Microsoft’s new Xbox Series S is expected to deliver impressive next-gen performance for its $ 299 price point, but where does the Xbox One X come from? According to Microsoft, 2017’s 4K-targeted Xbox will still have some advantages over the S series, at least when it comes to running current-gen games optimized for Xbox One X.
“The Xbox Series S was designed to be the most affordable next-generation console and to play next-generation games at 1440p at 60fps,” Microsoft said in a statement to VGC. “To deliver the highest quality backward compatible experience in line with the developer̵
This means that most Xbox One games will run on Xbox Series S at 1080p or lower in backward compatibility mode, although they will benefit from some built-in hardware benefits such as the faster SSD. Games with unlocked frame rates should also perform better than Xbox One S. But Xbox One X-specific improvements like higher resolution don’t apply.
It is possible that the latest generation titles may receive updates only for the Xbox Series S, and this will be the case with some original games such as Gears 5 is Forza Horizon 4. Without a patch, however, you’ll essentially get the Xbox One S version. VGC reports that the same is true for backward compatible Xbox 360 titles, though it’s unclear what that means for compatible original Xbox games, which all run close to 4K on the One X.
The reason for this is simply a function of the different priorities of the two machines. The Xbox One X was designed to play Xbox One games at up to 4K resolution and achieved this by adding a much more powerful GPU with minor tweaks to the rest of the spec sheet. The Xbox Series S, meanwhile, exists to run next-gen games at 1080p or 1440p, which is why it’s built around a much faster CPU and SSD than the One X despite somehow having a less powerful GPU.
Microsoft’s confirmation goes some way to clarify the messaging around its two next-generation consoles. In short, if you want to play in 4K, you should consider the $ 499 X series. But if you don’t consider raw resolution output as a priority, the $ 299 S series might be interesting.