Xbox Series S: Microsoft’s next-gen disc-less console demystified

All of the essential need-to-know info on Microsoft’s digital-only next-gen console, the Xbox Series S.

October 09, 2020
6 min read
Xbox Series S: Everything You Need to Know

It’s not long now until the next-gen battle officially begins with the November launches of Microsoft and Sony’s new consoles. Unlike previous console generations, both Sony and Microsoft are leading with
flagship models and discless versions of their next-gen consoles. For Sony, the only difference is one PlayStation 5 has a disc drive while the PlayStation 5 Digital Edition doesn’t.

For the Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S comparison, though, a lack of disc drive in the Xbox Series S is only one of the differences between the two Microsoft next-gen consoles.

Xbox Series S Australian price

It’ll cost you $499RRP to buy an Xbox Series S outright in Australia. There’s a catch, though: pre-order allocations for the Xbox Series S (and Xbox Series X for that matter) have been exhausted at the time of writing, which means it may be difficult to source one at release and, possibly, this side of 2021. That said, retailers like EB Games are still expecting some more shipments of Xbox Series S consoles to land in 2020.

Xbox Series S release date

The release date for the Xbox Series S is exactly the same as the Xbox Series X: 10 November 2020. For those keeping track of the next-gen war, that’s two days before the PlayStation 5 and PlayStation 5 Digital Edition release, which gives Microsoft a small head start with consumers eager for next-gen consoling.

Xbox Series S console specs

The Xbox Series S isn’t as powerful as the Xbox Series X, which is why the table below also includes a comparison to the specs of the most powerful console available today, the Xbox One X.

Xbox Series S vs Xbox One X vs Xbox Series X
Xbox Series S
Xbox One X
Xbox Series X

CPU

3.6GHz Custom Zen 2

2.3GHz custom AMD

3.8GHz Custom Zen 2

GPU

4 TFLOPS @ 1.565GHz

6 TFLOPS @ 1.172GHz

RDNA 2 12 TFLOPS @ 1.825GHz

RAM

10GB GDDR6

12GB GDDR5 (9GB for games)

16GB GDDR6

Internal storage

512GB Custom NVME SSD

1TB HDD

1TB Custom NVME SSD

External storage

1TB expansion card + USB 3.2 external HDD support

USB 3.0 external HDD support

1TB expansion card + USB 3.2 external HDD support

Optical drive

None

4K UHD Blu-ray

4K UHD Blu-ray

Max resolution

1440p

4K

8K

Max frame rate

120Hz

60Hz

120Hz

Backwards compatibility

Thousands of Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox games

600+ Xbox 360, Xbox games

Thousands of Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox games

Ray tracing

Yes

No

Yes

HDMI

2.1

2.0b

2.1

Release date

10 November 2020

7 November 2017

10 November 2020

Launch price

$499

$649

$749

Xbox Series S vs Xbox One X

It’s an interesting comparison battle between the current most powerful console on the market, the Xbox One X, and the upcoming Xbox Series S. For starters, the Series S has a more powerful CPU than the One X, but the One X has a stronger GPU. On paper, the One X has more RAM than the Series S – 12GB in the One X compared to 10GB in the One S – but even though there’s more of it in the One X, it’s a generation behind the Series S and there’s on 9GB available for games.

In terms of storage, the One X has a larger capacity (1TB hard drive), but the 512GB Custom NVME SSD inside the Series S will load games faster and allows next-gen players to use features like Quick Resume. Despite capacity concerns, the Series S’s internal storage is more powerful than the older hard-drive technology inside the One X. Expansion possibilities are better for the One S, too, with a proprietary slot that allows for a storage boost via 1TB expansion card, though at $359RRP, it won’t come cheap.

One of the biggest noticeable difference is that the One X has a disc drive, whereas the Series S doesn’t have one. This means the Series S can’t install disc-based games nor can it be used to play DVDs, Blu-rays, or 4K UHD discs.

The One X fares better on the max-resolution front, too, with 4K gameplay possible compared to the Series S’s 1440p target frame rate, albeit the One X is restricted to 60Hz frame rates whereas the Series S will support up to 120Hz (thanks to HDMI 2.1 support). Speaking of eye candy, the Series S is expected to support newfangled ray tracing, which is not supported on the One X.

Another area where the Series S comes out on top is in backwards compatible, which is a bit of an unfair comparison because the One X is still an Xbox One console, whereas the Series S will be able to play Xbox One games, as well as thousands of Xbox 360 and original Xbox games.

What is Quick Resume?

Quick Resume is a next-gen feature for the Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X that lets players quickly shift between multiple games. A handful of games are stored in a quick-resume state, which means you can cycle between multiple games while the console is turned on, with only a few seconds of downtime. You can also reportedly fully power down the Xbox Series S or Series X and quickly resume these games, even after a system update.

Xbox Series S vs Xbox Series X

Unlike the comparison above between Xbox One X and Xbox Series S, the Xbox Series X wins this head-to-head hands down. The main area the Series S wins against the Series X is in terms of price: $499RRP for the Series S compared to $749RRP for the Series X. In fairness, the Series S is also 60% smaller than the Series X, which means you can also expect it to be lighter, too.

As for everything else, the Series X blows the Series S out of the water. The Series X has a beefier CPU and GPU, 6GB more RAM, and double the internal storage. It also has a disc drive, which is capable of playback of 4K UHD Blu-rays and game installations from discs (including backwards-compatible games on disc), and it can support resolutions of up to 8K. Expect games to look better on the Series X and for things to run faster, too.

