The two new versions of Microsoft’s Xbox system, the Series X and Series S, are very different devices. While they can run the same games and exist in the same ecosystem, they serve very divergent audiences.
The Series X is a hardcore gaming device that can handle 4K graphics, high-end performance, and has plenty of bells and whistles. The Series S, on the other hand, is a leaner machine that can target only 1440p resolutions and typically clocks in at lower framerates than its big counterpart. But does that mean the Series X is strictly better than the Series S?
The Series S is inferior to the Series X in pretty much every way. It has no disc drive, meaning you need to download or stream any game you want to play on it. It can only offer 1440p graphics, which, while better than 1080p, are still far inferior to the now-standard 4K resolution seen on the Series X and PlayStation 5.
Despite these drawbacks, the Series S has one big element going for it: it’s affordable. You can get a Series S for its $300 MSRP, or you can find it on sale for as low as $240 around the holidays. It’s a truly affordable gaming machine on par with the handheld-only Nintendo Switch Lite.
For gamers on a seriously limited budget, the Series S offers a compelling way to play a wide variety of games for the lowest up-front buy-in. A Series S and a three-month subscription to Xbox Game Pass would run roughly $301 (assuming you haven’t used your $1 promo price for Game Pass yet).
That’s a very cheap buy-in to experience the newest Microsoft games and Game Pass titles on a reasonably powerful machine. If you have a TV to hook the device up to and an internet connection to download the games, it’s a tough deal to beat.
On the other hand, players who are comfortable with spending another $200 could just get the Series X instead and forego the Game Pass subscription – which is normally around $15 per month when you’re not getting that promotional price.
The Series X has a disc drive, which means you can play physical games and can even buy used titles or borrow games from your friends. That makes it perhaps more affordable in the long run, assuming you can foot the initially-higher buy-in. Still, both options are great for different kinds of gamers!