Home / Technology / Xbox Series X and S: Everything you need to know about the next generation of Xbox

Xbox Series X and S: Everything you need to know about the next generation of Xbox



The next generation of Xbox games are a little more complicated than what we’re used to. Last week, Microsoft announced it will release not one but two new consoles: Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S. Not only that, but Microsoft’s initial crop of proprietary games will also be playable on its own. last Generation Xbox, Xbox One and Windows PC. And that’s before joining Microsoft’s game streaming service, xCloud, which could mean you won’t need any Xbox hardware to play many of the newer games.

Each new generation tends to deliver big changes to console gaming, and Microsoft̵

7;s successors on Xbox One are no different. Expect games to look better (thanks to more powerful graphics hardware and built-in support for more realistic lighting technology) and you’ll feel more responsive in some cases (thanks to support for frame rates up to 120 fps). Games should also load faster because both consoles now include fast solid-state storage, a big improvement over the mechanical hard drive included with Xbox One.

But Microsoft’s approach to this new generation is a big departure from the way console launches have worked previously. Typically, we’ve seen Sony and Microsoft only release one new piece of hardware at launch, and each tends to come with an exclusive library of games that you need to purchase on the new console in order to play. Even though Sony has operated a game streaming service for years, it typically only uses PlayStation Now to offer access to older titles, rather than new releases as xCloud is promising.

Microsoft’s new consoles give you a lot more freedom in how you play its new games, but depending on where is it choose to play it, you will not have exactly the same experience. The Xbox Series X is a much more powerful machine than the Series S or the current Xbox One, for example, which will have a big impact on performance.

The two new Microsoft consoles

Last week, Microsoft confirmed rumors that it plans to release a second next-generation Xbox alongside the Xbox Series X. Xbox Series S, it said, will launch on November 10 for $ 299 (£ 249, € 299), $ 200 less than the $ 499 (£ 449, € 499) X Series which launches on the same day.

It’s not unusual for console makers to offer a couple of different hardware options at launch, but the differences are usually minor. The PS3, for example, was initially available in two models. There was a version with a 60GB hard drive and a cheaper version with a smaller 20GB hard drive, no Wi-Fi support, and fewer ports. Meanwhile, Microsoft also originally sold a “Core” version of the Xbox 360 in 2005, which included compromises like the inclusion of a wired rather than wireless controller and the omission of a hard drive.

The differences between the Xbox Series S and Series X are more substantial and will likely have a big impact on the look of the games. While Microsoft says the X Series aims to run games at 60fps at full 4K resolution, the S Series will instead aim for a lower resolution of 1440p at 60fps. It’s a big disparity in power, similar to what we’ve seen between Xbox One and Xbox One X, but this time around, the two consoles will be available on day one, instead of being released years apart.

The Xbox Series X comes complete with a disc drive.
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft’s S series is less powerful and digital only.
Image: Microsoft

Microsoft has a good overview of the main differences between the Xbox Series X and Series S on its website. Both have 8-core CPUs, although the X has a slightly higher maximum clock speed of 3.8 GHz, rather than 3.6 GHz on the S series. Both support expandable storage up to 1 TB via an expansion card. , both output on HDMI 2.1, and both are backward compatible with “thousands” of original Xbox One, Xbox 360 and Xbox games. Both support hardware-accelerated ray tracing for more realistic lighting in games, both support Dolby’s high-end Atmos audio technology, and both will support Dolby Vision HDR standard. They’re also both backward compatible with all officially licensed Xbox One accessories like controllers and headsets, although there are no plans to support the Kinect camera.

There are, however, major differences between the two. The X series has a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive, but the S series is digital only, so you’ll need to download your games rather than buying them on disc. Still, the disk-based X also has double the amount of internal storage with 1TB vs 512GB and more RAM at 16GB vs 10GB. Physically, the S Series is also much smaller than the X Series; Microsoft calls the console its “smallest Xbox ever”.

Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

Perhaps the most significant differences are in the graphics department. While both consoles use AMD’s RDNA 2 graphics architecture, the X Series has 52 processing units. Not only is this more than double the 20 compute units you’ll find in the S Series, but they’re also clocked faster at 1.825 GHz than 1.565 GHz. In total, this means the X Series has 12.15 teraflops of graphics power according to Microsoft, compared to the 4 teraflops of the S Series.

