Xbox Series S here's the teardown: let's take a look inside the smallest Microsoft console ever

Xbox Series S here's the teardown: let's take a look inside the smallest Microsoft console ever

Xbox Series S here's the teardown

Sometimes, operating on a console unconsciously can void the warranty and end terribly badly, so consider this piece as a kind of farewell to our now defunct Xbox Series S. To be clear, its demise is entirely due to our reckless fumbling since the machine has been running fine since the day we received it, but at least owning a dead console opens up an opportunity to examine the insides of Microsoft's junior Xbox in a way we haven't been able to before. Already from the first moments after the reveal we loved the form factor of the console and, after having stripped it to the bone, we are even more impressed by the quality of the design. It is a true engineering marvel.

Before we begin, however, a little note must be made. Our general take on the console and its performance hasn't changed - the S Series works well but there's still a sense that the spec cuts have been a bit too severe. Specifically, we still think it should have come on sale with more memory and a wider interface for more bandwidth. However, having disassembled the S Series, the quality of the design and build is simply excellent. If a PC manufacturer had put together a unit with an ultra-small form factor like this one, with such impressive performance in such a small package, the reviews would be stellar. The idea that Microsoft has put it on the market for € 299 is truly remarkable.

In terms of power-to-size ratio, the closest equivalent we can imagine in the PC environment is Intel's Hades Canyon NUC, which is offered with an Intel Core i7 8809G (a bizarre amalgamation of a quad-core Intel chip with a custom AMD Vega GPU). Xbox Series S is more modern, has better cooling, dramatically higher quietness, and can generate far greater performance in both CPU and graphics. This is because all major functions are handled by a single piece of silicon, a simplified memory set-up, and an excellent cooling solution.

Here is the Xbox Series S Digital Foundry teardown in video form, complete with Xbox Series X silicon chip comparisons and a look at the motherboard versus the Xbox One S and PlayStation 4 CUH-2000.

Watch on YouTube. The video on this page speaks for itself in terms of how easy it is to access the heart of Series S. The plastic stickers on the back of the unit peel off easily to reveal two screws. Just take a Torx 8 screwdriver (no other tools are needed) and it's simple to disassemble the system down to the motherboard. During operation, you will notice an almost plug-and-play design that allows key modules to be extracted and reinserted with minimal effort. Removing the motherboard completely reveals that the NVMe drive is tied to the rear of the system. If it were possible to format the SSD correctly (and if the drives were readily available) a user upgrade would be very simple.

It's only when trying to take apart the motherboard itself that things get complicated . Removing the heatsink took some aggression with the X-clamps on the back of the board and putting it back in place would have been pretty difficult. Removing the aluminum and copper heatsink reveals a metal shield around the memory chips that, once removed, could probably never be restored. Put simply, working within the S Series is easy enough but only up to a point. To see all that the system has to offer it is necessary to irreparably damage the console, something that I would only consider if the hardware was already broken.

With the interior of the S Series fully exposed, what we see it is a very compact card that, at least in terms of design, reminds us above all of the PS4 Slim. Our tests saw Sony's console CUH-2000 model drawing a maximum of 86 watts of power from its 16nm 1.84TF chip while, by comparison, the S Series comes in at 82.5W, offers 4TF of GPU plus an effective jump. generational in CPU performance. However, it is when comparing the Xbox Series S to the Xbox One S that there is an even greater generational shift.

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The One S's board is remarkably massive in comparison, there are many more memory modules, and the silicon size is significantly larger (the 16nm 'Edmonton' design sees its processor measure 240mm 2 against the 197mm 2 slimmer than the Xbox Series S). When comparing the S Series to PS4 and Xbox One S, another thing that stands out is the sheer component density on the board. Microsoft has clearly worked hard to make the Series S as small as possible.

Last year, on the Microsoft campus, the design team confirmed to us that the optical drive helped define the shape of the Series X while, as far as Series S is concerned, it is the power supply that has had a similar impact on the design (also judging by how much internal space it occupies). The Series S philosophy as a digital-only machine has certainly caused some controversy but, again, its size and shape would not have been possible if the Blu-ray drive had been integrated.

They are still the early days of the new generation and it is still difficult to judge to what extent the Series S will be able to keep pace in a world where technologies such as the Unreal Engine 5 are already putting a strain on Series X and Series hardware. The PlayStation 5. Series S, however, has always impressed with its form factor, its absolute quietness and its feature set - it's an irresistibly pretty machine that retains a specific charm that the massive PlayStation 5 and Series X can't replicate. In a way, it's a reminder of what consoles once were, and taking the machine apart to see how Microsoft achieved this level of integration was enlightening. Yes, the Xbox Series S is a "cheap" console but perhaps "affordable" would be a better description, because the quality of the engineering from top to bottom is simply first class.

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