The holidays turned out better than expected considering the year we’ve all had and many in my corner of Australia were at least able to spend time with family after months of missing out. After my son endured the lockdowns playing games on my slowly deteriorating “Day One” launch Xbox One it was time for him to upgrade like I recently had too. As a result he found himself in the possession of a sparkly new Xbox Series S – the very one I stashed away a few weeks ago. But now it was time to finally set it up…
I won’t go too much into an unboxing unlike the Series X but it’s worth noting that Microsoft use many of the same tricks to make it accessible here with main difference here being that the foam packing is replaced with cardboard. It still works, just minus the premium feel of the console’s big brother.
Setting one of these up was just as easy as the Series X and seeing as the old Xbox was set up as my “home console” to allow my son access to my library we needed to switch it over and it turned out to be quite seamless. My greatest fear was that it wouldn’t work and I’d be paying for a second Xbox Live Gold account so was happy to avoid that! The game update process is still the same as big brother so if you have a library of games on an external drive you may find some will soon start updating the moment you complete the initial set up. Thankfully it didn’t seem as big a deal this time – some of that might have been due to the Smart Delivery feature only having to serve out the smaller assets of a Series S version but it also could be simply that my son has a smaller number of games he plays regularly.
Physically the Series S is tiny for a next gen console – being about half the size of the Series X means it’s far easier to manage. Surprisingly it doesn’t feel overly dense unlike the Series X or especially the older One X so I’m guessing there’s a bit more room internally for airflow and that’s needed. The most noticeable asset of that white case is the black “speaker grille” vent that sits offset on the top of the console. It’s an essential part of what makes the Series S do its magic as it quietly pumps out A LOT of heat from the console. You definitely do not want to obstruct that vent by stashing the console in a confined space or worse… letting your cat sit on it.
For some the most obvious technical difference between the two new Xboxes is the lack of an optical drive. That’s right, it’s an all digital console. Long time Xbox owners with a games collection or those wanting to leverage it for Blu-Ray movies this is probably not for them. But if you’re new to the platform buying the games through the console’s store will be all you need. It’s a good option for parents too… No need to worry about discs getting greasy fingers on them and not working.
It had only taken a couple of hours but my son’s already happy with the Series S which is nice to see. Hooked up to a 1080p screen the games look great and you get a solid frame rate boost too. Microsoft have said that the console is aimed at delivering 1080p to 1440p resolutions but there are games out already that go well beyond that (The Falconeer, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, The Touryst) so there’s flexibility in the hardware but it really depends on the game and how resource heavy they are. Games load a lot faster too… not just from the SSD but from USB drives so if you want to keep your legacy games on one of those it’s perfectly fine. We haven’t needed to use the internal SSD for anything yet and though I’m sure when that happens the smaller size (512Gb with about 350 useable) may become an issue for any game with Call of Duty in its name but right now it’s a non issue. It seems most games are still happy running off an external drive regardless of being enhanced or not. I’m sure some games will be SSD only in the future but not everything is going to need it.
While I do like the colour of the unit and especially the bundled controller I imagine they’re not going to stay that way for long in the hands of kids… if that grosses you out you may want to swap it out for an old school black controller instead. While I do understand they want to differentiate the two models, having the one more likely to land with kids using the colour most likely to stain or show marks isn’t ideal but that might be the parent in me talking as I know I’ll be the one cleaning this down!
My impression of the Xbox Series S so far is it’s a great little machine. You get a lot of the benefits of the Series X but aimed at a lower resolution target which it seems to handle really well. For people wanting access to the Xbox’s digital library (including Game Pass), don’t care about 4K gaming or discs, will be running it off a smaller screen, or want a backup console in another room this looks like a great option. It may be years before we find out if Microsoft’s two tiered approach to consoles works out this generation but so far the Series S does make a great first impression and I think it will make a lot of people happy. 🙂
If you’re also wondering about my thoughts on the Xbox Series X, you can find it here.