This should make the Xbox Series X a bit more powerful than the PS5 in the graphics department as well. While Sony’s consoles are also based on AMD’s RDNA 2 architecture, both PS5 models are clocked at 10.28 teraflops of GPU power. They have fewer compute units (36), but their maximum limit is higher at 2.23 GHz. They also have 8-core CPUs, but are clocked at 3.5 GHz. However, it is important to note that the PS5 CPU and GPU clock speeds are variable based on total workload, so it’s not quite an apple-to-apple comparison with the new Xbox consoles. This approach could benefit the PS5 in some scenarios but limit it in others. Otherwise, the PS5 specs on paper are similar to the X Series. It has 16GB of RAM, 825GB of storage, and a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray drive.

Like Microsoft, Sony also has a scaled-down digital-only version of its next console, but the differences here are much more basic. The lack of a hard drive means the digital console is a bit thinner, but otherwise, says PlayStation CEO Jim Ryan CNET that its two consoles are “identical products”. This means we shouldn’t see the same power disparity as Microsoft.

Xbox Series X vs Series S vs PS5

Categories Xbox Series X Xbox Series S PS5 PS5 (digital only)
Categories Xbox Series X Xbox Series S PS5 PS5 (digital only)
processor 3.8GHz 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU (3.6GHz with SMT enabled) 3.6 GHz AMD Zen 2 8-core CPU (3.4 GHz with SMT enabled) 8x Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency) 8x Zen 2 Cores @ 3.5GHz with SMT (variable frequency)
GPU AMD RDNA 2 52 CU 1.825 GHz GPU AMD RDNA 2 20 CU 1.565 GHz GPU 2.23 GHz AMD RDNA 2 36 CU GPU (variable frequency) 2.23GHz AMD RDNA 2 36 CU GPU (Variable Frequency)
GPU power 12.15 TFLOPS 4 TFLOPS 10.28 TFLOP 10.28 TFLOP
RAM 16GB GDDR6 RAM 10 GB of GDDR6 RAM 16GB GDDR5 RAM 16GB GDDR5 RAM
Performance goal 4K lens at 60 FPS. Up to 8K. Up to 120 FPS 1440p lens at 60 FPS. Up to 120 FPS TBD target. Up to 8K. Up to 120 FPS TBD target. Up to 8K. Up to 120 FPS
storage 1 TB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4 GB / sec uncompressed, 4.8 GB / sec compressed) 512 GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (2.4 GB / sec uncompressed, 4.8 GB / sec compressed) 825 GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5 GB / sec uncompressed, typical 8-9 GB / sec compressed) 825 GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (5.5 GB / sec uncompressed, typical 8-9 GB / sec compressed)
Expandable storage 1 TB expansion card 1 TB expansion card NVMe SSD slot NVMe SSD slot
Backward compatibility “Thousands” of original Xbox One, Xbox 360, Xbox games. Xbox One Accessories. “Thousands” of original Xbox One, Xbox 360, Xbox games. Xbox One Accessories. “The vast majority” of PS4 games “The vast majority” of PS4 games
Disc drive 4K UHD Blu-ray None 4K UHD Blu-ray None
Show off HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1 HDMI 2.1
MSRP $ 499 / £ 449 / € 499 $ 299 / £ 249 / € 299 Not announced Not announced

It will be impossible to know the impact Microsoft’s hardware differences will have on gaming performance until we see them running games in the real world. But the main difference Microsoft is talking about right now is resolution. The S series is aiming for 1440p, while the X series is aiming for 4K, or 2160p (although it will technically support resolutions up to 8K). Despite the resolution differences, Microsoft says they both aim for frame rates of 60 frames per second, but can support up to 120 fps.

If Microsoft’s claims are accurate, games should feel just as smooth to play no matter what console you’re playing on, but they won’t be as detailed on the cheapest machine due to the lower target resolution. It might not matter if you’re playing on an old 1080p TV, but it will be more noticeable if you’re using a modern 4K set.

