Some may say that Xbox Sequence S is the anti-Digital Foundry console. Out of the gate, its mission assertion is particularly not to ship the state-of-the-art in its visible presentation. As an alternative, the pitch is one thing very completely different – to allow next-generation gaming with out having to shell out $500/£450 to indulge your interest. Mixed with Xbox All-Entry, or as a standalone buy with the value-rific Xbox Recreation Move, it is a machine designed to allow entry to the video games of at the moment and tomorrow with out having to attend a few years for the newest and best console {hardware} to drop in worth – one thing that Microsoft says could not occur anyway.

Sequence S delivers precisely what it units out to realize, however it’s not an anti-DF machine, removed from it. It is superbly designed, irresistible within the flesh, and in a world of financial uncertainty and an elevated drive in the direction of sustainability, it is essentially the most reasonably priced and environment friendly next-generation machine. It actually has its drawbacks, however it achieves what it units out to and it does it with real fashion.

That begins with the packaging, which is enticing on the surface and does a pleasant job of presenting your new machine to you on the within – a neatly wrapped console-sized parcel within the centre, equipment on the prime: the identical HDMI 2.1 spec show cable as Sequence X and a white model of the newly refined controller, plus a few AA batteries. Set-up is easy, made even simpler by the Xbox smartphone app that interfaces with the console and takes you thru all the required inputs because the system software program updates on the machine itself – a course of that also appears too lengthy and concerned, and the only largest lag issue Microsoft has not eliminated within the transition from one technology to the following.

As soon as the system has up to date, it is clear to see that Sequence S has the identical zip as its larger brother – which isn’t stunning allowing for that each characteristic Zen 2 CPU clusters and NVMe solid-state storage, rated at 2.4GB/s of sequential learn bandwidth. The standard of life enhancements provided by Xbox Sequence S over its predecessors cannot be understated: as I write this overview, I am trying to repeat over Gears 5 from an exterior SSD to the inner drive of an Xbox One X to complete off the facility consumption desk beneath – and the overall slowdown and lag is actually poor. What rankles essentially the most is urgent a button to pick out an possibility then ready seconds for any sort of response. The Sequence consoles are such an enormous enchancment right here, and that extends to all areas of the consumer interface. The 1080p sprint can be successfully similar by way of appear and feel to Sequence X , and that extends to show outputs: this can be a machine higher suited to 1080p and 1440p gaming, however you continue to get 4K 120Hz HDR output choices, and the identical 4K encoding media block as Sequence X.

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Microsoft’s compelling pitch video for Xbox Sequence S.

Xbox Sequence vs PS5 specs comparability

All of which leads us – inevitably – to the specs comparability and the query of economics. Sequence S options the identical Zen 2 CPU core as Sequence X, working with a 200MHz deficit, which Microsoft advised us is generally about product differentiation, however does really feel like a lower that needn’t have been made. The GPU can be of the identical class as Sequence X, merely smaller. The premium product’s 52 AMD RDNA 2 compute items shrink down to only 20, with clocks diminished too, giving us 4TF of GPU compute up towards the 12.2TF of the larger machine. Reminiscence allocation drops from 16GB all the way down to 10GB, with eight gigs out there to titles (vs 13.5GB on Sequence X). Reminiscence bandwidth can be squeezed considerably, with 560GB/s on X reduce to 224GB/s on the S.

It is price stressing that whereas these cutbacks appear – and are – extreme, all the key options of Sequence X are current. The GPU is smaller, however it’s nonetheless utilizing the complete RDNA 2 specification, it does characteristic variable fee shading, {hardware} accelerated ray tracing, mesh shaders and texture streaming optimisations by way of shader suggestions sampling. It is all there by way of UI performance too: Fast Resume is supported for swift entry to the precise level you left off in your final performed video games (although this was not working accurately within the overview interval – one thing Microsoft is racing to repair). Superficially, you will not discover any cutbacks to the Sequence X expertise – bar the decision lower if you begin your video games. However the place the cuts are seen, the worth proposition begins to lose a few of its sheen.

