GB.
Fortunately, you can buy more storage! The official Seagate Xbox Series X Expansion Card | S ($ 219) adds another terabyte of storage. This card will install and run everything from native Xbox Series X and S titles to original Xbox games.
Seagate / Microsoft
You can also use an external USB 3.0 or later drive, including electronic or mechanical hard drives. However, none of them will run a native Xbox Series X or S title. They need the raw speed of Microsoft’s SSD. You can, however, use them to archive or play older titles.
Can you use your old controllers?
You can use all Xbox One accessories on the X and S series except the Kinect and some older headsets. You can even play new versions of the X and S series with your old Xbox One or Elite controller. Xbox One officially licensed flight controllers, drive wheels and pedals, and battle sticks also work.
Some older Xbox One headsets use an optical connection that is not present on the Xbox Series X or S, so it may not work. If you have one, check with the manufacturer for a compatibility update.
Do you need a 4K or HDR TV?
You don’t need a 4K TV to use the X or S series. Both support additional resolutions of 1440p and 1080p. You can even use an X series in HD if you intend to switch to a 4K TV later.
HDR is widely used by the X and S series, but it is by no means necessary. You can turn off all HDR features in the Settings menu.
Currently, the X and S series use HDR10, but Dolby Vision for gaming is expected to arrive at some point in 2021. While you don’t need Dolby Vision, if you’re buying a new TV anyway, you might want to. to be prioritized on other HDR formats.
RELATED: How to buy a TV for gaming in 2020
Is there an HDMI 2.1 cable in the box?
The Xbox Series X comes with an HDMI 2.1 compatible cable in the box so you can enjoy up to 4K at 120 fps in 10-bit native color. The S series comes with a standard HDMI 2.0 cable as it does not need additional bandwidth.
If you want a replacement cable for your X Series, just make sure you get an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable certified by the HDMI Licensing Administrator.
Can you play games remotely?
Remote play is possible between the Xbox console and a smartphone via a local network connection via the Internet. However, your mileage may vary in terms of latency.
Microsoft also offers a cloud streaming service for which no Xbox is required to play games hosted on the cloud. This service (formerly known as Xcloud) is currently in beta and requires a Ultimate Game Pass subscription ($ 14.99 per month).
Record sync between consoles or remote playback?
Microsoft is now using cloud saves for all generations of Xbox games played on Series X and S consoles. This means that your saves will be synced between consoles and all other devices you use to play.
Can you take screenshots and videos?
The X and S series controller has a dedicated share button for taking screenshots and videos. You can customize the way the Share button works, or associate it with another button if you’re using an older controller.
By default, press the button once to take a screenshot, hold it down to record a video, and double-tap it to view the capture gallery.
After you’ve taken your screenshot or video, Microsoft uploads it to the cloud. You can then grab it through the Xbox app for iOS or Android, where you can also share it on social media or with your friends.
Can you arrange the consoles vertically or horizontally?
The Xbox Series X and S can both be arranged vertically or horizontally. In the case of the X series, just make sure you leave enough room for it to suck in cool air and release hot air. Microsoft recommends leaving about 4cm of space at the exhaust end.
For the S-Series, you’ll want to make sure you don’t cover the black fan grille in either direction.
What is Game Pass?
Game Pass is Microsoft’s all-you-can-eat game subscription service. It works much like Netflix or Spotify, but for games. It features all proprietary Microsoft titles on the first day of release. There are also a large number of third-party titles on the service coming in and going out.
Game Pass comes in multiple tiers, with the best value being Game Pass Ultimate ($ 14.99 per month). It includes the Game Pass library, Xbox Live Gold, access to the cloud streaming beta, and (for an undetermined period) access to EA’s back catalog through EA Play.
If you don’t want the ultimate, however, you can get Game Pass for consoles for $ 9.99 per month. However, you will still need an Xbox Live Gold membership to play online.
Can the X series play Blu-rays with Dolby Vision?
The Xbox Series X has an Ultra HD Blu-ray drive for movies, but the Series S doesn’t have a disc drive at all. Unfortunately, the X series also cannot play Dolby Vision discs in Dolby Vision, it defaults to HDR10.
Do consoles get hot or noisy?
The Xbox Series X and S are both going to give off heat, but Microsoft has devised solutions to deal with it. The X series uses a steam chamber and a large 130mm fan to keep things cool. Under load, the console is hot to the touch at the exhaust end, indicating that the cooling system is doing its job.
Both consoles are virtually silent, even under load. In an ordinary living room, playing a game at a low but audible volume, you probably won’t notice any noise. Installing a game from disc is about as noisy as the X Series ever was.
Two consoles, two prices, one ecosystem
Whether you go for the X or S series, or just sign up for Game Pass on your Windows PC, Microsoft wants you in its ecosystem. The way games, saves and subscriptions now work across all platforms, it’s easier than ever to play anywhere and on the hardware you have.
Struggling to choose between the PS5, Xbox Series X, or S? If so, be sure to check out our comparison of the next generation Microsoft and Sony consoles.