@Sirk786 - All ps5 orders accepted through Nexus Hub are guaranteed as we work closely with Sony PlayStation on allocations etc.
While we can't disclose the Quantity it is a very large allocation and PlayStation SA sends them out to retailers (us) as allocation batches.
Just a note, we fill orders as the stock arrives, and then apply it to first orders in to make it as fair as possible
You are always welcome to PM me - and i will try my best to advise on ETA's supplied by Sony
One of the most recent entries into Gigabyte’s 2021 range of laptops is the Gigabyte Aorus 15G XC. Very similarly specced to its more expensive counterparts in the Gigabyte Aero range, the Aorus 15G XC packs a lot of power into a compact 15.6 inch form factor while looking professional too.
Check out the official specifications below:
- OS: Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 Pro
- CPU: 10th Gen Intel® Core™ i7-10870H (2.2GHz~5.0GHz)
- Display: 15.6" Thin Bezel FHD 1920x1080 IPS-level Anti-glare Display LCD (240Hz, 72% NTSC) *X-Rite™ Pantone® Certified, individually factory calibrated.
- System Memory: 2x DDR4 Slots (Max 64GB) *GIGABYTE adopts DDR4-3200 memory. Intel 10th Gen platform supports up to 2933MHz frequency.
- Chipset: Mobile Intel® HM470 Express Chipset
- Video Graphics: Intel® UHD Graphics 630
- NVIDIA® GeForce RTX™ 3070 Laptop GPU 8GB GDDR6
- Boost Clock 1290 MHz, Maximum Graphics Power 105 W
- Supports NVIDIA Max-Q Technologies:
- Dynamic Boost 2.0, Resizable BAR, and Advanced Optimus™ capable Technology.
- Storage: 2x M.2 SSD slots (Type 2280, supports 1x NVMe PCIe & SATA/ 1x NVMe PCIe) *The storage capacity may differ by country and region. Please contact your local dealers or retailers for the latest product information.
- Keyboard Type: Island-style AORUS Fusion Keyboard with per-key backlit control.
- Optical Disk Drive: N/A
- I/O Port: 3x USB 3.2 Gen1 (Type-A), 1x USB 3.2 Gen1 (Type-C), 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x mini DP 1.4, 1x3.5mm Audio Combo Jack, 1x UHS-II SD Card Reader, 1x DC-in Jack, 1x RJ-45
- Audio: 2x 2 Watt Speaker, Microphone , Nahimic 3
- Communications: LAN:10/100/1000/2500 Mbps Ethernet, WLAN : Intel® AX200 - -- Wireless (802.11ax, a/b/g/n/ac/ax compatible)
- Bluetooth: Bluetooth V5.0 + LE
- Webcam: HD Camera
- Security: Firmware-based TPM, supports Intel® Platform Trust Technology (Intel® PTT)
- Battery: Li Polymer 99Wh
- Adapter: 230W *Adapter may differ by country and region. Please contact your local dealers or retailers for the latest product information.
- Dimensions: 357(W) x 244(D)x23(H)mm, 14.0(W) x 9.6(D) x 0.9(H) inch
- Weight: ~2.0kg, 4.4 lb
The Aorus 15G XC is one Gigabyte’s newest laptops for 2021 and it features an NVIDIA RTX 3070. Last year NVIDIA launched their RTX 30 series graphics cards for desktops and immediately after that launch, came a massive global stock shortage. The demand for the 30 series cards has been constantly outstripping supply and you’d be considered lucky to get your hands on a new RTX series card. Now, in 2021, we’re seeing laptop manufacturers releasing some beastly devices packing RTX 30 series GPUs too. What this means for supply chains remains to be seen but we’re willing to wager that these laptops will sell out quite quickly too.
Diving into the laptop’s technical specs right off the bat, the Aorus 15G XC has a high end Intel 10th generation i7-10870H 8 core processor that delivers quite a significant performance boost over the older Intel Core i7-10750H 6 core processor seen in several 2020 laptops. This processor coupled with the RTX 3070 means that gamers can easily load up any title from 2020 and 2021 and get exceptionally great performance.
The Aorus 15G XC is an all-round powerhouse. It’s also packing 32gb of DDR4-3200 RAM and has a PCIe 3.0 NVME to boot. All of the above components, together with the 240hz IPS-level screen, make this laptop the perfect gaming device. The Aorus 15G XC also features Microsoft Azure A.I, which takes care of automatically adjusting power settings for the best possible experience when gaming. The laptop has support for WiFi 6. It quite literally ticks all the right boxes that someone might have for a laptop that’s worthy enough to replace their desktop setup with.
All of the above components, together with the 240hz IPS-level screen, make this laptop the perfect gaming device.
