Game Recs

Cyber Monday's best video game console isn't what you'd expect

One year after next-gen consoles hit the market, the Xbox Series S remains a dark horse.

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Next gen console and controller

Xbox Series S is quickly becoming the hottest console of the 2021 holiday season with good reason. While it’s obviously not the most powerful system compared to the PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X, Microsoft’s all-digital option just might be the best additive to an entertainment center for casual or hardcore gamers alike. The Xbox Series S is a red hot item right now, and we’ll explain why.

The perfect balance between power and price

One of the first things the average consumer will likely notice about the Xbox Series S is its $300 price tag, $200 less expensive than the premium Xbox Series X and disc-based PS5. Even the PS5 Digital Edition is still $100 more. While most gamers have become conditioned to this idea that lower-priced items are inherently worse than their more luxurious counterparts, that’s simply not true of the S, which has the same price tag as the Nintendo Switch base model and the Oculus Quest 2 VR headeset. And yet, it’s so much better in terms of hardware.

The Xbox Series S isn’t too different from the Series X once you start playing it.


Believe it or not, the main guts of the Xbox Series S are actually mostly identical to that of the Series X. Both systems have the exact same Zen 2 CPU that’s four times more powerful than the Xbox One X, and both systems feature ultra-fast solid-state storage that allows top-tier games to load and stream data faster than ever before.

Those two features inside such an affordable chassis offer the main components of a next-gen gaming experience suitable for a wide array of budgets, and, especially when playing this season’s hottest games, you don’t feel as though you’re making any concessions having gone the cost-effective route.

Forza Horizon 5 still looks great on an Xbox Series S.


Games like Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite look and play just like fans may have seen in trailers, which is made all the more impressive considering how tiny the unit itself is. The Xbox Series S defies conventional wisdom by offering a product that is both powerful and affordable.

Having owned one for nearly a year, I don’t have a single ounce of buyer's remorse.

You can actually find one

Perhaps knowing that a more affordable console might appeal to the 2021 economic climate, Microsoft has ensured Xbox Series S is able to set these early holiday sales records largely because it seems to be the most available current-gen console right now.

No doubt this system may still be a challenge to find, but, where PS5s and Series Xs sell out in a matter of moments, you may be able to operate in 20-minute windows to successfully procure a Series S. And, as we’ve described, that’s not necessarily because it's a less desirable or powerful piece of hardware. The more likely reason why you can find a Series S is because its makers have assembled enough of them to meet demand, knowing just how perfect of a purchase they’re primed to be.

The only thing you lose is the ability to play physical copies of games, but in an increasingly more digitized landscape, that’s becoming less and less of an issue.

Instant access to Game Pass and more

One of the main reasons I bought an Xbox Series S was so that I could have access to Microsoft’s popular Xbox Game Pass catalog. For as little as $10 per month, Xbox owners can enjoy a collection of more than 100 games consisting of fairly old favorites and brand-new hits. The most attractive thing about Game Pass, for me and many others, is that it will include all upcoming Microsoft-made titles on launch day and in perpetuity. Games like Halo Infinite and Starfield that would normally cost $60 each will both be there at launch.

Doing the napkin math for a subscription service that costs $120 per year may sound a bit gross, but, as long as you intend to buy at least two high-profile Xbox games over the course of a year, the investment more than pays for itself. You can also subscribe month-to-month as well, which allows more casual gamers to be flexible about canceling their payments when they aren’t actively using the service.

Game Pass truly is the best deal in gaming.


Having instant access to a huge catalog of games not only offers you the freedom to play what you want but also provides opportunities to discover new genres without the fear of wasting additional money. With no exaggeration, utilizing Game Pass correctly will transform your gaming lifestyle. There’s a reason why many a meme call Xbox Game Pass “the best value in gaming,” and owning a Series S is the cheapest and best way to jump on the bandwagon.

The Xbox ecosystem is also the best console to experience the classics as well, with a catalog of 1,000 backward compatible titles available for a-la-carte purchase from the original Xbox and Xbox 360 eras too. In terms of offering the cheapest access to the highest number of games, you can’t go wrong with series S.

What are the drawbacks?

While we would absolutely recommend the Xbox Series S in most gaming situations, there are a handful of drawbacks. It should be noted clearly that the S is an all-digital console, meaning the only place you can buy games is via the console’s online store. That said, if you don’t have top-tier internet, this may not be the console for you.

After installing large games like Halo Infinite you’ll need to clear some space.


Also, the Series S does have SSD storage, but it only comes with just 512 GB of space. When combined with a service like Game Pass, that likely means you’ll be deleting games from the console on a pretty frequent basis. After installing about three titles, you’ll have to start conserving space. That’s really annoying, but if you have fast enough internet, the disadvantage is easy enough to overcome.

Lastly, while the CPU may be the same between Series S and Series X, the GPU is of a lesser value to the tune of 4 TF on the S compared to 12 TF on the X. That’s a pretty massive gulf numerically, but in practice it’s not a huge deal. If you're okay with playing games at somewhere between 1080p and 1440p resolution instead of 4K, the Series S will serve you just fine. Having played the system on a 4K HDR TV for the past year, I personally don’t feel like I’ve made much of a concession, and that super-fast CPU means you’ll still mostly get 60 fps performance from your games on either machine. Cuts are made for the Series S, but they’re so surgical you may not notice the difference.

We’d most recommend the Xbox Series S for the following scenarios:

  • Next-gen gaming on a budget
  • Tired of hunting for PS5 or Series X
  • A cheap Xbox Game Pass box
  • An awesome complementary system for someone who already owns a PS5 and/or Nintendo Switch

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