Project Lockhart was the code name for a console that would challenge the definition of what is next generation. An affordable, powerful, and feature-rich console designed to break through modern-day pricing barriers. It sounded like an absolute myth until one fine day Microsoft officially announced the Xbox Series S. Shocking practically everyone, Microsoft dared to do something most people never saw coming: Reinvent a console’s value.
The promise? 1440p gaming, 120 FPS, and a FAST SSD. Does it deliver? In spades! This is Hangry Gamer Gear’s review of the Xbox Series S.
As I first opened the box, the first thing I found striking was the packaging. It felt like I was opening a treasure chest. You get a greeting message with the new slogan. The console was nicely tucked around the carton. As an Apple fan, I appreciate the minutia and presentation. I was surprised as to just how small the console actually is. It’s design language is definitely the slickest I’ve seen come out of Redmond.
You see, the Series S does something that most consoles have a hard time doing: It fits into any modern-day decor. To be honest, it legitimately felt like I was holding a book during the unboxing. When it comes to form factor, the Xbox Series S is aesthetically on point with its matte white color and design. It resembles the Xbox One X in many ways, but it’s a lot smaller. The Xbox Series S is 10.8 inches tall, 5.9 inches deep, and 2.5 inches wide when it’s standing in a vertical position. It also has rubber feet and features 3 USB ports (one on the front, two in the back). The console also comes with an HDMI 2.1 cable and a 5A/250V power cord.
The new Xbox Series X|S controller looks identical to the original Xbox One controller, but the pad does have a few improvements. First, you’ll notice the share button that will allow you to take screenshots and record videos. The controller is also physically a bit smaller. Lastly, they’ve added textured grips on the bumpers/triggers. If you’re familiar with the Xbox Elite controller then you’ll come to appreciate that they’ve used the exact same D-pad.
Speaking of the new D-Pad- I love it! Getting my hands dirty I can confirm it’s an absolute joy to play fighters and platformers. I had a pleasant experience playing Cuphead and pulling off a Dragon Punch in Street Fighter.
Overall, the controller felt awesome while I was playing Gears 5 and the Master Chief Collection. To be honest, it’s my default controller when I game on my PC. Microsoft has gone with the – if it’s not broken, don’t fix it approach when it comes to their next-generation controller- and the results speak for themselves. It’s pretty great.
Once I hooked up the Xbox Series S to my monitor and pushed the power button, it had a cool boot screen with some soothing music. As I got to the dashboard, I noticed that it looked exactly the same as the Xbox One dashboard (UI). The UI felt responsive and everything from games to apps was snappy.
Gamepass has its own dedicated tab where you can discover many great games you may not have tried. Digging deeper, all the accessibility options are there and just like the Xbox One X, you also get support for 1440p. It’s easy to also switch the toggle to 120hz if you have a high refresh rate monitor.
When it comes to specs, the Xbox Series S is no slouch. For a console of its size, it sure packs a punch. The Series S uses the same AMD CPU as its big brother (Series X) with a custom Zen 2 8-core processor clocked at 3.5GHZ, the same SSD but with slightly less storage (512GB), GDDR6 memory in two pools (8GB and 2GB), and a custom AMD GPU that’s based on AMD’s latest RDNA 2 tech with 4 teraflops of performance. Looking at this on paper, it’s pretty impressive for its size and price point.
Oh, and did I forget to mention the price? The Xbox Series S is budget-friendly as it’s priced at $249 to $259, depending on where you get it. With a price like that, you can’t go wrong with all the components, performance, and technology. It makes the perfect gift for casual gamers and the hardcore and is a great console to get lapsed gamers into the Xbox ecosystem. The Series S is just a fantastic device all around. The type of machine is designed with everyone in mind.
When it comes to visuals and performance, you’re still getting a next-generation experience with 120fps, but when it comes to resolution, the games mainly output at 1080p to 1440p. Yakuza: Like a Dragon renders at 1440p, but if you want to play in performance mode with a 60fps cap, you’ll only get a 900p image. Gears 5 multiplayer ran well at 120fps, but the visuals do take a hit. Ori and the Will of the Wisps is also optimized for the Xbox Series S as it runs at 4K 60fps and 1080p at 120fps. It was the best example of how a game should be optimized. As I’m writing this review, I didn’t come across that many games that were optimized for the Series S, but I’m sure that will change as we move forward. By the way, in all the tests I did, the console was practically silent.
Let’s talk about some cool features. First is a quick resume. When you exit a game a save state is created. Whenever you opt to open another game (with a similar save state) – the Xbox will skip all the riff-raff and resume precisely the point you last exited. Very, very cool. The second is the SSD expansion. Xbox has a proprietary expansion solution where customers can purchase a 1TB expansion card and dock it into a port on the back. While this may have some higher costs associated than support for a generic NVME, it allows the mainstream customer to plug in and play as soon as possible.
Audio and video-wise, we have an awesome array of supported codecs. Dolby Atmos? Check. Dolby Vision? Check. HDR10? Check. In fact, Xbox is the only console to support both Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound. Microsoft is serious about high-fidelity experiences.
Just like the Xbox One family of consoles, the Xbox Series S is also backwards compatible as it plays over 4000 games covering 4 generations! This is THE MOST consumer-friendly feature as your library from the previous generations stays with you and you’re not forced to re-purchase games that you already own. Whether it was 1 year ago or 10 years ago, the Xbox has you covered.
There’s also a resolution boost with the OG Xbox and Xbox 360 games as they run at 1440p. It’s not 4k like the Xbox One X and Series X, but you’re still getting a huge boost compared to the Xbox One S. The backwards compatible games I tested were Ninja Gaiden 2, Gears Of War 3, Red Dead Redemption, and Metal Gear Rising Revengence. They all ran great.
So let’s wrap this up, shall we? The Xbox Series S is a unique and versatile device. It distills the best of the Xbox Series X into a price point that is both appealing and important. The console brings PC-like performance in a small form factor. Gaming has always been an expensive hobby, but the team at Xbox has approached this next generation with an ethos that everyone should be playing. With the combination of consumer-friendly pricing, the inherent value of GamePass, and team Xbox doubling down on studio acquisitions- the future of the platform is brighter than ever.