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The Xbox Series S is a next-generation console with a couple of caveats
The Xbox Series S is a next-gen console that takes a radically different approach to the flagship model of the Xbox Series X. It's designed to offer the same generational leap as Microsoft's more powerful system, such as high frame rates, ray tracing and super-fast load times, but at a considerably lower price – and inevitably, this means it comes with a few notable compromises.
The Xbox Series S has significantly less storage than the Xbox Series X, and primarily targets a resolution of 1440p for gaming. It can upscale to 4K when connected to an ultra HD display, and a handful of titles are capable of native 4K such as Ori and the Will of the Wisps, but this is a machine designed to run games at a lower resolution first and foremost.
Microsoft's more affordable Xbox also does away with the 4K HD Blu-Ray drive of the Xbox Series X, which means it's a digital only device. If you've amassed a large library of physical games over the years, this alone could be a deal breaker.
These cutbacks might be too much for some users to stomach, but it makes the Xbox Series S a much cheaper and smaller device as a result. Crucially, it's still capable of playing next-gen games and is a great entry point into the Xbox ecosystem.
- US-only: Xbox Series X restock tracker
- Where to buy Xbox Series X: all the latest stock updates
- Where to buy Xbox Series S: all the retailers we expect to have stock
- Read our in-depth Xbox Series X review
- Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S: which console should you get?
During our time with the Xbox Series S, we tested dozens of games – from last-gen "Xbox Series X/S optimized" hits including Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Forza Horizon 4, Doom Eternal and Gears 5, to launch titles like Yakuza: Like a Dragon.
Each one impressed us, with smoother frame rates, increased resolutions (when compared to Xbox One and Xbox One S) and faster load times, even if they didn't look quite as pretty as they do running on the Xbox Series X, mostly due to targeting a lower resolution.
That said, for gamers who have no qualms about buying games digitally, or subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, you’re getting the full suite of next-gen features on Microsoft's cheaper console. The Xbox Series S is a great entry point into next-gen gaming, then, without the sizable financial outlay required to own a full-blown next-gen console.
As we've alluded to already, there are drawbacks to consider. If you prefer to purchase games physically, or have amassed a large collection of Xbox One games over the years, the Xbox Series S's lack of disc drive may put you off.
You only get a 512GB SSD, too, as there's no higher-capacity option. And while the console's SSD is dramatically faster than the old mechanical drives in the Xbox One X and Xbox One S, it can fill up fast.
The five games we mentioned above almost took up the entire 512GB SSD on our review unit (you only get 364GB of usable space), leaving us with just 30GB of space to play with. That means if we wanted to install a game of that size to the system's internal drive, we'd likely have to delete something first (or additionally purchase the console's expandable storage, which costs nearly as much as the Xbox Series S itself).