This yr’s latest Xbox consoles, Sequence X and Sequence S, are the least crucial units within the historical past of the Xbox ecosystem.

That is arguably an excellent factor and a direct results of Phil Spencer righting the ship because the chief of Microsoft’s Xbox division. As a public-facing Xbox determine, he is emphasised a serious firm philosophy since taking up in 2014: open up “Xbox” entry to as many units as potential. Home windows 10 PCs, a cloud-streaming service, consoles outdated and new: they’re all largely appropriate with the identical Xbox-branded software program as of late, and a single subscription service delivers over 100 video games on every of them.

Like different energy customers at Ars Technica, I do not technically want both new console to play Xbox video games. Between my highly effective PC and my Android smartphone, I can already play loads from the Xbox ecosystem, particularly first-party video games (with assist from the aforementioned Xbox Recreation Go Final service, that’s). The parents at Xbox appear to be they’re advantageous with that: play how I wish to, as long as it is of their playground among the time.

That is the place Sequence X and S turn into extra fascinating. After weeks of testing every, I can safely say they had been constructed to compete not simply in opposition to different platforms (significantly Sony’s PlayStation 5) but in addition in opposition to different Xbox-compatible units like computer systems. It is as if the engineers behind these consoles took Spencer’s “Xbox on all of the issues” philosophy as a problem, to beat most different {hardware} choices in usability, energy, and worth. Thus, after I take into consideration what every Xbox Sequence console will get proper, it is often within the type of, “I might relatively use a brand new Xbox for that.”

It isn’t crucial, however most popular.

Caveats and bookkeeping

I’ve already stated glowing issues about Xbox Sequence X in preview kind, and rounding at the moment’s “overview” nook would not change them. This can be a outstanding $499 machine. It is smooth, it is highly effective, and its high-end video games at present load at larger speeds than my very own $1,000-plus testing PC can handle. In the meantime, the X’s diminutive cousin/sibling/homeboy, Xbox Sequence S, is remarkably environment friendly for its measurement, worth, and energy draw. We definitely have not seen a “next-gen” gaming machine this small and quiet for the reason that cartridge period, and in some methods, its emphasis on “next-gen, however lower-res” is a smashing success.

However as of press time, I am unable to definitively verify that the $299 Sequence S locks onto Microsoft’s inherent promise: similar gameplay as Sequence X, with the sorts of downgrades you’ll be able to’t understand on a 1080p TV. Generally, that pans out precisely as marketed, particularly with first-party software program like Gears 5 and Sea of Thieves. However with one main efficiency outlier as of press time, and a few issues about its worth in comparison with Sequence X, I wade into the Sequence S half of this overview extra reluctantly than I might like.

Above all, each Xbox Sequence consoles have one thing in widespread. There’s solely a gentle quantity of actually “next-gen” content material out there to the press forward of at the moment’s embargo. We’ll ultimately circle again to launch-window video games for each consoles as extra of a head-to-head console-war breakdown, however for those who’re coming to both new Xbox at launch with visions of triumphant, next-gen video games to play, be suggested that Microsoft and its third-party companions did not assist us make that case for you as of at the moment’s embargo elevate. (Price noting, we do not actually have any Xbox Sequence-exclusive video games to level to for the remainder of 2020, both.)

Some bookkeeping earlier than we dive in: as a result of I’ve beforehand written about my hands-on expertise with Sequence X, I’ll retread critical floor describing that console on this joint overview. Every little thing I’ve to say about Sequence S, however, is completely new, owing to its embargo lifting at the moment. Unsurprisingly, each consoles have quite a bit in widespread, so something that describes “Xbox Sequence” as a noun, with no letter hooked up, describes each consoles. And the dearth of direct comparisons to November 12’s PlayStation 5 is intentional. I can verify I’ve overview PS5 {hardware}, however I am not but free to explain something past what we lined final week. (That does not cease me from going into nice element about sure Xbox Sequence elements, particularly people who might differ from what you will discover on the PS5.)

Chonky cuboid and its slim sidekick

Two brand-new Xbox consoles launching side-by-side? Let’s begin by breaking down their variations.

The obvious is measurement. The place Sequence X is a chonky cuboid, formed juuuust awkwardly sufficient for any common leisure middle’s cabinets, Sequence S is an itty-bitty child. At 10.8″ x 5.9″ x 2.5″ (275mm x 151mm x 63.5mm), its whole quantity is about 61 p.c of 2016’s Xbox One S. Each that console and 2017’s Xbox One X are roughly 2.5″ at their slimmest facet, as properly, so you’ll be able to slide both older console out of a given shelf and swap Sequence S as a replacement.

Sequence X, however, is about 2.5 Sequence S programs in measurement: 11.6″ x 6″ x 6″. If that appears huge, do not forget that Sequence X’s efficiency peer this technology, the PlayStation 5, measures 15.4″ x 10.24″ x 4.2, or roughly 55 p.c greater (albeit, squished down for higher shelf clearance in horizontal place).

