Microsoft Provides More Details About Xbox Series S

Posted on September 9, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, Xbox with 33 Comments

Anyone worried that the Xbox Series S would somehow underperform can relax, according to Microsoft: The new console will be four times as powerful than the Xbox One and it will supports 120 fps and hardware-accelerated DirectX Raytracing and Variable Rate Shading.

“We’re excited to introduce you to Xbox Series S, an all-digital next-gen console designed to deliver everything that is core to next-generation gaming—faster load times, higher frame rates, and richer, more dynamic worlds—in our smallest Xbox ever,” Microsoft’s Liz Hamren writes. “Xbox Series S will join Xbox Series X this holiday giving you another way to jump into the next generation.”

With Xbox Series X leading the charge into the next console generation, some gamers are naturally apprehensive about a lower-end version of the console and wondering where Microsoft cut corners. There are some obvious places, like the lack of an optical drive and a smaller 512 GB SSD. But most of the components in the Xbox Series S seem impressive and deliver what Microsoft calls a generational leap in performance.

“Xbox Series S delivers the same next-generation speed and performance that define Xbox Series X, Hamren explains. “It is similar in CPU and has the identical I/O performance as Xbox Series X. In addition, Xbox Series S includes 512 GB of custom SSD storage and is powered by the Xbox Velocity Architecture, delivering more than 40 [times] the I/O bandwidth of an Xbox One resulting in faster loading times, steadier frame rates[,] and Quick Resume for multiple titles.

The audio subsystem on Xbox Series S is also identical to that of Xbox Series X, with Spatial Sound and Dolby Atmos support, and Dolby Vision support for gaming is coming to both consoles in 2021.

But the most important difference between the two consoles, Microsoft says, is their respective resolution support. Where Xbox Series X aims for a consistent 4K/UHD experience at 60 fps, Xbox Series S is for gamers who framerate over resolution and it doesn’t require a 4K TV. “Xbox Series S delivers approximately 3 [times] the GPU performance of Xbox One and was designed to play games at 1440p at 60 frames per second, with support for up to 120 fps,” Hamren adds.

And there’s one more consideration. While many seem disappointed by the smaller storage allotment of the Xbox Series S, the new console, like the Xbox Series X, supports a storage expansion card that lets you add an additional 1 TB of storage with the full speed and performance of the Xbox Velocity Architecture. (Previous-generation Xbox titles can still be played directly from an external USB 3.1 hard drives, but games Optimized for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X must be played from internal storage or the expansion card.)

Here’s a handy chart that describes the differences between the two consoles.

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Comments (33)

33 responses to “Microsoft Provides More Details About Xbox Series S”

  1. vernonlvincent

    The single thing about the specs that gives me a bit of concern is the lack of optical drive. We still have physical media for some movies that we either haven't purchased digital versions of or haven't (ahem) converted to digital ourselves.

    I would love to see Microsoft allow physical optical drives to be connected to XBOX, like they have with keyboards, mice, and external drives. But that doesn't seem like a path any console manufacturer is willing to go down.

    • jensengregory

      In reply to vernonlvincent:

      I can appreciate the sentiment for sure; however, I can't necessarily blame Microsoft or Sony for trying to avoid a situation where they're all of the sudden having to test and support drivers for third-party disc drives. Maybe they could offer first-party options, but that'd definitely cannibalize one of the main USPs of the Series X, so I don't think that's going to be an option either.

      To be completely fair in all this, at $299 for next-gen specs, there are going to be trade-offs for sure.

    • crunchyfrog

      In reply to vernonlvincent: I agree with you in many respects. I prefer physical media in many cases, especially movies and music for various reasons.

    • BigM72

      In reply to vernonlvincent:

      So it's great that there is choice and there is a SKU with disc drive if you want it (XSX)

  2. jwpear

    Apologize for not keeping up, but is 2 TB the max amount of storage for Series X/S optimized games? X = max 2 TB, S = max 1.5 TB? We have about 2.5 TB of storage with our One X between the internal storage and an attached USB drive. A little concerned that the max with the next get console is less than that.

    • brothernod

      In reply to jwpear:

      i really think that's just lazy wording and the 1TB expansion card is the limit of what current technology can put out at a price people will pay. I'm sure in 2 years time we'll have 2TB cards.

    • BigM72

      In reply to jwpear:

      That's the limit for high-performance storage. I think USB is still possible too for slower disk for older games. Newer games need the higher perf storage and not sure on the shuffling games between storage types option.

      • IanYates82

        In reply to BigM72:

        Yeah I was wondering the same

        Can I shuffle a 100GB game off to usb storage and move it back to play? (beats downloading it again!)

        And for a game that is available for xbox one, and for xbox series x/s, can I move it to usb storage and just play the less optimised version?

        For that matter, could I move a usb drive between an xbox one and an xbox series x/s? (eg the old console in the kids room and the new console in the family room). Keen to know

    • Paul Thurrott

      I think it's just a soft limit for the launch time period. This will go up, but there's definitely no hardware storage restriction. It's a 64-bit system.
  3. nbplopes

    I suppose that the X supports double the framerate at 1440p

    • Paul Thurrott

      I wonder if these things are literally limited to 120 fps for consistency reasons and that X would just hit that more often/more easily or whatever?
      • thretosix

        In reply to paul-thurrott:

        May just come in a future firmware update. The One X does support 1080p120, 1440p60, VRR and ALLM, which came in a firmware update after launch. The HMDI 2.1 port on the Series X is limited to 40GBps which may play a role as well somehow.


