Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X: which one to buy

Xbox Series S and Xbox Series X: which one to buy
With the Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft has decided to immediately offer a choice between spending the bare minimum for an all-digital model that is content to look at 1440p resolution and a flagship console, on paper the most powerful of the next generation, looking at 4K. To separate them there are several centimeters, both in width and height, but also 200 euros in price and a net performance gap that could however have a relative impact for a certain type of user. After trying them both, let's try to take stock and figure out which could be the right choice for each player.

Xbox Series S, the little all-digital

The main goal of Xbox Series S (here our review) is that slice of the public that does not disdain a console without a disc player and small, also comfortable to carry, looking at the possibility of taking advantage of the Game Pass and enjoying next generation titles by spending the least possible. But that means giving up the native 4K resolution and, apparently, making compromises when it comes to ray tracing. In fact, it seems that the Ray Accelerators of RDNA 2 are linked to the number of CUs of the GPUs that drop drastically from the 52 of the Xbox Series X to only 20 of the Xbox Series S. This among other things involves a decidedly lower overall power with 4 TFLOP which, while usable more efficiently than the 6 TFLOPs of Xbox One X, they are definitely less than the 12.15 TFLOPs of the older sister.

But it is not certain that the possible need to give up ray tracing, apparently already official in the Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition case, cannot be effectively compensated. Epic for example, on the one hand, has integrated ray tracing in the Unreal Engine 5, but on the other hand it has developed the new Lumen lighting that does not pretend to physically calculate infinite bounces for each ray of light, so as to alter the rendering of each material, but it still provides accurate physics, realistic reflections and actually dynamic lights which, unlike those applied directly by the designers, react in real time when objects, walls or elements of the scenery are destroyed. It therefore has the potential, which is evident in the Unreal Engine 5 demo, to offer an extremely realistic glance, reducing the weight for the hardware compared to ray tracing. Furthermore, the 4 TFLOPs of the console are higher than the 6 TFLOPs of the Xbox One X. They are in fact to be evaluated in relation to the RDNA 2 architecture which includes important optimization tools such as Variable Rate Shading and Mesh Shaders.

In addition, AMD is developing an upscaling based on artificial intelligence, called Super Resolution, which while not being able to count on dedicated hardware, unlike DLSS, promises to give an extra boost to all new generation consoles , opening up interesting scenarios. In the meantime, however, there is upscaling, hopefully of high quality, enhanced by evolving technologies such as Contrast Adaptive Sharpening and Denoiser which are part of the arsenal of the new AMD GPUs. We should therefore enjoy a decent result even with a 4K screen, even if we don't expect 120fps games on the more modest of the new Xboxes. Light or competitive titles could get there, but the console's target is 1440p and is destined to remain so, albeit brought to 4K via upscaling, barring miraculous results related to Super Resolution technology. In any case, the small Microsoft console is clearly the secondary option, perhaps useful to combine with a PC or a PS5 but hardly able to satisfy those looking for an important technological leap.

Xbox Series X, the uncompromising model

Xbox Series X, which we talked about in detail yesterday in the review, is the flagship model of the new generation of Microsoft consoles, designed to offer the maximum possible in the console field. Arrogant therefore, starting from the monolithic aesthetics which is nevertheless functional to keep the height of the machine contained, while ensuring effective cooling.

To this we must then add considerations on the small but important finishes that include the green plastic under the air outlet grille which, when curved, has a noticeable impact of a console that is only apparently anonymous. Sure, much of the appeal is lost if the Xbox Series X is placed horizontally, but the compromises in terms of design take a back seat to the 12.15 TFLOP of power, apparently achieved without pushing the machine to the extreme. . Enough to guarantee overwhelming superiority over the Xbox Series S. Furthermore, by supporting all the features of RDNA 2 without modification, Xbox Series X could have an added advantage in converting titles from PC to console, already facilitated for Microsoft consoles by the fact that much some of the existing games have a Windows version.

Finally, do not forget the presence of the 4K Blu-Ray player, for many superfluous but still useful for those who are not ready to give up physical support, even if it were for connectivity problems, or intend to use the console to enjoy your Blu-Ray and DVD library. However, we would not have minded having an all digital version of Xbox Series X, even at 449 euros since we are still talking about the machine that offers the greatest firepower for the new generation, also in terms of ray tracing potential.

The above does not however exclude compromises that have already occurred in the form of dynamic resolution for the heavy Watch Dogs Legion. But what was said for Xbox Series S about the future Super Resolution upscaling and optimization is even more true for Xbox Series X which promises an important evolution over time. It also enjoys more storage space than its younger sister, which is no small feat considering the operating system footprint and price of official expansion cards. Finally, the greatest potential in terms of ray tracing could also lend a hand for spatial audio designed to be able to exploit the optical geometry technique in order to accurately calculate sound refractions and reproduce extremely realistic effects.

Aim to the maximum, in short, at least in the console field, offering a lot for 499 euros. To take full advantage of it, however, it is necessary to think of a good 120Hz 4K TV, which exponentially raises the overall cost of the station compared to Xbox Series S. But, speaking of televisions, the new screens also guarantee improvements in the quality of the image, in contrast and in blacks, although superior in fragile but more affordable OLEDs, guaranteeing a high-level experience even in movie viewing.

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