Benchmarking the Aorus 15G XC yielded some extremely favourable results across the board. First up, Cinebench R23 with the laptop plugged in. This produced a score of 8940.
For comparison purposes the laptop was unplugged and the same render test was run again. This yielded a score of 4383 which is still quite respectable.
Next up, 3D Mark’s Timespy. The following results were obtained from running this test while plugged in.
Additionally, I also ran the DLSS feature test in 3D Mark and obtained a rather favourable score here too.
So what exactly does all of the above mean? Well for starters, it means that the Aorus 15G XC is more than capable of running every modern PC game thrown at it. To further test this of course, I had to load up a recently released video game. I booted up Watch Dogs: Legion and ran the in-game benchmark with all graphics settings set to their highest values including raytracing. The Aorus 15G XC chewed through the benchmark test and yielded the following result while plugged in.
I also ran the same test while just on battery power to see how badly it would impact the FPS. To my surprise, it performed far better than I thought it would and you can see the results below.
The Aorus 15G XC is capable of running a modern video game like Watch Dogs: Legion, on battery power, and still pumps out an average FPS rate of 41.84 with every graphics setting maxed out. That is truly spectacular to be quite honest and when plugged in, it really shows its true colours. Even with a laptop version of an RTX 3070, which is slightly watered down when compared to its desktop counterpart, the Aorus 15G XC performs incredibly well.
So while the laptop’s performance is certifiably excellent, what about its aesthetics and design you might ask? Let’s dive into that starting with the I/O ports. Featuring 3x USB 3.2 Gen1 (Type-A), 1x USB 3.2 Gen1 (Type-C), 1x HDMI 2.1, 1x mini DP 1.4, 1x3.5mm Audio Combo Jack, 1x UHS-II SD Card Reader, 1x DC-in Jack and 1x RJ-45, the Aorus 15G XC has everything you’d need on a laptop in 2021. The inclusion of an HDMI 2.1 full sized port is greatly appreciated given how both monitors and TVs are using this standard now.
There is one major gripe to be had with the DC-in Jack port though. For some baffling reason, Gigabyte have opted to place the power port towards the middle of the laptop’s right hand side instead of at the back like with some of their older gaming laptops. The port’s positioning makes it rather cumbersome to have the laptop plugged in with a cable going along its right hand side, near a vent, taking up space where your right hand and mouse could be. This isn’t exactly a massive train smash but it’s a design choice that needs to be reconsidered. Even moving the port further back towards the right hand side corner would be far more appreciated than having it in its current position.
The rest of the laptop doesn’t exactly scream gaming since there’s no RGB tail-light embellishments on the edges or anything ultra flashy. This is a sleek, modern and professional looking laptop that could blend in perfectly in the boardroom while still being able to run pretty much everything you could possibly want it to run gaming-wise, with ease. The RGB per-key lighting is quite bright and is controlled as per usual by Gigabyte’s Aorus Control Centre Fusion Lighting Software. This is easy to use and there’s plenty of pre-determined configurations to choose from or you can set your own. The lighting can also be switched off quite easily.
The laptop’s touchpad is the perfect size and is also perfectly positioned on the laptop’s body. There’s a satisfying level of click to the left and right “mouse” buttons on the touchpad itself too. Overall the touchpad is very responsive with a pleasing smoothness to it. Gigabyte have done a great job here.
The positioning of the webcam might be less than ideal for some people’s taste due to the angle it sits at.
The keyboard on the Aorus 15G XC feels like pretty standard fare as far as island-style chiclet keyboards go. It would have been nice to see a mechanical keyboard included on the laptop but that would have contributed to further thickness most likely. Towards the back of the laptop nearing the screen is a vent strip with the power button smack dab in the middle. There’s also the webcam directly behind this, with a plastic privacy shield which you can easily slide across to cover the camera. The positioning of the webcam might be less than ideal for some people’s taste due to the angle it sits at. This can be mitigated with some ingenuity though by propping the laptop up. The laptop chassis itself is also far less fingerprint prone to previous models that we’ve reviewed.
The screen featured in the Aorus 15G XC is a 1080p IPS-level Pantone-certified anti-glare display with a high 240Hz refresh rate with thin bezels. What this means is that the RTX 3070 will easily output deliciously crisp, colour correct, 1080p visuals at an extremely smooth refresh rate. Playing games on a Pantone-certified display is quite a visual feast for the eyes since the colours are so breathtaking and not washed out at all. Once you’ve used this display, it will be quite hard going back to something else that isn’t as colour-correct. Artists and graphics designers will definitely love this about the Aorus 15G XC. Gamers who play titles such as Counter Strike: Global Offensive, Valorant and Overwatch will also love the high refresh rate since the laptop will easily output high FPS values to match.
