Choosing the Right Xbox: Series X or Series S?

Key Points

  • Choosing the right Xbox — Series X or Series S — depends on your gaming interests.

  • The Console Wars is integral to Xbox’s and Halo’s history.

  • The Series X is one of the most powerful consoles on the market.

  • A Series S is a reliable option for those who don’t want to spend more on performance. 

  • Halo Hype weighs the pros and cons of choosing the right Xbox: Series X or Series S.

Choosing the right Xbox: Series X or Series S is a decision tainted by the long-enduring Console Wars. Featuring a motley of wacky characters, it started with the Nintendo-Sega rivalry in the late 80s and early 90s. Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog’s faceoff drove the North American video game market until PlayStation entered the fray with characters like Crash Bandicoot and Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft.

Fast forward to 2023, the battle rages between Xbox’s Master Chief, PlayStation’s Kratos, Ellie from The Last of Us, and even Spider-Man. If you’re on Team Xbox or want to try out your first Xbox, you must know what to consider when choosing the right Xbox: Series X or Series S.

Contrary to what online flame wars and corporate bottom lines might say, most gamers don’t root for or against different consoles. What players do care about is access to great games for a fair price, and that’s how Microsoft is positioning the Xbox.

Xbox — From Combat Evolved to Now

Microsoft’s Xbox has a rich history. The tech supergiant’s initial foray into gaming was an attempt to buy Nintendo, an offer that led the latter to laugh Microsoft execs out of the room. Nintendo performed an acquisition of its own in 1999 of former rival Sega, which the Sony-backed PlayStation had supplanted.

The 1999 announcement of the PlayStation 2 was the ultimate catalyst. The PS2, in Microsoft’s view, was a direct threat to its PC market share due to its ability to play CDs and DVDs. The time came for Microsoft to enter the video game console market. 

Microsoft struggled to bring on original exclusives and wasn’t making a dent in Sony and Nintendo’s dominance. Ed Fries, the then-head of Microsoft Game Studios, Bill Gates, and other key Microsoft decision-makers took a gamble on developer Bungie to create games for the Xbox. Microsoft acquired Bungie for $30 billion and, in November 2001, launched a game called Halo: Combat Evolved.  

"If we lose our way with Halo, we lose our way with Xbox." – Phil Spencer, CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

Halo: Combat Evolved quickly became a household name and solidified Xbox’s foothold. Halo 2 received an enormous game budget, and the Xbox 360 outsold the PlayStation 3 with the lion's share of the credit due to Bungie's Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, and Halo Reach. Bungie’s Halo series boosted the popularity of the original Xbox and Xbox 360 while paving the way for console shooters' viability.

After a disappointing player number count for 343 Industries’ Halo 4 and a drastic launch of The Master Chief Collection on the Xbox One in 2014, the console experienced a lull. The PS4 outperformed in most metrics, especially with exclusive games. 

Critics and audiences lauded Sony Interactive’s God of War, Spider-Man, and Horizon Zero Dawn. At the same time, Xbox One’s flagship titles like Halo 5: Guardians and Gears of War 4 weren’t the blockbuster hits as expected. As such, sales numbers took a hit, and the PS4 cleaned house regarding consoles sold and critically acclaimed titles.

During the Xbox One’s disappointing lifetime, Microsoft bought up game studio giants like Bethesda, Activision-Blizzard, and Mojang. These moves aggressively expanded its Xbox Game Pass catalog, positioning the subscription service as one of the best ways to try unlimited new games for only $9.99 monthly.

Next-Gen Madness

In 2023, Xbox might not be as concerned with the Console Wars as in years past. A recent deal with Samsung for 4K TVs expands access to Game Pass via its Xbox Cloud Gaming service. You only need a controller to play games like Overwatch 2, Tunic, and Halo Infinite from your couch. 

Xbox will still produce consoles into the future, but it isn’t entirely unreasonable for Microsoft to position Game Pass as a Netflix for gaming, requiring only a subscription to play.

As of Q4 2022, Sony’s PS5 is still outselling the Xbox Series X, likely due to the PS5’s number of exclusives made available at launch; the Xbox Series X exclusives have experienced heavy delays. The games on this list include massive budgets, like Starfield, which underwent several delays that caused a postponed launch expected in the middle of 2023. 

