Next-gen

Everything we know about the budget-friendly Xbox Series S

After more than a year of rumors, the Series S has been confirmed.

The long-rumored Xbox Series S leaked in full over the Labor Day weekend. The upcoming budget-friendly console will launch alongside Microsoft’s premium Xbox Series X in November, offering gamers a more affordable entrance into next-generation console gaming.

Chatter about the Series S has been floating around online for well over a year, and now the many rumors and leaks have been proven true. Microsoft’s economical console will launch with less powerful specs than the Series X but will make up for its lack of horsepower with a price tag so low that it'll compete with current-gen consoles.

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Long before even the Series X was revealed, Microsoft codenamed its new consoles “Project Scarlett.” There were two rumored models from the get-go: Anaconda and Lockhart. Microsoft confirmed that Anaconda was the Series X’s alter ego when it revealed the console had a snake etched into its motherboard. Now, the Series S — or Lockhart — has been officially unveiled as of September 8, 2020 as the second half of Microsoft’s next-gen console plan.

After Xbox hief Phil Spencer introduced the Series X in 2019, he went out of his way to deny that there would be a second, next-gen Xbox model. But now it's been proven that the Series S has always been part of Microsoft’s strategy.

A two-pronged console launch would make a lot of sense considering that Sony — Microsoft’s biggest gaming competitor — is also releasing a presumably cheaper, digital-only PlayStation 5 alongside a premium model. Plus, offering affordable Xbox options during a time of economic uncertainty due to the coronavirus pandemic could drive more sales to the Series S.

Here’s everything we know about the Xbox Series S.

When is the Xbox Series S release date?

Microsoft confirmed in August 2020 that the Series X would launch sometime in November, and within hours of the Xbox Series S being widely leaked on September 8, Microsoft released an official trailer for the budget-friendly console that confirmes a November 10, 2020 release date.

As such, we can safely assume that both the Series S and Series X will launch on that same day.

How much will the Xbox Series S cost?

Microsoft has confirmed that the Xbox Series S will retail for $299.99, the same price as the current-gen Xbox One S.

That's a bargain considering that the PS5 is predicted to cost $499.99 at launch. Microsoft has yet to reveal how much the Series X will cost, but Windows Central reports that the premium Xbox will come with a $499 price tag.

Microsoft is said to offer a Series S-specific All-Access bundle to Game Pass and Xbox Live Gold.Daniel Ahmad

Microsoft might also sweeten the Series S deal by offering customers a bundled Game Pass Ultimate and Xbox Live Gold subscription for a single monthly payment. Microsoft insider Brad Sams (who was one for the first to report on the Series S leaks), claims his sources said an all-encompassing Game Pass and Live Gold bundle will be available from day one of the Series S's release.

Windows Central also reported that Xbox All Access for the Series S will cost $25 per month. That's $5 more expensive than the currently available $20 per month Xbox One All Access plan.

What will the Xbox Series S look like?

The Series S's final design was leaked ahead of a full September 8 reveal. It looks more like an intercom than anyone was expecting. Its design almost looks inspired by the Xbox Adaptive Controller, but while its look might be slightly odd compared to previous Xboxes, it will be the smallest and slimmest console Microsoft has ever released.

The trailer confirms it will be 60 percent smaller than the Series X, which means it'll be able to squeeze into bookshelves. The Series S appears to have two cooling grids — one on the top and a circular opening on its side — which might limit what direction gamers can rest place them. But either way, the console will be able to rest vertically and horizontally.

The Series S will be less than half the size of the Series X.@_h0x0d_

How does the Xbox Series S compare to the Xbox Series X?

That same trailer revealed a flurry of specs that the Series S will launch with, which we've listed below.

  • Custom NVME SSD (512 GB)
  • All-digital, no disc drive
  • 1440p up to 120 FPS
  • Ray-Tracing support
  • 4K media playback
  • 4K game upscaling
  • Variable rate shading
  • Variable refresh rate
  • Ultra-low latency

Many of these confirm the shortlist of Series S specs that were acquired by The Verge earlier this year, like its 1440p resolution instead of 4K. But the tech publication released a handful of details that have yet to be verified just yet. These include:

  • 7.5 GB of usable RAM
  • Slightly under-clocked CPU speed
  • About 4 teraflops of GPU performance

If these prove to be true, they would be toaster numbers compared to the much more powerful Xbox Series X, which will launch later this year with the following:

  • 13.5 GB of usable RAM
  • A 8x Zen 2 Cores CPU at 3.8GHz
  • About 12 TF of GPU performance

What gives? The Series S doesn't sound very next-gen at all. Well, the whole point of the console would be to use it in tandem with Microsoft's Project xCloud game streaming service, which runs games on Microsoft's Azure datacenters and streams them to users' devices like smartphones, tablets, and potentially the Series S.

Selling the Series S alongside an xCloud subscription is Microsoft's best bet to make both products succeed. The Series S could offer users a smoother, less laggy xCloud experience while the streaming service will eliminate the need for gamers to buy physical game copies or even download games to their console.

A lot still remains unknown about the Series S, but it could very well be Microsoft's play to get as many gamers as possible on xCloud.

The Xbox Series S is rumored to launch alongside the Series X in November.

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