Xbox Series S vs. Xbox Series X: What’s the Difference?

Xbox Series S vs. Xbox Series X controller

We may never hear the end of the Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S debate. The two Microsoft creations have engaged in a popularity battle over the past couple of years, although most gamers still don't know what sets the sister products apart.

In this article, we will look at how the consoles compare in various major aspects. Hopefully, it will help you identify the product that better suits your unique gaming preferences.

The Specs

While there is a good deal of uniformity in the technical aspects of the Xbox Series S, there are some noteworthy gulfs in SSD memory size and GPU performance. Here's a full comparison:

  • CPU: Both products boast an 8-core 3.8-GHz Custom Zen 2 CPU.
  • GPU: Equipped with 20 CUs, which translates to 1280 shader cores, and running at 1.55GHz, the 4-teraFLOPS Series S GPU is reasonably endowed but has nothing on what's inside the Series X. The Xbox Series X comes with a 52-CU, 12-TFLOPS Custom RDNA 2 GPU, which runs at 1.825 GHz.
  • Internal Storage: Both consoles sport a custom NVME SSD, with Series S owners getting 512GB of storage while the Series X comes with double the capacity.
  • Memory: With a 16 GB GDDR6, the Xbox Series X has the edge on the Series S, which has a 10 GB GDDR6 SDRAM.

More technical differences can be noted in the performance target and optical drive aspects, where the Xbox Series X still comes out as the clear winner. The console's performance target is 4K 60 FPS. The Series S' target, on the other hand, is 1440p and 120 FPS — a less resource-intensive performance target, which explains the console's significantly smaller body.

Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S: Games

While you can play the exact same games on either console, the graphics will look slightly better on the Xbox Series X owing to its superior technical capabilities. But that's only going to apply to games that have been optimized for the Series X's better specs. Some of the titles that have been optimized include:

  • Chorus
  • Cyberpunk 2077
  • FIFA 21
  • Marvel's Avengers
  • Hitman 3
  • Madden NFL 21
  • Outriders
  • Gears 5
  • Destiny 2
  • Chivalry 2
  • Call of the Sea
  • Assassin's Creed Valhalla
  • Second Extinction
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon
  • The Medium
  • The Ascent

Most other games will look pretty much the same, although slight differences might be felt in loading speeds. It is also worth noting that the Xbox Series S doesn't have a disc drive, meaning it won't support physical copies of your favorite games.

The Design

The Series X has arguably the most avant-garde design ever seen on a gaming console. It has an unparalleled resemblance to a traditional PC, which is a welcome change for most design buffs, although its size is proving discommoding to some gamers.

The Xbox Series S is 60 percent smaller than the Series X and is much easier to slot into an existing home gaming setup.

While this size difference is largely influenced by the component differences in the consoles, Microsoft is believed to have laid it on thick in an attempt to match the aesthetics and design with the obvious performance differences.

Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S: Streaming Apps

Xbox Series S vs. Xbox Series X to stream
Someone holding an Xbox One game controller.

For users of the disc-less Series S, it comes as good news that the console supports the same streaming apps as its more popular sister, the Series X. Apple TV is perhaps the most noteworthy streaming option as it gives you access to the revered Apple TV Plus service.

Other streaming options include:

  • HBO Max
  • Netflix
  • Hulu
  • Disney Plus
  • YouTube TV
  • YouTube
  • Amazon Prime Video
  • Spotify
  • Sky Ticket
  • Sky Go
  • Twitch
  • Now TV
  • Vudu
  • NBC Peacock
  • FandangoNow

UK users will also get BBC iPlayer, All 4, and ITV Hub. Note that all these streaming apps are available on the Xbox One, so it's really not an addition but a continuation of what's already in place.

Xbox Series X vs Series S: Sound

The Xbox Series X's sound quality is incredibly good for a gaming console. It reaches a soundtrack's core and brings it out with impressive solidity and clarity. Atmos-enabled games such as Gears 5 or films such Avengers: Infinity War highlight the Series X's sound superiority over the majority of the consoles on the market, including the Xbox Series S. That said, the Series X may not be as good as a 4K Blu-ray player, which has more detail, precision, punch, and dynamic expression.

The Series S, as stated above, is lacking compared to the series X, but the difference is tiny, and the sonic performance is perfectly acceptable for a console. It sounds punchy, clear, and lively and gives out a near-perfect tonal balance.

Like its sister console, the Series S has nothing on a standalone 4K Blu-ray player on general audio quality as well as natural flair and timing. However, it sounds dynamic enough for the typical gamer and doesn't struggle to bring out the entire spectrum of sound frequencies for movies and games alike.

Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S: Price

Given the spec difference, it is not surprising that the Series S is cheaper than the Series X. Xbox charges a whopping $499 (€499, £450, AUS$7490) for the Series X, nearly twice as much as the Series S.

Xbox's All Access service lets you pay as little as $24.99 per month for the S Series or $33.99 per month for the X Series for 24 months with no upfront cost. This arrangement may prove costlier in the long run. However, it's perfect for someone who can't afford either console in one go.

The Verdict

The decision is primarily a matter of individual conscience when it comes to any two gaming consoles on the mainstream market. If you are okay with peaks of 1440p and aren't exactly concerned with the lack of a disc drive or the trivial difference in sound quality, the Series S would serve you well.

The main setback with this machine is its smaller SSD size, something the Series X addresses pretty well. At $200 more, the Series X not only comes with a larger SSD but also gives you better loading speeds, superior sonic performance, and better picture quality for some games and movies.