If the waiting game between Microsoft and Sony has been a staring match, then we can safely say Microsoft blinked first–but it’s more like someone jumped in and made them flinch. Following a leak of Xbox Series S pricing, later confirmed by Microsoft itself, Microsoft has now revealed the price and release date for both that console and the Xbox Series X.
Both the Xbox Series X and Series S will hit shelves on November 10, with pre-orders starting on September 22–just two weeks from now. The Xbox Series X will retail for $499, while the Series S will retail for just $299. Both system are part of the Xbox All Access program, which gives players a payment option akin to that of cellphone plans. You can obtain an Xbox Series X or S with a 24-month, no interest plan (if you qualify, of course) that includes the system and memberships for Xbox Live, Game Pass, and EA Play. The Xbox Series X plan has you paying $34.99 a month, while the Series S has you paying $24.99.
Let’s do the Math
Payment plans are often dicey propositions, giving you an option less painful in the short term while requiring more of you by the end of the payment plan. At a cursory glance, though, the Xbox All Access program looks like a win for anyone who plans to use the included services.
- Xbox Console: $499 or $299
- Xbox Live Ultimate (includes Xbox Live, Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Cloud Gaming): $15/month
- EA Play: $30/yr
Over the course of the console, that comes to $420 for the subscription prices alone if you pay the standard monthly fees for each, bringing the total value for the consoles to $920 and $720 respectively. The plans, meanwhile, end up costing $860 and $600 respectively. If you’re not going to use the services, of course, this is all moot.
Xbox Series X and S features
While the two systems are far from identical–hence the $200 divide between the two–they have a lot in common. Both systems include most of the same bells and whistles, such as an NVMe storage solution, HDMI 2.1, 120fps gameplay, DirectX-powered ray tracing, mesh shaders and variable rate shading. While the Xbox Series X targets 4K gameplay, though, the Series S targets 1440p gameplay at 60fps (with a hardware upscaler for 4K displays) as the standard gaming experience.
The Hardware Difference
The hardware is where things split. The Xbox Series X features an 8-core AMD Zen 2 CPU that runs at 3.8 GHz (3.6 with Simultaneous Multithreading), while the Series S runs at 3.6 GHz (3.4 GHz with SMT enabled). The GPU in the Xbox Series X is the AMD RDNA 2 GPU we’ve heard not-nearly-enough about with 52 Compute Units clocked at 1.825 GHz. The Xbox Series S features the same GPU but with 20 CUs clocked at 1.585 GHz. In terms of points of comparison, Microsoft puts the Xbox Series X GPU at 12.15 TFLOPS, putting it somewhere between an Nvidia RTX 2080 and 2080 Ti. The Xbox Series S has 4 TFLOPS of RDNA 2 GPU power, which Microsoft says puts it around the power of the Xbox One X, but with all the bells and whistles above.
For memory, the Xbox Series X features 16 GB of GDDR6 RAM, with 10 GB at 560 GB/s and 6 GB at 336 GB/s throughput. The Xbox Series S has 10 GB of GDDR6 RAM with 8 GB at 224 GB/s and 2 GB at 56 GB/s. The Series X includes 1 TB of NVMe SSD storage, while the Series S has 512 GB; both feature storage expansion slots for Microsoft’s NVMe storage expansion cards. The Xbox Series S is a digital-only console, eschewing the disc drive entirely, similar to the digital-only PlayStation 5.
What the prices mean
A few weeks ago, I’d have called this a no-brainer. For just $500, you can get an entire gaming system that runs close to the power of an Nvidia RTX 2080 Ti, a card that often went for $1,200. Then Nvidia revealed the RTX 30-series. You’ll soon be able to pick up an RTX 3070, which is significantly more powerful than a 2080 Ti… for $500 at retail. There’s still value here, because again, this is the entire system. Also on Nvidia’s side is the introduction of RTX IO, which will massively speed up game loading time thanks to Microsoft’s DirectStorage technology and the GDDR6X RAM in those cards, but that requires a certain, currently-unknown baseline of hardware, where the new Xbox consoles will offer that super-fast loading from day one.
The Xbox Series S, meanwhile, when coupled with Game Pass, will offer gamers looking to get playing on modern hardware a way to do it without spending a fortune if they don’t need 4K resolution or have any interest in game or Blu-ray discs.
Of course, the price proposition of this could all change when Sony finally announces its own consoles’ pricing, though it’s worth noting that the PlayStation 5 variants appear to be identical side from the optical drive, meaning that Microsoft seems to have both the more powerful system and the cheaper system right now.
Update: edited to fix price typo