Traditionally, companies begin a new console generation with a single system for sale.
That’s in stark contrast to the families of handsets that smartphone companies launch each year.
This year, however, Microsoft is adopting its first-ever smartphone-like approach to a new generation by releasing two consoles simultaneously during the holiday season: the Xbox Series X and S. The former is a beefier, PC-like box, while the latter is positioned as a lower specs, disc-less and more affordable next-gen entry point.
Given that this is a new strategy for Microsoft, there’s a lot to keep in mind regarding the Series X and S’s similarities and differences. With that in mind, we’ve put together a breakdown of everything Canadians should know about both consoles ahead of their November 10th launch.
The Xbox Series X will cost $599 CAD in Canada, while the Xbox Series S will be priced here at $379.
That said, Microsoft does offer a console financing option called Xbox All Access to make monthly payments over a 24-month period. Available exclusively at EB Games in Canada, All Access pricing starts at $29.99/month for the Series S and $39.99/month for the Series X.
All Access also includes two years of Xbox Game Pass Ultimate — the upper tier of Microsoft’s on-demand gaming subscription service boasting a catalogue of more than 100 games across console, PC and Android — which is normally priced at $16.99/month on its own.
For context, the standard PlayStation 5 model will cost $629 when it launches in Canada on November 12th. Additionally, its disc-less ‘Digital Edition’ counterpart will be priced at $499 and release on the same date.
As previously mentioned, Microsoft is doing things a little differently with next-gen this time around, in that it has two consoles which have a great deal in common in addition to some fairly different specs.
The long and short of it is that the Series X is the significantly more powerful of the two, boasting 12.15 teraflops of GPU Power compared to the Series S’ 4 teraflops. This also makes the Series X stand above the PlayStation 5 in terms of raw power, as Sony’s console sports 10.28 teraflops (although it definitely has the edge in terms of its SSD).
What this means is that the Series X can run games in native 4K resolution, while the Series S will only display in up to 1440p. Having said that, both consoles sport the same CPU, meaning they both target up to 120fps. Further, the Series X and S include the same custom NVME SSD, allowing games to load significantly faster on both next-gen consoles over their predecessors. All in all, games will play the same on both consoles — they’ll just look better on the Series X.
The other key difference between the Series X and S is that the former console supports both physical and digital media, while the latter does not include a disc drive. This means that, as with Microsoft’s current-gen Xbox One S All Digital Edition, you can only play digital games and other media.
See below for a full list of Series X and S specs:
Note: While the Xbox Series X is technically capable of supporting 8K, there won’t be any games anytime around launch that support the resolution. In fact, it’s likely that only a few games — if any at all — will even reach 8K later in the console’s lifecycle. Therefore, you’ll be more than okay with a 4K TV — for recommendations on which to buy, check out this great round-up by the tech gurus over at Digital Foundry.
The Xbox Series X/S were originally supposed to launch with Halo Infinite, although the game has since been delayed until sometime in 2021. Therefore, the consoles no longer offer a major new exclusive at launch.
Of course, there will still be other games to play on day one. Many of these will also support ‘Smart Delivery,’ which is Xbox’s cross-gen program that gives you the Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S versions of a game for the price of a single purchase. What’s more, next-gen hardware will automatically deliver the optimized version of that game when you play it there.
See below for the full Series X/S launch lineup:
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla (Smart Delivery)
Borderlands 3 (Smart Delivery)
Bright Memory 1.0
Cuisine Royale (Smart Delivery)
Dead by Daylight (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Devil May Cry 5: Special Edition
Destiny 2: Beyond Light
DiRT 5 (Smart Delivery)
The Falconeer (Xbox console exclusive + Smart Delivery)
Forza Horizon 4 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Gears 5 (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Gears Tactics (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Grounded (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Just Dance 2021
King Oddball (Smart Delivery)
Maneater (Smart Delivery)
Manifold Garden (Smart Delivery)
Mortal Kombat 11 Ultimate
Observer: System Redux
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Planet Coaster: Console Edition
Sea of Thieves (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Tetris Effect: Connected (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
The Touryst (Xbox Game Pass + Smart Delivery)
Warhammer: Chaosbane Slayer Edition
Watch Dogs Legion (Smart Delivery)
WRC 9 FIA World Rally Championship (Smart Delivery)
Yakuza: Like a Dragon (next-gen timed console launch exclusive + Smart Delivery)
Yes, Your Grace (Smart Delivery)
Further, here are some of the games confirmed to be coming to Xbox Series X/S shortly after launch:
- The Artful Escape — TBA 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
- The Ascent — TBA 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
- Call of the Sea — December 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
- Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War — November 13th
- Control: Ultimate Edition — TBA 2020 (digital, physical version early 2021)
- CrossfireX — TBA 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
- Dead Static Drive — TBA 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
- Exo One — TBA 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
Hitman 3 — January 20th, 2021
- Immortals: Fenyx Rising — December 3rd
Lake — December 2020
- Last Stop — TBA 2020
- The Medium — December 10th (Xbox console exclusive)
- Outriders — February 2nd, 2021
- Puyo Puyo Tetris 2 — December 8th
- Rainbow Six Siege — TBA 2020
- Recompile — TBA 2020
- Scorn — TBA 2021 (Xbox console exclusive)Tunic — TBA 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
- 12 Minutes — TBA 2020 (Xbox console exclusive)
- Unexplored 2: The Wayfarer’s Legacy — TBA 2021 (Xbox console exclusive)
Overall, Microsoft is touting that the Xbox Series X/S will still have Xbox’s “largest launch lineup in Xbox history.” That’s because in addition to the games listed above, the tech giant has ensured that all Xbox One games, as well as all Xbox 360 and original Xbox titles that the current-gen console is currently capable of playing, will also be playable on Xbox Series X and S on day one. All told, this works out to thousands of games spanning three console generations, on top of the new games that are coming to Series X/S.
