After a seven-year run, Microsoft has stopped making the Xbox One, and a new generation of video game consoles is here. The $500 Xbox Series X and the $300 Xbox Series S may both be part of the same generation, but each model targets a different level of speed and graphics performance, and that might make it difficult for you to figure out which one to buy.
With better graphics, more storage, and a disc drive, the Xbox Series X is worth the higher price in many cases. If you have a 4K TV or will buy one in the next few years, you’ll likely come across games that can take advantage of the extra graphics capability on the Series X over the Xbox Series S. And although both consoles have impressively fast storage that improves boot-up and load times, the Series X drive has over 800 GB available internally, nearly twice the storage space in the Series S. Plus, if you have a collection of physical Xbox One, Xbox 360, or original-Xbox games that you want to keep playing, only the Series X has a disc drive, making that model the only choice if you want a console that can also be your 4K Blu-ray player.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a 4K TV (and won’t buy one soon), if space in your entertainment center is a concern, or if you don’t have or plan to buy many physical discs, the Xbox Series S offers a lot of value and still gives you the chance to play the new generation of games to come. And anyone who mostly plays games from Xbox Game Pass—the monthly subscription service with access to hundreds of games, including new releases—probably won’t miss the disc drive. We also think that makes the Xbox Series S an especially budget-conscious choice for younger kids, since the less expensive console and monthly membership add up to more games than a kid can play, with no need to buy new ones all the time.
If the only reason you’d buy a new console is for brand-new games you can’t play on your existing Xbox One (or, for that matter, a PlayStation 4), we don’t think you should rush into the next generation just yet. But if you spend a lot of time with your Xbox One now and are ready for plenty of immediately noticeable quality of life improvements and conveniences, as well as performance and visual improvements in the games you already have, an Xbox Series X or Series S will provide those benefits right now.
Xbox Series X vs. Series S: What’s the difference?
The Xbox Series X and Series S offer a lot of the same experiences. But with a $200 price difference come some legitimate differences in capabilities. Neither console is the perfect fit for everyone. Here’s what to know about the key points:
- Game selection: The two consoles can play the same new games, and both are backward compatible and capable of playing any game that you could play on an Xbox One (which, in turn, also means hundreds of Xbox 360 games and a handful of original-Xbox games). Without a disc drive, though, the Series S can’t play physical games you already own.
- Resolution: Both consoles output a 4K video signal, so watching videos on a 4K TV should be the same on either machine. But if you expect to play games in 4K, you should choose the Xbox Series X. The Series X is designed for games with resolutions of up to 4K (and it theoretically supports 8K resolutions for video content), while the Xbox Series S has less-powerful graphics hardware that game developers appear to be targeting for 1080p and sometimes 1440p visuals.
- Other graphics quality: The Xbox Series X and Series S have the same basic graphics capabilities, including support for variable rate shading and ray-traced visuals, a more advanced and realistic way to create lighting and visual effects. The Xbox Series X features a 12.1-teraflop GPU and 16 GB of RAM, while the Xbox Series S features a 4-teraflop GPU and 10 GB of RAM. Microsoft claims this power differential will largely bear out in resolution differences. But some games have already omitted ray tracing if you’re playing on a Series S.
- Disc drive: The Series X includes a slot-loading UHD Blu-ray drive, and the Series S is completely discless. If you have a lot of Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray discs, plan on buying used games, or just prefer physical media, the Xbox Series X is your only real option. If you intend to buy games new and digitally via the Xbox Store and online, and to rely more heavily on Xbox Game Pass, the lack of a disc drive in the Series S won’t be a problem.
- Base storage: The Xbox Series X includes a 1 TB storage drive, which offers about 800 GB of usable space. The Xbox Series S has a 512 GB drive with about 360 GB of usable space.
- Expandable storage: Both the Series X and Series S include a slot that allows for expandable storage in the form of cards using the CFexpress connection standard. The only officially licensed model (from Seagate) retails for $220. However, the Series X and Series S still support external USB drives, the same way the Xbox One does, and any Xbox One–formatted drive will work right away on the new consoles.
- Size: The Xbox Series X is a sort of tall block, measuring approximately 6 by 6 inches at the base and about 12 inches tall. The Series S, meanwhile, is 11 by 5.9 by 2.6 inches—it’s the smallest Xbox ever, and it’s designed to be set vertically or horizontally.