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Monday, November 30, 2020

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Microsoft’s next-gen Xbox Series X console will be hitting store shelves later this year, but has a new challenger from its own house:
The less powerful, less expensive Xbox Series S, which targets 1440p, all-digital gameplay rather than 4K, will cost $299 (£250, or about AU$450), ship Nov. 10 and is “the smallest Xbox ever.” 

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Microsoft followed up with the ad/announcement after the the frequently accurate WalkingCat leaked it, with details about the specifications and design.

According to the video, it will be all-digital, support 1440p up to 120 frames per second, have a Velocity Architecture 512GB SSD, be able to upscale games to 4K and stream media at 4K. It’ll also support similar next-gen features, including DirectX raytracing, variable rate shading, variable refresh rate and “ultra-low latency” (which likely means Microsoft’s Dynamic Latency with the controller). The video also mentions the unsurprising Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tie-in.

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After a dribble, the leaks ramped up to include some basic specs; notably, that it uses the same processor as the X but a lesser graphics processor, has no disc drive and is about half the size of its big brother. From the photo, it definitely looks like half of a Series X.

The cheaper console had a code name of Xbox Lockhart and we first heard about the second next-gen Xbox launching alongside the more powerful Series X when developer notes leaked in June.  

How much will it cost and when can we get it?

$299 and Nov.10. Microsoft did say it’ll share more information soon, so it’s possible that Microsoft will provide a more formal overview at its next event — that was rumored for the end of August, but it didn’t happen. 

The common expectation is that the Series X will come in at about $500, so pricing the Series S at $300 makes sense. This model would also give Microsoft a less costly version to bundle with its Xbox All Access subscription, despite having announced that subscribers will get the Series X last year, when it was known as Project Scarlett. But that’s pure speculation. 

How does it differ from the Xbox Series X?

The Series S is about a half the size of the Series X. That’s in line with the rumored spec differences, which include the same eight-core AMD processor (though there’s no info about the clock speeds), but 512GB SSD, a GPU with half the compute units (20), a slower clock speed (1.55GHz) and only 10GB GDDR6 (compared to 16GB); the result is a third of the bandwidth, 4TFLOPS instead of 12TFLOPS. As a result, it will generate far less heat and require less power, which means less active or passive cooling required. Combine that with the lack of an optical drive, and you can cut a lot of volume out of the console.

The console is supposedly targeted at 1440p/120fps gaming, rather than the Series X’s 4K/120p, which matches up with the specs as well. It probably uses the same storage subsystem, (PCIe 4.0) if it supports the Velocity Architecture, but we don’t know if backward compatibility will work the same. It will probably support Smart Delivery, though. 

Now that we know a lot more about it, it’s looking very attractive compared to its higher-end but likely a lot more expensive sibling.

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