Sequence S will get smaller in a couple of methods, and probably the most evident is its lack of an optical media drive. If you wish to play outdated or new video games on Sequence S, your solely choice is a few type of on-line obtain, whether or not that is through Xbox Stay Gold giveaways, Xbox Recreation Go subscriptions, or a la carte purchases by means of the Xbox Market. There isn’t any strategy to, say, commerce outdated discs to a retailer clerk to get digital obtain licenses.

In higher information, if a sport functioned on any Xbox One console, except Kinect motion-sensing video games, it should work on Xbox Sequence. This features a vital Xbox 360 library and a smaller OG Xbox choice, and it is a part of Xbox’s years-long marketing campaign to emphasise backwards compatibility. Longtime Xbox house owners have possible accrued a good digital-purchase library for the reason that Xbox 360’s heyday, and I’ve already relished the straightforward capacity to leap from next-gen open-world romps to late-’00s classics like Trials HD or Tremendous Meat Boy.

Nonetheless, with no disc drive, some video games that work on Sequence X are left within the back-compat mud—at the very least, for those who did not already purchase their digital variations once they had been out there on the Xbox Market. I haven’t got an exhaustive record, however I’ve already discovered a couple of delisted examples that I can solely play on Sequence X through disc, significantly the Xbox 360 model of Darkish Souls 1.

Specs, energy, and wattage

Xbox Sequence X Xbox Sequence S Xbox One X Xbox One S
CPU 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.8GHz (3.6GHz with SMT) 8x Zen 2 Cores at 3.6 GHz (3.4 GHz with SMT) 8x Customized Jaguar Cores at 2.13GHz 8x Customized Jaguar Cores at 1.75GHz
GPU 12 TFLOPs, 52 CUs at 1.825GHz, Customized RDNA 2 4 TFLOPS, 20 CUs at 1.565 GHz, Customized RDNA 2 6 TFLOPs, 40 CUs at 1.172GHz, Customized GCN + Polaris Options 1.4 TFLOPS, 12 CUs at 914MHz, Customized GCN GPU
Die Dimension 360.45mm2 197.05mm2 366.94mm2 227.1mm2
Course of TSMC 7nm Enhanced TSMC 7nm Enhanced TSMC 16nmFF+ TSMC 16nmFF
Reminiscence 16GB GDDR6 10GB GDDR6 12GB GDDR5 8GB DDR3, 32MB ESRAM
Reminiscence Bandwidth 10GB at 560GB/s, 6GB at 336GB/s 8GB @ 224 GB/s, 2GB @ 56 GB/s 326GB/s 68GB/s, ESRAM at 219GB/s
Inside Storage 1TB Customized NVMe SSD 512GB Customized NVME SSD 1TB HDD 1TB HDD
IO Throughput 2.4GB/s (Uncooked), 4.8GB/s (Compressed) 2.4GB/s (Uncooked), 4.8GB/s (Compressed) 120MB/s 120MB/s
Expandable Storage 1TB Enlargement Card 1TB Enlargement Card
Exterior Storage USB 3.2 HDD Help USB 3.2 HDD Help USB 3.2 HDD Help USB 3.2 HDD Help
Optical Drive 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive N/A 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive 4K UHD Blu-ray Drive
Efficiency Goal 4K at 60 fps – as much as 120 fps 1440P at 60 fps – as much as 120 fps 4K at 30 fps – as much as 60 fps 1080p at 30 fps – as much as 60 fps

Sequence S’s measurement arguably stems extra from energy downgrades throughout the board: a barely slower CPU, a GPU with fewer compute models, much less RAM at decrease bandwidth, and a decrease energy draw. That additionally means the console generates much less warmth, so it requires a smaller fan system to maintain the system operating cool and quiet.

I’ve beforehand reported that Xbox Sequence X is the quietest fashionable console I’ve ever examined, even with its large fan, and I can now verify that Sequence S is in the identical boat. Each are whisper quiet, with a gentle breeze that is discernible for those who put your ears as much as their outward-facing vents and mute each different gadget close to your TV of selection. You will hear extra from any spinning-plate onerous drive hooked up to those consoles through USB than from the consoles themselves. Quiet, quiet, quiet. It is the best Xbox Sequence side to reward, since each consoles are so profitable at it.

And whereas my testing of Sequence X has jumped as excessive as 205W of energy draw, Sequence S is far much less demanding: at an obvious max of round 95W in the identical worrying gameplay situation, which is Gears 5‘s “next-gen” construct operating each its 60 fps marketing campaign content material and 120 fps versus modes. I am nonetheless floored by how 120 fps gaming that hovers round 1080p decision, with loads of visible bells and whistles toggled, can sip energy so effectively on Sequence S.

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