In practice, this means that you can just pop in the discs for any of the older games that you own into your Series X, in addition to buying backwards compatible title digitally. On the disc-less Series S, of course, you’ll only be able to download these older titles. In many cases, these games will already be available on Xbox Game Pass, which, as mentioned, costs $16.99/month for the Ultimate tier and $11.99/month each on console and PC.
Further, older games on both the Series X and S will receive boosts in visual quality (both in terms of resolution and with newly added HDR), frame rate and/or loading times. These enhancements will vary depending on the title, of course, but to give you a better idea of what they look like in action, check out this official Xbox video of State of Decay 2 loading on the Xbox Series X versus the Xbox One X:
Meanwhile, here’s a video of The Outer Worlds also loading much quicker on the Xbox Series S compared to the Xbox One S.
Overall, the architecture of the Series X and S allow for older games to receive automatic enhancements without any work required on the developer’s front. For example, From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice can automatically run at 60fps on Xbox Series X compared to the 30-40fps it achieved on Xbox One X. Note that this won’t be possible for every backwards compatible game — those with locked 30fps frame rates like Hello Games’ No Man’s Sky will not get the bump — but it’s still an impressive feature.
Note: Microsoft has confirmed that first-party games like Halo Infinite will come to both Xbox One and Xbox Series X/S for the first two years
Altogether, the Series X and S feature a UI that’s largely similar to the previous Xbox One UI, albeit with some differences. (The revamped UI is also now available on Xbox One.)
Most notably, the new UI makes it easier to navigate between sections, including the Dashboard, and My Games and Apps. The dashboard, specifically, is now more rounded and features updated animations. Meanwhile, the Xbox app on Android and iOS also now will also automatically receive any game captures for easy sharing to social media.
See more from the UI in the following video:
Notably, both the Xbox Series X and S share many of the same features. As previously mentioned, this includes backwards compatibility and the faster load times.
However, as part of the custom SSD, both consoles also support a feature called ‘Quick Resume.’ This allows you to nearly instantly swap between several games you were recently playing. Impressively, the console will still enable Quick Resume on your active games even if it’s been unplugged from an outlet.
Check out the full Xbox Series X/S UX in action below:
Microsoft has stressed that you’ll be able to use your existing Xbox One accessories on the Series X/S. This includes your standard Xbox One controllers, the Elite controllers and even accessibility-minded Xbox Adaptive Controller. There is also a new version of the Xbox One controller with small refinements (priced at $74.99 like the original) but it’s not required. This controller is even offered in a new colour called ‘Shock Blue.’
The one new accessory move will eventually need, however, is the officially licensed Seagate Storage Expansion Card, which is required to add to your console’s memory. It’s important to note that this card carries a hefty price tag of $299 in Canada.
While you can still use existing hard drives to play your backwards compatible games, they won’t benefit from the rapid load times that NVMe drives provide. Xbox Series X/S games, as well as older titles like Gears 5 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection that have been optimized for next-gen, will also require either internal storage or the Seagate Storage Expansion Card.
Of course, the consoles are not even out yet, so more will be revealed about them over time. In particular, Microsoft has promised to grow its catalogue of first-party games in a big way through its numerous studio acquisitions over the past several months, including, most recently, Bethesda parent company ZeniMax Media. These efforts, of course, will help the company bolster its already robust Game Pass service.
Therefore, we’ll have to stay tuned in the months ahead to see what truly lies in store for the Xbox Series X and S, but for now, this should provide you with a solid overview of the consoles.
In the meantime, you can read more on the Series X in our hands-on previews — the first is about the console’s features and the second pertains to its games. Additionally, check out our interview with Xbox lead system architect Jason Ronald on the differences between the Xbox Series X and S.