Billed as a scaled-down sibling to the Xbox Series X, budget-conscious gamers were offered the Xbox Series S as an affordable entry into Microsoft’s current generation of consoles, which piqued my interest in its announcement. I don’t own particularly fancy TVs or monitors, aiming to stay in the QHD (1440p) range for improved picture balance and smooth performance.
The tiny white console can resemble a smart home speaker or even a toaster. Still, its ultra-compact form factor and omission of a disc drive make it a portable beauty with no danger of scratching your discs when standing upright.
Regardless, I have access to a huge range of downloadable games through an Xbox Game Pass subscription, with many releasing from day one, so this friendly console should fit into the gaming ecosystem quite happily. So what’s the deal with this recent hate popping up on social media for my favorite little box of games?
Is this plucky console holding back gaming?
Microsoft is aiming for resolutions around 1080p on Xbox Series S for most games, prioritizing a stable frame rate instead. After all, that’s the point of the cheaper model, to give gamers access to the same games with compromises in visual fidelity. Not every title is perfect at launch, but I’ve since spent hundreds of hours on Cyberpunk 2077, playing it with a mouse and keyboard connected via USB, and it’s a smooth experience with no input latency.
A recent controversial delay to the Xbox version of Baldur’s Gate 3, a follow-up to the legendary late-1990s role-playing game series, caused developer Larian Studios to highlight split-screen cooperative issues found exclusively on the Xbox platform. . The Xbox Series S was never given an explicit name, but that didn’t stop social media audiences from pounced on what many consider to be the weakest link in this current generation of consoles.
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon, but I don’t believe in this recent hate. There’s a more realistic argument that developers still focusing on older-generation consoles might be pushing the lower limits of modern game engines, a potential reason for the delayed development of Hogwarts Legacy for Xbox One. Still, Many developers regularly surprise me by natively running complex games like The Witcher 3 on the Nintendo Switch, with much lighter hardware than my Xbox.
To be clear, I’m not trying to embarrass anyone still using their old consoles. However, picking up an Xbox Series S at a trade-in discount via retired console trade-in isn’t an unrealistic prospect and would give you a significant jump in performance.
Games feel closer to their PC counterparts these days, and gaming on Xbox pretty much gives you two typical graphics presets among Series X|S: medium or high/ultra. If you’re realistic about your expectations, our Xbox Series S review proved that it’s a brilliant choice for keeping up with the latest games.
Anything that releases for all platforms will personally be an Xbox purchase if you haven’t already joined the extensive list of titles on Game Pass, but that doesn’t mean you should miss out on PC exclusives. I have another device that features a similar mix of modest hardware and incredible performance that still has access to the Xbox ecosystem.
Steam Deck and Xbox: Best Friends Forever
Given that we’ve just passed the one-year anniversary of Valve’s portable Steam Deck, released in February 2022, it feels just as relevant as Xbox Series S since it’s still part of my almost daily gaming routine. I sit at the same desk as my personal PC during my workday, including writing this very article, so staying in the same room for a game night isn’t always as appealing.
I also see similar criticism leveled towards the Steam Deck. Social media platforms saw a trend of claims that Valve’s hardware was already underpowered at launch and is only getting older by the day. Still, this portable machine handles pretty much anything I throw at it; titles not officially verified for Steam Deck and even non-Steam games can be installed with a few simple steps.
The potential for behind-the-scenes gaming on the Steam Deck is enormous, thanks to its simple Linux-based operating system that allows users to rummage around and run almost any standard desktop application. Thanks to community efforts and even direct developer involvement, running services like Xbox Cloud Gaming on your handheld hardly requires any effort, starting with customizable controller support.
Also, all the games I started playing on my Xbox Series S through Game Pass will have my save data in the cloud, ready to continue with the Steam Deck. Alternatively, I could leave the Xbox plugged in and use remote play if I find the patience to get more involved with custom built Linux apps.
Both machines give me access to a gigantic and nearly limitless library thanks to custom game installs on Steam Deck and UWP apps on Xbox, including the Xenia emulator for playing Xbox 360 backups. they give you more freedom to play what you want, where you want, for a combined price that’s often cheaper than a custom-built gaming PC with high-performance parts.
Even when I’ve saved some pocket money, slapping over a thousand grand on a single PC component never feels right. Not that I’ll ever give up my full-size gaming desktop; some games are pretty special, and I’ll probably upgrade my rig right before Starfield hits to sink an unhealthy number of hours into that universe. Still, if some people can buy an Xbox Series X for $500 and enjoy 4K gaming instead of potentially spending twice as much on a graphics card, I doubt it’s going to be a tough choice.
It’s not to say that the only PC parts out there are the most expensive; you could certainly save money with something more realistic. However, you will need a capable power supply to support a high-end GPU. Oh, and a matching CPU if you don’t want a bottleneck. Some proper RAM will help too, along with a solid-state drive with plenty of space if you don’t want to wait for screens to load.
It’s not long before your shopping cart full of components reaches wallet-busting, soul-destroying heights when you can skip all the fuss and play some of the best Xbox games instead.
Console and PC gamers aren’t supposed to be enemies by any means, but I’ll defend the Xbox Series S until the cows come home. It’s just too convenient and hasn’t bothered me since the day I brought it home.