The top of the laptop features the Aorus logo which has a backlight that lights up when the laptop is switched while the bottom of the laptop has a patterned vented region that allows for airflow.
...the RTX 3070 will easily output deliciously crisp, colour correct, 1080p visuals at an extremely smooth refresh rate.
Speaking of airflow, Gigabyte has worked some real magic on the laptop’s cooling. Even after running multiple benchmarks and playing a graphics intensive game on ultra settings, the laptop’s chassis and keyboard never got unpleasantly hot to the touch. The GPU temperature spiked to around 70 degrees celsius and the CPU to around 80 degrees celsius in the 3D Mark Timespy test which is fairly standard these days before dropping back down to lower temperatures when the load was decreased. What was remarkable though was how quickly this was achieved since the Windforce infinity cooling solution clearly vented all the heat out the sides when the fans kicked it up a notch. This does bring me to another minor gripe though. The fans can be quite loud during gaming. Playing with a headset is definitely recommended to drown out some of the fan sounds when the laptop heats up.
The battery life on the Aorus 15G XC’s 99 Whr Li-polymer cell will vary depending on what you’re doing with the laptop. If you’re just going to be using it for Microsoft Word or Excel during the day, a full charge will last you a good 6 hours or more depending on the screen brightness level and if the WiFi or Bluetooth is enabled. If you’re going to be gaming on this laptop (Playing Watch Dogs: Legion for example) without it being plugged in, the battery won’t even get close to 1 hour of usage and will be depleted super quickly. The NVIDIA RTX 3070 and 10th gen processor is quite thirsty for power under heavy load and more importantly, so are the laptop’s fans which are necessary to ensure adequate cooling. Use this laptop while plugged in if you want to game with it. You’ll have a far more enjoyable experience that way.
Overall, The Gigabyte Aorus 15G XC is a fantastic, well-specced laptop for 2021. The RTX 3070 contained within it might be a slightly diluted version of its desktop counterpart but it still delivers excellent gaming performance. The laptop’s thin and light (2kg!) weight means that it’s perfect for being carried around everywhere and can easily blend into more formal situations thanks to its professional looks. Given the shortage of desktop RTX 30 Series GPUs and the rising costs of PC components, the Aorus 15G XC also fits into the market as a desktop replacement given its attractive price point of around $1800 or ~R35000 in South Africa.
Corsair’s K60 RGB Pro mechanical keyboard is an interesting proposition for those looking to experience the joys of using a mechanical keyboard, without incurring a massive cost. For several years now – ever since the CHERRY switch patent expired – lesser-known OEM manufacturers and short-lived start-ups have sold budget mechanical keyboards, offering variable build quality and a range of clone switches. With the budget K60 RGB Pro, Corsair now have a product that can compete in the same price range, while offering premium original CHERRY switches and comprehensive RGB lighting configurations thanks to iCUE integration with their other products.
Straight out the box, the K60 RGB Pro is an unassuming keyboard. It’s a full-sized keyboard with a Numpad and traditional layout (104-key), but you’ll find no dedicated, rebindable macro or media keys. The K60 RGB Pro has a brushed aluminium frame with a black anodized finish, while the keycaps are matt-black, double-shot plastic. The K60 RGB Pro uses CHERRY’s new budget mechanical switches, the CHERRY “VIOLA”, that offer two-stage actuation and are optimised for RGB LEDs.
Below are the full keyboard specifications:
Keyboard Product Family: K60
Keyboard Warranty: 2 Year
Weight: 0.88 kg
Keyboard Backlighting: RGB
HID Keyboard Report Rate: 1000 Hz
Key Switches: CHERRY® VIOLA
Keyboard Connectivity: USB 3.0 or 3.1 Type-A
WIN Lock/ Media Keys: FN Shortcut
Keyboard Rollover: Full Key (NKRO) with 100% Anti-Ghosting
On-Board Memory: No
Keyboard CUE Software: Supported in iCUE
Keyboard Cable Type: Tangle-free rubber
If you’re content with the full-sized 104-key layout, the K60 RGB Pro is the perfect low-cost option.
Starting with RGB capabilities so prominently featured in the marketing, the K60 RGB Pro has numerous preset lighting configurations you can swiftly toggle between. However, to get the most out of this feature, you’ll want to play around with the CORSAIR iCUE software. You can create granular RGB patterns, synchronise your RGB lighting with other CORSAIR devices, and make use of iCUE-integrated games that’ll dynamically alter your accessory lighting based on in-game actions. Your chosen RGB lighting configuration is accentuated thanks to relatively thin keycaps that sit high on the CHERRY VIOLA switches (which, as a bonus, also makes it easy to remove keycaps and clean the keyboard).
