Home & Office
Why you can trust ZDNET : ZDNET independently tests and researches products to bring you our best recommendations and advice. When you buy through our links, we may earn a commission. Our process

'ZDNET Recommends': What exactly does it mean?

ZDNET's recommendations are based on many hours of testing, research, and comparison shopping. We gather data from the best available sources, including vendor and retailer listings as well as other relevant and independent reviews sites. And we pore over customer reviews to find out what matters to real people who already own and use the products and services we’re assessing.

When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product or service, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay. Neither ZDNET nor the author are compensated for these independent reviews. Indeed, we follow strict guidelines that ensure our editorial content is never influenced by advertisers.

ZDNET's editorial team writes on behalf of you, our reader. Our goal is to deliver the most accurate information and the most knowledgeable advice possible in order to help you make smarter buying decisions on tech gear and a wide array of products and services. Our editors thoroughly review and fact-check every article to ensure that our content meets the highest standards. If we have made an error or published misleading information, we will correct or clarify the article. If you see inaccuracies in our content, please report the mistake via this form.


Xbox Series X vs Xbox Series S: Which console is right for you?

Microsoft's Xbox Series X and Series S gaming consoles offer different capabilities at considerably different price points. Here are the key reasons why you should buy one over the other.
Written by Sherin Shibu, Contributor
Xbox Series X (left) and Xbox Series S on red background
Verizon and Best Buy

Choosing the right gaming console comes down to three things: budget, capabilities, and availability. The first thing to figure out is how much you're comfortable spending. Next, find the console with the best capabilities within that price range, and then determine if it is available -- supply shortages have made popular gaming systems like the PlayStation 5 unavailable for months at a time.

The Xbox Series X and Series S are both currently available, offering different capabilities for significantly different prices. 

If you don't want to spend $500 on the Xbox Series X, but still want to choose from hundreds of games, the Series S is more than $250 cheaper than the Series X. (You have the option to pay in monthly installments without the use of a third party like Klarna if you buy an Xbox from Microsoft directly.)

Here are the key reasons why you should choose either a Series X or a Series S over the other.

Also: The 5 best game consoles


Xbox Series X

Xbox Series S


1 TB

512 GB 

Max frame rate

120 fps

120 fps


12 teraflops

4 teraflops

Gaming resolution

True 4K


Optical disc drive

4K UHD Blu-ray Drive

Not included


Up to 8K high dynamic range

Capable of 8K with an ultra-high-speed HDMI cable, sold separately


Physical and digital games

Disc-free gaming


Stream 4K Ultra HD video

Stream 4K Ultra HD video


15.1 x 15.1 x 30.1 cm

6.5 x 15.1 x 27.5 cm


9.8 lbs

4.25 lbs


Starting at $499

Starting at $230

You should buy an Xbox Series X if...

Xbox Series X (black, boxy) on red background
Best Buy

1. You want an optical disc drive

The Series X has a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive, just like the PS5, so you can watch 4K movies on Blu-ray and download games on disc. If Blu-ray is an integral part of your entertainment experience and you don't want to download all of your games digitally, the Series X is the way to go. The Series S is a smaller, entirely digital version of the Series X, so while it lacks an optical disc drive, you can still stream movies and shows and download games.

2. You want to play games at a higher resolution with a better processor

The Series X displays games in true 4K, while the Series S offers a 1440p gaming experience. The Series X also has a 12-teraflop processor while the Series S only has a third of that, with 4 teraflops. The more than double price tag of the Series X could be worth it if the better resolution and processor are important to you. The frame rate, which determines how smoothly a game runs, is impressive for both consoles: Both the Series S and X have rates of 120 fps. Considering that most video games are developed to hit between 30 fps and 60 fps, both Xbox consoles potentially offer smooth gaming experiences.

3. You want more storage

The height and length of the Series X and Series S are comparable (about 30 x 15 cm), but the S is less than half the width of the X, and half its weight as well. In terms of data, the Series X has 1TB of storage and the Series S has half of that, at 512GB. You can expand the storage of both consoles with a storage expansion card. You can get these separately in amounts of 512GB, 1TB, and 2TB at prices of $110, $200, and $360 respectively.

Also: Game console showdown: PS5 vs. Xbox Series X vs. Series S vs. Switch OLED

You should buy an Xbox Series S if...

Xbox Series S (white, thinner) on red background

1. You're comfortable with getting the same games as the Xbox X via the cloud

The Series S lacks the option to play physical game discs, so you're restricted to digital games. However, if you subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, you get instant access to the same digital library of more than 100 high-quality games offered on the Series X, with all games, saves, and backups safe in the cloud. You can also livestream and record clips in 4K resolution at 60 fps, and pre-install new games to play instantly when they launch. 

2. You want the same audio and video capabilities for less money

Both systems support Dolby Atmos, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1, and Windows Sonic. When it comes to video, the Series S and the Series X support Dolby Vision, auto low-latency mode, and variable refresh rate technology. While the Xbox Series X has up to 8K high dynamic range built in, the Series S requires the additional purchase of an Ultra High Speed HDMI cable to get 8K. 

3. You want the same 4K Ultra HD streaming

The Series S gives you the same access to hundreds of streaming apps and services like Netflix, Hulu, and Prime Video, with the same 4K Ultra HD video that the Series X offers. 

Also: We found the best gaming SSDs to level up your PC, Xbox, or PS5

Alternatives to consider

Open to other gaming console prospects? Consider these ZDNET-recommended devices:

Editorial standards