The Xbox Series X and the PS5 are perhaps the two most hotly-anticipated devices of the year, but to quote Yoda, “There is another.” Rumors of a lower-powered, digital-only next-gen Xbox first identified as Lockhart and now known as the Xbox Series S have been floating around since last year.
Despite being the more open of the two next-gen console makers, Microsoft has yet to make any official mention of the Xbox Series S, although there is evidence directly from Microsoft that this product exists (as you'll see below).
We’ve rounded up all of the available rumors regarding the Xbox Series S and will walk you through everything there is to know about the lesser-known next-gen console, including its potential price, release date, specs and what we would like to see from it.
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- Xbox Series X: specs, price and how it compares to gaming laptops
Xbox Series S price and availability
The single piece of concrete information we know about the price of the Xbox Series S is that it is going to be less expensive than the still-unpriced Xbox Series X, which we expect to fall somewhere between $400 and $500.
We have seen several rumors regarding the price of the Xbox Series S, with one leak back in March from Chinese tech site MyDrivers pointing to a $300 starting price. More recent rumors suggest Microsoft will try to bring it in at half the price of the Xbox Series X, placing it in a $200-$250 range.
As you probably are aware, the Xbox Series X is launching in “Holiday 2020” with mid-November as the most likely target. However, it’s highly unlikely that the Xbox Series S makes an appearance alongside it. While Sony revealed the PS5 Digital Edition alongside the standard PS5, those consoles are virtually identical with the exception of the Blu-ray drive. The Xbox Series S is a lower performance option that Microsoft probably won’t want immediately compared with the other next-gen options.
There have been no strong credible rumors regarding the launch date for the Xbox Series S, but anywhere between five to 12 months following the launch of the Xbox Series X seems plausible.
Xbox Series S design and features
While some fan renders have been circulating around the internet, they are purely speculative design riffs off the Xbox Series X and Xbox One. There have been no leaks yet related to the design of the Xbox Series S.
As for features, the one thing most leaks agree on is that the console will be digital-only, which means it will drop the Blu-ray drive. This move would make perfect sense from a cost perspective and locking in users into digital purchases, Game Pass, and xCloud subscriptions.
The latter, of course, would also help to eliminate concerns regarding the performance of the Xbox Series S as users with sufficient bandwidth could stream games beyond the capabilities of the hardware using xCloud. This would make the Xbox Series S similar to the Nvidia Shield but with superior standalone performance for local games.
Xbox Series S specs
The Xbox Series X is the most powerful next-gen console, but that leaves open a lot of room between the Xbox One and the Xbox Series X. That is where the Xbox Series S is looking to fit in.
One set of leaked specs suggested that four teraflops is the performance target for the Xbox Series S, which is below the Xbox One X’s six teraflops, but over three times as powerful as the original Xbox One. Some subsequent rumors have claimed closer to five or six teraflops, but there is little to back that up.
Other specs from the March leak included a 4-GHz AMD Ryzen APU and 16GB of RAM. The former is close to the 3.8-GHz custom Zen 2 CPU confirmed for the Xbox Series X and the latter is identical to the RAM capacity. This lines up with a January leak of Xbox Series S specs from reliable leaker _rogame. It’s possible these claims were somehow confused with the Xbox Series X hardware prior to the release of the official specs or it could be that the Xbox Series S will simply offer lesser versions with reduced core/thread counts and/or slower RAM.
The performance targets for the Xbox Series S have come up in rumors as well, but remain a mystery. If the four teraflop spec is true, the targets are likely going to be around 1080p at 60 frames per second while giving up on 4K, which could be a dealbreaker for some.
Xbox Series S: What we want
Affordable: Assuming the relatively low-end specs are right, and the Xbox Series S is only about a third as powerful as the Xbox Series X, the pricing is going to have to be a huge part of the story for this product. This makes the $199 price point seem at least somewhat feasible as Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up against Sony in terms of market share. Drawing users into subscription plans with low-cost hardware seems like a long-term winning strategy.
Excellent digital service integration: Hand-in-hand with the affordability is how well the Xbox Series S can deliver Game Pass and xCloud content. While many gamers are digital-only thanks PC, console gamers are slightly less accustomed to the idea and, of course, lots of gamers don’t have the bandwidth for a great streaming experience with xCloud. It will be crucial for Microsoft to this experience as accessible as possible for those without access to extremely high-speed internet.
Solid 1080p at 60 fps: With this first version of the Xbox Series S, focusing on delivering a first-class 1080p experience is perfectly acceptable. We are still far from having a wealth of 4K content elsewhere that necessitates a 4K TV. When thinking of the target market for the Xbox Series S, it would make sense to forgo even trying to hit what would likely be a disappointing 4K at 30fps experience.
For Microsoft to ship it: Despite all of these rumors, there is every chance that this product either never makes it to market or isn’t what we believe it to be in the first place. I think there is absolutely a place for a lower-priced, digital-only console and Microsoft is pretty uniquely positioned to deliver that product. While Nvidia has been trying to make this happen for some time now, it’s possible Microsoft will be able to push the idea over the top and prove there is a market, which could allow Nvidia to bring some of those publishers back to GeForce Now.