When it comes to typing and gaming performance, the K60 RGB Pro can easily compete with many of its premium siblings, thanks to responsive switches and decent build quality. However, the standard 104-key configuration, with no dedicated macro or media buttons (outside of FN shortcuts), could be a dealbreaker for those who play competitive multiplayer, games that require you juggle a ton of hotkeys (e.g. real-time strategy or MMOs), or rely on custom macros for work purposes. Additionally, while the frame is sturdy enough for manic typing and intense gaming sessions, it doesn’t feel like the lethal weapon the premium variants do. The cable is tangle-free rubber and requires a single USB 3.0 or 3.1 Type-A port (so there's no USB passthrough for other devices).
If you’re willing to spend some time with the iCUE software, you can design per-key lighting configurations (such as highlighting active keys on a per-game basis), but there’s no onboard memory to store those profiles if you move to another device PC.
The two-stage “CrossLinear” actuation of the CHERRY VIOLA requires a pre-actuation force of 45 cN for the first two millimetres of travel, followed by 75 cN for subsequent 2 mm of overtravel. Perhaps as a consequence of using mechanical keyboards that require higher actuation forces, the cross-over point did not feel particularly noticeable and depressing each key felt like a continuous, linear action. The 1,000 Hz report rate is a quarter of the value offered by the premium CORSAIR models but coupled with a fast reset action and full N-Key RollOver, I never felt the K60 RGB Pro missed an input. If anything, the standard key spacing, low actuation force, and shallow travel distance meant I was more likely to trigger an extra input with my clumsy fingers.
I spent the last week typing and gaming in equal measure and, given my own needs for work and predominantly single-player gaming, I was more than satisfied with the K60 RGB Pro’s performance. On the typing front – as someone who touch-types rapidly with the occasional visual position check – the K60 RGB Pro felt fantastic, with a satisfying sensation to each key strike and the classic mechanical clicks. The CHERRY VIOLA switches are loud enough to irritate people used to either membrane or near-silent switches, but it’s nowhere near as loud or piercing as the sharp clicks of older mechanical switches. The one issue I do have with the K60 RGB Pro acoustics was a short-lived metallic echo when a switch returned to its initial position (something that was most noticeable when I paused after completing a sentence or paragraph).
The CHERRY VIOLA switches feel distinctly premium, even if the keyboard is lacking other embellishments.
When it comes to gaming performance, the 1,000 Hz report rate, fast reset action, and full NKRO that benefit typing also ensured I experienced no missed inputs. My week was spent tackling the chaotic campaigns of Dusk and Amid Evil, two fast-paced, retro-styled FPS, both of which require non-stop movement and twitch shooting to survive hordes of foes. The K60 RGB Pro registered my inputs perfectly, with no lag during a chaotic or complex sequences, making for a great gaming experience.
However, it was at this point I started to miss the presence of easy-to-reach custom keys that I could rebind to quickly access my favourite weapon combinations, or allow for an easy quicksave when I entered a new area. If you’re planning on extended gaming sessions, you might also need to invest in a separate palm-rest or pick the K60 RGB Pro SE package, which has a detachable palm-rest included.
The elevated keycaps look great, accentuate the RGB lighting, and make keeping the keyboard clean considerably easier.
In summary, the K60 RGB Pro is a solid, no-frills, multi-purpose mechanical keyboard that’ll cover your work and gaming needs – just so long as you’re happy with the standard 104-key configuration and you’re not after dedicated macro or media keys. With the K60 RGB Pro, CORSAIR now offers an affordable RGB mechanical keyboard with high-quality keyswitches and full iCUE integration, providing great typing and gaming performance, but lacking the embellishments you’ll find on their premium keyboards.
While some lucky gamers have already picked up Sony’s next-generation console, our region must wait another agonising week. In the interim, the Nexus Hub staff got access to an early review unit PlayStation 5 and, sticking with tradition, this presented the opportunity to unbox the console, photograph and film it from a myriad of angles, and stack it alongside its predecessors. In this feature – with a video to follow soon – we’ll provide some impressions of Sony’s new hardware.
Note: Given there’s no difference in the specifications between the PlayStation 5 Blu-ray and PlayStation 5 Digital, we’re just looking at the model with the disc drive for this feature.
The packaging and retail box
We’ve known for a while now that the PlayStation 5 was going to be huge and both the size and weight of the packaging is equally impressive. The PlayStation 5 retail box is simple but effectively packed, with white now seemingly the dominant brand colour, however, the opening flap is still the iconic PlayStation blue. The retail box itself is clearly designed to highlight the appearance of the new console, rather than plaster text everywhere. It highlights support for 8K output-resolution (a feature that’ll mostly apply to streaming media), HDR (for both games and media), and 4K/120 Hz output that’ll be the maximum targets for games.