It’s important to note that this kind of resolution and frame rate claims have historically been different than what we ended up seeing games run at. Although Microsoft has stated that the Xbox One X is capable of playing in 4K at 60fps, in reality many of the most popular games around were not running at 4K. Fortnite, for example, runs at a maximum of 1728p on Xbox One X, while Doom: eternal peaks at 1800p. It’s also common for games on both modern consoles to dynamically scale their resolution to keep the frame rate consistent. Digital foundry found that Gears of War 5 it would sometimes reduce its resolution down to 1584p, for example, even though it was able to run at a maximum of 2160p. Resolution isn’t everything, and these games often looked amazing no matter how many pixels visible on the screen, but this variation is worth keeping in mind.

It’s also common for Xbox One X games to run at 30fps, especially when run at native 4K. Middle Earth: Shadow of War, for example, it ran at a maximum of 2160p, but at 30 fps. Rise of the Tomb Raider, meanwhile, it could do 60fps on Xbox One X when rendering at 1080p, but in its native 4K mode, it came close to 30fps. The more powerful hardware in the X Series and, to some extent, the S Series, however, means that compromises like this should theoretically be less necessary in the future.

While your existing Xbox One controllers will work on the Xbox Series X and Series S, there’s also an updated controller for the new consoles, available in both black and white. While it’s basically similar to the design Microsoft used for its previous controllers, it’s slightly smaller and has a dedicated share button to simplify the process of uploading screenshots and video clips. Its D-pad is also a circle like the recent Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, rather than a cross like on the Xbox One.

New games, new hardware

The new hardware needs new games to make the most of it, and Microsoft and its partners have announced a series of games that will arrive on its new console. The largest of these is Halo: Infinite, the latest entry in the long line of science fiction first-person shooters that has become synonymous with the Xbox brand since its debut way back in 2001.

Unfortunately, Microsoft recently delayed Halo: Infinite, which means it will now come out in 2021, instead of coming along with the new console. News of the delay, which Microsoft attributed in part to the pandemic, came after the game’s visuals were met with criticism after their initial unveiling, prompting developer 343 Industries to admit, “We have work to do to address some. of these areas and increase the overall loyalty and presentation level for the final game. “

With other Xbox staples like Fable is Forza Motorsport with no release dates, the delay left third-party publishers to complete the rest of the launch lineup, including Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Marvel’s Avengers, Dirt 5, Watch Dogs Legion, is Tetris effect: connected.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is a high-profile launch title for new consoles.
Image: Ubisoft

These games support several Xbox Series X and Series S features. watchdogs Legion for example, it will work in 4K and support ray tracing for more realistic looking lighting, according to Microsoft’s site, but there is no mention of ray tracing support on the page for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. Another interesting title in the launch lineup is Dirt 5, which can run up to 120fps on Xbox Series X. A high frame rate like this is especially important in a fast-paced racing game and should Dirty 5 you feel more responsive to play on compatible TVs.

A common feature that many of these games share is that they will also be available for next-gen consoles like Xbox One and PS4. What was most surprising was when Microsoft said that this would be true for its flagship games as well. If Microsoft delivers on that promise, it would be a big departure from how console makers have treated these games in the past, where these exclusive games were previously an essential part of the sales pitch for new hardware.

New games, old hardware

Microsoft said you won’t have to buy new hardware to enjoy its upcoming first party titles because many of them will also be coming to Xbox One. Here’s how Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, described the company’s approach in July, when he said that every Xbox Game Studios game in the next couple of years will be playable on Xbox One.

You won’t be forced into the next generation. We want every Xbox player to play all the new games from Xbox Game Studios. That’s why the Xbox Game Studios titles we release in the next couple of years, such as Halo Infinite, will be available and will perform great on Xbox Series X and Xbox One. We won’t force you to upgrade to Xbox Series X upon launch to play Xbox exclusives.

And if you’re more of a PC gamer and don’t own an Xbox One, Microsoft typically releases its core titles there as well and says it plans to continue this policy this year.

Microsoft has promised to bring Halo Infinite to PC and Xbox One, as well as its new Xbox consoles.
Image: 343 Industries

There are some caveats that you should be aware of. The first is that these promises only concern Microsoft’s first party titles, i.e. those published by Xbox Game Studios. Microsoft makes no promises about how other publishers like EA, Ubisoft or Activision will handle their new games.

