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Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S: Which Xbox should you buy?

an image showing the Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

It's been more than a year since the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S first got released into the wild, though they weren't easy to get hold of for a while; the Xbox Series X can still be elusive to this day. 

Now with a suite of next-gen games, both consoles are well worth considering, especially when combined with the mighty and ever-expanding Xbox Game Pass. But choosing between the consoles can be tricky. 

Sure the Xbox Series X is the objectively better console, thanks to its more powerful specs. But the Xbox Series S is a fine compact console and could be perfect if you don't have 4K TV; it's also notably cheaper. 

So the question is which console is better for you, rather than which is best. Read on to find out more. 

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S: Price 

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

The Xbox Series S' price is one of only a few categories in which it definitely beats the Xbox Series X. Simply put: the Xbox Series S costs $300, whereas the Series X costs $500. (Prices vary from country to country, but the differential is similar.)

You can make plenty of arguments about how the Xbox Series X does more to earn its price, or how "price" and "value" aren't the same thing, or how the Xbox Series S might not be as useful in the long-term. But for right now, the Series S is $200 cheaper than the flagship Xbox, and that might make a big difference, depending on your budget and your current entertainment setup.

Of course the Series S is also a lot easier to find, with restock issues still hampering Series X availability despite all the time that's past since its release. For that reason, anyone looking to buy a next-gen console might well agree that the Xbox Series S is the right console to buy right now

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S: Performance 

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Whereas the Xbox Series S has a clear price advantage, the Xbox Series X has a clear hardware advantage. While the two systems have the same CPU, they have different storage and RAM capacities. There's also a significant difference in the two consoles' GPUs. Consult the chart below for a full breakdown of Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S specs:

Xbox Series XXbox Series S
Price$500$300
ProcessorCustom Zen 2, 8-core, 3.8 GHzCustom Zen 2, 8-core, 3.8 GHz
GPUAMD RDNA 2, 12 teraflops, 1.8 GHzAMD RDNA 2, 4 teraflops, 1.6 GHz
RAM16 GB10 GB
Storage1 TB512 GB
Display (Targeted)4K, 60 fps1440p, 60 fps
Display (Max)8K, 120 fps1440p, 120 fps

 In our tests, the Xbox Series X performed better than the Xbox Series S across the board — not surprising, considering the Series X's hardware. While the Xbox Series S has 4K upscaling and HDR features, it's not quite the same thing as having a native 4K display. The Xbox Series X supports ray-tracing on a huge variety of games, while the Series S has much more limited ray-tracing support. The Series X also has much better draw distance in optimized games. 

Qualitatively speaking, the Xbox Series S looks good and plays well, even on 4K displays. If you have a 1080p TV or 1440p monitor — and plan to keep using it for a few more years — the Series S is an easy sell. But if you have a high-end TV, save your pennies for the Series X. It's worth the upgrade price.

The Xbox Series X also has a 4K Blu-ray player built in; the Xbox Series S is a purely digital console. This means that if you have a lot of physical media — be they movies, TV shows, or backwards-compatible games — the Xbox Series X offers a huge advantage over the Series S. 

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S: Design 

xbox series x

(Image credit: Marshall Honorof/Future)

While the Xbox Series X is a pretty console, there's no denying that it's pretty big: 11.9 x 5.9 x 5.9 inches, and 9.8 pounds. It's not at all guaranteed to fit in your entertainment center, particularly if you want it in a horizontal configuration.

This is where the Xbox Series S positively shines. The little white console (with the tasteful black vents on top) is only 10.8 x 5.9 x 2.6 inches, and 4.3 pounds. It's one of the smallest, lightest consoles in years, and it fits perfectly in an entertainment center — or simply next to a TV on a dresser. The Xbox Series S is easy to fit into any setup, and easy to move around.

For this reason, the Xbox Series S makes a fantastic secondary console for a bedroom, child's room, guest room — you get the idea. This is particularly true since most Xbox Series X/S games are also available on PC, and your save data can carry over — especially true if you use Xbox Game Pass Ultimate ($15 per month). On the other hand, we also realize it's a luxury to own a single console for the living room; an extra one might be pushing it.

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S: What's the same? 

xbox series x

(Image credit: Marshall Honorof/Future)

In many ways the Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S are very similar. Sure their overall power and design is different, but both use the same controller, interface, and other features. 

Most pertinent, the game library is the same for both. Sure you'll get better graphics and faster frame rates in the latest games with the Series X, but the Series S isn't likely to let you down either. There are a lot of older Xbox games now optimized for both of the new consoles, and also run well on each. 

And thanks to the use of a fast SSD, both consoles can access the Quick Resume feature, which lets you suspend multiple games and jump back into them within seconds; just bear in mind the Series S won't hold as many games as its larger sibling.

Xbox Series X vs. Xbox Series S: Verdict 

xbox series x, xbox series s

(Image credit: Future)

There's no denying that the Xbox Series X is the more powerful of the two systems, and the better investment, if you can afford it. However, there are a few circumstances under which an Xbox Series S might still be a smart buy. 

The "secondary console" case described above carries some weight. If you have a 1080p TV and no plans to upgrade anytime soon, the Series S is the way to go — and when you do get a 4K TV, it'll still be a good stopgap system thanks to upscaling.

Otherwise, get the Xbox Series X, even if you have to put off your purchase and save up for it. With more powerful hardware and better physical media features, it's more future-proof and versatile than the Series S. Yes, $200 can buy a lot of games, but you may only be delaying a more expensive purchase a few years down the road.

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi. 

  • gmk2311
    Being that I am totally enamored with the Xbox series S and its 1440 resolution, I just want to purchase the perfectly compatible TV that has 1440 native resolution. I don't want upscaling or downscaling.
    Also it seems that the series S units are readily available EVERYWHERE unlike the series X and PS5. I'm so lucky!!
    I want something relatively new, around 65" size.
    Can someone please direct me to a recent TV model that has 1440 native resolution please. (Also, built-in roku would be nice)
    Thanks a bunch!
    Reply
  • aaapone
    gmk2311 said:
    Being that I am totally enamored with the Xbox series S and its 1440 resolution, I just want to purchase the perfectly compatible TV that has 1440 native resolution. I don't want upscaling or downscaling.
    Also it seems that the series S units are readily available EVERYWHERE unlike the series X and PS5. I'm so lucky!!
    I want something relatively new, around 65" size.
    Can someone please direct me to a recent TV model that has 1440 native resolution please. (Also, built-in roku would be nice)
    Thanks a bunch!
    1920x1080 is "2k" for tv sets
    2560x1440 is QHD or Quad HD which is more common for pc monitors and not used in TVs
    3840x2160 is your consumer "4k" or UHD
    Reply