You already know what you’re in for once you get your hands on the packaging. We’ve stacked it up alongside the prior 3 generations for comparison.
What’s in the box?
Opening the top flap, you’ll first remove a separate box housing the new DualSense gamepad, base plate, and cabling. Below that, padded by two cardboard sleeves, is the PlayStation 5 itself, wrapped in a thick layer of anti-static wrap. Extracting the console requires some effort and you’ll want to lay the retail box on its side and slide it out. Despite weighing much the same as their competitors premium console – around 4.5 kg and 3.9 kg for the “Digital” version – it’s an ungainly beast given the size (39 cm x 10.4 cm x 26 cm), and pulling it straight up and out is risking disaster if it slips your grip.
Despite being just shy of 40 cm tall, the console looks great in the vertical orientation and feels sturdy once the base plate is attached.
The PlayStation 5 immediately scores bonus points with its futuristic and distinctly console-like design. Sony has always created great looking consoles – if we exclude a few tacky-looking “slim” versions – and the PlayStation 5 will stand out among your other devices (and not just because it’ll literally be taller than all of them bar the TV). As with their prior generations of consoles, the PlayStation 5 feels unique, not drawing on any prior console design elements.
Stood upright and looking front-on, the distinctive V-shaped cover plates on the PlayStation 5 exist for more than aesthetics reasons. To either side of the shiny black inner casing, you’ll find several large vents for air intake, which run up and over the top of the unit. A massive 120 mm fan draws in air, pushes it over the internals and massive heat sinks, and vents it through the back of the unit. In terms of IO ports, the design is kept simple. On the front, you’ll find a power button and disc eject button, one USB 3.1 type-A port, and a USB 3.1 type-C port – used for the DualSense charging cable and packing 10x the bandwidth, maybe for future accessories like PSVR v2.0? On the back, between the exhaust vents, you’ll find the figure-8 power port, the 2.1 HDMI-out port, two additional 3.1 USB type-A ports, and an ethernet port.
The shiny black central casing does a good job of concealing the ports and looks great when the console boots up, highlighting the edges with a blue glow. Unfortunately, it's a fingerprint magnet.
On the base of the console, assuming you’re going to mount it vertically, there’s a small plastic cap that can be removed, exposing the anchor point you screw the base onto. This is, for aesthetic and space-saving reasons, probably the orientations you want. You simply twist the clip on the base to expose a small screw inside, pop it out, orient the base plate, and screw it tight. If you’ve got space for the horizontal configuration, you can leave the screw in its housing, find a textured area on the inside of the cover plate, clip the base plate over the edges, and lay the console down so it rests snugly on the sloped surface provided. It’s a slick but not entirely stable design, so mounting the PlayStation 5 in the vertical position appears to be the safest option.
For those interested in the cheaper PlayStation 5 Digital, it’s worth noting the lack of a Blu-ray drive means you’ll be committing to digital purchases going forward and, if you’re looking to take advantage of the backward-compatibility feature, you’ll need an existing digital PlayStation 4 library. Sadly, Sony continues to pretend anything pre-dating the PlayStation 4 generation doesn’t exist, so we’ll have to wait and see if we get emulators for earlier games in future updates. The optical audio port has also been removed, a potential issue for those using a sound system connected by a TOSLINK cable.
The unique design ensured the PlayStation 5 got plenty of attention from everyone with a camera on hand.
Sony’s last-generation DualShock 4 was already a massive leap over the rubbish DualShock 1 through 3 (feel free to argue in the comments) but the DualSense goes a step further. The basic analog and button/trigger configuration remains the same, but the gamepad has more heft, sits more comfortably in your grip, has several textured surfaces, and just feels sturdier than any prior Sony gamepad. The black and white design complements the console, and you’ve still got the dedicated share button, touchpad, gamepad speaker, and 3.5 mm audio jack. Thankfully, the obnoxious light bar on the DualShock 4 has been moved to the edges of the touchpad (and should no longer reflect off the TV in a dark room). All that said, it’s the internal features that are the true highlight.
First up, haptic feedback allows for games to further immerse you by simulating on-screen action with far higher spatial precision than the crude vibration feature in past designs. Now you can feel the vibration in specific parts of the gamepad, correlating with directional feedback in the game. Secondly, adaptive triggers can now vary resistance based on what's happening in-game. This could allow for different sensation when drawing a bow or pulling the trigger of a firearm, or emulate the force needed to fully depress the break pedal in a racing game. The only real negative I can think of is that the DualSense, given its updated shape and weight, may no longer be as comfortable for those with smaller hands.