Even then, Microsoft was pretty explicit that this only covers its games that will be released in the “next couple of years” and there are signs that some high-profile games that have already been announced may not make it to Xbox One. After Microsoft’s high-profile Xbox event in July, we noticed that most of the headlines for Microsoft’s proprietary games, including Forza Motorsport is Fable, did not mention that they would arrive on Xbox One.

Finally, in case that wasn’t obvious, you’ll likely see a very different looking game if you choose to play on a base 2013 Xbox One versus a brilliant new Xbox Series X.

There has also been some concern that trying to continue supporting Xbox One could hold back Microsoft’s next-gen games, which could give Sony an edge as it can focus all of its attention on the new hardware. Spencer said this shouldn’t be a problem, but so-called “cross-gen” games on older consoles have never made the most of the latest hardware.

New games, no hardware

Let’s say you don’t own an Xbox or gaming PC, but you have an Android phone. Does Microsoft have next-generation gaming options for you? Thanks to game streaming, it does. On September 15, Microsoft adds game streaming to Xbox Games Pass Ultimate, which costs $ 14.99 per month. The feature, formerly known as xCloud, could give you a way to play many of the biggest Xbox Series X games without having to own any gaming hardware. You can stream them on a simple device like an Android phone, for example (but not on iOS, which we’ll talk about in a second).

Game streaming isn’t a completely new idea – Sony launched its PlayStation Now service in 2014 with a mute response – but Microsoft is taking a much more interesting approach. Rather than focusing on older titles, as Sony did with PlayStation Now, Microsoft says its new games will be available for streaming on release day and lists recent first party titles as Forza Horizon 4, Gears of War 5, Tell me why, The Outer Worlds, is Ori and the Will of the Wisps among over 150 games available to stream at launch.

Microsoft promises to let you stream major Xbox games directly to your phone.
Photo by Nick Statt / The Verge

The big trade-off here is that even if the games themselves run on powerful hardware (Microsoft said the service will initially be powered by Xbox One S consoles that will be upgraded to Series X hardware next year), they get all this information for you via your internet connection is the hardest part. Depending on the speed and location of the internet, input lag is a definite possibility, as we discovered when we tested xCloud during its beta.

There are also questions as to which xCloud devices will be able to stream in the future. At the moment, xCloud support for Android has been announced, but the restrictions Apple places on game streaming services mean it will not be available for iOS at launch, if ever. Unless Apple’s rules change beyond the limited concessions it made last week, iPhone or iPad owners are unlikely to be able to use xCloud in its current form.

Since xCloud will be included with an Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription, it is offered alongside a wide range of content in addition to game streaming. The $ 14.99 per month Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription also lets you download and play over 100 games directly on your Xbox or Windows 10 PC, plus EA Play. It also includes an Xbox Live Gold membership, which gives you access to online multiplayer on Xbox.

PlayStation Now is still around, of course, but Sony doesn’t promote it as a way to play its recent games. It may have a huge catalog of over 800 titles, but it doesn’t look like a serious attempt to compete with Microsoft’s game streaming, even after a recent price cut to $ 9.99 per month.

The Backward Compatibility Question

The ability to play games from a previous generation on new hardware (the so-called “backward compatibility”) has varied between different consoles and generations. Nintendo’s Wii U could happily play all Wii games and the Wii could play all previous GameCube games. In contrast, the PS4 cannot natively play games released for previous PlayStation, although some can be streamed via PlayStation Now.

With its new consoles, Microsoft has outlined three ways your old games will be playable on its new hardware. Some games will be backward compatible, some will receive enhancements, and others will receive a free update when newer versions are released.

With Xbox Series X, Microsoft makes big promises about your ability to play your old Xbox games on its new hardware. It is promising that “thousands” of games released for the original Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One will be playable on its upcoming consoles, and it has a handy tool that lets you browse through them all. This includes nearly every game released for the Xbox One, except for those that required its Kinect camera accessory.

The Xbox Series S will still be able to play older games, but Microsoft has confirmed that it will not include Xbox One X enhancements, such as higher resolutions where applicable. So, in most cases, you’ll essentially be playing the version of the game designed for the less powerful Xbox One S (although in some cases, games could benefit from more modern hardware like a faster solid-state drive).