Now that you’ve gotten a brief overview of Xbox’s history, here’s what you need to know about the Xbox Series S and the Xbox Series X. 

Everything to Know About the Xbox Series S

The Xbox Series S is a premium entry point into console play. Popular free-to-play games like Fortnite, Rocket League, Fall Guys, Call of Duty, and Halo Infinite run splendidly on this console. The Series S is ideal for players with smaller storage space, digital download only, and without a disk drive for games or Blu-Ray. 

The Series S price is $200 less than Xbox’s next-gen mainliner, the Series X. Gamers who want a more affordable alternative in the Series S still receive the core features of next-gen play, albeit with limited capabilities. Its physical makeup is smaller than most consoles, and the standard box comes in white, whereas the Series X is black.

The 512 GB loses around 150 GB for essential system files; this means roughly 370 GB remains for your use. If you were to download Halo Infinite, Apex Legends, and the latest Call of Duty, you’d have about 180 GB left on the console. The Series S storage space is only large enough to house roughly six current-gen games. Consider the games you’ll install and update because patches mean game sizes will change. 

The 1440p resolution on the Series S isn’t terrible, but it certainly is a step down from the capabilities of the Series X. The full specs for the Series S include:

  • CPU: 8X Cores @ 3.6GHz

  • GPU: four TLFOPS, 20CUs @ 1.565 GHz

  • Memory: 10GB GDDR6 with a 128-bit-wide bus

  • Internal storage: 512 GB Custom NVME SSD

  • Resolution: 1440p

  • Frame cap: 120 frames per second

  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, L-PCM, up to 7.1

  • Ports: one HDMI 2.1 port, three USBs, ethernet

  • Dimensions: 6.5cm x 15.1cm x 27.5cm

Halo Infinite and The Master Chief Collection run smoothly on the Series S, making it a solid option for Halo players. Beyond that, this console is a superb budget option as a secondary console that can break into the next-gen performance.

The Xbox Series X: Microsoft’s Flagship Console

The Xbox Series X is Microsoft’s latest mainline console and packs serious firepower. The bottom line on why you should buy the Series X over a Series S — or even a PlayStation 5 — is that it’s faster, its storage space is massive, and it has access to the largest library of games out there with the Xbox Game Pass. 

The Xbox Game Pass grants you access to AAA titles like Starfield and Forza Horizon 5 on Day One through a subscription. You can backtrack the greatest hits you heard about but never got around to playing, like Doom Eternal, Elden Ring, and The Master Chief Collection, for $10 a month whenever you want. There are more games, more options, and more fun. 

Not sold yet? Here are the Series X specs:

  • CPU: 8X Cores @ 3.8GHz

  • GPU: 12 TLFOPS, 52CUs @ 1.825 GHz

  • Memory: 16GB GDDR6 with a 320-bit-wide bus

  • Internal storage: 1TB Custom NVME SSD

  • Resolution: True 4K, up to 8K HDR

  • Disk Drive: 4K UHD Blu-Ray

  • Frame cap: 120 frames per second.

  • Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1, L-PCM up to 7.1

  • Ports: one HDMI 2.1 port, three USBs, ethernet

  • Dimensions: 15.1 cm x 15.1cm x 30.1cm

The Xbox Series X is one of the most accessible avenues for premium gaming at 4K resolution. Its performance standards are higher than any other console and get you access to the largest library of games at that highest performance. If you’re serious about owning the best-performing console, the Series X is the best choice, starting at $500. 

“I Need a Weapon.”

Xbox is at a turning point, poised to absorb Activision-Blizzard. With Xbox Game Pass at its best ever and Xbox Cloud Gaming landing on TVs, it may soon be available on PlayStation and Nintendo consoles.  

Choosing the right Xbox depends on your playing goals. The Series X is ideal if you want the biggest catalog installed on your Xbox at the highest performance fidelity. If you want a cheaper alternative, don’t want physical copies of your games, and already have a Blu-Ray player, the Series S is your option.

Keep it tuned here to HaloHype for all things gaming, Halo, and gear.

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