XBOX SERIES X|S BUYING GUIDE

There’s no shortage of reasons to recommend an Xbox console. The Xbox ecosystem is home to a phenomenal list of games, and it serves as a gateway to subscription services like Xbox Game Pass that provides unparalleled value and entertainment.

As with any tech platform, though, getting started with it can be daunting. And considering that competition in the gaming industry is fierce, it’s important that you have all the information you need to make an informed purchasing decision. 

THE HARDWARE

Microsoft has ceased production on the previous line of Xbox consoles – the Xbox One X and Xbox One S All-Digital Edition – so the big question is whether you should opt for an Xbox Series X or S. There are a number of similarities between the consoles. To start, both consoles use the same controllers, support DirectX ray tracing, variable rate shading, and variable refresh rate. Additionally, both consoles can stream 4K media, benefit from a SSD, and share the same compatibility with previous Xbox titles.

So what are the differences?

Series X vs Series S?

The Case for the Series X

The Xbox Series X is a great choice for enthusiasts who are looking for the most powerful console on the market and care about being able to stream 4k media and output both games and video at 4k resolution. 

Simply stated, the Xbox Series X is a processing beast, especially when compared to the Series S. Boasting a graphics card with 12.15 teraflops of GPU power – versus 4 teraflops for the Series S (fewer than the Xbox One X) – that utilizes Microsoft’s Velocity Architecture and AMD’s Zen 2 and RDNA 2 architecture, the Series X comes the closest a console ever has to challenging high-end PC rigs in terms of processing capability. More RAM, a larger SSD, an optical drive for physical media, and the ability to render at 4K make the Series X the choice for enthusiasts looking for the best of the best.

The Case for the Series S

The Xbox Series S is a great choice for gamers looking for incredible value in a next-gen console, don’t have a need for a disc drive, and don’t place a premium on native 4k resolution.

The difference in teraflops between the Series X and Series S is large, but the GPU gap ultimately only translates to a matter of resolution. The Series S sacrifices nothing in speed or performance – both the Series S and X are using essentially the exact same CPU (with different clock speeds) and the same SSD. And because the Series S will output at 1440p resolution rather than native 4k (it can upscale to 4k, however), the fact that it has less RAM and a smaller SSD should be a negligible distinction. So while the Series X might look a little bit better, games should perform similarly across consoles, and if you can live without the disc drive, saving $200 is a great deal.

Specifications

SERIES X

$ 499
99
  • Xbox Velocity Achitecture
  • Quick Resume
  • Direct X Raytracing
  • Up to 120 FPS
  • Backwards Compatibility w Thousands of Games
  • Dolby Vision + Dolby True HD w Atmos
  • HDMI 2.1 output
  • Custom 1TB SSD
  • 12 TFLOS processing power
  • True 4K gaming
  • Plays physical discs
  • Stream 4K Ultra HD
  • Plays 4K UHD Blu-ray
VSG CHOICE

SERIES S

$ 299
99
  • Xbox Velocity Achitecture
  • Quick Resume
  • Direct X Raytracing
  • Up to 120 FPS
  • Backwards Compatibility w Thousands of Games
  • Dolby Vision + Dolby True HD w Atmos
  • HDMI 2.1 output
  • Custom 512 GB SSD
  • 4 TFLOS processing power
  • 1440p native resolution
  • Does not play physical game discs
  • Stream 4K Ultra HD
  • Does not play 4k UHD Blu-ray
THE SERVICES

Xbox Live Gold

While the Xbox Series X|S is capable of many things out of the box – including playing games, streaming movies and music – if you want to play titles online you’re going to need an Xbox Live Gold subscription. Month-long plans are $10 and three-month plans are $25, and for that price you get: (1) access to the Xbox Live network to experience the best in competitive and cooperative multiplayer gaming; (2) 2-4 free Games with Gold every month; and (3) up to 50% in store discounts on Xbox games.

Xbox Game Pass

Xbox Game Pass is the best value in gaming, and is a very compelling reason to buy into the Xbox ecosystem. In addition to receiving all first-party Microsoft exclusives day and date to their official release, the Game Pass library also features hundreds of third-party games, and gives members exclusive discounts and deals.

Game Pass comes in three tiers: (1) Game Pass for Console ($9.99/mo.); (2) Game Pass for PC ($9.99/mo.); and Game Pass Ultimate ($14.99/mo.). Which one should you choose? 