It begins with the SSD – marketed as 512GB, however supplying you with simply 364GB of useable house. In a world the place the 1TB growth storage card (useable house: 902GB) prices nearly as a lot because the console, this presents an issue in an age the place increasingly more video games are breaking the 100GB barrier. It is undoubtedly a problem, however it’s price remembering that 40-50GB is extra the typical. Older Xbox video games can run from nearly any USB storage gadget you care to connect however the level is that whether or not it is for next-gen gaming, or for archiving titles, you are going to hit the bounds of Sequence S’s SSD sooner reasonably than later and you will be paying extra for further storage. The second main challenge is the all-digital nature of the product, which severely limits the place you should purchase your video games and the way a lot you pay for them. After all, that is offset to a sure extent by Xbox Recreation Move, with its mind-bending worth proposition. It has been described as the most effective deal in gaming and that is troublesome to argue with.

The brand new Xbox Sequence console line-up.
Xbox Sequence XXbox Sequence SPlayStation 5
CPUEight-core AMD Zen 2 – 3.8GHz/3.6GHz (SMT on)Eight-core AMD Zen 2 – 3.6GHz/3.4GHz (SMT on)Eight-core AMD Zen 2 – variable clock as much as 3.5GHz (SMT on)
GPUAMD RDNA 2 – 52 CUs at 1.825GHz (12.2TF)AMD RDNA 2 – 20 CUs at 1.565GHz (4TF)‘Customized’ AMD RDNA 2 – 36 CUs at as much as 2.23GHz (as much as 10.3TF)
Reminiscence16GB GDDR6 – as much as 560GB/s bandwidth10GB GDDR6 – 224GB/s bandwidth16GB GDDR6 – 448GB/s bandwidth
Storage1TB SSD – 2.4GB/s uncompressed bandwidth512GB SSD – 2.4GB/s uncompressed bandwidth825GB SSD – 5.5GB/s uncompressed bandwidth
Useable Storage Area802GB364GB667GB
Optical Drive4K UHD Blu-rayNo4K UHD Blu-ray (not on Digital Version)
Value$499/£449$299/£249$499/£449 (Customary) $399/£359 (Digital)

Xbox Sequence S: energy consumption and thermal evaluation

The Xbox Sequence S is the least highly effective system within the subsequent technology line-up, so it is smart that it attracts the least energy. The cut-down Sequence system on chip (SoC) has 55 per cent of the silicon space of the Sequence X, however it’s extra environment friendly than that underneath load – presumably owing to the diminished frequencies on the CPU and GPU. Within the desk beneath, you may see the facility consumption of each SKUs within the current-gen and next-generation line-up and out of doors of gaming, energy consumption could be very related evaluating One S to Sequence S and likewise with the X fashions.

I selected Gears 5 for the gaming check as I’ve discovered this title to be much more demanding on energy than anything within the Sequence line-up, and these peak energy draw metrics account for the best system load from the primary chapter of the sport. Right here we see that Sequence S requires 13 per cent extra energy than One S (which is proscribed to 30fps) for an nearly 3x enhance to GPU efficiency and 4x on the CPU. It actually does seem to be the junior Sequence console is hitting the candy spot by way of general efficiency per watt. In the meantime, Sequence X requires 23 per cent extra juice over its predecessor. One factor to remember right here is that Gears 5 actually is demanding. My different Sequence S titles drew 10W much less from the mains.

The thermal pictures throws up some fascinating outcomes. Probably owing to its a lot smaller kind issue, Xbox Sequence S is definitely the most well liked next-generation console. That is maybe not stunning when contemplating that it’s on par or extra demanding on energy than Xbox One S, which enjoys a a lot bigger kind issue. With that mentioned, the development of Xbox Sequence S is easy however efficient: a big fan sits on prime of the principle processor, expelling air straight out of the massive, round black vent. In my assessments, this hit a most of 67 Celsius – greater than each PS5 and Sequence X most temperature factors. Nevertheless, the machine is simply as whisper quiet as Sequence X.

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Energy ConsumptionXbox Sequence SXbox Sequence XXbox One XXbox One S
Energy Off0-1.5W0-2W0.5W1.5W
On the spot On Standby16W29W39W11W
Dashboard25W42W48.5W22.5W
Gears 5 (Peak)82.5W210W173W73W (30fps)
  • Microsoft tells us to count on optimisations to instant-on energy consumption on Sequence X quickly.

Sequence S gaming: does the 1440p advertising and marketing maintain up?