As far as gameplay goes, the new DualSense gamepad may be more impactful than higher resolutions and framerates.
Sony has stuck to its guns and provided yet another next-generation console, not only significantly more powerful than the last but also one that provides unique aesthetics and novel hardware features. The PlayStation 5 looks premium and feels well-constructed in hand; it’s simple to set up, transfer your profile, and game data; the DualSense sits better than ever in your hands and has tangible gameplay benefits; and you’ve immediately got access to both next-gen exclusives and your existing PlayStation 4 library (of which several games ware receiving enhancements, and you can use your older accessories when playing them).
Finally, I'd like to give a shout-out to the camera and editing team who generated a ton of great footage to use.
Note: Retail console purchased for review. There'll be a score at the end based on how I feel about the console at launch.
Microsoft has spent the last few years leading the pack when it comes to gamer-friendly business practices, using their mid-gen Xbox One X upgrade as a launchpad. Despite constantly being told no one wants to play old games, their backward-compatibility program has ensured this is now an important feature on both major consoles. They’ve worked to improve accessibility on the hardware, operating system, and software level. Perhaps most significantly, they’ve taken the original premise of game-streaming and turned it into a high-value, low-cost subscription service with Xbox Game Pass, which provides access to console (and PC) Microsoft exclusives on day-one, with a rotating selection of third-party and backward-compatible games.
No doubt a lot of these initiatives were driven by a need to recover from a rough start to the last generation, but it resulted in a lot of goodwill, media coverage, and even granted them the underdog status in the eyes of many. That said, the Xbox brand still has a lot to prove when it comes to hardware power and delivering a steady flow of quality exclusives from their first- and second-party developers. With the Xbox Series X, they’ve conclusively addressed the hardware concerns. However, when it comes to exclusive games, several recent developer acquisitions have shown the potential of what’s to come, but the launch window and year ahead still remains light on content.
...the Xbox brand still has a lot to prove when it comes to hardware power and delivering a steady flow of quality exclusives from their first- and second-party developers.
The Xbox Series S shares the same content weaknesses but also sports a lower-powered GPU and less storage to hit that budget price. At first glance, these compounded limitations might make you dismiss the console outright, but I’d argue it’s still a compelling choice when you consider it a part of Microsoft’s accessibility push.
Stacked up alongside its premium sibling and a gamepad, you can get a feel for how small the Series S is.
Starting with the hardware itself, the Series S is tiny, despite the next-gen internals (6.5 x 15.1 x 27.5 cm), and it feels dense at just over 2 kg. It has a similar design to the Xbox One S, just cut in half and slightly thicker, with the extraction fan highlighted by a black finish. It can be stood vertical or horizontal (which seems safer to me) and the build still feels as premium as its premium sibling. The new gamepad is a refinement of the Xbox One X|S version, with a hybrid octagonal d-pad, textured grips and triggers, and a dedicated share button the standout features. You can check out our full impressions in the Xbox Series X|S unboxing article.
It has a similar design to the Xbox One S, just cut in half and slightly thicker, with the extraction fan highlighted by a black finish.
It’s an all-digital console, so there’s no Blu-ray drive taking up space and the power supply is internal, keeping the hardware compact. Setting it up is as simple as plugging in the power and HDMI cables, pressing the power button, then connecting to the internet via Wi-Fi or the ethernet port to begin the initial setup (which defaults to accessibility features for the visually- or hearing-impaired – a nice touch). The gamepad automatically syncs to the console without the need for a data cable. While not “portable” in the conventional sense, it’s small enough that you could easily pack it in your hand luggage when travelling.
With no Blu-ray drive and an internal power supply, the Series S is seriously compact and easy to set up with minimal cabling.
Two important caveats to note are the lack of a Blu-ray drive, which makes it a tough sell to those with an extensive physical library of games from the prior generations, and the custom SSD that has only 360 GB of usable storage space. Thankfully, only next-gen games that make use of the Xbox Velocity technology need to be installed on the internal drive. A USB 3.1 external drive (an SSD would be your best bet) can be used for playing backward-compatible games. You can also use that drive to store your next-gen games and transfer them back to play later if you want to avoid redownloading them. It’s not ideal but was clearly a cost-cutting necessity for the Series S.
Regardless of whether the console is sitting idle or you’ve been gaming for several hours, the Series S is incredibly quiet. My setup is a small office, with only 1.8 m between the couch and console, yet I’ve never heard it above background levels. My four-year-old gaming laptop, which is propped up on a riser on a desk in the opposite corner, maybe 2.5 m away, is far more audible when simply standing idle. The extraction vent on the top of the console does get warm, so you’ll want to make sure it's always uncovered and the console has plenty of airflow. Much like the Series X, the Series S is also going for an understated design, but I’d argue it looks more aesthetically interesting and console-like than the Series X.