The S series will not include Xbox One X enhancements for games.
Photo by Tom Warren / The Verge

That’s the baseline, but in some cases, Microsoft says games will be improved upon, running at higher resolutions and frame rates than originally released with and with support for new technologies like HDR. We’ve already seen Microsoft achieve some impressive results with these techniques on Xbox One X and it will be interesting to see if there are any further improvements in store with the new hardware.

Finally, there’s Smart Delivery, which is essentially a free update program which means you won’t have to repurchase an Xbox One game, like Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla, Cyberpunk 2077, or Doom Eternal – if it is also released on new hardware. While this will theoretically offer the biggest upgrade, the feature is used selectively. If you previously purchased the original Control for Xbox One, for example, you won’t receive a free upgrade to the next generation version. It is reserved for the owners of ControlThe new Ultimate Edition.

Sony hasn’t said much about the improvements for PS4 games running on PS5. In March, he confirmed that the “vast majority” of PS4 games will run on his new hardware, adding that he expects some of them to benefit from “more stable frame rates and potentially higher resolutions”. Some developers, such as Bungie, have said they will offer free updates to PS5 versions of their games.

Pay the price

If you want to continue paying upfront for hardware and games, this will still be an option with Microsoft’s new Xboxes. As previously mentioned, the Xbox Series X will retail for $ 499, while the Series S will cost $ 299. Major releases, meanwhile, will likely be priced similarly or potentially $ 10 premium over the latest generation titles. . Sony has yet to announce pricing for its PS5.

But moving into the next generation, Microsoft is making a big bet on people wanting to spend their money on games in monthly installments. For Xbox Series X, that means paying $ 34.99 per month for 24 months via its Xbox All Access package (total cost: $ 839.76), while the S Series will be available for $ 24.99 per month (total cost : $ 599.76). All Access will be available in 12 countries this year: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Korea, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

It’s more expensive than buying the console upfront, but Xbox All Access includes Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, a subscription service that gives you free access to over 100 Xbox One titles, including great recent titles like Tell me why, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, is Forza Horizon 4 – free games through EA Play, Xbox Live Gold (a subscription that includes its monthly free games and access to online multiplayer) and game streaming via xCloud. Oh, and it also gives free access to over 100 games for Windows 10, such as those released recently Microsoft Flight Simulator.

If you’d rather buy your hardware outright and purchase a subscription to one of Microsoft’s gaming services separately, Xbox Game Pass is available in a couple of different variations. Calculate the cost of these subscriptions against the total price of Xbox All Access, and the price of the console hardware itself drops to just $ 10 or $ 20 per month.

Xbox Game Pass comparison

Categories Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Xbox Game Pass Xbox Game Pass for PC
Categories Xbox Game Pass Ultimate Xbox Game Pass Xbox Game Pass for PC
platform PC / Xbox Xbox PC
Games included 100+ games 100+ games 100+ games
Xbox Live Gold Yup No No
xCloud Yup No No
EA Play Yup No Yup
Monthly price $ 14.99 / £ 10.99 / € 12.99 $ 9.99 / £ 7.99 / € 9.99 $ 9.99 / £ 7.99 / € 9.99 (starting September 17th)

Suffice it to say, if you don’t have the money to make a big upfront purchase, Microsoft still wants you to be part of its next generation of consoles. You don’t own any of the games you can play (aside from the old Xbox 360 games you can download with Xbox Live’s Games with Gold service), but that’s the trade-off you make.


Microsoft’s plans for the next generation of games are sprawling. Two consoles available via subscription and capable of playing a huge portion of your existing Xbox games, a new list of games that will be playable on your existing Xbox One, a continued focus on PC games and a game streaming service means that, no matter what hardware you own, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to pay Microsoft to play its games.

We wrote previously about how focusing on trying to sell subscriptions rather than premium hardware means that the “real next-gen Xbox” is the subscription itself, rather than the hardware it plays on. Microsoft is rolling out its network and doesn’t want any hardware requirements to stand in your way (though Apple has other ideas when it comes to game streaming).

Sony, meanwhile, is doing what it has always done: creating a new console, developing exclusive games and selling it. It’s hard to argue too much with the approach when it’s been done so well for the company so far, especially with the PS4.

At the time of writing, the PS4 has reportedly outperformed the Xbox One by more than two to one, so it’s hard to see why Sony wants to change its strategy too much. Microsoft is entering the next generation as an underdog and doing everything in its power to change the rules of the game.




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