Considering that the Xbox Series S, at least on paper, delivers specifications that exceed the Xbox One X in all respects barring RAM allocation, Microsoft’s recent announcement about Xbox Series S backwards compatibility comes as a bit of a disappointment.
Speaking about how backwards compatibility works on the new budget console, Microsoft stated that the Xbox Series S will run Xbox One S versions of eighth-gen games, albeit with better texture filtering and other minor improvements. Microsoft highlighted the fact that the Xbox Series S was designed to deliver 1440p/ 60 FPS experiences as the reasoning behind this.
However, looking at the specs, we feel that this decision could have more to do with product positioning. The Xbox Series S’s 4 TFLOP GPU is at least as powerful as the Xbox One X’s. Moreover, the latter console features a much faster CPU and high speed SSD storage. The Xbox One X was promoted as a “4K console” with an accordingly high sticker price at launch, though.
From a technical standpoint, it doesn’t seem like it would take too much work to get Xbox One X quality up and running on the Xbox Series S then. Except for a few stumbling blocks.
For starters, there’s that miserly memory pool of 8+2GB. The Xbox One X has 12GB of GDDR6 running at 326 GB/s. In contrast, the Xbox Series S features 8GB of VRAM at 224 GB/s and a further 2GB at a mere 56 GB/s. 4K isn’t just about compute capabilities. 4K assets take up a lot of RAM and we could see situations where back-compatible titles wouldn’t run well on the Series S at 4K, if only because of its poor memory setup.
What all this means is that you’ll want to get hold of an Xbox Series X if you’re interested in 4K experiences — eighth generation or ninth gen. The Series S offers great value but Microsoft is being very clear about what’s it’s for: 1440p and 1080p gaming.