Xbox Series S, review, analysis and opinion

This is our analysis of Xbox Series S, Microsoft's next-generation user-focused console that bets 100% on digital games and services. It doesn't offer the same experience or be as powerful as Series X, but it's a machine that surprises and has a lot to say to a user who is not enthusiastic and who wants to enjoy Microsoft's vision as a secondary console.

A few days ago we told you about our experience with Xbox Series X. In our analysis, we reviewed in-depth the external and, above all, internal elements of the console and gave you our opinion about the target audience of the machine. It's a console to play the same as One and One X, but with higher visual parameter quality, more resolution in some cases, and a better experience thanks to higher fps rate and lower latency.

Also, it is a very fast console that shows that the biggest generational leap is not so much ray tracing as SSD. Now, let's go with our opinion of Xbox Series S, the younger sister who isn't that powerful, but surprises as soon as we get her out of the box.

And it is that we are talking about a console that we can literally put where we want because it occupies practically nothing and that throws out the rest to convince any user (whether 'pecero', 'Conyers' or 'Nintendo') to get in the car of that fantastic service called Game Pass.

We can put it anywhere in the house

As soon as I had it on my hands I was surprised by the size of the machine. It's ugly to say, but in the unboxing video I cut a "fuck, how small it is." It is 15.1 cm wide, 6.5 cm thick and 27.5 cm tall.

The weight is only 1.93 kg and although it is indeed a desktop console, it is a machine that invites us to take it to a second residence, on vacation or to colleagues' houses.

In that space, it enters not only a heatsink that has a considerable size, but also the power supply. That is, we're not going to have to load with the 'brick' we've had on some previous Microsoft consoles.

Unlike its older sister, it is built of white plastic. The material is the same, but being white, the footprints do not stay in the housing and this, unlike Series X, is made to be put horizontally.

Both can be put vertically or horizontally, but by the thermal and visual design (the logo pointing downwards), Series X is more designed to put vertically while Series S, for its thermal design and logo, is designed for horizontal use although, as we say, we have been playing vertically without any problem.

The front of the console features the logo, a USB Type-A 3.2 and the button to pair peripherals. We remind you that, as with Series X, all One peripherals are compatible with the next generation.

The sides are perforated so that fresh air enters and in the rear we have the RJ45 for Ethernet, the power input, the HDMI 2.1 and two other USB Type-A 3.2. One port you don't know is probably that elongated expansion card.

Redmond and Seagate have an agreement to create proprietary memory cards that extend PCIe storage at the same speed as the internal SSD. It is something that is going to be needed and that is not cheap -250 euros- because the internal 512 GB stay very, very short.

We can expand the storage using an external SSD or HDD, but on these drives, you won't be able to enjoy some of the advantages of X/S Series optimized games.

If we go strictly aesthetically, I think it is an elegant console, beautiful and that sticks with any type of desk or living room. It's important not to plug the hot air outlet, but due to the efficiency of AMD SoC, you don't need to have a lot of fresh air around.

We're missing a USB Type-C to be able to expand storage with faster drives, but well, it's a lack that also has Series X. And obviously, this machine doesn't have a Blu-Ray reader.

Command with slight improvements compared to the previous generation that the most enthusiastic will appreciate

Before we move on to the internal hardware, let's take a look at the controller. It's exactly like the Series X controller and is, therefore, the evolution of what's seen on Xbox One. It is a very balanced controller with which we feel very comfortable due to an ergonomics, in my opinion, perfect.

The weight is 288 with the batteries on and that is one of the keys. The box includes batteries and is a configuration that many users consider out of hand, but that really in terms of experience translates into a longer life than the rechargeable batteries of other controllers such as the DualShock 4 or DualSense.

These batteries can be replaced with rechargeable batteries or the Xbox charging and playing kit, which allows us not to be buying batteries constantly and is also somewhat more environmentally friendly.

If you have a One charging and playing kit, it is compatible with the new controller and is now charged via the USB Type-C port.

If we go to the news, we find that it is not a revolution, but a revolution that is appreciated. The controller is somewhat more comfortable thanks to slightly different curves and, above all, a new textured grip system on the handles and triggers.

These triggers are a little shorter than those on the Xbox One controller, and I think the resistance is somewhat better. It's an appreciation, but I really don't know how much this is really like this... or just my Xbox One mine is very worn out.

The crosshair is no longer a crosshair, but a 'plate' that allows us to make diagonals more easily in games of 2D platforms and fight and buttons A, B, X, Y, as well as the two asymmetric sticks, still have the fantastic touch that Xbox controllers had accustomed to.

The biggest novelty, in my opinion, is that we finally have a button to make screenshots. It is a button in the centre of the pad that we can configure to make captures and videos with one tap, two taps or a maintained press. These days with the console, I promise you it's a button I've "burned" by taking pictures.

One thing that has also improved is the vibration system. I think it is more precise than that of the previous generation thanks to what is aimed at being a change in the sensitivity of the previous generation. it seems to have a wider acting range, something that is noticeable in shooters and, above all, in racing games like the Forza.

