Xbox Series X price is not really $499 — this is the true cost

The true cost of Xbox Series X
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In our Xbox Series X review, we praised Microsoft's new flagship games console for its power, neat design and long-term potential. And some six weeks later we’re still impressed by the $499 (£449 in the U.K.) machine, given it delivers 4K gaming at around a third of the price of an equivalent gaming PC. 

In fact, with 12 teraflops of graphics power and a fast 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD, the Xbox Series X has a lot of next-generation tech for its palatable price tag. But before we go ahead and declare it a bargain, there’s a catch. 

Not only is it very hard to find where to buy an Xbox Seires X, but $499 is also the bare minimum you'll need to part with. That's because getting the most out of the Microsoft machine requires you to spend a bit more. So here's what we consider to be the true cost of the Xbox Series X.  

SSD upgrade: $219/£219 

Seagate Storage Expansion Card for Xbox Series X/S

(Image credit: Future)

After your Xbox Series X is up and running you’ll notice there's only 802GB of storage space left. That’s because the console requires 198GB for its operating system. Now the Series X has more usable space than the PS5. But with modern games weighing in at anywhere between 30GB to 100GB - and at times more - that 802GB is going to fill up rather fast, meaning you’ll need a storage upgrade.

Enter the Xbox Series X’s proprietary 1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD expansion card. Made by Seagate, the external SSD is neat and easy to install but costs $219/£219. That’s a hefty amount for some extra storage, but it's the only way you’ll be able to upgrade your SSD space for Xbox Series X games. You can store next-gen games on cheaper external hard drives, but you'll only be able to run older Xbox games directly from such storage. That makes the expansion card a near-essential upgrade. 

Spare Xbox Wireless Controller: $59/£54  

Xbox Wireless Controller

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The new Xbox Wireless Controller is a rather lovely gamepad, offering a neat upgrade over its predecessor. And that makes it one of our favorite ever controllers once again. But the Xbox Series X only comes with one controller in the box, so if you want to indulge in some split-screen co-op Halo, you'll need to get another. 

That’ll set you back an extra $59/£54, which isn’t unreasonable for such a good controller. But it all adds to the overall price of the Xbox Series X; at least you get a choice of blue, black or white. Bear in mind older Xbox Wireless Controllers can be paired with the Series X, so if you’re coming over from the Xbox One, you could avoid this extra expense.  

Xbox Rechargeable Battery: $24./£19 

Xbox Rechargeable Battery

(Image credit: Future)

One of the only real downsides to the Xbox Wireless Controller is it still uses AA batteries to power it rather than a rechargeable cell. Chemical batteries aren’t particularly elegant to use, not exactly great for the environment and can get quite expensive, as after a few lengthy game sessions they’ll run out of juice. So to avoid that inconvenience you’ll need the Xbox Rechargeable Battery. 

That means parting with $24/£19 if you want to have one controller with a rechargeable battery pack. It’ll save you money in the long run, but it’s a little disappointing Microsoft didn’t put a rechargeable battery pack in the new Xbox Wireless Controller by default. 

Xbox Game Pass: $100 /£96 

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

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Xbox Game Pass offers you access to more than 100 Xbox games, from modern Xbox One titles to classics from the original Xbox. And it now offers access to a suite of Electronic Arts games by bundling in an EA Play membership, all for a monthly fee of $9.99/£7.99. This is one of gaming's best bargains. It will also get better as all future first-party Xbox games will be made available on Game Pass from the day of their release. With Microsoft buying Bethesda, you can also expect a suite of games from its studios to get added to the service. 

Game Pass is basically the killer app for the Xbox Series X and one we’d deem essential. However, that means you need to part with some $100/£96 per year for the standard Xbox Game Pass subscription. Opt for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, which throws in PC games and game streaming to Android phones, and you’ll need to part with $14.99/£10.99 per month; it’s a superb bargain, but still adds to the overall cost of owning an Xbox Series X. 

Next-gen games: $59/£59  

assassins creed valhalla

(Image credit: Ubisoft)

Speaking of games, much like those on the PS5, Xbox Series X games have risen in price. Take Assassin's Creed Valhalla's $59 price tag as an example. 

While it’s a cross-platform game, it sports some next-gen graphics, as well as being rather good. So it’s one game you’ll want to get for your Series X given it’s not on Game Pass yet. That means you’ll need to fork out another chunk of change for a game that can show off the power of Microsoft's flagship console. 

The true cost of the Xbox Series X: $960/£896  

xbox series x review

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With the above taken into account, getting the most out of the Xbox Series X is going to cost you $960/£896. That’s a fair bit for a dedicated gaming machine, but it’s still quite the bargain. 

To get equivalent 4K performance from a gaming PC, you’ll need to spend some $1,500, though we appreciate that gives you a far larger library of games to choose from. But in comparison to what we believe to be the true price of the PS5, the Xbox Series X is the winner given it’s that bit cheaper with all its extras added into the mix. Though for the performance they deliver, both consoles still offer impressive value for money. 

However, getting hold of an Xbox Series X is very difficult at the moment. So if you can hold off until 2021, you might be able to get yourself a well-priced Series X bundle, and you’ll have more games to tap into on Game Pass - hopefully in the form of Xbox Series X exclusives. After all, 2021 is looking like the year that these new games consoles come into their own. 

Roland Moore-Colyer

Roland Moore-Colyer a Managing Editor at Tom’s Guide with a focus on news, features and opinion articles. He often writes about gaming, phones, laptops and other bits of hardware; he’s also got an interest in cars. When not at his desk Roland can be found wandering around London, often with a look of curiosity on his face.