Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X | S.

So, you’re thinking about buying an Xbox. Do you want a Series X or S? Is your current TV good enough or do you need to upgrade? And you will have to raise the console as a kind of monolith? Let’s answer the most pressing Xbox Series X and S questions.

What is the difference between the X and S series?

The Xbox Series X costs $499, while the Series S sells for $299. Beyond price, the main difference between the two consoles is graphics power. They have similar CPUs, but the Series S GPU has about a third of the raw power that the Series X has.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

The Series X sets a 4K resolution target at 60 frames per second (fps), while the Series S settles for a more modest 1440p, also at 60fps. On paper, this should be the only difference. However, in practice, we’ve seen games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla also cut features like ray tracing in the Series S version.

The Series X has a 1TB SSD, while the Series S only comes with 512GB. The Series S is an all-digital console, which means it doesn’t have a disc drive for used or older games, or Blu-rays.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

What about backwards compatibility?

Both consoles enjoy the same excellent backwards compatibility. Almost all Xbox One games work on both Series X and S. The only exceptions are games that require Kinect, which isn’t supported on the newer consoles.

There’s also support for more than 500 Xbox 360 games, many of which received next-gen patches to improve things like resolution and frame rates. Microsoft even decided to support a handful of original Xbox games, like Fuzion Frenzy and BLACK.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

Do older games look or work better?

Since Xbox Series X and S are more powerful than legacy hardware, games should generally run better on them. Games that experienced performance issues in the past, like Just Cause 3 (which barely managed 20fps when things got hectic), now run at a locked 30fps on Series X.

Some games are being patched to take advantage of the new hardware. This is indicated by an “Optimized for Series X/S” label in the Microsoft Store. This includes titles like Forza Horizon 4, which runs at 60fps in native 4K, and Gears 5, which supports up to 120fps in multiplayer.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

A feature called “Auto-HDR” is enabled by default in almost all older titles that don’t explicitly support HDR. Microsoft has used machine learning to automatically apply a new coat of HDR paint to almost all supported games, including Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles.

What resolutions and frame rates are supported?

The Xbox Series X supports 4K (2160p), 1440p, 1080p, and 720p output at 60 or 120Hz. The Xbox Series S supports 1440p, 1080p, and 720p at 60 or 120Hz. However, you can run the S Series board at 4K if you’re connected to a compatible display.

To enable 120Hz on your Series X or S, you’ll need a TV with a panel that updates at 120Hz. To get Xbox Series X 120Hz at 4K resolution, you’ll also need a TV with at least one HDMI 2.1 port.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

How many games will actually take advantage of full 4K/120fps remains to be seen.

What about FreeSync and variable refresh rates?

Some TVs and monitors have “variable” refresh rates, which, in the case of Series X and S, means that they lower their refresh rate to match the console’s frame rate. This prevents unsightly screen tearing and keeps gameplay smooth, even when frame rates drop.

Both Xbox series consoles support HDMI VRR and AMD FreeSync, so you have the choice of which variable refresh rate technology you want to use. HDMI VRR will work over HDMI 2.0 up to a maximum of 60Hz, as long as your TV supports it.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

FreeSync is largely redundant on TVs that already support HDMI VRR, but it’s a good alternative if you’re using a monitor.

What is Quick Resume?

Quick Resume is a feature on both consoles that allows you to resume a game right where you left off, even after you’ve exited. To do this, create a save state by dumping whatever is in RAM to the SSD.

This means you can suspend a game at any time and later re-enter exactly where you were, even if you were halfway through a level.

The number of games Quick Resume can save at once depends on the titles you are playing. Five or six seems to be the limit when including some older Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

Microsoft also has a habit of disabling this feature in some games whenever compatibility issues arise, so it can be a bit inconsistent. Hopefully Quick Resume will become more stable as Series X and S mature.

Can you buy more storage?

After setting up your Xbox Series X, you’ll have a usable space of around 800GB, as the system uses part of that for features like Quick Resume. On an Xbox Series X, your usable space after initial setup is around 360GB.

Fortunately, you can buy more storage space! The Official ($219) adds another terabyte of storage. This card will install and run everything from native Xbox Series X and S titles to original Xbox games.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

You can also use a USB 3.0 or later external drive, including solid-state or mechanical hard drives. None of these will run a native Xbox Series X or S title though; they need the raw speed of the Microsoft SSD. However, you can use them to archive or play older titles.

Can you use your old controllers?

You can use all Xbox One accessories on Series X and S, except for Kinect and some older headsets. You can even play new Series X and S releases with your old Xbox One or Elite controller. Officially licensed Xbox One flight controllers, drive wheels and pedals and fight sticks work too.

