Microsoft has officially confirmed that they will be offering two variants of their next-generation Xbox console, both the high-end Xbox Series X, and the entry model Xbox Series S. The Series S is a digital-only variant of their next-generation console, with lower-end specs, and an attractive $299 price point.
We’ve heard so many rumors over the years that Microsoft has been planning not just one next-generation console, but two. The Xbox Series X has been officially announced for quite some time now, but Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about the possibility of a second lower tier entry model. Until now, where in response to mounting leaks of the existence of a cheaper variant of their next-generation console, Microsoft has decided to make the announcement official.
The official confirmation comes in the form of a tweet. Hardly the most prestigious way to announce a new console, but it has effectively got the message out. Microsoft is still light on many of the precise details of what we can expect from the Xbox Series S, but they have shown what the console looks like, and let us know how much it will cost.
👀 Let’s make it official!
Xbox Series S | Next-gen performance in the ˢᵐᵃˡˡᵉˢᵗ Xbox ever. $299 (ERP).
Looking forward to sharing more! Soon. Promise. pic.twitter.com/8wIEpLPVEq
— Xbox (@Xbox) September 8, 2020
The pricing is going to be $299 in the US, £249.99 in the UK, and €299.99 in Eurozone countries. It’s fairly aggressive pricing, which I suspect Microsoft is hoping to position in the impulse purchase price range, and perhaps mitigate some of the sticker shock that their currently unpriced top-end Xbox Series X might struggle with.
Following the official news from Microsoft, we saw a trailer leak from a twitter user with a Garfield avatar. This trailer offers more in-depth technical information about the Series S, to give us a better idea of how the machine actually performs under the hood.
no point holding this back now I guess pic.twitter.com/SgOAjm3BuP
— WalkingCat (@_h0x0d_) September 8, 2020
Here are the relevant tech specs:
- Microsoft’s smallest Xbox ever, coming in 60% smaller than Xbox Series
- Features a custom 512 GB NVMe SSD, powered by “Xbox Velocity Architecture”, for extremely fast load times, and seamless game switching.
- No disc drive, it will only support digital game distribution
- Support for resolutions up to 1440p, and framerates up to 120 FPS
- Direct X based Ray Tracing support
- 4K media playback
- 4K game upscaling
- Variable-rate shading
- Variable refresh rate
- Ultra-low latency
They haven’t yet nailed down an exact release date, but we do know it will be launching in November, alongside it’s more powerful sibling the Xbox Series X.
This is going to be a curious console launch for Microsoft, it’s the first time they’ve launched a whole new platform with essentially zero exclusive games. All of Microsoft’s first-party lineup is available on PC these days, whether that’s on Steam or the Windows Store/Game Pass. There’s plenty of advantages and disadvantages to both users and developers for gaming on console vs PC, but in many regards, these are closer than ever to each other. Could this aggressively priced console tempt players on PC to abandon their glorious grey box in favor of the console lifestyle? Probably not on any huge scale, but certainly I think the idea of supplementing a gaming PC with a console for use in different contexts could be appealing for many users. A gaming desktop in the office or bedroom, then a svelte, cheap, and reasonably powerful console in the living room is perhaps a nice combination. Especially when games like Microsoft’s first-party titles, Fortnite, Destiny 2, Rocket League, and many others are offering some form of cross-buy, cross-save, and cross-platform multiplayer. The barriers between platforms are lower than ever before.
A lot of the graphical features that Microsoft is planning for the Xbox Series S, and presumably the Series X, have an equivalent on PC. High frame rates of up to 120 FPS is something that has been a reality on PC for many years, and the latest monitors to coincide with the release of Nvidia’s 30-series GeForce RTX cards offer eye-melting frame rates of up to 360Hz. Microsoft is talking about 4K game upscaling, for games that are being rendered at sub-4k resolutions, and it’s going to be very interesting to compare that to the latest Nvidia DLSS functionality, where on the RTX 3090 they’re going to be offering upscaling up to 8K. The Series S is introducing some exciting new features to the console space, but for the absolutely top-end gaming experience, you’re still going to need to stick with PC gaming.
The question PC gamers will be asking themselves is are they tempted at all to jump into the world of Xbox gaming, as a convenient supplement to their existing PC setup, or would that money be better off going toward upgrading their existing system, perhaps picking up an RTX 30-series GPU or upgrading to a new CPU. It’s a question of priorities and preferences, but Microsoft has certainly priced the Series S aggressively enough that it’s worth thinking it over.