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Xbox Series S
Xbox Series S

Xbox Series S – Is it Necessary?

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“We have a lot in store for Xbox in 2020 and can’t wait to share with you. However, we have nothing to announce at this time,” stated a Microsoft spokesperson after the company’s rumoured next-gen budget console—Xbox Lockhart—was exposed by a peculiar leak. Photos of the new Xbox’s controller were uploaded to Twitter by user Zak S, including a user manual listing compatible consoles, one of which was “Xbox Series X/S”. The Xbox Series S, codenamed Lockhart, has officially been announced…unofficially.

While exercising caution around leaks is wise, the pictures on twitter revealed the genuine article. While listed as an Xbox One controller, photos show the tell-tale share button, enhanced D-pad, and official “Robot White” color exclusive to Microsoft’s next-gen gamepads. The question is no longer whether a second next-gen Xbox exists, but its price. The PlayStation 5’s digital edition lacks a Blu-ray drive, but is otherwise identical to the regular. Series S, however, is rumoured to be a technical downgrade from its Series X variant.

Microsoft’s need to compete with Sony created the need for a less expensive alternative to its flagship console, as it has for multiple generations. Microsoft’s budget console is rumoured to feature 7.5 GB of usable RAM (memory) and a 4 teraflop GPU, as opposed to the Series X’s 16 GB of RAM and 12 teraflop GPU. It’s also rumoured to use an underclocked version of the same 8 core Zen 2 CPU found within the Series X. It’s built to be played in 1080p and possibly 1440p.

It’s difficult to say how the downgrade in specs will affect the console’s price, but $100 to $150 less than the Series X is a good estimate. Some think Microsoft will charge $199 to entice buyers and build up usership for their games and peripherals, however, Xbox is popular enough that Microsoft needn’t, and likely wouldn’t, sell the console for less than $300. It’s important to mention the Series S will lag behind its counterpart in more than just resolution, as its underclocked processor will struggle with CPU intensive games.

This is good news to gamers without the funds to commit toward an Xbox Series X, but also those who don’t plan on using 4K TVs. The Series S has the next-gen hardware capable of rendering better draw distances, destructible elements, physics, raytracing, and more. However, instead of presenting in 4k 60fps, it will be 1080p to 1440p. It’s likely the Series S will feature the option to choose between performance and resolution, meaning a possibility of 1080p 60fps or 1440p 30fps.

Everything’s still up in the air and the Series S’s specifications consist of rumour, albeit from credible sources, and speculation. It’s assumed the console will have a blu-ray drive like the Series X and unlike the PS5 Digital, which could be vital for some. Sure the PS5 digital is more powerful, but many people like having physical discs to collect and pop in every once in a while—almost like putting on that old-timey record player.

It’s an interesting choice by Microsoft and probably related to their goal of bringing gaming into every home. It helps that a significantly large portion of the Xbox user base uses 1080p TVs. Unless they plan on getting new TVs any time soon, all those potential clients will have a more affordable option in the Series S with minor drawbacks. That being said, gamers sensitive to graphical fidelity or framerate will prefer the Series X’s power. It’s similar to the choice between Xbox and PC.

Now that Microsoft has committed to supporting PC and releasing all Xbox exclusives on Windows, it can be argued that PCs are suped up custom Xbox’s. Jokes aside, many people this year will ponder on whether to invest in the Xbox Series X or a custom PC. Depending on where the Series X lands pricewise, the choice could be troublesome. Yes, PC’s are capable of achieving “end-tier” levels of power, but building a PC capable of outperforming an Xbox One X is realistically affordable these days.

In the same manner, there are many gamers suddenly finding the Series X less appealing in the face of a cheaper product they’ll be just as happy with. Coincidentally, this feeds into Microsoft’s model of widening its user-base, preparing it for the eventual launch of its projected streaming platform. The Series S allows for more gamers to have fun. The price difference could sway a friend or family member and even bring people together simply through having access to the  hardware.

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