Some older Xbox One headsets use an optical connection not present on Xbox Series X or S, so they may not work. If you own one of these, check with the manufacturer for an update on their compatibility.

Do you need a 4K or HDR TV?

You don’t need a 4K TV to use the Series X or S. Both support additional 1440p and 1080p resolutions. You can even use a Series X in HD if you intend to upgrade to a 4K TV later.

HDR is used a lot on the Series X and S, but it’s by no means necessary. You can disable all HDR features in the Settings menu.

The Series X and S currently use HDR10, but Dolby Vision for gaming should arrive sometime in 2021. While you don’t need Dolby Vision, if you’re buying a new TV anyway, you might want to prioritize it over other HDR formats.

Is there an HDMI 2.1 cable in the box?

The Xbox Series X comes with an HDMI 2.1-compatible cable in the box so you can enjoy up to 4K at 120 fps in 10-bit native color. The S Series comes with a regular HDMI 2.0 cable because it doesn’t need the extra bandwidth.

If you want a replacement cable for your X Series, make sure you get an Ultra High Speed ​​HDMI that has been certified by the HDMI Licensing Manager.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

Can you play games remotely?

Remote play is possible between the Xbox console and a smartphone over a local network connection over the Internet. However, your mileage may vary in terms of latency.

To do this, you’ll need a compatible smartphone, the Xbox app for or, and a controller. You can use current or latest generation Xbox controllers to play locally.

Microsoft also has a cloud streaming service for which Xbox is not required to play cloud-hosted games. This service (formerly known as Xcloud) is currently in beta and requires a subscription ($14.99 per month).

Do you keep sync between consoles or remote use?

Microsoft now uses cloud saves for all generations of Xbox games played on Series X and S consoles. This means that your saves will sync between the consoles and any other devices you use to play.

Everything you need to know before buying an Xbox Series X |  S

Can you take screenshots and videos?

The Series X and S controller features a dedicated Share button for taking screenshots and videos. You can customize the way the Share button works or assign it to another button if you’re using an older driver.

By default, pressing the button once takes a screenshot, pressing and holding it saves a video, and double-tapping it shows the capture gallery.

After taking your screenshot or video, Microsoft uploads it to the cloud. You can then retrieve it via the Xbox app for iOS or Android, where you can also share it on social media or with your friends.

Can you arrange the consoles vertically or horizontally?

The Xbox Series X and S can be placed both vertically and horizontally. However, in the case of the X-Series, be sure to leave enough space for cool air to enter and hot air to exhaust. Microsoft recommends leaving about 1.5 inches (4 cm) of space at the exhaust end.

For Series S, you’ll want to make sure you don’t cover the black fan grill in either orientation.

What is GamePass?

Game Pass is Microsoft’s all-you-can-eat gaming subscription service. It works a bit like Netflix or Spotify, but for games. It has all of Microsoft’s own titles on the first day of its release. There are also a large number of third-party titles on the service that cycle in and out.

Game Pass is available at a few tiers, and the best value is Game Pass Ultimate ($14.99 per month). Includes Game Pass library, Xbox Live Gold, access to cloud streaming beta, and (for an as-yet-undetermined period) access to EA’s back catalog through EA Play.

However, if you don’t want the latter, you can get Game Pass for consoles for $9.99 per month. However, you will still need an Xbox Live Gold subscription to play online.

Can the Series X play Blu-rays with Dolby Vision?

The Xbox Series X has an Ultra HD Blu-ray player for movies, but the Series S doesn’t have a disc drive. Unfortunately, the Series X currently can’t play Dolby Vision discs in Dolby Vision either; default is HDR10.

Do the consoles get hot or make noise?

Both the Xbox Series X and S will kick up some heat, but Microsoft has designed solutions to deal with this. The X Series uses and a large 130mm fan to keep things cool. Under load, the console feels warm to the touch at the exhaust end, indicating that the cooling system is doing its job.

Both consoles are virtually silent, even under load. In an average living room, while playing at a low, but audible volume, you probably won’t notice any noise. Installing a game from a disc is just as noisy as Series X makes it.

Two consoles, two price points, one ecosystem

Whether you choose Series X or S, or just sign up for Game Pass on your Windows PC, Microsoft wants you in its ecosystem. The way games, save games, and subscriptions now work across all platforms, it’s easier than ever to game wherever you are and on whatever hardware you have.

Having a hard time deciding between the PS5, Xbox Series X, or S? If so, be sure to check out our comparison of next-gen Microsoft and Sony consoles.

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