Xbox Series S gameplay revealed — and it's seriously impressive

Xbox Series S
(Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft has revealed specs and game footage for the Xbox Series S. And it’s set to be a seriously impressive gaming machine for $299. 

Xbox system architect Jason Ronald confirmed pretty much all of the specs that leaked for the Xbox Series S yesterday, noting that it will have the same main processors as the flagship Xbox Series X but a less powerful graphics accelerator and different resolution targets. But that doesn't mean it’s a weak console. 

The Xbox Series S will have a custom octa-core CPU from AMD, which makes use of its latest Zen 2 architecture that has notably improved its performance over the Zen architecture found in previous Ryzen processors. And that CPU will run at 3.6GHz, which happens to be faster than the clock speed of the custom AMD chip the PS5 uses, albeit by a mere 0.1GHz. The PS5 has a 3,5GHz clock speed. 

The Xbox Series S will also have a speedy SSD like the Xbox Series X, but it’ll only measure in at 512GB. But that’s set to be expandable with plug in custom SSDs, much like with the Xbox Series X. 

Less power, still impressive performance

The biggest difference between the Xbox Series S and Series X, as well as the PS5, will be in GPU power. The Series X has 12 teraflops of GPU power, while the PS5 has 10.28 teraflops. But the Xbox Series S will reportedly use a different GPU that will supposedly deliver 4 teraflops of power, though Microsoft hasn't confirmed this. 

That might seem like a rather steep drop in GPU power. But Microsoft said the Xbox Series S will target gaming at 1440p at 60 frames per second, while the Xbox Series X will target 4K at 60fps. And the Xbox Series X will be four times as powerful as the Xbox One X.

However, the Xbox Series S will have an upscaler to take the 1440p output and scale it to work well on 4K displays without either relying on a 4K TV’s own upscaling or simply letting a lower resolution image get stretched across a higher resolution display. We’ve seen similar techniques applied by the Xbox One X and PS4 Pro, though the former can deliver a native 4K output. 

But what’s interesting here is the Xbox Series S will deliver the 1440p output at 60fps. That means you could get an upscaled 4K image at a smooth frame rate, even if it’s not quite as sharp as the native 4K promised by the Xbox Series X and PS5.  

120 fps gaming

Furthermore, the Xbox Series S will also be able to run games at 120fps. This is not going to be across all next-generation Xbox games, but other titles that cross the console generations are set to run at 120 fps. 

One such title is Gears 5, with the jump to 120 fps set to make for a much smoother multiplayer gaming experience. It was difficult to tell from the video, but the Gears 5 footage still shows the game running rather smoothly, 

And other snippets of games running on the Xbox Series S look rather impressive; perhaps not a huge generational jump from the Xbox One X, but still impressive for a $299 box that’s 60 percent of the size of the Xbox Series X. The Xbox Series S is promising much faster game loading times thanks to its SSD storage, so it’s still bringing a tech boost over the current-generation consoles. 

Xbox Series S vs Xbox Series X vs PS5

Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S

(Image credit: Future)

With all this considered, the Xbox Series S is a bit of a double threat. 

It makes an argument that unless you're a hardcore console gamer, you might not need a $499 Xbox Series X. That won't matter to Microsoft, given it seems to be using the next-gen consoles as a means to get more people to sign up to Xbox Game Pass.

But for people on the fence when it comes to opting for a new Xbox or the PS5, the Xbox Series S' capabilities and its competitive price could attract the undecided to Xbox. Sony hasn't revealed the price of the PS5, but it's expected to cost around $500, which is a good chunk of cash for a gaming machine. The PS5 will have a lot of compelling exclusive games, though, including Spider-Man: Miles Morales and Horizon: Forbidden West. 

The Xbox Series S could also be a secondary console as well. So some might buy a PS5 as their main gaming console and use the cheaper next-gen Xbox to get access to Microsoft's first-party games. 

All in all, the Xbox Series S is shaping up to be a rather impressive console for its price and an ideal gateway into next-generation gaming and the Xbox ecosystem when it launches on November 10.

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.