That is the essential issue. In precept, I see nothing incorrect with the notion of bringing two consoles to market separated by their GPU energy (though the clock differential on the CPU is more durable to justify – why give builders something extra to fret about?) and Microsoft’s pre-release advertising and marketing recommended that what Xbox Sequence X delivers at native 4K decision, Sequence S will be capable to match at 1440p. The messaging suggests solely good issues: when you’re on a 1080p display, 1440p rendering offers you a pleasant degree of super-sampling anti-aliasing, bettering picture high quality. In the meantime, 4 years of PS4 Professional gaming has taught us that even when 1440p is not precisely preferrred, it nonetheless appears to be like a good bit higher than 1080p when delivered to a 4K show.

The issue with this advertising and marketing is simple sufficient: video games incur completely different rendering calls for on completely different {hardware} configurations, one thing I verified again in March once I put collectively an AMD RDNA 4TF PC and stacked it up towards higher-specced equivalents nearer to PS5 specification. So, on the one hand, now we have Gears 5 which sees the Coalition broadly obtain Microsoft’s spec claims – although even that is troublesome to confirm owing to using dynamic decision scaling on each X and S consoles. Elsewhere although, the declare holds much less water. Forza Horizon Four hits native 4K on Sequence X, however solely 1080p on Sequence S – and it is the identical story with Sea of Thieves. In impact then, Microsoft’s personal studios do not absolutely again up the platform holder’s advertising and marketing.

My drawback will not be with the machine, nonetheless, however with the messaging – as a result of if there may be certainly characteristic parity between Sequence X and S at 4K and 1080p respectively, that is wonderful. That is actually what’s occurring with Forza Horizon 4, and there are literally some reasonably beautiful surprises elsewhere. Ori and the Will of the Wisps – probably the most stunning video games within the Xbox library – runs at 4K60 or alternatively at 1080p120. It does so flawlessly. In the meantime, the Touryst runs on the identical 4K60 as Xbox One X. Nevertheless, on the flipside, Watch Canines: Legion could properly retain {hardware} accelerated ray tracing and really secure 30fps efficiency, however the reductions in texture high quality, shadow high quality and rather more are clearly obvious. It additionally highlights one other challenge: if 4K Sequence X equates to 1080p Sequence S in some instances, what occurs when X makes use of dynamic decision scaling? Within the case of Watch Canines: Legion, evidently the DRS vary is 900p-1080p up towards 1440p to 2160p on Sequence X – and because the direct screenshot comparisons on this web page reveal, that may be a problem when blown up on a big lounge show.

We solely have a restricted variety of titles to check to date, however for essentially the most half, the Xbox Sequence S holds up as an affordable, entry-level console and when you go in anticipating a lower-resolution model of the Sequence X expertise, that is what you are going to get – however there may be the sense that the long-term prospects of the machine will probably be very a lot associated to only how scalable it truly is, and the way it continues to be because the technology progresses. There additionally seems to be some degree of elasticity wherein options translate between the 2 consoles. Watch Canines: Legion retains hardware-accelerated ray tracing options, whereas they’re absent in Satan Could Cry 5: Particular Version, which means that the extent of the scalability between the 2 programs is not fairly so lower and dried. On prime of that, a recreation launching with RT options on one console and never on the opposite (at launch, no much less) means that by way of technical necessities from the platform holder, Microsoft could have signed off on that.

In the end, I consider the standard of Sequence S releases will come all the way down to developer buy-in and basic enthusiasm for the system. In the direction of the top of the outgoing console technology, repeatedly we heard from studios of the problems they’d working with Xbox One S – and this was clearly mirrored within the ultimate high quality of lots of the video games we examined. There are some comparisons right here with Sequence S – however solely to a sure extent. There may be rather more commonality between the 2 new consoles than there was between One S and One X, and the conversion work needs to be simpler. Once more, my key concern is not actually in regards to the pared again GPU energy of the Sequence S – extra the seemingly savage 5.5GB drop in out there system reminiscence for titles.

After all, Xbox is not simply in regards to the video games of tomorrow, it is massively invested in legacy assist, and a side of the Sequence S that can’t be neglected is its backwards compatibility assist. It is good, however it varies dramatically from Sequence X and certainly PlayStation 5 in a single key respect – it runs and enhances Xbox One S variations of legacy video games, not Xbox One X (or PS4 Professional, within the case of PS5). What this implies is that a lot of the transformative enhancements we documented in earlier back-compat protection is not going to switch onto Sequence S as they had been largely primarily based on 4K titles that provided the choice of an unlocked frame-rate – fertile floor for unleashing further CPU and GPU energy.

