Xbox Series S Review – Small Wonder
It’s always exciting to see the big three trying something different in the console race. From Sony’s heavy gamble for Blu-Ray way back in 2007 to the breakthrough that Nintendo needed with the Switch in 2017.
So it was quite interesting to see Microsoft announcing a small and compact next-generation console, the Xbox Series S, back in summer as the digital alternative to their 4K powerhouse. An anomaly to make digital gaming more attractive.
So at the time of publishing, I have owned this console for a full month now and quite frankly, I love its features like booting it up and playing it within a minute thanks to Quick Resume and new SSD. But there are some aspects that I didn’t love too, as you would expect.
This begs the question, does this innovation of console design is as attractive as its low price?
The short stack of the new Microsoft lineup is actually quite more powerful than any of the offerings among the last-gen consoles, as you can see:
- CPU: 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU @ 3.6GHz (3.4GHz with SMT Enabled)
- GPU: AMD RDNA 2 GPU 20 CUs @ 1.565GHz (4 TFLOPS)
- RAM: 10GB GDDR6 RAM
- Storage: 512GB PCIe Gen 4 NVMe SSD (364 GB Free)
- Resolution: 1440P @60FPS, Targets 120FPS and Auto HDR
- Price: MYR 1,699 (Import fee included)
One thing to note about the console itself is that it is not as small as the marketing would make you believe. Its size is basically those big and minimalist music boomboxes that many have meme’d about.
Only the speaker grill is actually the heatsink and where most of the heat would go towards the console. It’s also quieter in fan noises when running heavy-duty games thanks to this new fan (which is also in the Xbox Series X) technology that helps the console make any noise even in intense sessions.
The interior on the outside has a feeling that’s also present on the new controller, a sort of plastic with groove marks which makes it quite nice to feel and hold. Even the power button feels nice to the touch, with a satisfying *DUR-REEN* sound coming each time you press it to turn on or off.
It has one USB 3.0 port in front (next to the controller sync button) and two more USB ports behind it. This coupled with an Expansion slot and ethernet port makes the essentials complete for a pretty good console-setup. Though its 364GB storage size leaves more to be desire, but more on that later.
USB headphones usage are limited to their own branded series, which is quite backwards when compared to PlayStation’s efforts.
Even the controller is also a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s design is still similar to the previous Xbox controller with the addition of a share button and better rumble features (in fact, you can use the Xbox One controller with this console still), but when compared to the PS5’s DualSense, it pails in comparison.
It’s still powered by AA batteries too, with their mileage varying from 1 to 3 days of usage, so I reckon the battery pack or rechargeable battery would be needed in the future if you still want to play it wireless.
One of the major complains of the Xbox during the last gen were the lackluster UI, which were filled with ads and not a-lot about the gameplay aspect. They have tweaked it to be more user friendly and focus on the gaming aspect more.
Besides that, the aforementioned Quick Resume feature works well as intended. You can switch from game to game instantaneously. Though this comes at the price of the storage.
326GB of storage is abysmal, to say the least. The new features might have taken 164GB storage that could have been used to install more games, so it’s the system’s Achilles heel. I wouldn’t mind switching that feature off for more storage, really.
In any case, let’s talk games.
The Series S is a great introduction to the power of Next-Gen. With optimized games such as Forza Horizon 4 (our usual go-to benchmark game) gets an amazing boost in performance with the ability to reach 120fps. It runs smooth and better than ever.
Cyberpunk 2077 also had good performance as well. The Series S version didn’t have the toggle to switch from Performance to Quality mode like the Series X but it does run at a Solid 30fps without any hitching, a major issue with the last-gen consoles.
We have tried out the following games below, thanks to Game Pass, all of which run at 30 to 60fps depending on how it ran back then and even fixes some issues that the original releases have:
But I do wonder if future game performance would suffer if developers would have to cater to this system in the near future when last-gen consoles have been fully phased out within 2022. Only time will tell.
Value and Price
The console that I bought at my usual game retailer set me back at around RM 1,699, a bit pricier than what the original suggested price of RM 1,400, due to shipping and customs fee. A good price nonetheless and still quite cheaper than it’s digital rival, the PS5 Digital Edition.
But with the small storage size, buying the Xbox expansion card could be an option if you don’t want to play around with file sizes, and that also comes with its caveat as it’s price right now is a nearly of the console price, at around RM 1,000, so bear that in mind.
Still, this console along with Xbox Game Pass is an attractive combo in the current climate of games that are about to rise towards prices that are 300+ and above.
All of Microsoft 1st party games and many indie titles will head towards this subscription service, so it’s a cost-effective way to play new titles and perhaps try out titles from its large library of available games right now.
So, is Xbox’s smallest console lived up to its hype? I think so, we may never know the sales figures until Microsoft themselves shows them but I reckon it’s looked for around the world right now.
The Series S is the Next-Gen idea that embodies Xbox’s new way of thinking about video games. Small in size but big in gameplay enjoyment. It looks tiny, fits in any minimalistic setup, and plays all the games that you want it to.
So for now, we usher in the new Generation with intrigue.
Xbox Series S Console purchased by Reviewer.