You could argue the OS is all about comforting familiarity.
Once you’ve powered on the Series S – which takes about 5 seconds, even from a cold boot – anyone who already games on an Xbox One X|S will be greeted with a familiar sight. Microsoft has gone for a unified user interface between its new and last-gen consoles. It still uses the tiled design for the home screen and storefront, pop-up quick menus, and a myriad of deeper menu options that wouldn’t look out of place on a Windows PC. Some recent OS updates are much-appreciated but long overdue: like the ability to pick the internal or external drive when first installing games, rather than having to change the default setting; or the ability to sort games in the store, the Game Pass library, or your own library using more granular options (think console generation, number of players, genre, etc.).
Microsoft has gone for a unified user interface between their new and last-gen consoles.
What sets the Series S OS apart from the last-gen consoles is the speed at which you can navigate menus, your library, the Xbox Game Pass selection, and the storefront. This OS upgrade includes the "fast resume" function, which allows you to store several games in memory, and quickly pick up from where you left off (even if you just paused the game, or fully powered off your machine for a while). Having the OS installed on the custom internal SSD clearly has its benefits, while it seems the storefront gets faster the longer you use it (I’d guess it starts caching thumbnails and low-res trailers for featured content as soon as you open the store). Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a snazzy new interface to go along with the next-gen gaming experience, you’ll have to settle for a boost in responsiveness to the existing design.
Why did it take an entire console generation to get this option? Also Microsoft, please can we have an option to take screenshots of the UI?
Once the initial charm of new console hardware, the aesthetics, and the updated OS wear off, the only thing that matters is the gaming. After several days using the Series S, it’s clear that intelligent compromises were made to provide a next-gen experience, despite the lower-specced GPU. Whereas the Series X is targeting 4K resolutions at up to 120 Hz, the Series S instead targets 1440p at up to 120 Hz. It’s a 2.5x reduction in the number of pixels rendered, using a GPU roughly a third as powerful. Thankfully, the GPU hardware-level capabilities (like ray-tracing), the custom SSD, CPU clocks, and RAM configuration is identical or close to the Series X.
Now rendering load doesn’t scale linearly with the resolution, so you can still expect games operating with a dynamic 1440p resolution on the Series S. However, my experience so far – be that for new games, “optimized” cross-gen games, and backward-compatible games – has been rock solid framerates, so this was the right choice. It’s incredible how console gamers have become conditioned to unstable framerates, with the focus on visual fidelity instead of responsiveness. There’s no going back once you’ve experienced an unwavering 60 fps or, at the very least, a locked 30 fps. Not all games need high framerates, but they do need stable framerates. I’m just hoping the shift to “targeted” resolutions and locked framerates remains the standard this generation.
However, my experience so far – be that for new games, “optimized” cross-gen games, and backward-compatible games – has been rock solid framerates, so this was the right choice.
I’ll be publishing several Series S reviews or impressions over the next few weeks as I get access to new games, but one new third-party title I spent time with pre-launch was Watch Dogs: Legion. It gives a good idea of what Series S owners can expect this generation from third-party developers. The game targets 1080p/30 – with the Xbox hardware handling the up-scaling to your native display resolution – and that framerate was locked during my time spent tearing around London causing chaos. Next-gen features, like quick load times, higher quality textures, better texture filtering, faster asset-streaming, and the much-vaunted ray-traced reflections are all accounted for. The ray-traced reflections, admittedly, look incredible and match high-end PC settings, with both static geometry (think buildings) and moving objects (think NPCs and vehicles) accounted for in every reflective surface.
If this generation has taught us anything, it's that puddles are important. Watch Dogs: Legion on the Series S is fully-featured, with speedy loads, high-resolution textures, and ray-traced reflections on every appropriate surface.
Based on my time with Watch Dogs: Legion, and the drip-fed Series S information coming from publishers, this looks to be the common pattern for third-party games on the budget console. The visuals settings used by the premium consoles to run at 60fps will be the 30fps modes on the Series S (with a bigger hit to the dynamic resolution and visual feature set when 60fps modes are offered). Thankfully, when it comes to Xbox exclusives, several optimized last-gen games, and backward-compatible games, the results are far more impressive and a better indication of who this budget console is geared towards.
The console release of Gears Tactics runs at a rock-solid 60fps on the Series S at 1440p resolution, as do the optimized versions of Forza Horizon 4, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, and Gears 5 (which uses the PC ultra-settings to boot, and offers 120 fps multiplayer if you’ve got a display that supports it). Less visually-demanding indie titles, such as The Falconeer, The Touryst, and Tetris Effect: Connected can hit 120 fps (again, if you’ve got the right display) and exceed that 1440p target on the Series S.