With Sequence S, what you are getting are extra refined variations of Xbox One S titles, most of which focused 30fps as a substitute. Until Microsoft or the developer intervenes, nothing extra might be accomplished. We have seen a demo of Fallout Four working at 60fps utilizing a double fps method the compatibility group has developed – I would like to see extra right here, however actually through the overview part, Xbox Sequence S ran the sport at 30fps. It sums up a lot of the enhancements you may see general: the identical visible characteristic set as Xbox One S, however with 16x anisotropic filtering and a dead-on lock to the developer’s authentic efficiency goal. However to be clear, what Xbox Sequence S can not do is break the 900p decision restrict that so many One S video games operated at.

There are some positives on the compatibility aspect. Xbox One X enhanced variations of Xbox 360 titles are nonetheless enhanced, with a 2×2 decision multiplier vs the 3×3 enhance seen on One X – a local 720p expertise scales as much as 1440p as a substitute of 4K then, which is healthier than I anticipated. Additionally, Xbox One X and even One S might outperform the CPU limitations of authentic Xbox 360 {hardware}, however there have been nonetheless some points in choose titles – Sequence S effortlessly types that out. In the meantime, there are promising indicators on the OG Xbox aspect of issues too. Star Wars: Republic Commando runs locked at 60fps, for instance, effortlessly outperforming Xbox One X, which might drop into the 40s. Actually although – for one of the best ways to expertise legacy titles, particularly from the Xbox One period, it is the Sequence X that is the higher alternative. In the meantime, PlayStation 5 is equally properly outfitted for enhancing the expertise of PS4 and PS4 Professional video games.

The wrap-up: a special sort of next-generation console

In some ways a contentious product, Xbox Sequence S is unquestionably an excellent thought – and maybe the best console on the proper time. When you’re not a hardcore gamer and also you’re on the lookout for a ‘Recreation Move machine’, this can be a sensible providing – there’s sufficient house out of the field for dealing with a smaller collection of titles, and the dearth of an optical drive is not actually a problem. Equally, when you’ve bought PS5 however you are focused on Recreation Move or Microsoft’s first-party wares, you should purchase a Sequence S figuring out that the subs providing continues to be potent, and that Microsoft’s first-party wares will probably be expertly dealt with of their transition to the decrease powered console. And regardless of so many seemingly brutal cuts to the core specification, I had a good time taking part in video games on it – sure, there are compromises, however I feel anybody shopping for the machine will go in figuring out that they will not be getting absolutely the state-of-the-art.

However sure, for the extra conventional core gamer, maybe much less wedded to the thought of a video games subscription service, Xbox Sequence S is much less compelling. If you would like an honest array of titles immediately out there for play, you are going to want to purchase extra storage – and that is costly sufficient to make the additional £110 required to purchase a PlayStation 5 Digital Version seem to be fairly a great deal. Not solely do you successfully double the storage, however you are getting a much more potent machine. However this does assume that you can discover a Digital Version console for buy, after all. We will safely assume that Sony loses cash on the absolutely enabled PS5 and its losses will probably be much more appreciable on the digital-only mannequin – which strongly means that far fewer of them will probably be made.

That is the rational evaluation of the Xbox Sequence S proposition – however I will finish this piece by speaking about one thing necessary that I am unable to fairly put my finger on. I first noticed the console within the flesh on the Microsoft campus again in March – and I immediately liked it. The shape issue is solely irresistible, the design is nigh-on good. There’s all the time been a sure diploma of desirability connected to miniaturised shopper electronics and Sequence S faucets into that greater than another latest know-how product I can consider. Maybe it’s certainly all about how small the machine is, or maybe it is how Sequence S is so harking back to how consoles was once by way of kind issue and general ‘bang for the buck’. I actually do not know.

Sequence S’s charms develop much more interesting when stacked up towards the bigger, extra highly effective however considerably inconvenient consoles it launches alongside. The brand new entry-level Xbox is a brilliant-looking product that simply goes anyplace (even on vacation – when that is allowed once more!) and appears nice doing it. Popping out of that preliminary reveal and discussing the product (recorded for posterity right here), John Linneman and I ought to have been griping in regards to the spec cuts, the added burden for builders and naturally, the all-digital nature of the machine. As an alternative, primarily, we had been enthusing in regards to the kind issue and the way cool the machine appears to be like and feels. Whichever manner the following console technology goes, one factor is evident: Microsoft is aware of easy methods to design and construct sensible console {hardware}.

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