Xbox Series S controller

The Xbox Series S includes the same Xbox Wireless Controller as the Xbox Series X, except that it’s primarily white instead of black (likely to match the mostly white aesthetic of the Series S). We have a full breakdown of the Xbox Wireless Controller here, but there have been ergonomic changes to make it a better fit for smaller hands. There’s also a matte finish on the triggers, bumpers and a D-pad that’s been lifted from the popular Xbox Wireless Elite Controller.

The Xbox Wireless Controller won’t come with a rechargeable battery, which means you can use regular batteries or pay extra for a rechargeable option, and it’s also useable via wired USB-C connection. There’s also a dedicated share button now, and the Xbox Wireless Controller is built with incredibly low latency in mind for more responsive gaming.

Xbox Series S games

Every game that’s available on the Xbox Series X will also be available on the Xbox Series S, albeit at lower max resolution. Here’s the current list of Xbox Series S games, which includes a list of optimised games that are releasing on current-gen consoles, and all-new next-gen titles.

Play Video

Xbox Series S launch games

If you buy an Xbox Series S on launch day, you’ll have 30 games to play, which doesn’t include the bevvy of backwards-compatible titles. While that sounds like a big number of launch titles, some of these games are remasters and others are Smart Delivery titles.

You can read all about Smart Delivery here but, in short, it’s a feature that downloads the highest-quality version of a game based on the specifics of the Xbox console you’re installing the game on. Have a gander at the full list of launch titles below, which includes nine games that are part of the incredibly appealing Xbox Game Pass.

  • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Smart Delivery)
  • Borderlands 3 (Smart Delivery)
  • Bright Memory 1.0
  • Cuisine Royale (Smart Delivery)
  • Dead by Daylight (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
  • Dirt 5 (Smart Delivery)
  • Enlisted
  • Evergate
  • The Falconeer (Smart Delivery)
  • Fortnite
  • Forza Horizon 4 (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • Gears 5 (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • Gears Tactics (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • Grounded (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • King Oddball (Smart Delivery)
  • Maneater (Smart Delivery)
  • Manifold Garden (Smart Delivery)
  • NBA 2K21
  • Observer: System Redux
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • Planet Coaster (Smart Delivery)
  • Sea of Thieves (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • Tetris Effect: Connected (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • The Touryst (Smart Delivery, Xbox Game Pass)
  • War Thunder (Smart Delivery)
  • Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition
  • WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship (Smart Delivery)
  • Yakuza: Like a Dragon (Smart Delivery)
  • Yes, Your Grace (Smart Delivery)

First-party Xbox Series S exclusives

There are currently 14 games confirmed for full or timed console exclusivity on the Xbox Series S.

    • Halo Infinite
    • Fable
    • State of Decay 3
    • Forza Motorsport
    • Everwild
    • Avowed
    • As Dusk Falls
    • S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2
    • Tetris Effect: Connected (timed console exclusive)
    • The Medium (timed console exclusive)
    • Warhammer 40,000: Dark Tide (timed console exclusive)
    • CrossfireX
    • Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II
    • Scorned
      •  
Play Video

Indie (ID@Xbox) Xbox Series S games

There are 15 indie games that are confirmed for the Xbox Series S as timed console exclusives.

      • 12 Minutes
      • The Artful Escape
      • The Ascent
      • The Big Con
      • Dead Static Drive
      • Exo One
      • The Falconeer
      • Lake
      • Last Stop
      • Mad Streets
      • Sable
      • Shredders
      • Song of Iron
      • Tunic
      • Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy
Play Video

Other games confirmed for Xbox Series S

There are 65 other games that are coming to Xbox Series S.

        • The Ascent
        • Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
        • Balan Wonderworld
        • Battlefield 6
        • Braid: Anniversary Edition
        • Bridge Constructor: The Walking Dead
        • Bright Memory Infinite
        • Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War
        • Call of the Sea
        • Chivalry 2
        • Chorus
        • Cris Tales
        • Cyberpunk 2077
        • Demon Turf
        • Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
        • Dirt 5
        • Dragon Age 4
        • Dustborn
        • Earthlock 2
        • Echo Generation
        • ExoMecha
        • Far Cry 6
        • FIFA 21
        • Football Manager 2021
        • Gotham Knights
        • Graven
        • Haven
        • Hello Neighbour 2
        • Hitman 3
        • Hood: Outlaws and Legends
        • Immortals Fenyx Rising
        • Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
        • Little Nightmares 2
        • The Lord of the Rings: Gollum
        • Madden 21
        • Marvel’s Avengers
        • Metal: Hellsinger
        • NBA 2K21
        • Observer: System Redux
        • Outriders
        • Overcooked: All You Can Eat
        • Paradise Lost
        • PES 2021
        • Phantasy Star Online 2: New Genesis
        • Planet Coaster: Console Edition
        • Poker Club
        • Pragmata
        • Psychonauts 2
        • Puyo Puyo Tetris 2
        • Recompile
        • Resident Evil Village
        • Ride 4
        • Riders Republic
        • Scarlet Nexus
        • Second Extinction
        • Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One
        • Steelrising
        • Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League
        • TemTem
        • Unknown 9: Awakening
        • Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2
        • Watch Dogs: Legion
        • White Shadows
        • WRC 9
        • Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Nathan Lawrence
Written by
Nathan Lawrence
Nathan Lawrence has been banging out passionate tech and gaming words for more than 11 years. These days, you can find his work on outlets like IGN, STACK, Fandom, Red Bull and AusGamers. Nathan adores PC gaming and the proof of his first-person-shooter prowess is at the top of a Battlefield V scoreboard.

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