Thankfully, when it comes to Xbox exclusives, several optimized last-gen games, and backward-compatible games, the results are far more impressive...
Thankfully, optimised games that don’t use the Xbox Velocity technology can be played off an external hard drive to free up space on the internal drive (and it turns out a powerful CPU handling data compression/decompression is more important than the hard drive read/write speeds for fast loading). Microsoft dedicated considerable time and effort to ensure their first- and second-party games ran well on the base Xbox One S – albeit sometimes after several patches – so I’m certain it’ll be the same with the Series S throughout this new generation.
Never trust someone who says they can't tell the difference between 30fps and 60fps, or can't pick up unstable framerates! There's no going back after playing Gears 5 at 1440p/60.
Backward-compatibility and the idea of continuity between generations is something I’ve always appreciated. Aside from keeping your library intact without the need for a ton of hardware and cabling under your TV, a good chunk of that library might be part of your backlog. With a packed release schedule and abundant sales, I’ve got a shameful amount of games I’ve yet to play (or want to replay before their sequels come out). In addition, Microsoft has spent the last generation refining its backward-compatibility performance, and the results, impressive as they were last-gen, are even better on the Series S.
Original Xbox games get a 3x resolution boost, Xbox 360 games get a 2x boost, and they all hit their target framerate cap effortlessly. When it comes to last-gen games, the Series S enhances the Xbox One S version of games, providing faster load times, improved texture filtering, eliminates screen-tear, and maxes out both the dynamic resolution and framerate cap. As with many optimized games, backward-compatible titles don’t make use of the Xbox Velocity technology and can be played off an external drive while still benefit from these enhancements. Unfortunately, only the Series X gets the backward-compatible One X versions of last-gen games by default, but several developers – such as Bethesda Game Studios – have indicated they’ll patch Series S and X backward-compatible titles to enable more performance options.
When it comes to last-gen games, the Series S enhances the Xbox One S version of games, providing faster load times, improved texture filtering, eliminates screen-tear, and maxes out both the dynamic resolution and framerate cap.
I spent several days just going through my library and the Xbox Game Pass selection to find titles that ran poorly on my Xbox One S. As a result, I got to experience Doom Eternal at a locked 1080p/60. Both Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and Wolfenstein: Youngblood ran at a locked 1080p/60, with the dynamic-resolution-scaling turned off. One of my favourite janky and compelling survival games, State of Decay 2, ran at a silky-smooth 60fps (admittedly, a ton of patches have clearly played their part too). Ultimately, there’s no way of getting around hard-coded limitations unless the developer goes back to patch them, but games with unlocked framerates, like the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes, now run at a gloriously responsive 60fps. As an added bonus, games that never natively supported HDR benefit from an "auto-HDR" feature (so long as the results are checked and deemed acceptable by Micorsoft's back-compat team).
I'm ashamed of how many hours I've plugged into State of Decay 2 but now, running at 60fps, I've got an excuse to return for a dozen more.
So, as I wrap up this review, who do I think the budget-friendly Series S is for?
First up, there are plenty of gamers who’ll have had a rubbish year thanks to the pandemic and resulting industry lockdowns. A budget console, albeit one with some caveats, paired with an Xbox Game Pass subscription, could make next-gen gaming more accessible sooner (and you could potentially upgrade to a Series X later). Secondly, for those who are already fans of Microsoft’s IPs, but are using 1080/1440p displays with Free-sync (e.g. those who have their console sharing the PC monitor), the Series S is a great fit for that setup. Finally, if you skipped the Xbox consoles last generation, but have since taken note of Microsoft’s recent run of critically-acclaimed exclusives and upcoming next-gen titles, the Series S coupled with an Xbox Game Pass subscription will get you access to both those last-generation and next-gen exclusives at relatively low cost, making it a viable second console (and you’ve got the advantage of knowing Microsoft will properly optimise its exclusives for the budget console).
We’ve reached a point massive leaps in visual fidelity are less impactful, and a focus on features like fast loading times and higher/more stable framerates are taking precedent. In that regard, the Series S is a well-designed, budget-friendly, next-gen console that comes with several caveats you need to keep in mind. When it comes to Microsoft exclusives, you’ll be getting a true next-gen experience, optimized for the Series S’ capabilities. Optimized versions of last-gen games and backward-compatible titles look and run beautifully – the icing on the cake for those still catching up with the hectic release schedule. However, you do need to be aware third-party developers might put minimal effort into optimizing for the Series S as the generation progresses and, as an all-digital console, the limited SSD storage will be a pain for those who play multiple games simultaneously (and official storage cards cost way too much at present).