    I guess it's wait and see to be sure but from what's been published so far the One X is kind of a half-way house between the Series S and X. I see it as:

    * Series S for 1080p/1440p full detail & experience

    * Series X for 4k/60fps full detail and experience

    * One X offers 1080p/60fps full detail or 4k/30fps (sometimes 'trick' 4k); much longer load times and may need to reduce settings (less powerful CPU than Series S/X)

    In other words, One X owners should look at the Series X. Apart from load times the Series S could be a PARTIAL disappointment. And more so for 4k TV owners.

  5. crunchyfrog

    I did not realize how small the Series S actually is. It looks like there will have to be an external power supply which is unfortunate. I really prefer having it built in even at the expense of size and weight.

  6. rpalochko

    Man, that design is so cool. Deiter Rams would approve.

  7. SW4_LON

    I'm not interested in games - can they not just slap Win10 on this and release it as a high-performance desktop PC - I'd buy it at the drop of a hat!

  8. Tunrip

    I'd about convinced myself that the S would be right for me (I've a 55" 4k TV but I think it could upscale 'well enough' that I'd be happy), and I could make do without a disc drive for games... But I have just realised I used it as my bluray player at the moment too. Hmmm!

  9. Paul Thurrott

    Thanks for all the questions/comments about the performance comparisons, which I've corrected where necessary to "Xbox One" from "Xbox One X." Apologies for the confusion. --Paul

  10. noocyte

    Looks like the Series S is (also) a way for MS and AMD to utilize the full range of CPU/GPU produced - as we all know not all chips can operate att full capacity from 'the press' so the lower bins (lower hz/less CUs) are used in the Series S. This results in a lot less waste and that alone will create a much healthier economy for Microsoft. Well played.

  11. mattbg

    Very impressive. Both of them seem like great value for their respective markets, but the $299 one especially.

  12. glenn8878

    Unclear how you use the backward compatible Xbox games without the disc drive for the Xbox Series S. Expandable storage is 1TB (doesn't match internal storage exactly unless they are cutting off to 512 GB). Do they have extra USB port to attach a DVD drive?

  13. brothernod

    I don't recall if i'm mixing rumors with reality, or console features, but can you use an external hard drive as offline storage for games?

    As in, install game to SSD, when SSD is full, push old games to external hard drive and when you want to play them again it can swap them back to the SSD instead of re-downloading them?

    Would be super cool if they used xcloud to stream the game while it switched storage mediums.

    • jensengregory

      In reply to brothernod:

      I don't recall hearing anything about this, personally. I was under the impression that the new storage drive system (i.e., the "expansion card" noted in the specs) was the only other option for downloaded games aside from the onboard SSD.

      • brothernod

        In reply to JensenGregory:

        I'm confident they've said you can use a USB attached external spinning disk for storing any backwards compatible games (which i assume includes Xbox One games), i'm just fuzzy if there's any kind of ssd to disk to ssd swapping for Series titles.

    • Usman

      In reply to brothernod:

      That would be convenient if series X games could be transferred to a USB ssd. And then back after wards

    • Paul Thurrott

      It's not clear from Microsoft's description. It just says this: "While your previous generation Xbox titles can still be played directly from your existing external USB 3.1 hard drives, to receive all the benefits of the Xbox Velocity Architecture and optimal performance, games Optimized for Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X must be played from the custom internal SSD or a Seagate Storage Expansion Card."
  14. remc86007

    How will the Xbox Series S be "four times more powerful than Xbox One X"??? It has lower memory bandwidth and much lower TF. I understand architectural improvements, but come on, 4x the performance is just not happening outside of CPU bound scenarios.

    • Wizzwith

      In reply to remc86007:

      Pretty sure they said 4x power of XBOS, not XBOX. I guess Paul miss typed One X instead of One S. It should be about on par with the One X or maybe even a bit better as a teraflop on newer GPU's is better than a teraflop on older ones plus all the other improvements.


        In reply to Wizzwith:

        I think you're bang on the money, there's no way the Series S (or X for that matter!) is 4 times as powerful as the One X. Not unless you're picking a deliberately misleading benchmark like a ray-traced scene or something.

        Being pedantic Paul has also written "four times MORE powerful" so that's actually a 5 x multiplier! (it should be AS not more)

  15. jtiger102

    This comment is more about the physical connectivity/ports.

    Looking back at Paul's original post with the ports, there was an optical audio connection. It appears that the optical audio is not present on the Series X or S. I know that Paul's original post even said that ports were subject to change.

    I guess MS decided to kill off the port.

    Bummer, as I have my PC and One X connected to a Logitech set of speakers that has the normal 3.5 mm input for PC and an optical connection that I use to connect my One X. The speakers receive both inputs, and at the same time. So, it just makes it easy.

    Now, if I want to get a Series X/S console, I'll have to get an HDMI audio extractor to get the optical output and also worry about the HDMI video output on the extractor to make sure it can output more than 1080p and also doesn't kill the color subsampling, which some do not do.