It's a very, very good command, comfortable and precise, but it's also true that we don't notice a generational leap as we do on PS5. I mean, it's the same command, but with improvements that are appreciated, yes, but not revolutionary. That also happens to us with the operating system, but that's what we'll talk about later.

Zen CPU 2 and RDNA 2 GPU created for 1,440p game with ray tracing

Let's move inside Series S because we're talking about the most interesting hardware. If you're guided by TFLOPS, which are just a measure of the GPU, you may think series S is less powerful than One X. One is 4 and the other is 6. However, One X has that GPU power to achieve 4K resolution while Series S goes a little further.

The machine is designed for 1,080p, 1,440p gameplay at most with some supersampling solutions from 4K (as Ori and the Will of the Wisps does), but with parameters halfway between One X and Series X.

And so, he shares SoC architecture with his older sister. We have an AMD Zen 2 CPU that has 8 cores at a maximum speed of 32.6 GHz with AMD SMT technology (which allows you to duplicate threads) at 3.4 GHz. It's somewhat less than the 3.8 GHz / 3.6 GHz SMT Series X, but it's definitely very close.

Memory has lower bandwidth, but it is also GDDR6. We have 10 GB in total that should be enough for high-resolution textures and ray tracing solutions and this memory, in turn, is divided into 8 GB with a bandwidth of 224 GB/s and 2 GB at 56 GB/s. It's certainly slower than The X Series, but the goal of this machine is another.

On the GPU side, we have a next-generation RDNA 2 architecture for a GPU with 4 TFLOPS of power with a frequency of 1,565 MHz and 20 compute units. Like the X-Series SoC, this one is built in a 7-nanometer lithograph and, as we'll tell you below, it's extremely efficient.

In fact, it's the most beastly chip in what power by W I've been able to test. In the specifications, Microsoft talks about a machine designed for the game at 1.440p60 fps with the possibility to raise to 120 fps in some games.

In practice, some titles are in a subfield resolution, and you notice, but you also see an effort by developers for some games. Moon Studios, Lori's, have updated their game to allow 6K resolution in Series X and 4K in Series S using a technique of rendering the game at that higher resolution but then condensing pixels for 4K or lower resolution screens. This gains sharpness and better edge smoothing.

Ori in Series S can go to 4K supersampling at 60 fps or 1,080p120 fps, and in both modes, it is an absolute enjoyed. Let's hope it's the first of many that allow such technologies to improve smoothing virtually.

SSD is fast as Series X but really scarce

As far as we don't have clipping, at least as far as speed is concerned, it's on the SSD. We have the same NVME PCIe drive capable of reading RAW data at 2.4 GB/s or compressed at 4.8 GB/s. The SSD is going to be the revolution this generation due both to the speed of it to turn on the console or have several games at rest at the same time and when it comes to using that Xbox Velocity Architecture that we are looking forward to seeing.

This is a Microsoft API that is based on DX12 Direct Storage (and will also use Nvidia for its RTX I/O technology of the new RTX 30 -analysis of the RTX 3080 and the very interesting RTX 3070-) that basically consists of making the GPU and SSD have a closer collaboration without some data passing through the CPU. This frees up CPU resources and allows the largest data transfer from the GPU and SSD to accelerate asset loads and other parameters.

The system takes just 10-14 seconds to start cold and two seconds from rest. It's amazing how fast it turns on from rest, as it's pressing the Xbox button and practically popping up the console menu with the ability to stick with the game we've left halfway.

Also, one thing I love is the Quick Resume. We can have several games paused at the same time to jump from one to the other. It is not an automatic process like the multitasking of a mobile, but from a charge that in One X translated into minutes, we went to just 10-15 seconds depending on the game.

Another advantage is that the SSD does not make bottleneck when downloading. One X was leaving me, with a fibre of 600 MB symmetrical, at about 300-350 Mbps due to the bottleneck in the simultaneous download/installation process of the game. Now that doesn't exist thanks to SSD speed and we download at 600 Mbps as long as there isn't a game started that's consuming SSD resources. However, the problem is storage.

Of the 512 GB of storage, after formatting and the system, we have 364 GB useful and, although games like Forza Horizon 4 or Gears 5 occupy less, the truth is that it is very scarce storage. Few games are going to fit you and you're going to have to choose what you install and what you don't.

Some people play one pull game, uninstall it and go for another. That user won't have any problems, but if you're a Pisa Flores like me, with several games installed because it's jumping between genres, it's going to fall short.

How to expand this storage? To enjoy the advantages of the internal SSD we have to buy Seagate's proprietary format cards, as they connect via a PCIe port and have the same speed as the built-in drive. If you don't want to go through the hoop, you have the possibility to connect an external SSD/HDD via USB.

Some people play one pull game, uninstall it and go for another. That user won't have any problems, but if you're a Pisa Flores like me, with several games installed because it's jumping between genres, it's going to fall short.

How to expand this storage? To enjoy the advantages of the internal SSD we have to buy Seagate's proprietary format cards, as they connect via a PCIe port and have the same speed as the built-in drive. If you don't want to go through the hoop, you have the possibility to connect an external SSD/HDD via USB.

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