ULTIMATE

$ 14
99
/mo.
  • Over 100 games for console, PC, and Android mobile devices
  • New games added regularly
  • First-party Xbox Game Studios titles the same day as release
  • Exclusive discounts/deals
  • Free perks (including in-game content and partner offers)
  • Project xCloud - play games on Android mobile devices from the cloud (Beta)
  • Xbox Live Gold included (including Deals with Gold, Games with Gold, and console multiplayer)
vsg choice

CONSOLE

$ 9
99
/mo.
  • Over 100 console games
  • New games added regularly
  • First-party Xbox Game Studios titles the same day as release
  • Member discounts/deals

PC

$ 9
99
/mo.
  • Over 100 PC games
  • New games added regularly
  • First-party Xbox Game Studios titles the same day as release
  • Member discounts/deals
THE GAMES

There are far too many games in the Xbox Store to go through here. But if you’re looking for something new to play, here are a few that VSG highly recommends. Alternatively, browse the Xbox Archives for information on all Xbox games VSG has covered.

THE REVIEWS

Richard Leadbetter

Digital Foundry

In the here and now at least, I love the hardware in terms of what I can potentially experience with it and the expert implementation of many of its forward-looking features - but a console is defined by its games, and in that sense, I still feel that I barely know the machine at all.

 

Read full review

Jess Grey

Wired

Unless you're ready to invest in a new TV, I can't think of a great reason to get a Series X yet, unless some mild visual upgrades are enough for you. If there is a benefit to getting it now, it's because you'll probably need it at some point, but for now that upcoming Halo game will be on your Xbox One, too. Here's where the cheaper all-digital less-powerful version comes in, though. The Xbox Series S is a great alternative if you want to step into this console generation but don't really plan on replacing your TV anytime soon.

 

Read full review

Chris Morris

Digital Trends

The Xbox Series X is a powerful system that doesn’t yet have anything to truly showcase its abilities. With sharp graphics, a familiar interface, and fast load times, it’s set up to be a strong contender this console generation. But a lack of showcase games means there’s no need to rush to purchase.

 

Read full review

Chris Plante

Polygon

The Xbox Series X isn't the home of Microsoft's gaming universe; it's just one of many nodes, connecting outward to your phone, your tablet, your computer, or just a different (and cheaper) Xbox. It's not the place to play video games. It's a place to play video games--not only from the future, but also from the present and the past. The Xbox Series X is boring. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Read full review

Dan Ackerman

c|net

The Microsoft Xbox Series X is a console without surprises. Some of that comes from the steady stream of details, tech specs and game lists that have kept potential buyers well informed since it was first teased under the codename Project Scarlett more than two years ago. But much of it also comes from Microsoft's determination not to fix what wasn't broken. . . . If anything, Microsoft's Xbox Series X is a reductive evolution, fine-tuning and perfecting what worked so well in the Xbox One line.

 

Read full review

Jez Corden

Windows Central

The Xbox Series X is a spectacular console. Every aspect of it is dripping with the love of a massive team that clearly cared about every millimeter, every line of code that was poured into this monolithic whole. Waiting for the full-blown feature set of RDNA 2 may cost Microsoft the sales race in Q4, but for those who are lucky enough to get their hands on it, the Xbox Series X is console gaming at its most excellent and most refined.

 

Read full review

Brian Shea

Game Informer

The Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S introduce superb quality-of-life improvements like Quick Resume and the reduced load times over Xbox One or even Xbox One X, but don't expect a markedly different or revolutionary leap forward when you first power on the system. If you're simply looking for the best place to play your library of past, present, and future Xbox games, look no further than Xbox Series X/S.

 

Read full review

Tom Warren

The Verge

But the best part about the Xbox Series X is that it's not actually a PC. I don't have to worry about drivers, copious game launchers, or Windows updates ruining how my PC works. You turn the Xbox on, and you play games. If developers embrace the choice and performance options I've experienced on the Series X, I'd certainly be tempted to play far more on an Xbox with crossplay, cross-save, and keyboard and mouse support all becoming more prominent on Xbox.

 

Read full review

Help keep the lights on and the site free of ads. Support VSG on Patreon.

Support VSG

Help keep the lights on and the site free of ads. Become a member of the VSG Players Circle on Patreon.